Defending Dads

You're doing your jobs. You and your kids deserve better.

Category: Rants (Page 1 of 3)

Bad ‘Shrooms

I aspire to activism. I have a cause, I have drive, I have conviction. What I don’t have are time, money or connections. In fact, I am so mired in digging myself out of post-divorce devastation, I barely have a life. My kids are worth any travails I must endure for their benefit, so I sally forth. This is not a cry for help, merely a statement of fact, an acknowledgement of resolution.

The struggle to emerge from the ashes of divorce can be all-consuming. I am hamstrung with a mortgage, car note, taxes, child support and related expenses. I am working, but not currently earning enough to catch up. I’m treading water. Of course, none of the entities to which I am obligated is interested in my troubles. This is not a cry for help, merely a statement of fact, an acknowledgement of resolution.

Every day, I work to reestablish discipline and order in my life in the face of pressing demands, and they are pressing. I get letters and phone calls every day demanding money that I do not have. I half expect to see billboards along the interstate bearing my name, photo and an itemized list of what I owe and to whom. This is not a cry for help, merely a statement of fact, an acknowledgement of resolution.

With my firm resolve to bear all of this without suffering a total meltdown, one would hope that I could walk into a nationally known big box store and buy myself a pack of sliced mushrooms to enjoy as part of a wholesome, tasty meal that I would prepare for myself.

Not today.

I suffered my daily barrage of slings and arrows without complaint. I answered the phone and told the bill collectors the same thing I’ve told them for weeks and promised to pay as soon as I could. I suffered the daily two-hour odyssey home from work to a house barren of children but full of laundry, dishes and chores. Out on my feet, I chipped away at a to-do list that could be printed on a ream of paper. All of this I managed successfully.

What I could not do was buy a fresh pack of sliced mushrooms from this nationally known big box store because, as of July 18, this store had out for sale a pack of mushrooms with a buy-before date of July 7, 2017!

I am a single father beset with a range of conundrums that run the gamut from financial to technical to emotional and I manage them quite competently. Should I also be expected to check buy-before dates on perishable vegetables at a huge store chain that hires dozens of people who can and should be doing just that? Now, I’m crying out for help! Give me something!

You know, when I was preparing to cook my wholesome, tasty meal, I opened that pack of mushrooms and immediately noticed the slime coating them and the noxious odor that wafted up from the package. It was only then that I noticed the buy-before date. Ordinarily, I would have simply tossed the ‘shrooms and returned my focus to more pressing issues, but I felt compelled to stop: This, I thought, is a flash point. What kind of activist can I ever hope to be if I suffer this utter injustice in silence?

I have the mushrooms with me tonight. I’m going to march right into that big box store in the morning and demand my money back. This is not a cry for help, merely a statement of fact, an acknowledgement of resolution.

Can I Get There from Here?

Last year was a blight on my personal history. I’m not sure that I have ever lost so much in so little time.

I lived.

What now?

Stability: My life has been in near free-fall since 2013. I need peace, routine, structure. Not just for myself, but for the kids. Achieving new stability is Job I.

Prosperity: According to the USDA Calculator, raising my 2 children this year will cost $18,718 and that just covers the basics. There is no budgeting for the physical and emotional enrichment of a child. She/he develops interests and parents must provide as they are able.

Well-being: I have had to cope with a freighter’s manifest of issues. The effort has taken its toll, but I leveraged the damage with some fun times, great people, eating well, regular exercise and plenty of rest. Keeping myself mentally and physically fit is good for the kids and great for me.

Organization: Some fourteen months after moving back into my home, I need to sort through months of mail, set up a filing system, secure my important papers, clean up my e-mail and save all my personal pics and vids to the cloud.

My Home: The place is fairly new, but there is plenty to fix and clean. Fresh interior paint would be nice. Proper landscaping in the front and back yards will make a huge difference. Comfy furniture, eye-catching art, knick-knacks…we need it ALL!

The Future: Ahh, my plans are no secret. No need to rehash.

I closed out last year with a string of moral victories. I’m absolutely pumped for 2017. When things get murky and I need a lift, I’ll remind myself of the following:

  1. The kids have endured tremendous upheaval. They’re young and there is plenty of time for them to recover, but I cannot rest on that. The sooner I am able to execute a five-year plan, the better their chances for stable adolescence.
  2. I want to resume the activities that have been a cornerstone of my relationship with the kids. Before the proverbial roof caved in, the three of us really got around.
  3. I want to LIVE again. I like movies, shows, concerts, camping, dining out, dancing, travelling and moving this body! I ain’t built for hard times.

The one thing I haven’t had of late that makes these things possible is disposable income. We’ll see about that, but I mustn’t forget that time with the kids is not to be sacrificed on the altar of the Almighty Dollar.

Oh, I’m excited. While the worst of times seem to be behind me, there is yet a long hike back to base camp. The dreams, the promises, the goals and the great payoff all lay dead ahead.

Can I get there? No doubt, but they say it’s all about the journey.

Leah Remini’s Scientology and the Aftermath

Leah Remini, best known for her portrayal of Carrie Heffernan on the CBS sitcom The King of Queens, co-produces and stars in the limited A&E series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.

The show documents alleged abusive policies and egregious misconduct by Church officials, including a practice known as “disconnection”, which dictates that active members of the church cut ties with family members who are not.

As Ms. Remini states in the premier episode’s introduction, she thought she would simply be “documenting stories of families that were torn apart by the Church of Scientology’s policies and practices”, but, she continues, what she uncovered was much deeper and darker than she ever expected.

Though the intro is compelling, I was into the show 10 seconds into the advanced promo I saw weeks ago. In that promo, Ms. Remini boldly stated her goal of exposing the church as a well-financed cult that, as cults are known to do, asserts control over its members by isolating them from their families.

Let’s see: A powerful institution purporting to be something it certainly is not that destroys families? The analogies between the Church and family court should be manifest to any alienated parent or divorced dad.

For your consideration:

I. The Self-Anointed Lording it Over Hapless Peasants

SCIENTOLOGY: Ms. Remini and former Church members allege that Church officials routinely abuse their authority and lower-ranking members of the Church, going so far as to commit acts of physical and sexual battery that go unpunished because they are never reported to law enforcement.

FAMILY COURT: Divorced dads and alienated parents express daily via social media our frustration with the monolithic, often corrupt family court system, the constituents of which routinely make formulaic, arbitrary and/or uninformed decisions on matters of custody and support that go largely unchallenged by victims ignorant of how to navigate the system.

PARALLEL: Some Church and family court officials suffer from the delusion that they have absolute power.

II. The Casual Severance of Family Ties

SCIENTOLOGY: Ms. Remini and former Church members allege that the Church destroys families by forcing active members to cut ties with relatives not involved with the church, including parents and siblings.

FAMILY COURT: Divorced dads, alienated parents and our children have for decades lost incalculable, invaluable time to thoughtless custody decisions. The resultant emotional devastation suffered by non-custodial parents and our children often goes unaddressed and contributes to the steady decline of the nuclear family and related values.

PARALLEL: Neither the Church nor family court demonstrates genuine regard for the natural family ties or long-term emotional health of the people over whom they hold dominion.

III. The Mainstream News Media Ignores Victims

SCIENTOLOGY: Ms. Remini and former Church members express that the media has underreported or ignored mounting evidence that all is not well in Gilman Hot Springs, California (Scientology headquarters), and its satellites.

FAMILY COURT: Divorced dads, alienated parents and our children suffer in silence as a Google news search for “family court reform” will show the lack of mainstream news media coverage of the growing outcry for exactly that.

PARALLEL: The Church and family court officials have long enjoyed the luxury of acting in a media black hole.

IV. Conclusion

Ms. Remini has taken a step that we divorced dads and alienated parents have not yet managed: She brought her fight to network television. She has done so with the spirit of a street fighter outnumbered, outgunned and determined to go down swinging. But unlike that street fighter, she’s got resources: She is savvy, has credible allies and the backing of a network.

Ms. Remini’s direct involvement in telling the stories of ex-Scientologists is an indictment of the news media’s continuing failure to expose major social injustices taking place in plain sight. Unwittingly, she is blazing a trail for those of us living under the heel of a terribly flawed system that affects too many and is called to task by too few.

I have no idea how to make inroads to network shot callers, but there have to be alienated parents or divorced dads who do. People, what are we waiting for? let’s take our fight Hi Def.

 

Six Degrees…and 96 Pages

I went through three divorce lawyers. Attorneys 1 and 2 were rather ineffective and Attorney 3 is a promising relative newcomer. Attorney 3 eventually went to work for the office that employed Attorney 2. While Attorney 3 represented me, however, it was from this gentleman’s office:

(EMILY PAINE / MORNING CALL FILE PHOTO)

(EMILY PAINE / MORNING CALL FILE PHOTO)

Pictured is Mr. David Tidd, Esquire, former Saucon Valley District Judge for Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Mr. Tidd resigned his seat under fire this past summer. It seems Mr. Tidd’s conduct as a judge was egregious enough to warrant investigation by the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania.

A month after Mr. Tidd stepped down, the Board “filed a 96-page complaint replete with references to the F-word and other vulgar language, demeaning descriptions of defendants before him and allegations that he cut plea bargains in traffic cases behind the backs of the police officers who wrote the tickets.

The complaint charged that Tidd retaliated against staffers who documented his behavior, showed improper demeanor for a judge, had conflicts of interest and put his private practice ahead of his public post” (Riley Yates of The Morning Call, August 26, 2016).

To suggest that Mr. Tidd’s alleged behavior exemplifies what I observed during my brief contact with the judiciary of Northampton County would be an exaggeration, but that might only be a matter of sample size.

What I have observed is documented in this blog and in itself unsettling. Though not guilty of or even charged with any crime, the two Northampton County judges before whom I stood found occasion to evict me from my home and even jail me under highly questionable circumstances.

In what is by no means a happy coincidence, as detailed in the Board’s complaint, Mr. Tidd’s conduct was formally addressed as early as August 11, 2011 by Judge Kimberly J. McFadden, the very judge who ordered me barred from my home three years and three days later!

It would be irresponsible of me to impugn the reputation or motives of every judge in the county based solely on Mr. Tidd’s alleged behavior and my negative experiences. It is fair to say, however, that Mr. Tidd abused his authority as a judge. It is also fair to say that Mr. Tidd could not have compiled such a résumé of recalcitrance in a less tolerant atmosphere. Doubtless, he got away with plenty before he was checked, and by then, he had likely run out of friends willing to look the other way.

I have lived in Northampton County for five years now. I fell in love with the Lehigh Valley from the vantage point of Pop’s Kitchen and Taproom’s parking lot off I-78 on a sunny day. I relocated here from New York City with the intentions of raising my kids in a wholesome environment and making a positive contribution to my new community. That dream has become a nightmare due in no small part to the depraved disruption of my life by two Northampton County judges and, including opposing counsel, four attorneys, one of whom worked for Mr. Tidd, then went to work at the office that employed my second attorney.

A reasonable person might ask how I happened to come in contact with these legal eagles and their complex relationships. What could I have done to bring about such catastrophe? If, as I’ve stated, I am neither accused nor guilty of any crime in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, why would I be standing before hostile judges and requiring the services of three attorneys?

I was sued for divorce.

Six degrees of separation from 96 pages.

Prepping for the Big Day

Here we go again.

Read More

Brad Pitt’s Face

Let’s see:  2 checking accounts with negative balances, 1 repossessed car, 1 car on deck for repossession, 1 home very near foreclosure, unemployed (but looking) and living off $187 a week.

Read More

What Now?

Tough sledding, these days. Last July, Northampton County’s Domestic Relations Section (“DRS”) seized my emergency reserve.

Read More

The Simplicity of Transparency

There were two cars in my driveway last night. This morning, there was one. Collateral is beginning to disappear. Not a good sign.

When I noticed the missing car, I didn’t bat an eyelash. I had fallen behind on the note and the bank did what it had to do; nothing to be done.

September was an active month with the cleaning out of my grandmother’s apartment. October, however, has been a waiting month with hearings and their resultant decisions, hence I’ve watched the phone and the mailbox. The results haven’t been great, but as usual, I take the blows, heal up and get back at it. Now that I have the answers I’ve been waiting for, I can move forward.

Under normal circumstances I’d go into detail, but I know that all eyes that fall upon these texts are not friendly. I’m not a secretive person, but for now, my plans must remain my plans.

At the heart of my secret plans is significant self-determination and, paradoxically, complete transparency. There will be an unveiling of my intentions and actions before concerned parties, but no call for subterfuge.

At some point, the truth must prevail. Not only have I consistently told the truth, I have slowly collected evidence. More than that, I’ve done my part to garner support while not responding to petty provocations. Sticking to the facts might be old-fashioned, but it’s a gamble I am willing to take. After all, my kids are watching.

I’ve always preached to them the power of truth, but I gotta admit truth has taken one heck of a beating over the course of this divorce. No more. I am sick and tired of losing what I have worked so hard to earn for them and for myself. The bleeding stops here.

Lack of finances has forced me to research online how best to help my cause. Fortunately, a number of programs exist to help men in my situation. The challenge is wading through the plethora of information available. For example, a Google search for “emergency help” reveals a number of paid ads attached to “.com” addresses (a tell that such links are commercial come-ons) before the appearance of “.org” addresses, not all of which are legitimate. Nevertheless, “.org” is generally the way to go.

I am preparing myself to, yet again, face the bureaucrats sans personal, professional advice. In the past, this would not be a problem. However, this time, the stakes are much higher, the opposition never so motivated.

Of course, the personal bias of any bureaucrats or court officers involved is a factor, but I will keep coming back with the truth as long as there is a mechanism by which to deliver it.

My motivating factor is love for my children and the wish to teach them a way of life less complicated by distortions of fact and more dependent on faith and trust in others who have earned these. Haven’t we all seen enough of what secrets, duplicity and lies do to families?

How Did Things Get This Way?

Groan...

Groan…

No day without my kids is ever as good as it could be. The constant struggle to stay relevant to them has become a mental prison, a visit with them an occasional furlough.

The lack of hope that things will improve given the bias against fathers practiced by the divorce/support/custody complex is a weight tethered to the ankle of my spirit. I feel like I can never be the father I aspired to be with the limited time the kids and I share. It is a feeling I could not fathom at the birth of either child. It is a feeling I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

The best days are when I can suppress thoughts of the never-ending battle to rebuild after the needless destruction of divorce. I am able to immerse myself in things that draw my complete focus. Other days, thoughts of the kids, the time together we’ve lost, memories that we’ll never share and an uncertain future assail me like poltergeists.

The situation might be temporary, but that’s cold comfort as Halloween approaches and the theme of the season permeates the air. Even if I were lucky enough to have them this year, I am flat broke and struggling to hold on to the sole asset I can pass on to them, the house I bought to raise them.

Just five years ago, my life was on track and the future for the three of us was bright. I had a healthy 401K and owned a rental property to use as collateral to help with the kids’ college costs and finance their special occasions. Divorce changed all that. Deliberately, rapidly and irrevocably.

No one heard my regular and civil protests that the split could be amicable. No one cared how an acrimonious split would negatively impact the children. There was no attempt to reason, no consideration of a smarter divorce, just an all-out assault on decency by a depraved lawyer enabled by a woefully flawed system. Fine. What’s done is very done.

Yet the drama continues despite my lack of interest in reprising my role. Even as I focus on building a new life, I am still forced to endure repeated court appearances. The next one will be October 26th re custody. I can hardly wait.

There can never be a doubt that I love my children, but I am sick of being told what constitutes that love or what is proper proof of that love. I know how I feel about them and how they feel about me. When we can be together without the weight of the divorce/support/custody complex hanging over our heads, we are fine, have always been fine, will continue to be fine. But that weight is there and will be there from now on.

It was neither my choice nor the children’s to involve the courts in our healthy, mutually loving and supportive relationship. Now, we have no choice. We can only do our best to dance to the beat of a drummer with no rhythm.

15 Years of Hard Work = Nothing

It’s all up to the bureaucrats now. The questions have been answered, the forms filled out and the paperwork signed.

The effort I put into providing a decent life for my family has mattered little to any government agency I deal with. I guess now, it’s all in the hands of God.

Currently, I am dealing with Northampton County, Pennsylvania’s Domestic Relations Section (“Domestic Relations”) and the New York State Department of Labor (“Labor”). Domestic Relations regulates my child support and Labor provides my income while I’m unemployed.

I have not worked regularly since February. When my last employer terminated me, I was granted a severance package which expired in May. I had some money saved up that I intended to live off while I spent as much of summer as possible with my kids.

As of July 13, Domestic Relations discovered the bank account holding my reserve and froze it without notice. As soon as I knew, I scrambled to find a source of emergency income.

My research led me to Labor’s web site. The morning of July 14, I successfully applied for benefits with the effective date of July 4. This was wonderful, but any joy I took was short-lived.

I asked Labor to change my effective date of benefits to the expiration date of my severance package which was May 11. This would entitle me to benefits covering the period from that date up to July 4, roughly seven weeks. Labor denied this request after several weeks of wrangling. I appealed the determination and participated in a hearing by phone October 12. The decision is pending.

This past September 27, I attended a hearing with Domestic Relations to decide the amount of child support I would pay during my unemployment. My support was lowered, but Domestic Relations, again without warning, attached my Labor benefits.

My Labor benefit is $371 a week net. Of this, Domestic Relations takes $183, leaving me with $187. This princely sum barely covers the gas I burn on the 12-mile round trip from my home to the Domestic Relations office in Easton.

The upshot is that two bureaucracies charged with “helping” what is left of my family is actually destroying it with awful decisions that completely disregard my welfare. I am in jeopardy of losing the home I bought for my kids, the car that would transport me to and from work and the car I bought for my ex-wife (which she abandoned, though I remain responsible for the note). I am struggling to pay my auto insurance, utilities, child support and sundry expenses.

I am in the unique position of having one bureaucracy trying to lock me up for not earning enough and another putting a strangle hold on what I earn. The agencies do not work together to help me survive this ordeal, but each works to keep my pockets empty.

The challenge for me is to figure out how to remain a good father with no money, no car and no home.

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