Dear Madam President:
Is it premature to address you as such? Maybe, but call it wishful thinking.
My choice to support you is based in no small part on your demonstrated commitment to the children of America, their healthcare, education and development. Of particular interest to me is a quote from your autobiography The Unique Voice of Hillary Rodham Clinton:
Women and children need men to be full participants in the raising of children, and men need the opportunity and joy of being participants in their own families.
The primary obligation of both parents is to take whatever gift God gave you in the person of that little boy or girl and pay attention to that child’s needs, to respond to that child, to stimulate that child, to be there for that child, and to learn the kind of personality your child has so that you’re allowing your child to flourish.
I couldn’t agree more. But what happens in the event of divorce? What does the nation’s Divorce/Custody/Support complex (“The Monster”) do to support these ideals?
From the perspective of American fathers whose lives have been ravaged by The Monster, precious little.
The example I know best, my story, exposes a number of egregious flaws and biases intrinsic to The Monster that inhibit an involved, dedicated father’s ability to take part in the life/lives of his child/children.
From the start of my divorce, opposing counsel bombarded me with notices for hearings only days in advance. This short notice made it all but impossible to research or gather funds to retain quality counsel. Opposing counsel’s obvious strategy was to use the element of surprise to gain an emotional and financial advantage.
This is disturbing because divorce, particularly when custody is involved, is in no way a standard civil proceeding. To be certain, the competitive natures of some attorneys can make civil proceedings seem like war, but equally certain is that such an approach seldom serves the greater good.
In the case of divorce with custody, a key consideration must be the relationship of the parents after the fact. Divorced parents are almost universally advised to play nice for the sake of the children, but this, too, is wishful thinking. The reality is that divorce too often ends with one parent hating the other, one parent besting the other or some other inequity bound to result in bad blood. This need not be a foregone conclusion, but it is no secret that many divorce attorneys play upon the emotions of their clients to increase billable hours.
Another consideration is the existence of cozy relationships between established divorce attorneys and the courts that hear their cases. What is a defendant to think when, for the purpose of a fair and impartial hearing, opposing counsel walks into a courtroom and nearly all court personnel address said counsel by her or his first name as they might at a pub?
Then, there is the issue of support. The commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for example, calculates support using a formula that does not consider the living expenses of the non-custodial parent. How is that possible? If the non-custodial parent is not able to maintain for visitation a home with a suitable environment, this is unacceptable for the non-custodial parent and worse for children. How are they to adjust to shared custody when the home of the custodial parent feels like home while that of the other feels transient?
For fathers, divorce typically means having to start a new life under financial and emotional duress, a marked decrease in quality of life, less time with the children they love and impenetrable apathy from nearly everyone excluding their children and, sometimes, other divorced fathers.
Fortunately, public discussion of these issues is increasing. Younger generations of divorced fathers are taking to social media, forming grassroots movements and staging public demonstrations. There is a planned class-action lawsuit seeking damages for divorced fathers from the family courts of all fifty states and the federal government. There is hope.
Hope is wonderful, but it doesn’t help divorced fathers save our homes, credit scores, retirement funds, peace of mind or relationships with our kids. We need action. We need government help from the municipal to the federal levels. Most of all, we need new laws that inhibit the abilities of predatory divorce lawyers, discourage cronyism between attorneys and jurists and mandate inclusion of living expenses for non-custodial parents in the calculation of support obligations. We need this now, before any more deserving kids lose the dads they know and love to The Monster.