Defending Dads

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

Tag: child custody (Page 1 of 2)

Hi, Joss!

I am happy to be posting again. I never wanted to stop, but I had real world problems to address. Meaningful posts require time and thought, particularly when the subject matter is advocacy for alienated parents. I knew that “mailing it in” would not only tarnish my reputation as a fledgling activist, it would also be a disservice to any readers looking for genuine guidance during the worst times of their lives.

The real world problems I mentioned have been relative to the foolishness typical of post-divorce support and custody issues. Imagine that working out when and how I see my children is predicated on petty manipulation at the level of what my children experience with their peers as rites of passage.

I’ve grown accustomed to the utter stupidity. In fact, I’ve grown numb to it. I’ve shifted my focus from trying to reason with those incapable of reason to putting my affairs in order once and for all. As an uncle often reminds me, I cannot take care of my children if I do not first take care of myself.

So why did I pick today to resume posting? My daughter mentioned to me a few days ago that she occasionally checks my blog for new posts. Done.

If memory serves, I last posted around Thanksgiving of 2016. Though circumstances for me as a secondary parent have been far from ideal, the kids and I have managed to make the most of our limited time together. For that, I am most grateful; I’ve heard horror stories. Still, I strive for more time and better opportunities to be active in my kids’ lives. The problem is I am unwilling to do so on terms dictated by bureaucrats who neither understand nor appreciate the strength of my bond with my children. Family courts have proven woefully deficient at serving the best interests of broken families.

I’ve spent my time away from the keyboard adjusting to what divorce literature refers to as “the new normal”. The thing is, I’m not a lock-step kind of dude. I want no part of this new normal. I am self-aware enough to know that this is unlikely to change.

My position is not a product of stubbornness so much as contempt for the growing ease with which our society dismisses violations of basic social contracts. The concept of “personal responsibility” is vanishing with the speed of a falling star on a summer night.

Had I never become a parent, I’m certain this unfortunate development would mean nothing to me. But I DID become a parent and I have no interest in raising children with diminished capacities to appreciate the real value of family as I understand it.

The “system” has temporarily inhibited my ability to be the kind of father I aspire to be. That’s fine, because the father that I aspire to be would never accept that. Rather, I choose to push aside the emotion that had clouded my judgment for months. I have embraced pragmatism and a willingness to do whatever it takes to be a genuine father to my kids.

My love for my children has not changed. My approach to being their father has.

Hi, Joss.  It’s great to be posting again, but better yet that YOU are my inspiration.

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.

 

The Day Of II

The morning of October 26, I walked into the Northampton County court house without trepidation. The proceeding was scheduled for 10 AM and I stood before the deputies at the metal detector at 9:55 AM.

To my chagrin, some schmuck had gone through the metal detector before me and he had a bin full of God knows what on the conveyor belt. The deputy running the conveyor belt, schmuck II, decided to stop the belt while schmuck I gathered his possessions. As schmuck I seemed to pick his things up in slow motion, schmuck II refused to advance the belt.

I had a wallet, keys and a sheet of paper in my bin.  I could have snatched that up in seconds and been on my way, but nooooooo. Schmuck I and the deputies had to go over schmuck I’s military career. Turns out schmuck I was a medic. So was I, but at 9:57 AM when I was due for a hearing at 10:00 AM, I wasn’t about to chime in with “No kidding? So was I!”

I did my best to disguise my impatience, but I can’t be sure I convinced the deputy running the conveyor belt. Was he holding me up just because he could? When it comes to law enforcement types, this is hardly beyond the realm of possibility. It could have been that I am impatient and paranoid and the deputy was just following protocol. Who knew?

When the deputies had finally worked out schmuck I’s military history, schmuck II flipped the switch on the conveyor belt. At 9:59, I grabbed my stuff from the bin and hot-footed it to the waiting area outside the hearing room.

As a military veteran, I’m familiar with the concept of hurry-up-and-wait. That’s what I did once I got to the waiting area. The remarkable thing was that I still felt calm. I downed a few cups of water, visited the facilities and carried myself like a gentleman.

When I was finally summoned to the hearing room, I spoke when I was spoken to, kept things simple and otherwise endured an exercise in utter futility.

There was a moment that the hearing officer seemed to be gunning for me, but just then, I remembered that court proceedings are as full of game as any routine pre-hook-up negotiation that takes place in nightclubs around the world. When she threw me a curve ball, I simply watched it fall out of the strike zone and waited for the next pitch.

The proceeding lasted about 45 minutes, and at its conclusion, little had changed. I walked in with nothing but an affidavit that the hearing officer didn’t bother to take into the record and walked out with the goals of resuming my life and once again being the father I had been before the divorce.

The divorce has changed my life immeasurably, but it has also given me the freedom to pursue my dreams. I am in the unique position to be living proof to my kids that pursuing their dreams is not only admirable, but essential to living a fulfilling life.

What I’m doing is by no means easy, but it’s well worth it to me and to them.

Prepping for the Big Day

Here we go again.

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howigotcustody.org — Check it Out!

Forty-One Years Gone I

No one lives forever. Not even matriarchs. But when matriarchs die, those who had been under their influence are buffeted by shock waves long after the event.

My grandmother Ruby had been perched atop my maternal family tree for some sixty years. She had six children. I am the only child of her eldest daughter, born three years after Ruby’s youngest. Ruby had been my guardian for so much of my childhood that, in the eyes of many of our relatives, I am her seventh child.

Ruby had a strong personality. Her difficult life demanded that. While I understand and respect this, to hone my personality, I needed to escape the umbrella of hers. And I did. I estranged myself from my maternal family for seven years.

I relocated my former wife and children to Pennsylvania during the estrangement. Then, the unthinkable happened: My marriage began to fail. The tension in my home had grown so intense, even months before papers were filed, I was compelled to live elsewhere for a time. My grandmother gave me shelter, no questions asked.

Eventually, I returned to my home. Despite counseling and making every reasonable effort I could to heal my home, nothing improved. In fact, things grew worse. And in the middle of this were the innocent babies I would never have brought into the world under such circumstances. The only family they had ever known was a shambles. Then, the papers were filed. Soon after that, I was evicted from my home…though I was still responsible for the mortgage.

This was the cruelest blow to me because I understood the implications for my children of our sudden, court-imposed separation. I was crushed. I called Ruby. Once again, she gave me shelter, no questions asked.

I stayed with Ruby for over a year as I fought to maintain my connection with the kids, worked, paid down bills and weathered the storm of a needlessly contentious divorce. I could see even through this deluge of issues that Ruby was fading, but I found it difficult to accept. She had been in and out of the hospital several times before eventually succumbing to a variety of ailments last August.

Neither I nor my immediate family were prepared for Ruby’s death. She had been the heart and soul of our family for so long, it was all but impossible to imagine a world without her. Ironically, she had equipped us so well with the tools to handle adversity that we jumped right into that world, strange place that it was.

I moved back to Pennsylvania and focused on establishing myself there not long after Ruby’s passing. I left her apartment vacant and, as I continued to deal with grief, the divorce and sustaining my life, failed to maintain tenancy. I needed to be close to my children. The decision for me was easy.

In seemingly the blink of an eye, a year went by. Ruby’s possessions remained in the apartment. I was the member of her immediate family living closest. No one appointed me to any role. Clearing out her place was something I simply had to do.

Learn more…

Jail for Justice — An Open Letter to the Media XV

For the remainder of my time on the intake unit, I either listened to accounts of or spoke about the utter failure of the courts to handle divorce in a way that is less devastating to fathers and truly beneficial to children and their futures. Worse, no one seems inclined to change anything, not even the fathers chewed up and spat out by the process.

I guess that’s how it goes with the human condition. Throughout history, minority groups targeted for persecution by hostile majorities have endured inconceivable abuse. Egyptians enslaved Hebrews, Romans massacred Christians, the English crushed just about anyone who wasn’t English and so on. While I don’t suggest that divorced fathers are crucified, fed to lions or broiled in iron maidens, I think ample evidence exists that we don’t get much love.

The thing we divorced dads have to draw strength from is that in each case I’ve referenced, change did come. It always does. But what is any of us going to do to help it along? Who among us has the courage to speak up? Which of us loves his children enough to take decisive action?

By the afternoon of Monday, July 25, 2016, the intake unit was to be purged to make room for a new group of sinners. The current crop were ordered to gather our belongings and wait by the gate. A head count was conducted, then we were marched through the main gallery bound for our respective regular housing units, our homes away from home.

That gallery was literally a hot mess. Men bustled about on the tiers. They at first seemed oblivious to us, but in a matter of seconds, we became the center of their attention. Some men even left their cells to get a gander at us. They must have been bored nearly to death to be so fascinated by a group of inmates on their way to their assigned cells. Some made catcalls, a gesture so hackneyed and pointless that none of us bothered to look up.

At the far end of the gallery was another set of gates leading to the annexed section of the jail. Guys had been talking this place up since we were in the bullpen. As we passed through the portal from the ancient side of the jail to the new, there was a marked difference in air quality and temperature. It reminded me of what it’s like to step into a brand new subway car from a muggy, dimly lit platform. I might not have been going home just then, but neither would I be exiled to the Black Hole of Calcutta. How’s that expression go about clouds in silver linings?

Truthfully, I didn’t care where they sent me. My mind was beyond the grasp of its surroundings. I had my notes and contacts. All I had to do was wait.

On the regular unit, the crew I met at intake had been assigned to various cells. The capacity of these cells was eight, so each of us had seven new personalities to learn. There wasn’t a lot of time for mingling. When you see a familiar face on the tier, you nod, exchange a word or two then move on. This wasn’t high school, after all.

In summary…

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