Defending Dads

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Tag: divorce court (Page 1 of 2)

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.

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.

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.

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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100 Posts — A Milestone

A little humor to mark the occasion…

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What happens when you have a bad divorce lawyer…

Major Study Of Child Support Planned – DadsDivorce LIVE

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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