Defending Dads

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

Tag: divorce law reform (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.

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 Quest for Cheese

Rebuilding a life at middle-age is an unpleasant chore. This is a fact younger people cannot fathom, my contemporaries know all too well and older people try to forget. One has no choice but to schlep through each day like a lab mouse working its way through a maze to a hunk of cheese it can smell but not yet taste. The key to making it is to hold on to the grain of hope intrinsic to that statement: The mouse can smell the cheese. It works its way through the maze because it knows the cheese is there.

cheese_maze

Some days, I can’t detect a whiff of queso in the air. No swiss, no Muenster, no provolone. Other days, I think I might have a few slices stuffed inside my pillow case.

Cheese is tasty, wonderful and one of life’s great pleasures, but the metaphor grows strained. What I’m after is renewed contentment, specifically, a kind of freedom that can only come from carving out for myself a new career, new routines and new interests. What might the average day of this renewed contentment be like? I got it so cold, I can lay it out in military time:

0400 HRS: Wake up, pull back an 800 thread count sheet and make my way to the bathroom to wash up, slip on gym clothes and head out.

0430 HRS: Spend a good 90 minutes stretching, pumping and running my way to a healthy endorphin rush.

0630 HRS: Whip up a veggie recovery omelette and chow down.

0700 HRS: Blog, pound out prose, do research and promote my work via social media.

1000 HRS: Snack time.

1015 HRS: Back to the keyboard.

1215 HRS: Business calls.

1300 HRS: Lunch.

1330 HRS: Chores.

1530 HRS: Kid time. After school snacks, extracurricular activities, helping with homework and projects.

1900 HRS: Dinner time.

1930 HRS: Kitchen clean up, prep for down-time.

2000 HRS: Down-time. A neighborhood stroll, games with the kids or maybe some TV.

2200 HRS: Lights out.

Just a framework; Google Maps directions to MyNewNormal. It ain’t sexy, but after what I’ve lived through, just a month of days like that would be better for me than a stateroom on a seven-day Caribbean cruise.

I work toward the day when I can make my living doing what I love, taking care of my body and home and greatest of all, being a model of consistency and self-fulfillment to my kids and PRESENT for them. This is dreaming big for me.

Not there yet. Not even close. So begins another day of seemingly random events. As usual, I will exert whatever control I can and, pardon the backpedal, I’ll keep sniffing for that cheese.

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.

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Here we go again.

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