Defending Dads

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

Tag: social injustice

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.

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…

Jail for Justice — An Open Letter to the Media XIV

Wow. As I’m writing this post, a glance at the title field reveals the Roman numeral “XIV”! I intended to write a kind of op-ed piece, not a TV series, but be that as it may…

So I was sitting in the dayroom listening to guys relate their stories. On my grandfather’s ashes, I was appalled. No less than 1/3 of the men on the intake unit were there for penny ante stuff related to alleged violations of Protection From Abuse (“PFA”) orders or child support arrears totaling less than $1,000.

Jail? For that? Really? Are they locking guys up for jaywalking, too?

Before I go on, I need to establish some things:

  • I relocated to the Lehigh Valley because it is a wonderful place to live and raise children;
  • People here are generally friendly, thoughtful, respectful and law-abiding;
  • At the time I relocated, I did not foresee any marital issues that would result in the morass in which I find myself enmeshed; and
  • My days of gambling with my life and liberty were over for more than a decade before I even considered leaving New York, which is to say that I do not flout nor do I intentionally run afoul of the law. I’m a father and, generally, a busy one — I try to set an example for my kids and I have no time to be running back and forth to court for nonsense.

Yet, here we are, or rather, there I was:

  • In jail;
  • Not convicted of any crime;
  • Taking up space;
  • Watching painfully bad TV;
  • Waiting for the results of a TB test;
  • Wearing a jumpsuit better suited for a scarecrow than a human being;
  • Eating foods of dubious origin;
  • NOT earning money for child support;
  • Missing my kids, friends and family;
  • Ordered to pay a fine, then incarcerated before I could even visit a bank or make a phone call;
  • At the mercy of people who would violate my constitutional rights because I had the nerve to point out that they were violating my constitutional rights;
  • Listening to other guys whose constitutional rights were violated, some of whom were held prisoner for failing to pay child support arrears when their incarceration had cost them their jobs, others because they were simply accused of violating PFAs, even if there was no evidence that they had done so and consequences be darned;
  • Stuck in Northampton County’s modern take on the debtor’s prison; and
  • In jail!

So I took notes, gathered contact information, jotted down ideas and cultivated strategies. The men on the unit might have been content to rot in jail while the creeps who put us there spent the weekend laughing it up somewhere, but I’ve worked too hard to have any kind of life to allow some good ol’ boys to rip it from my hands simply because they can. No sirree.

The take-aways:

  • The show performed the previous day in Room 8 went off without a hitch, as if the players had recited their lines ad nauseum over hundreds of performances;
  • Too many men on the unit were telling the same story for it to be a coincidence;
  • No one can be expected to pay off a debt from a jail cell; and
  • Karma is, er…not a friend of the unscrupulous.

Learn more…

The Womb Has Proven Mightier Than The Pen

What has happened to the media? How many new-school journalists actually apply to their craft what they’ve learned in journalism school? Why is it that truly socially relevant stories go ignored while platoons of writers and photographers rush to cover what some celebrity-of-the-moment is wearing to walk her purse-pooch through Central Park? I don’t know. What I do know is that, even in this age of virtually all nonsense all the time, a single person with uncommon resolve and the right approach can bring about monumental change. Sometimes, it boils down to that.

The welfare of my children is worth every abrasive post, reasonable reference, revelation, taunt or stunt or any other price I might have to pay to bring attention to our plight. The American divorce/support/custody complex is a largely outmoded, corroded, grotesque, asinine system that frequently denies involved fathers and their kids the right to be whole after the courts have arbitrarily torn them asunder. It is time responsible fathers of our era stopped paying the price for the deadbeat dads of the 20th century. Who of the media dare to address this topic proactively and extensively rather than allow it to remain the backstory to myriad examples of antisocial behavior?

I know that common sense today is as fashionable as top hats and tails, but the decades of evidence that broken families tend to produce broken people glow in the dark like plastic skeletons on Halloween! The American media need to wake up, pull their heads out of Kim Kardashian’s backside and do their jobs! Start observing, culling data and telling the truth about what divorce courts, judges and lawyers are doing to good fathers as a matter of rote rather than acting in the best interests of kids!

In many states, divorce, custody and support matters are churned through a feudalistic machine where gender, money, convention and the whims of lawyers and judges routinely outweigh truth and the actual circumstances of any given case. That people in position to make changes, including the media, legislators, lawyers, judges and even beaten down fathers, some of whom happen to be members of the aforementioned groups, do nothing to fix this dysfunctional system is positively shameful and contributes to the degradation of the American family.

Given what many young men have seen happen to their own families or those of friends, it’s a wonder any would want to walk off the same cliff that previous generations of men have. Family values are clearly in decline and the punishment meted out to fathers for simply having been part of failed relationships is often excessive and inequitable.

Am I just a disgruntled soul ranting about some perceived injustice, the kind of guy to be avoided when choosing a place to sit at a favored pub? No, because first, I don’t go to pubs and second, I’m addressing concerns that far outweigh my personal struggle. I’m challenging American journalists to investigate the decline of the American family and the alienation of the American father as aided by laws and the parties charged with upholding those laws. This is not only relevant news but a long-perpetuated social injustice demanding the kind of activism that spawned movements to protect women’s rights, civil rights, immigration rights or any rights systemically denied a targeted group in this country.

For the purposes of sports broadcasts and fantasy leagues, a legion of statisticians are making a very good living generating data that contribute as much to our society as, well, Kim Kardashian’s backside. What would happen if the same kind of focus were applied to something that actually mattered, like the emotional impact of court-imposed separations and lop-sided custody orders on kids and loving fathers? What story would 10 years of data tell about the effects of inflexible, arbitrary support demands on fathers forced to either abandon their pre-divorce standard of living or face incarceration? God knows the internet and social media are teeming with the testimonies of dads whose rights are not only denied, but practically extinguished. The only question is: Who in the media will finally stop pretending that this isn’t a national crisis?

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén