Defending Dads

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Tag: support

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.

Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to Ms. Hillary Clinton

Dear Madam President:

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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.

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Jail for Justice — An Open Letter to the Media III

Imagine going into a court of law in the United States in response to a petition secure in the knowledge that opposing counsel was in collusion with the sitting judge.

Imagine court officials of such a base nature, they would play God with the life of a person about whom they know only what they might have heard from a biased attorney and what they’ve surmised after skimming over a case file riddled with lies.

Imagine that such persons were so intent on teaching you a lesson, they had little to no consideration for the peripheral damage their actions might cause.

Imagine being advised by your own attorney, who did not attend the hearing, to make a show of being respectful of, even awestruck with people you would avoid like the HIV virus under any other circumstance.

That’s what I faced Friday, July 22, 2016.

I don’t care what any God-awful lawyer or pompous county judges think of me, nor do my children or the people who know me. I do care that I am only one of many casually shafted by such people who make snap judgments not out of any sense of justice, but as the result of shameless, rampant cronyism within a government agency. It’s wrong and it needs to be addressed.

For your consideration:

  • The hearing held July 22, 2016 was the culmination of a petition for contempt of court originally filed March of this year alleging that I failed to comply with a property settlement agreement entered into July of 2015, to wit, I did not sign paperwork related to the division of my retirement plan;
  • It was known to all involved parties that I was not represented when presented with said paperwork;
  • I advised all involved parties that, prior to retaining new counsel, I would not sign any paperwork pending review by said counsel;
  • Regardless, opposing parties filed a petition for contempt of court on the grounds cited above and advised me of same;
  • Acting pro se, I communicated to opposing counsel my unvarnished observations of him, his behavior and my utter relief that he would soon be a distant memory to me;
  • Upon securing counsel, at a subsequent hearing which I did not attend, I was not found in contempt of court, however, the presiding judge still imposed upon me a $600.00 fine;
  • Already under considerable financial strain, I could not pay such fine;
  • Opposing counsel, whose implications that I had been less than a loving, devoted and supportive husband despite abundant evidence to the contrary absolutely litter the case file, seemed to take offense to my calling him out, here and via direct communication;
  • When I failed to remit payment within the time prescribed in the standing order, opposing counsel renewed his petition for contempt of court, demanding even more money though he was well aware of my financial responsibilities and that I was no longer employed;
  • At the July 22, 2016 hearing, acting de facto pro se, I offered valid arguments to which the presiding judge demonstrably turned a deaf ear; and
  • I was found to be in contempt of court, opposing counsel was granted his fee and I was ordered incarcerated for 2 months or until such time that the imposed fee was remitted to the county court’s administrator’s office.

For your further consideration:

  • The considerable financial demands made of divorced middle class fathers, including child support, car payments, auto insurance, mortgages, groceries, kids’ activities, entertainment and sundries, render absurd any order that I pay opposing counsel $600.00 for a petition that was denied;
  • Opposing counsel, while adept at smearing my name to suit his nefarious purposes, is paradoxically thin-skinned;
  • I have never seen a government agency act as a bill collector for an attorney in private practice;
  • Had I remained incarcerated for the duration of the two-month term imposed, I would not have been able to earn the money to meet critical financial obligations (I could have lost my home and car) including the fee imposed by the court; and
  • The psychological impact on my children of yet another unwarranted, court-imposed separation would have been cruel, unfair, incalculable, and for those responsible for such a circumstance, unconscionable.

The only conclusions to be reached are that opposing counsel and an elected county judge, both members of the Pennsylvania Bar Association expected to uphold the standards of that organization not to mention honor the public trust, were of the conviction that collecting $2,400.00 from an unemployed father of two was of far greater importance than anything going on in my life or those of my children, and failing that, I should spend two months in jail.

Really?

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Jail for Justice — An Open Letter to the Media II

Bodhan Zelechiwsky and his cronies at the Northampton County, Pennsylvania courthouse are about as predictable — and interesting — as a bus route. I appeared there for a hearing July 22, 2016, a week ago today. As expected, the narcissistic Zelechiwsky flitted about the courtroom like a peacock, so desperate for attention, I thought he might trip over his own feet. As the presiding judge was clearly working by his own clock, we peons waiting for hearings scheduled for as early as 9:00 AM had to endure a 2-hour delay before he appeared. That a person so inconsiderate of the time of others could be either fair or impartial was a dubious prospect. When His Honor at last deigned to grace us with his magnificent presence, I could tell by the way he walked out of chambers how the day would go for me. I was prepared.

When I was finally called to stand before the judge, things went as I knew they would with two notable exceptions: (1) though I was visibly trembling with revulsion at having to play a role in that farce, I was able to make valid and coherent arguments (which were, of course, dismissed out of hand by His Honor) and (2) I was awarded an all-expenses-paid, all-inclusive weekend getaway to commence immediately!

It was all so convenient: A deputy opened a side door in the courtroom and escorted me through a labyrinth leading to the spa. At the front desk, I was asked to check in my street clothes and issued a fashionable jumpsuit of the finest fabric. I wish I had pictures, but possession or use of electronic devices by guests was against resort policy. Fortunately, there was a photographer on duty. She took three pictures of me, forward facing and both profiles. Apparently, the shots were so good, the resort elected to keep them.

Once settled in, I took a group tour of the grounds. There wasn’t much to see and the food wasn’t fit for sale at a truck stop, but the conversation was fantastic! I was enthralled with the backgrounds of and tales told by my tour mates. The last time I learned so much, I was in a classroom. The most important lessons were that the challenges I face dealing with Northampton County’s courts are staggeringly common and that short-sighted, desensitized divorce attorneys are merely a symptom of larger, systemic problems.

The prevailing sentiment among my tour mates is that the laws governing divorce and child support in the state of Pennsylvania are needlessly punitive and unfavorable to working class men inexorably dragged into the system by thoughtless, vindictive and/or self-centered spouses. As hostile as these laws are, those charged with enforcing them apparently do so with a heavy hand, destroying the quality of life for men who had the temerity to marry and father children.

Then, there were discussions of certain lawyers and judges so high off their own vapors that they seem to think themselves above the law. I heard many stories of men gifted vacation packages like mine, but for longer durations and under more absurd circumstances.

When my sojourn was over, any doubts I may have had about the course of action I’m taking were gone. Families are being demolished and the lives of hard-working, dedicated fathers are being ruined. How is this beneficial to the innocent kids caught up in post-divorce dystopia?

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