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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.

Airbnb’s Bold Commitment!

One-hundred fifty — count ’em, 150! — years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, racial equality remains beyond the grasp of a society that should know better.

The Day Of

For the two weeks leading up to October 26, 2016, that date loomed over my life like a blood moon. As of 10:00 AM that morning, a custody conference would be held to determine whether I should be tried for contempt of an order issued two years prior.

At issue were my decisions to suspend (a) communication with the plaintiff and (b) regular visitation with my children. These decisions were based on several factors, chief of which had been the long-established and ongoing failure of the other side to act in good faith and my determination to set my affairs in order post…everything!

I had tried without success to raise money to cover legal expenses via a GoFundMe page. I had no choice but to walk into the torrid expanse of a legal desert without a canteen.

In the days leading up to the conference, I agonized over how best to prepare. The old saying holds that the truth shall set you free, but this had been far from my experience with Northampton County courts.

Curiously, by nightfall of October 25, I felt little trace of the phobia that typically gripped me before a court date. The absence of that crippling dread left me free to concentrate on the conference rather than my intense aversion to the process.

I looked over the notice of conference I received through the mail. It cited rules of Northampton County’s civil procedure. I reviewed those rules.

According to the rules of service, several items should have accompanied the notice of conference. There was no trace of these items. To my thinking, my law review was done.

Having worked for a preeminent law firm for a several years, I knew that my effort, while fruitful, had fallen far short of the standard of due diligence. I cut things off to help manage my emotions. Helping my cause is getting easier, but it is still exceedingly difficult to sustain objectivity.

Regardless, I know that a plaintiff’s failure to properly serve a defendant in a proceeding has the effect of an emergency brake triggered on a speeding train. I was tentatively emboldened by this realization. I drifted off to sleep marveling that I was so at peace the night before court.

At 4:00 AM the morning of the 26th, I hit the floor. Typically, I would wash up and head to the gym, but that morning was all about the conference. I planted myself in front of my laptop and, within minutes, my notion of plaintiff’s failure to properly serve notice became an affidavit ready for notarization and submission for the record.

At the appointed time, I walked into the Northampton County court house with only my wallet, keys, a blank stare, an open mind and a notarized affidavit. I hadn’t bothered to analyze my new-found confidence, but I knew that the truth was on my side and my relationships with the kids were at stake. Maybe determination to do right by them has finally overridden my utter disgust for the entire divorce process.

Defending ONE Dad

The experience of family court had been so brutal for me that I was driven to establish this blog. In addition to giving me a public voice, the blog has been therapeutic, a catalyst to research related subject matter and a bridge to better self-discipline. These are great, but I had no evidence that a single divorced dad anywhere had benefited from the relation of my troubles and/or what I have learned from them. I had no way to gauge if a key objective of the blog was being met.

As human beings, we all seek validation of some form, but seldom does validation seek out any of us. This past October 22 proved to be one of those rare occasions for me. My post about Brad Pitt’s face elicited the following abbreviated exchange:

twt-1 twt-2 twt-3 twt-4 twt-5 twt-6 twt-7 twt-8 twt-9 twt-10 twt-11 twt-12 twt-13 twt-14 twt-15 twt-16 twt-17 twt-18 twt-19 twt-20 twt-21 twt-22 twt-23 twt-24 twt-25 twt-26 twt-27 twt-28 twt-29 twt-30 twt-32 twt-31 twt-36 twt-35

Mr. Marshall and I discussed sharing this exchange with the world. He consented and our shared hopes are to illustrate (1) the long-term effects of parental alienation on the alienated parent AND children and (2) positive courses of action an alienated parent should take to combat those effects.

We can do this, but none of us can do it alone.

Prepping for the Big Day

Here we go again.

Things People Didn’t Talk About…Until They Did

Garnering public support to address the social injustices regularly practiced in family court is like negotiating peace in the middle east:  

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

Dear Madam President:

Brad Pitt’s Face

Let’s see:  2 checking accounts with negative balances, 1 repossessed car, 1 car on deck for repossession, 1 home very near foreclosure, unemployed (but looking) and living off $187 a week.

My Favorite Two People

The obstacles that stand between my kids and me are so Byzantine that they often distract me from my prime objective:

We Are Worthy

Initially, the prospect of becoming a father scared me to death. Being responsible for raising another human being was unfathomable to me. My life had been a roller coaster up to my mid-thirties. I didn’t want to bring an innocent kid into that.

Then, a miracle happened. The sound of my son’s tiny heart beat over an ultrasound burst through my trepidation like a charging fullback. Fear and reticence were instantly transformed into profound love. I knew there was nothing I wouldn’t do for him.

Months later, a second miracle happened. I looked at an ultrasound image of my younger child with whom I was already in love and realized I had a daughter. I knew there was nothing I wouldn’t do for her.

I worked. Sometimes 7 days a week. Sometimes, 2 jobs at a time. Sometimes, 12 hours a day. I saved money. I paid my bills. I built my credit. I bought property. Not only did I want to be there for the kids every day, I wanted to make sure they were well provided for. I invested 15 years into establishing a good life for my family. Then, divorce tapped me dry. Clearly, it had been the goal of the opposition to drive me to financial ruin. For them, it was a question of leverage.

I have reached a point where I cannot meet my goals as a father or activist without the help of good-hearted strangers. No social services agency has $10,000 to help me save the home I bought for my children. No relative can help with my astronomical legal bills. No friend can afford to pay my back taxes.

While I search for suitable employment to help regain my footing, I find myself in jeopardy of losing my home and car. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: No father shown to be dedicated to his children should suffer financial catastrophe as the result of a divorce strategy. The very idea is absurd. My aim is to not only reclaim my life, but to help other fathers avoid the same fate.

I have lost it all and started over more than once, but this time is different. At 48, I have to weigh how many years it will take to clean up this mess against how much quality time I will have with the kids. The numbers don’t look good.

This is why I’m asking the public to not only recognize the plight of good divorced fathers whose lives are ravaged by the divorce/custody/support complex, but to think of the kids who love and need them. I’m asking for help not only for myself, but for my kids and for other fathers and their kids. Single moms deserve all the help they can get, but they are by no means the only single parents facing impossible challenges.

Please weigh my words carefully, then spread them. Thank you.

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