Archive for the ‘Family Court Reform’ Category

Until you’ve actually gone through the process, you don’t can’t possibly imagine the challenges that can come from being in the family court system.  It’s an eye opener to say the least.  Especially when it comes to custody and child support.

Child support.  The dictionary describes it as:  court-ordered payments, typically made by a noncustodial divorced parent, to support one’s minor child or children.  The key statement being to support one’s minor child or children.  Sadly, too often this is not the case.

I have been on both sides of the fence on this issue.  I have received child support from my ex-husband, and I have watched my current husband pay child support to his ex-wife.  The difference in the two scenario’s is staggering.

When my first husband and I divorced, an amount was set for him to pay towards the care of our two children based on his income at the time.  Our daughter was ten and our son, who has special needs, was five.  For most of our marriage my ex-husband and I earned similar amounts of money.  In the two years before our divorce, he didn’t work most of the time.  When he did get a job, child support was set based on the income from his latest position, not based on his previous ability to earn, which was over double what he earned on the new job.  For two children, I received the modest amount of slightly under $400 a month.  (It later became slightly more when the years of arrears were added.)  This amount was not enough to pay for a month’s groceries, not enough to pay for one child’s day care expenses, but that was his contribution, based on the amount he earned at the time of our divorce in 1997.  There were many times through the years that I did not receive any child support.  I did not receive payment for medical bills.  I did not receive help with keeping the children under medical coverage.  Did this frustrate me?  Yes. Was my ex-husband doing the best he could do for our children, maybe, maybe not.  But I did the best I could to work with him.  I wanted my children to at least have the possibility of having a relationship with their biological father.  I was not going to let child support interfere.

When I met my current husband, much of what attracted me to him was the way he cared for his children.  He did more than pay his child support.  He paid the medical insurance, he paid the medical bills, he worked two jobs so he could buy them clothes, school supplies, pay for their school lunches – things that child support theoretically goes towards.  Whenever the kids needed something, he paid.  If the kids were sick, he was the one to stay home from work to care for them.  Sadly, in his case, the child support has never gone much to the care of the children.  If you’ve read any of my past posts you know of the ex-wife’s need for show.  Since my last post on child support, she has gotten two different cars, trading her Pontiac Solstice for a Lexus convertible and the white Honda Pilot for some type of Cadillac.  Twelve cars in thirteen years.  She has three cars at her disposal while my soon to be 18-year-old stepson doesn’t have a car to drive.  I don’t understand it.  But I digress, the point is there needs to be drastic child support reform.

When my husband divorced in 1998, child support was set for the four children based on his income at the time.  As it should have been, I believe.  But here is where my agreement with the system stops.  Why does the custodial parent get an increase in child support every time the other parent gets a raise?  In the case of my husband I can assure you the ex-wife did nothing to support his career advancement.  If anything, she was a detriment to his career.  He was a top high school football coach in our state with a promising coaching career ahead of him, until he got hooked up with her.  No one wants to hire the coach whose wife is having sex with the football team.  He eventually left his teaching and coaching career of over 20 years because he tired of her reputation following him even after they were divorced.  In my opinion, child support needs to be capped based on the level of income at the time of divorce.  Period.

When my husband left coaching and went into business, he developed a strategic plan of where he wanted his new career to go.  He has been extremely successful in achieving those goals.  Of course, the ex-wife has taken him back to court continually to squeeze every possible penny she can get out of him.  How is that she is even awarded an increase?  She has absolutely nothing to do with his success.  Nor does she spend the money on the children.  She never has.  My example would again be my stepson not having a car.  At over $900 a month in child support for one child, there is certainly money to put towards it.

And what about the daughter who turned out to not be my husband’s biological child?  Even though the ex-wife was a teacher having illicit relationships with male students that resulted in this pregnancy, in many states she has the right to go back and collect child support for the child.  While my husband, like many other men duped by paternity fraud, has no recourse for recovering the child support and expenses he paid for this child.  Not mention the pain he endures.

I’m not saying that all parents (male or female) who receive child support are not using it for their children.  But there are bottom feeders – people who use their children as a paycheck, who feed their ego literally at the expense of their children.  At the very least, we ought to be able to require some type of accounting be presented to show where the money is being spent to benefit the children.  I was happy to provide my ex-husband with receipts whenever he asked for them.  If there is nothing to hide, why not?  When my husband met with his attorney over the last child support increase he asked if we could put the increase in a court ordered trust for the child to be given to him when he became of age.  It was the only way we knew he would be getting the benefit of his father’s hard work.  It wasn’t allowed.  The custodial parent is allowed to spend the money however they see fit.

There needs to be more shared parenting to decrease the need for there even being a child support order.  What’s in the best interest of the child is spending time with each parent and seeing the reality of having to work to make ends meet.  A child being used as a weapon and a source of income doesn’t benefit anyone.  Ultimately, it is the child is the one being damaged by the system in place for their protection and edification.  Change is desperately needed.

 

 

Today is the day celebrated as Father’s Day.  It’s usually a day of cookouts, family time, gift giving, and laughter.  Handmade cards and pictures from little kids; stories about their childhood from those that are grown. Memories are made, and memories are revisited.

Sadly, not all kids get to experience having a Father in their life.  They watch from the sidelines as friends, cousins, neighbors, celebrate this day.  Equally as sad is that not all Father’s get to experience Father’s Day with their children.  Some by choice, it is true.  But many, because they are denied that right in one form or fashion.

I have been on both sides of the coin not only in my own childhood, but in the childhoods of my children and stepchildren.  My biological father was an alcoholic who had an affair, which caused he and my mother to divorce.  Once divorced and ordered to pay child support, medical expenses and save for my education, he made one support payment ($8O) and promptly left for California where he would not have to pay.  (Remember, this was about 45 years ago so CS enforcement was not what it is today.)  My mother never received another dime from him and I saw this man exactly three times between the ages of 3 and 18.  In sharp contrast is my step-dad, Charlie, who was always there for me.  Charlie loved me and my siblings.  We were his children.  Charlie has been gone from us for over 26 years, but when I think of my “Dad” I think of him.  His wisdom still guides me and I love him as much today as ever.

In the case of my own children, their biological father isn’t any better than mine.  While we were married, my ex-husband was somewhat active in the life of our daughter, but not our son.  Because of his disability, I suppose.  Once we separated, he took the kids on visitation only three times.  Only after my daughter contacted him when she was 17 did he begin somewhat of a relationship with her, but again, never our son.  To this day, as my daughter sits in prison, her biological father does nothing to support her.  He had seen our son three times in 10 years and that was only because I invited him to my son’s birthday parties and dog sat for him once.

Then there is my husband.  He is not only a truly wonderful man, he is a magnificent Father.  A huge part of what attracted me to him was his love for and his devotion to his children.  And eventually, his love for, and support of, my children.  He continues to offer support and guidance to my daughter through her challenges.   He recently adopted my son, autism and all.  He is their Dad in every sense of the word.

My husband wants every minute he can possibly get with all of our children.  Unfortunately, sometimes he is denied that right.  If you’ve read any of my other posts you are well aware of the antics we experience at the whimsy of the ex.  If you’re not familiar with our story let’s just sum it up with these three key phrases:  parental alienation, abusive/personality disordered woman, using  the children as pawns for control and manipulation.  By my way of thinking, if a child is blessed enough to have a father who cares, who wants to be active in their life and provide a solid, positive influence, why would you want to interfere in that?

Today I have thought a lot about my stepdaughter that isn’t my husband’s biological child.  How do you think she feels about Father’s Day?  To our knowledge, she doesn’t know the identity of her biological father.  At 10 years old her mother very effectively stole her father from her.  She was told by her mother the day we had the children’s cheeks swabbed that her daddy wasn’t really her daddy.  She was made to be the outcast by her mother.  Biology didn’t change the way my husband felt about his daughter.  He had loved her and cared for her from the time she was a baby.  Now suddenly he was the bad guy.  And all so the mother could hide her crimes.  This young girl is now graduated from high school and about to be an adult.  She suffers emotional issues and has trouble making and keeping friends.  Her own siblings have long been fearful of her.  She has been in trouble with the law.  Why?  In my opinion because the loving relationship she had with the man she knew as her father was destroyed.  You see, whether as an ex you like it or not, Daddy‘s are very important.

This type of thing is happening to men all the time.  We are making progress in the courts and in the views of society but we still have a long way to go.  Just because a woman is a mother does not automatically make her the better parent.  Just because a parent has physical custody does not give them the right to interfere with the relationship between a child and the other parent.  As a stepparent I feel it is important to support both parents to the children regardless of your feelings.  And believe me, I know that at times the feelings can be very negative.  But children need both parents.  Little girls and boys need a Daddy.  No matter what their age.  And kids need to be allowed to be kids.  They don’t need to have your emotional baggage and insecurities dumped on them.  It’s hard enough just being a kid.

So a big, enthusiastic Happy Father’s Day to all you wonderful men who love and adore your children as my husband does.  Much love to you.  Keep your head up and work towards doing the best you can to make things right.  If we can’t make the changes fast enough to help ourselves, at least we can work towards keeping these things from happening to other families in the future.

Parent Alienation and the Wizard of Oz

Written by Carolan Ross

http://www.squidoo.com/parent-alienation-syndrome-pas

After almost twelve years of watching this woman in action, it shouldn’t still surprise me.  The selfishness.  The greed.  The diminished concern for her own children.  The lies and manipulations.  The way she has mastered the art of playing the victim.  I tell myself it can’t possibly continue, yet it does.  Year after year.

With my husbands most recent increase, he now pays about $900 per month in child support for one child.  This is more than he paid when he and the ex divorced and he was paying support on four children.  To say that the child support system needs an overhaul is a gross understatement.  Many men are unjustly charged with outrageous child support amounts.  Others never experience any type of increase, while still others are never ordered to pay support at all.  Yes, we are in need of a major “re-do” on a national level.  But what’s on my mind is what’s happening right here under my roof.

One of the things that most attracted me to my husband when I first met him was how he loved and cared for his children.  They were all quite young then, the oldest being nine and the youngest having just turned three.  The summer before we married, I watched as this wonderful man worked several odd jobs, including digging ditches for sprinkler systems, to have extra money to buy the kids the things they needed.  At the time, it was primarily clothes and food.  In spite of the fact that he was paying around $850 a month in child support, he was still buying clothes, personal care supplies, school supplies, etc. and helping with daycare costs.

Having been a single mom, responsible for providing for my own children, I realize the importance of both parents contributing to the health, welfare and financial security of their children.  The responsibilities, as well as the joys, of raising your children should be shared.  In my opinion, this is what is most beneficial to the children. (Provided of course, that there aren’t extenuating circumstances.)  The problem that I have with my husband paying $900 a month in child support for his son is that it isn’t going to provide for this young mans needs.

My stepson has shown up wearing shoes with the entire side blown out.  He has come to our home with underwear packed in his bag that were at least two sizes too small, telling us that was all he had.  No socks.  He didn’t have any.  Or worse, wearing women’s socks (those of his mother or sisters) because he didn’t have any.  He has repeatedly worn ill-fitting clothing.  Pants so tight they cannot zip that he explained had to be worn with a long shirt so that teachers and the other kids in school did not notice.  Most recently, he has been wearing jeans that are size 34 waist, bunched up with a belt.  Who’s pants are these anyway?  My stepson wears a size 18 boys.  For Christmas, several things he was given by his mother were from Salvation Army and still had the tags on them.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Salvation Army.  Especially if that’s what your budget dictates.  I take issue with this however because my husband is paying MORE than enough child support to make sure his son is nicely clothed, properly fed and appropriately groomed.

I can hear some of the arguments now…”It’s going toward providing housing, paying utilities, buying food, etc.” Maybe partly, yes, I can agree somewhat.  But what about clothes, shoes, haircuts?  Lunch money, school supplies?  Shouldn’t these items be paid for out of my husbands child support?  Instead of spending money on the kids, let’s take just one small peek at where the money goes…

Since 2000, the ex-wife has had the following vehicles:  Mitsubishi Montero (which was my husbands but the court ordered them to trade vehicles as she had traded her four door Toyota sedan for a Mitsubishi Eclipse not capable of safely hauling all four children), New Honda Accord (which she lost due to bankruptcy), Old Honda Accord, Jeep Grand Cherokee (I had bought one so she had to have one also), Black Honda Pilot (the guy she was seeing at the time had bought a White Honda Pilot), Old White BMW Sedan (the kids told us the passenger door was falling off and couldn’t be used but hey, it was a BMW, right?), Silver BMW SUV, Black BMW Sedan, White Honda Pilot (purchased after my stepdaughter bought a new car), and a Gray Pontiac Solstice (she “needed” a convertible). Seriously?  TEN (10) cars in eleven years???

What about vacations?  This woman takes several trips every year (most WITHOUT the children).  I could list many of them, but I will spare you the sordid details.  She is gainfully employed and has finally remarried.  What she chooses to spend HER money on is frankly not my business.  I just feel the needs of the kids should come first.  Hopefully by now, you are getting my point.  It is not my husbands fault that she is so completely financially inept.  Child support MUST be for the benefit of the child/children.

When my husband visited with his attorney about the increase he asked if there was any way to ask for an accounting of the child support.  Couldn’t he ask that at least 50% of it been spent on items specifically for his son?  Couldn’t she be required to give receipts?  Unfortunately, in our state, the answer is a big, fat NO.  We asked if we couldn’t take the increase and deposit it in a trust for the child’s benefit with the balance going to him once he reached a certain age.  Once again, the answer is NO.

It’s not right.  With the child support increase, we can no longer afford to buy extra clothes, supplies, haircuts, etc. for my stepson.  So we sit by and watch the hard-earned money go up in smoke.  We don’t have much longer to pay.  A little over three years.  For all the other men (and women) who pay child support, I hope we can see change.  I hope they are someday soon given the right to know for certain that their hard-earned dollars are being spent to help their babies.

Yesterday I read a post on the blog A Shrink4Men titled High-Conflict, Borderline Ex-Wives: It’s the Most Drama-Filled Time of the Year!  That mirrors what goes on in our lives every Holiday, birthday or any other special occasion.  It’s sadly predictable.

My husband’s ex finally got re-married about a year and a half ago.  We had hoped that might take her focus off of us, but what little reprieve we got was short-lived.  Within six months it was business as usual with her.  If anything, the remarriage has made it worse where her interference with my husband’s visitation with his son is concerned.

Without exception, the hobbies or interests of every man who the ex has had in her life have been put upon my stepchildren.  If the guy liked kayaking and boating, she made sure they all went kayaking and boating.  When she started dating a guy who liked baseball, my youngest stepson was signed up and made to play baseball.  Same with football.  Believe me, one look at him out on the field and you could be certain he wasn’t there by choice.  It’s been the same with religion.  First, they went to the Baptist church where her sister’s family attended.  Then a guy she dated went to a non-denominational church so she switched.  One of the last guys she wanted to hook before getting married was Catholic, so she started taking the kids to the Catholic church.   The new husband is into hunting, so suddenly my stepson must be interested and involved in the sport of hunting.  This young man is not, and never has been, allowed to have his own voice where his mother is concerned.  He is a soft-spoken young man.  Just turned fifteen.   She easily manipulates and guilts him.  These activities are, of course, scheduled to take place as often as possible on my husband’s visitation times.  This past Thanksgiving Holiday and my stepson’s birthday the weekend before were no different.

The role of step parent to the children of a high-conflict personality is anything but easy.  I have always busted my ass for these kids.  As the kids get older, it seems to get easier.  Perhaps because I see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Two of the kids are already adults.   They know and understand even if they are unwilling or unable to admit to themselves what they see.  It hurts to see “Happy Birthday to the most amazing mother in the world” posted on Facebook when this particular son doesn’t even bother to wish my husband Happy Birthday.  Then again, this is the same child who at twelve years old we over heard saying to his mother on the phone, “What do you need me to say?  I will tell the judge whatever you tell me to say.”  This the night before a court date where they subpoenaed him as a witness. What kind of person puts a child in that position?

And then there was the time my oldest stepdaughter posted, “I am so thankful for my wonderful mother.  She has made me everything I am today.”  Being very candid, I must tell you I nearly vomited when I read that.  My husband and I are very close to this child and she is absolutely nothing like her mother.  I would rather have been kicked in the face than read that statement.  It felt like a complete and total betrayal.  Because we are close, I gently asked her about it the next time I saw her.  I explained to her that it hurt me.  She began to cry.  Sob actually.  She told me she was sorry.  That she never meant to hurt me, but that she lives every day of her life seeking her mother’s approval yet knowing it will never come.  She described it as “Everything is always good here.  I don’t have to try to make you and Dad love and support me.  But with Mom, I can never do anything right.  If she’s happy with me even for a few minutes, it is good.”  Isn’t that heartbreaking?  After all, isn’t every child entitled to the unconditional love of their parents?

A friend of mine likens the kids’ relationship with their mother to that of  Stockholm Syndrome.  I believe this pretty much sums it up.  Here is what one link has to say:

What causes Stockholm Syndrome? Captives begin to identify with their captors initially as a defensive mechanism, out of fear of violence. Small acts of kindness by the captor are magnified, since finding perspective in a hostage situation is by definition impossible. Rescue attempts are also seen as a threat, since it’s likely the captive would be injured during such attempts.

It’s important to note that these symptoms occur under tremendous emotional and often physical duress. The behavior is considered a common survival strategy for victims of interpersonal abuse, and has been observed in battered spouses, abused children, prisoners of war, and concentration camp survivors.

Over the years, we have gotten great guidance and advice from a couple of highly qualified family therapists who have experience with high-conflict, personality disorders.  They have spent a lot of time and effort in educating us on how to protect ourselves and give the kids a “safe place” from this woman.  Never under estimate these people.  They are masters at lies and manipulations.  Experts at twisting the truth and playing the victim.  I am so thankful to see professionals such as Dr Tara Palmatier writing, speaking and educating the public about these issues.  We need to press forward with getting this knowledge into the family court system.  Not only so that the proper and rightful party is getting hit with the stick of justice, but more importantly, so our kids can grow up being kids.  Not little “mini” adults spending their lives walking around on eggshells, waiting for the other shoe to drop.