Posts tagged ‘Divorce’
By Jeffery Leving
Deniers simply are unable to face the fact that their marriage is over, even when the signs are unmistakable: Their spouse is cheating, siphoning money out of their accounts or making plans to move out. Still, deniers hope their marriage can be saved. Jack and Ellen’s story is an excellent example of divorce denial and of the mistakes men make in divorce.
A Loyal Man
Jack refused to believe his wife Ellen was going to divorce him. They had been married for seven years, and though he knew their marriage had problems, he was certain they could work them out. Some of the problems were related to Ellen’s bipolar disorder, for which she was being treated.
Unfortunately, Ellen sometimes refused to take the prescribed medications that helped keep the condition under control. In her manic phase, she drove recklessly, and though she had never done so with their two young children in the car, Jack always worried about this possibility.
In her “down” phase, Ellen talked about “running away and starting over.” But Jack, loyal to mistakes men make in divorce, was certain that no matter how many arguments he and Ellen had, she would never file for divorce.
He was wrong. Not only had she hired a lawyer and started the process, but she also had followed the lawyer’s instructions regarding her medical condition. Her lawyer, anticipating that Jack might use this condition to try to gain sole custody, had instructed Ellen to persuade Jack to sign a document attesting to her mental fitness; he helped Ellen create a cover story that she needed this document for health insurance purposes.
By the divorce, he was hopelessly behind. It took him weeks to find a lawyer, and even then he remained unconvinced that she was serious about sole custody; he insisted to his lawyer that this was just a negotiating ploy.
Jack, realizing he was falling victim to mistakes men make in divorce, finally emerged from his divorce denial.
Denial Signs To Be Aware Of
To prevent this from happening, be aware of the following signs that you’re in divorce denial:
- Your spouse informs you she wants a divorce, but you insist to both her and yourself that she’s not serious.
- The marriage is dead and your spouse moves out and makes a down payment on a new house, but you convince yourself that the separation is temporary.
- You note that your spouse is taking money out of your joint accounts, that your relationship has experienced serious problems and that she is having an affair, but you refuse to put two and two together.
- Your spouse has threatened to take the kids and leave, but even as you’re consulting your lawyer, you refuse to believe she would ever do such a thing.
- When your spouse informs you that she’s filing for divorce, you refuse to hire an lawyer, convinced that things will work out if you avoid “playing her game.”
- You tell your friends that your spouse is only using the possibility of divorce as a bargaining chip to buy a new house or change your bad habits, but that when push comes to shove, she’ll never follow through on the threat.
- You hire a lawyer in response to your spouse filing for divorce, but you argue with him that your spouse has no intention of limiting your visitation, asking for sole custody, refusing to give you certain monies, or share property fairly; based on your certainty that your spouse would never treat you unfairly, you don’t follow your lawyer’s advice.
Divorce denial is dangerous, especially if you have children at risk. Recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to protect your rights and the rights of your children.
By Jeffery M. Leving
It’s easy to make mistakes at the very beginning of the divorce process, especially if you’re dealing with someone who is highly manipulative, abusive or just plain irrational. Even if you are divorcing a reasonable person, it’s tough to think clearly and make the right initial decisions. Most people are so angry, upset or anxious at the end of their marriage that they’re not thinking logically about what they should do to protect themselves or their children from an unfair settlement.
In the past, the prevailing emotions during a divorce were usually sadness and regret. Today, anger is the dominant emotion: People are angry at their spouses, their spouses’ parents, at their spouses’ new partners, etc. All this anger translates into words and deeds that make the divorce process more costly, stressful, frustrating, lengthy, and an all out war. It doesn’t have to be that way, even if you are divorcing the most irrational of humans. Below are the 10 most common mistakes men make in divorce. If you can learn to place your emotions in check and avoid these mistakes, you can alleviate some of the pain that comes with any divorce.
#10 – Using Your Children as Pawns
Threatening to limit or deny visitation is a powerful threat, and it can terrify a parent who loves his child(ren). Often, parents who are the primary caregivers, but who lack the financial resources, feel that they must use this threat to gain sufficient financial support.
As painful as these threats are, do not respond in kind. Don’t issue threats of your own. Instead, recognize that in most cases, the truth will come out. If you’ve been a good, responsible parent, your spouse likely cannot deny you a chance to see your kids on a regular basis. More to the point, the court won’t allow it in most instances.
#9 – Thinking Romance First, Divorce Second
The most common factor that turns a normal divorce into an abnormally contentious one is bringing another woman into the mix. The situation is already potentially volatile, and all it takes is the mention that you have a new lover for your spouse to become infuriated.
There are several reasons you may want to announce your new relationship-revenge, one being to show her that someone finds you attractive and you’ve even found happiness. Try to keep a new relationship out of the conversations with your spouse and especially your children. The best decision is to wait until the divorce is concluded before you engage in a new relationship.
#8 – Allowing Your Spouse to Convince You to Not Hire An Attorney
If your spouse has hired a lawyer, you need to hire one quickly. If you don’t, you are an amateur playing against professionals. One underhand tactic is for a spouse’s attorney to offer to represent both parties to save time and money. Not only is it unethical, but it also creates a conflict of interest.
The process is designed to be adversarial, and there is no way a lawyer can fairly represent you both. The odds are that your spouse has something to hide or something she wants, and she knows that if you hire a lawyer it will be more difficult to achieve that goal.
#7 – Using Verbal Abuse
Just about everyone who gets a divorce argues. Not everyone, however, engages in continuous verbal battles in which threats and vile accusations become routine forms of communication. Being on the receiving end of this abuse is demoralizing, especially when the threats raise the possibility of physical harm to you or your children.
You need to discuss any threats of this type with your attorney, who can advise you on how to deal with them. Furthermore, if it is you who’s engaging in the verbal abuse, remember that your spouse can easily obtain an order of protection and any violation of this order can land you in jail. There is a myth that men do not endure verbal or even physical abuse from their spouses, but it is just a myth. Abuse is not gender specific.
#6 – Rubbing Salt In the Wound
If your goal is to avoid a court battle and the high costs that go with it, then you want to avoid any accusations of personality flaws. Be aware of your spouse’s sensitivities and avoid inflaming them. Compromise is the essence of divorce negotiations, and if you say and do things to encourage your spouse to dig in and be inflexible, you’re asking for a war.
No matter how much you despise your spouse; no matter how many ways you feel you’ve been wronged, don’t make a bad situation worse by identifying your spouse’s vulnerabilities when trying to reach a settlement. Always try to negotiate before you litigate.
#5 – Using a Difficult Attorney
Lawyers can turn good divorces into bad ones and bad divorces into nightmares. It’s not just divorcing spouses that are difficult. Certain lawyers are intent on churning fees, and they can cleverly manipulate situations to their financial advantage. The result is couples who will fight over the big and little things and invariably wind up in court and broke.
Do not fall for the myth that you have to find a take-no-prisoners attorney, someone who is ruthless and will use any tactic necessary to “win” the case. When there is one difficult attorney, the odds are the divorce will be costly and unpleasant. When there are two difficult attorneys, the divorce will be a total nightmare.
#4 – Becoming Passive
The last thing you want to do when your spouse announces she wants a divorce is to become completely acquiescent. Many people are manipulative, and if they think they can manipulate you into getting what they want out of the divorce, such as money, property or custody, they will do so.
If you are stunned or saddened, you may agree to anything and everything your spouse recommends. Don’t confuse passivity with being reasonable. My experience is that the shock of divorce soon wears off, and once it does, you’re much less vulnerable to making this mistake.
#3 – Arguing About Who Gets What
In most divorces where couples have been married for a number of years, disputes about property arise, and sometimes these arguments are perfectly understandable. These arguments, however, can become completely irrational and vengeance-based. I had a client say, “I would rather incur 10 times in legal fees what the painting costs than allow her to have it!”
These arguments can be draining emotionally (not to mention financially), but it helps to recognize that no matter how your spouse uses these objects in the bargaining process, the court generally divides property fairly if both parties have competent attorneys.
#2 – Serving Your Spouse with Divorce Papers in Embarrassing Places
Having an officer of the law serve your spouse at home or business should be reserved for cases where they refuse to file an appearance or accept service of process, or where great conflict exists between the two parties.
There is nothing more embarrassing than having a police officer serve you with papers at work, and nothing more unnerving than hearing the doorbell ring at 2 a.m. and seeing a policeman at the door (and having your neighbors see him as well).
If your spouse uses this tactic on you, as obnoxious as it may be, remain calm.
#1 – Responding to An Impending Divorce With Anger
The early stages of the divorce process can be a highly emotional time when people say things they do not mean or act in unusual or uncharacteristic ways. Divorces “blow up” legally when one person responds to anger with even greater anger, creating an escalating war of attrition that otherwise would have been a brief skirmish.
Therefore, allow a bit of time to pass before you do anything. Your spouse may settle down after blowing off some steam, and you can continue to move forward in a reasonable manner.
By Shahzad R. Khan, Esq.
People come to America seeking new opportunities, new ways of life, and seeking new forms of freedoms. They come with a certain understanding of America. But, they do not understand everything. They come with certain misconceptions that they heard from family members or friends who had previously made the journey. But the most common thing about all immigrants is that they come to America, or to any other new country, with a fear of the unknown.
When the pilgrims left for the new world, they feared what lied ahead. The immigrants who passed through Ellis Island had those same fears. And immigrants arriving today through JFK, O’Hare, LAX or any of the hundreds of ports of entry share many of the same fears as the first immigrants of this country did.
I know these fears, because both my parents were immigrants. I also know these fears because my wife is an immigrant. There is a real fear of the unknown. There is a fear about asking questions. There is a fear about taking action. And there is a great fear that if I do take action, there will be a penalty. Sometimes people from all sorts of cultural communities remain silent about an injustice because of the fear of retribution and the fear that if I ask questions or raise questions that scrutiny will be focused on me and that somehow my immigration status will be jeopardized.
Whether you are a green card holder, a person with asylum status, a person with refugee status or no status at all you do still have rights. You have human rights and rights under the laws of this country and its 50 states.
In family law, the area that I practice in, you have the following legal rights regardless of your immigration status:
Obtaining a Divorce: A divorce is the process by which two people terminate a marriage. Whether you were married in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or any other country in the world you can petition the court for a divorce in the State of Illinois or any of the other states where appropriate. Remember a person’s immigration status is usually irrelevant when seeking a divorce. There are technical issues that need to be considered before you file for divorce such as residency requirements for the individual state, issues pertaining to whether your current immigration status may be affected by divorce, and grounds necessary to dissolve the marriage. It is important that you consult an attorney before you make a decision to proceed in this direction.
Obtaining an Order of Protection: An Order of Protection is a court order that protects a person who has been abused physically, emotionally, or sexually by a family member, a former or current spouse or significant other or a member of the household. Orders of Protection are not only obtained for adults, but also for the protection of children. Again, no matter what your immigration status may be, there is no restriction in obtaining an order of protection for protection against domestic violence.
Paternity and Child Support: You have the right to determine whether you are the father of a minor child born out of wedlock. The process of determining fatherhood is done through the use of DNA testing of the mother, the alleged father and the child. If paternity is determined, meaning the alleged male is determined to be the father of the minor child, then the custodial parent of that child has the right to seek child support from the non-custodial parent. The non-custodial parent has the right to seek visitation, custody (joint or sole custody) to meet the best interests of the minor child. Again, no matter what your immigration status may be, there is no restriction on filing a petition to determine parentage and to establish parental rights.
Besides the rights stated above, there a numerous other rights that immigrants possess in not only family law but in other areas of law. The key here is to ask questions and not be afraid to ask for help. It is not what you know that can hurt you, but what you do not know. Therefore, study the legal system and educate yourself so you do not end up a target looking for an arrow. Should you need help in any family law matter or you just have some general questions, please contact Attorney Shahzad R. Khan at the Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd., to discuss your rights.
By Jeffery M. Leving & Glenn Sacks
Leonard Pitts Jr.’s recent column “Runaway dads are society’s dregs” excoriates “selfish” African American fathers who “abandon their children [and] harden themselves against their cries of need.” Pitts cites Larry Patterson, Jr., a 19-year-old black father who, after police tried to pull him over, allegedly sped away, smashed his car, and escaped, leaving his infant daughter in the backseat. Patterson is “unique only in degree,” Pitts writes–for black men today, it’s “Every man for himself.”
Pitts’ generalization is unfair. He is correct that some African-American fathers have behaved irresponsibly. However, he fails to see that many black fathers have been driven away by shortsighted, angry mothers and a family law system which does little to protect fathers’ loving bonds with their children.
When citing the reasons for father absence, Pitts mentions “divorce” only in passing. Yet divorce and the breakups of unmarried couples are major causes of African-American fatherlessness.
Despite the stereotype of the feckless and irresponsible male, research shows that the vast majority of divorces are initiated by women, not by men. Even for unmarried couples, it’s doubtful that many dads wake up in the morning and say to themselves, “My child loves me and needs me, my girlfriend loves me and needs me—I’m outta here.” Yes, some mothers have good reasons for these breakups. Yet, as Jonetta Rose Barras, the African-American author of Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl, explains, many black fathers are simply being “kicked to the curb.”
When a divorced or separated mother does not want her children’s father around anymore, she can usually push him out, particularly if the father does not earn enough money to pay for legal representation. Courts tilt heavily towards mothers in awarding custody, and enforce fathers’ visitation rights indifferently. In most states, mothers are free to move their children hundreds or thousands of miles away from their fathers, often permanently destroying the fathers’ bonds with their children.
The system which allows women to easily obtain domestic violence restraining/protection orders was set up to help battered women. However, many mothers instead employ them to get rid of inconvenient husbands or boyfriends. The Family Law Executive Committee of the California State Bar and family law professionals in various states have recently noted that these orders are often issued with little or no evidence or due process. Once in force, a father can be arrested and jailed for violating the order if he visits or even calls his kids. The orders begin as temporary, but are sometimes extended for years at a time.
With divorce or separation comes child support. The Urban League’s 2006 report on the state of black America concluded that the child support system and its abuses often drive African-American men out of their children’s lives, and either underground or into crime.
Half of uneducated African American men ages 25-34 are non-custodial fathers. Many of them are still a part of their children’s lives. Yet the child support they struggle to pay usually does not go to their children, but instead goes to the state to reimburse the cost of public assistance, including welfare, for the mother and children.
Some fathers even live with their children and their children’s mothers, yet their wages are still garnisheed to pay child support to the state, greatly contributing to the breakdown of these fragile families. Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently acknowledged this problem in her Youth Opportunity Agenda.
The benefits that involved black fathers—even divorced or separated ones—can provide their children are substantial. For example, a recent study of low-income African-American and Hispanic families by Boston College found that when nonresident fathers are involved in their adolescent children’s lives, the incidence of substance abuse, violence, crime, and truancy decreases markedly. The study’s lead author, professor Rebekah Levine Coley, says the study found involved nonresident fathers to be “an important protective factor for adolescents.”
There are many reasons why some black fathers aren’t there for their kids. Sadly, there’s nothing we can do to make the Larry Pattersons of the world into good fathers. But there’s a lot we can do to help keep many decent, loving African-American dads in their children’s lives.
Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys. He is the author of the new HarperCollins book Divorce Wars: A Field Guide to the Winning Tactics, Preemptive Strikes, and Top Maneuvers When Divorce Gets Ugly. His website is www.dadsrights.com.
Anatomy of a Background Check
George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” For detectives and fathers these are words to live by.
Several years ago I received a call from a client who was a wealthy businessman. He asked me to do a background check on a man he was considering for a position as a personal liaison. My client wanted to be cautious because he was not only wealthy but a well known collector of rare documents. The personal liaison would have access to his home, office and much of his wealth. He told me he was sure everything would check out because the candidate was a retired Army Major and had handled the interview perfectly. After checking out the job candidate’s background I discovered he was never in the military and was recently released from prison havng served time for forgery, counterfeiting, and burglary. The subject’s modus operandi was obtaining jobs where there was access to valuables. The subject would then research the interviewer in order to obtain enough knowledge to ace the interview. Once hired the subject would forge, counterfeit, and commit burglary as evident in his criminal record. Needless to say my client did not hire the criminal and has not hired anyone without doing a background check since.
Background checks are critical in business, but they can be equally critical in divorce and child custody cases. Information on the mother, father, boyfriend or relative responsible for caring for the child can be very relevant, and always important. What is the most effective way to conduct a background check? Is there such a thing as an instant nationwide background check?
In most cases the answer is, no. However, there are some very effective and reliable methods to uncovering the background of an individual. Cost and time are almost always a factor and the information must be accurate especially if it is going to be relied upon to determine custody, visitation or employment. For these reasons, as well as others, it is important to understand the structure and anatomy of our court and criminal system and some of the problems inherit in both.
Investigators and the criminal justice system break down records into four categories:
1. Arrest Records – these are arrest reports prepared by law enforcement agencies.
2. Criminal Court Records – records compiled from local, state, and federal courts.
3. Department of Correction Records- prison records.
4. State Criminal Repository Records- arrest, criminal court, and Department Of Correction records.
There are currently two nationwide systems that are used for background checks. The first system is the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. NCIC is the nation’s largest criminal justice database and is restricted to law enforcement only. This database compiles information from most of our nation’s federal, state and local courts. It is the responsibility of each court to report information to NCIC. Breakdowns in the reporting process compounded by lack of personnel available to do the reporting, creates errors in accuracy. NCIC currently stores 52.3 million criminal history files. Many counties do not or simply cannot report many of the lesser offenses committed in their jurisdiction. Most counties don’t have the capacity to report all offenses let alone update the information contained in the NCIC. Most misdemeanors are not reported. Modification of a felony conviction, probation or parole information or charge reductions and case dismissal may not even appear in the NCIC. A domestic battery conviction may not be important to a potential employer but may be of grave significance to a judge determining the custody of a child.
The second nationwide system is the National Criminal File (NCF). This database includes 60 million records. This system relies heavily on the State Repository Records which is just as poorly reported to as the NCIC.
The most reliable source of criminal information is individual county court records. Every person who is arrested for offenses ranging from loitering to murder has a file in the county court where they live. There are 4,086 counties in the U.S. In order to conduct a complete nationwide background check each county would need to be searched. This would be an almost impossible and ridiculous task. Many times an investigator is given a very short period of time to complete the investigation.
So how do we conduct a thorough background check on an individual or company? We must first learn a little about the person we are investigating. Most people only frequent counties where they live or work and some people never leave the county they live in. We need name, date of birth, social security number and any aliases used by the individual. Once we have the above information the decision needs to be made as to which counties to search. Since most courts keep records for a minimum of seven years, a seven year address history must be developed. This can be done a number of ways including; contacting relatives, utilizing old phone books, talking to the subject directly and in the cases of licensed private detectives, databases can help to determine this information. Sometimes as the investigation unfolds new information may lead the investigator in a different direction. A check of each of the local courthouses should be conducted. Any files identified for the subject should be manually reviewed and the identity of the person being investigated should be verified. For example, if an investigator is conducting a background on a James Roberts, date of birth 1/2/1950, and a person matching that description is identified in the courts system, the investigator should then pull the actual file which contains arrest reports, court orders and pleadings. On the arrest report the defendant’s social security number and date of birth usually appear. If it matches the social security number of the person being investigated, this would be one way of positively identifying James Roberts as the offender. In addition to court records, a check of sex offender, state criminal repository and department of correction records should be conducted as well.
While this process is time consuming, it is the only way to effectively know the criminal history of a subject. A professional investigator will then prepare a report on his or her findings for the client.
When looking for an agency to conduct a background investigation, it is critical to hire one that is licensed by the state in which they operate. This ensures the agency they are hiring is insured and one whose testimony will likely hold up in a court of law.
Criminals don’t always look like criminals and people that seem honest may be dishonest. When making decisions regarding employment, custody or business it is always better to be safe than sorry. By understanding the history of an individual, we can better assess that person’s integrity and ensure the safety of our assets. This includes our most prized possession: our children.
Detective Wayne Halick is a Licensed Private Detective and the agency director of Millennium Investigations, Inc. http://www.dadsdetective.com/
You can e-mail Detective Halick at email@example.com. His agency is located at 358 W. Army Trail Road, Unit 140-355, Bloomingdale, Illinois 60108. Their telephone number is 630-543-7282.
By Beth Neuman
Although both men and women can face a tough period of transition following the break-up of a marriage, men often have a more difficult time reorganizing their lives after divorce. Because women typically retain custody of the children and residence of the marital home, men face the dual challenge of adjusting to their new parental role and making a new home.
Men who have had little or no input into the day-to-day household decisions while married often find the latter task to be the most perplexing. For some men in this situation, the last time they were responsible for maintaining their own home, their apartments were decorated with empty liquor bottles and furniture from their parent’s basement.
While reliving these days – and décor – may seem at first like a romantic notion or an expression of lost youth, this is not something that often works out in the long run. A messy or unfurnished home could hurt a guy’s chances with new relationships because women often see a man’s living space as a reflection of the whole person and his potential as a mate. But most importantly, divorced men need to provide a comfortable and appropriate living environment for visitation with their children.
Unfortunately, getting your life and living space together after a divorce takes time – something many men who work long hours just don’t have. Although many men have the resources, they simply don’t have the time or knowledge to get their lives on track.
A new company, Hemancipation Interiors for Men (HIM), focuses exclusively on guiding men through this transition. The company’s select group of consultants taps into a nationwide network of resources and experts to help men find a new residence and create a comfortable new home after divorce. Because Hemancipation Interiors for Men employs interior designers, architects, lifestyle consultants and relationship managers, they offer divorced men a variety of experts that can assist them based on their own specific needs.
According to the company’s founder, Akilah Kamaria, the inspiration for Hemancipation Interiors for Men came from an item in the society section of a newspaper. The note was about a successful businessman whose wife had filed for a divorce. He was spotted in the lobby of the luxury hotel where he had taken up residence. The notation was not kind – he was being ridiculed because he was living in the hotel. Kamaria said that although she did not know the circumstances of the divorce she felt compassion for the man whose life had evidently been turned upside down.
“That’s when my journey began,” said Kamaria. “I needed answers so I initiated discussion with men – a lot of men – everywhere I went. I wanted to know what choices and services were available to them. So I talked to therapists and attorneys, I talked to men in barbershops, in taxicabs, in elevators, on the street and at grocery stores. I also searched the web, read books, magazines or any relevant literature that I could find on the subject. One thing was soon evident: no matter the socio-economic scale, from CEO’s to the security guard in the lobby, the male experience was consistent. They did not have a resource.”
Kamaria said all the stories were unique, but had a common thread. One gentleman said it has been five years since his divorce (his wife was cheating while he worked two jobs) and he was still struggling to get his life back on track. Another gentleman went to church one Sunday morning and came back home to an empty house, his wife had taken all their belongings and he was left with nothing. One divorced man moved into the couple’s second home when the divorce was final and quickly discarded everything in the home because he always hated his ex-wife’s taste. According to Kamaria, these men had the financial resources, but were living in empty unfurnished houses because they lacked the time, inclination or knowledge to create a comfortable space.
Kamaria said she was surprised to find many women were not supportive of her endeavor.
“The general female population was not interested in my newfound desire to assist men,” Kamaria said. “They expressed an odd displeasure with me as if I was betraying the gender by even caring what men were experiencing. As if men somehow deserved the hardship and punishment of divorce. No matter the fact that maybe he was the ‘good’ guy in all of this.”
The fact is everyone, especially men, need support during the transition that follows divorce. And there are many issues newly single fathers have to consider that may have previously been their ex-wife’s domain: food allergies and food preferences, medicine, clothes shopping, decorating, favorite toys, doctor’s information, hobbies and school functions.
The following are six tips developed by Kamaria for dads looking to make their new homes kid-friendly. More information on Kamaria and Hemancipation Interiors for Men can be found online at www.hisdesigner.com.
Private Space: Ensure that child has their own space in your home. Sleeping on a sofa/floor or in an open area is not conducive to having your child feel stable in your home. For teen girls, make sure there are little mini containers in the bathroom for her personal affects.
Decorating Dad: Invite your children to help with decorating their room in your new home. Your child can pick paint colors, posters, and toys to decorate the room. If you keep a second set of their favorite items, clothes, toys, games, etc. it eliminates the drama of forgotten toys and clothes while transferring from mom’s place to dad’s place. It helps the child to feel secure and make visits less traumatic.
Leather Love: Men’s preference for leather works well with children because it is a great fabric that is easily cleaned of minor spills. Leather is great to create a comfortable masculine space and your child can bring their dog or cat for the weekend because leather does not collect pet hair.
Safety First: Men and women see things differently and mothers are on the lookout in the father’s space for safety issues, items that may pose a danger to children. Look around your home; is it clean and comfortable? Take an inventory of items that may be issue- Glass tables, sharp edges on furniture, cleaning supplies under the cabinet, stairs without a stair guard, etc. If you have toddlers, crawl around on the floor to see what they see at their eye level. Ex-wives I have spoken to did not want the children visiting Dad’s new residence because they were concerned about perceived safety issues although they never mentioned it to the ex-husband.
Image is Everything: Make sure there are images in your home of your children, especially if you have remarried and have children with your new wife. Children notice if they are not represented and will feel unwanted and forgotten even if they do not mention it. For dads handy with a computer, use your children pictures to create the screensaver on your home computer. It’s a nice touch; and if you are not computer literate, you can ask your child to do it. They will enjoy the task and appreciate the attention from dad.
Create School Space: Ensure that your children have space to do homework in your new residence, even if you are living in a small space. Make sure there is a desk or area for the child to work. This shows that you have thought of their needs even if you are no longer with them each day. Sign up for your child’s’ school newsletter to stay involved in their activities. Most schools have online sites, so check out the school calendar.
By: Jeffery M. Leving & Glenn Sacks
Fatherhood has changed dramatically in the era of divorce and out of wedlock births, and much attention has been paid to two unfortunate products of this era—the absent father and the deadbeat dad. However, there is another type of father this era has produced, one which has received very little attention—the hero father.
According to the Children’s Rights Council, a Washington-based advocacy group, more than five million American children each year have their access to their noncustodial parents interfered with or blocked by custodial parents. Behind that statistic are legions of heroic divorced or separated fathers who fight a long, hard but generally unrecognized battle to remain a meaningful part of the lives of the children who love them and need them.
Some hero fathers move repeatedly to be near their children. In the controversial case of DeBrenes v. Traub, Eric Traub had already moved to new cities twice in order to be near his daughter when he was forced to conduct a lengthy and expensive legal struggle to prevent her from being moved to Costa Rica. As is typical, the court allowed the move. Traub’s determination paid off, however, as the now teenaged girl became so set against the move that her mother, to her credit, dropped the request.
Most fathers are not so fortunate. In a recent California Supreme Court case, Gary LaMusga, who operates a business in Northern California, fought for eight years to prevent his two young sons from being moved to Ohio, 2,000 miles away. He eventually won, but his victory was a pyrrhic one because his children had already been moved out of state in violation of court orders. In the strange world of modern family law, even with the new decision his children will not be moved back.
While divorced dads are unfairly stigmatized as stingy, some noncustodial fathers raise their children in their homes but still pay child support to the children’s mothers. Many others never ask for child support. In the face of a family court system which usually grants mothers a monopoly of power over children, these fathers must buy or rent their children back. When mothers allow their children to live with their fathers—or send them there because they’ve become unruly or inconvenient—fathers often won’t challenge custodial and financial arrangements because they fear doing so will mean they’ll be pushed out of their children’s lives.
Other fathers endure physical abuse at the hands of their wives but remain in the relationships because they know that divorce will leave their children alone in the custody—usually sole custody—of an abuser. Decades of research show that women are as likely to abuse their male partners as vice versa, and that heterosexual men make up a significant minority of those suffering injuries in domestic assaults. However, gender politics has kept this research from influencing government and law enforcement policies. Many men know that revealing their wives’ violence usually means the wife will claim that she was abused, and the system will side with her. Fathers are commonly arrested, punished or slapped with custody sanctions for their wives’ violence.
In one highly publicized case, Dr. Xavier Caro, a Northridge, California rheumatologist, endured years of physical abuse at the hands of his wife Socorro, who once assaulted him so badly he had to have surgery to regain his sight in one eye. Xavier stayed in the relationship for the sake of his kids but his efforts failed, as Socorro later shot and killed three of their four children.
Some fathers face false charges of domestic violence or sexual abuse, which are commonly used as custody maneuvers in divorce. Those most vulnerable to these charges are dads who are their children’s primary caregivers. Such charges are often made to separate these dads from their children so a new custody precedent can be set with mothers as the primary caregivers.
Falsely accused men often bankrupt themselves fighting to regain access to their children. Meanwhile, many can only see their children in nightmarish visitation centers where fathers are treated like criminals.
Over the past several decades the love and devotion of millions of fathers has been tested in ways few in previous generations experienced.
This column was first published in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (6/19/05).
Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys. He is the author of the book Fathers’ Rights: Hard-hitting and Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute. His website is www.dadsrights.com.
Glenn Sacks is a men’s and fathers’ issues columnist. His columns have appeared in dozens of America’s largest newspapers.