Dad’s paid support, now it’s back to court –

December 19, 2010 by

You have to be patient to build a good case. So, every time mom doesn’t comply, you send her one polite e-mail asking why your child is not now with you, per the court order.

After mother has violated the order four or five times, type your detailed affidavit spelling out each time she failed to comply, attaching notes and e-mails supporting each claim.

Then file a complaint for contempt using the package of materials and instructions available to you at the probate court. If mother doesn’t appear for the hearing, ask the court to issue a capias, which is a civil arrest warrant. Then give that capias to a constable or deputy sheriff, who will arrest the mother one morning and bring her to court for a hearing.

The Tender Years Doctrine is Alive and Well

June 23, 2010 by

Shared parenting was the topic of conversation on the leading talk radio station in Toronto yesterday. The discussion ran along familiar lines. There was a political element to the banter, but it had more to do with political theater than anything else. The shocking part of the discussion was how readily everyone seemed to buy into the tender years doctrine. The exact quote was: “Everyone knows that women are more biologically pre-disposed to nurture children than men are.”

That statement was challenged by no one. Did they all take it to mean that because women lactate and men don’t, that women have a global predisposition to parent that men don’t have? Or was there something more to it?

Gretta Vosper, a United Church minister, eventually did tone down the rhetoric. She conceded that men could also be good nurturing parents, but concluded that switching back and forth between households was completely untenable. In other words, the argument shifted, but the conclusion stayed the same: women were the primary parents and men needed to visit and most importantly financially support the children.

I wish they had been taking calls, because I would have loved to ask a few questions. In the routine arrangement, where mother has custody and father has access, the children are already shuttling between two homes. Dad typically has the kids every Wednesday night and every other weekend, which represents 4 out of 14 days, or 28% of the time.

If Dad had a 50/50 shared parenting relationship, he would merely be looking after the children an additional 3 days over a 14 days period. That doesn’t seem like much to me. This whole argument can’t be over three days every two weeks week. No rational person can suggest that an incremental 3 days over 14 represents some kind of material problem for a child.

There is just something off about the arguments against shared parenting. There is no evidence to support the tender years doctrine. Men and women are both perfectly able to be good, nurturing parents. Shuttling between houses is also a false argument, because most children are already spending time at both homes.

My feeling is that the real resistance to shared parenting comes down to the the issue of control and support. Mothers have a vested interest in maintaining legal custody, which is the power to make legal decisions for the child. They also fear losing financial support in the form child support.

The tender years doctrine and the problem of shuttling homes are side issues. So men who are interested in securing a shared parenting arrangement need to address the control and support issue if they want to successfully negotiate shared parenting.

Hey Dad – June 11th

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Hey Dad June 1st

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Hey Dad – May 25th

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Hey Dad!

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Hey Dad Best Pizza Ever Cartoon

Separation Checklist

May 3, 2010 by

If you think your marriage can be salvaged, do what it takes to try and save it. If you have been down that road, and the end has arrived, think about these 10 items as you embark on legal separation.

1. Don’t lose control. Things change quickly when separation comes. Don’t react aggressively, violently, or vindictively to anything. Lashing out is very tempting. But you have too much to lose. Stay as calm as you can manage. Your future depends on it.

2. Stay in the family home. But don’t make it an issue. Don’t throw down the gauntlet. Don’t tell your ex you are staying and she has no say in the matter. Don’t antagonize. All it takes is one call to the police, and her to feel threatened, for you to be extracted and a restraining order issued. Stay calm.

3. Create a divorce journal. Whether you plan to go to court or not, act like you are going to. Build your case. Document or journal all relevant events, conversations, actions. You don’t want to go to court with a he said/she said case. Document the time you spend with your children. Homework. Sports. Doctor/dentist visits. Everything. Document your ex’s words and actions when they are detrimental to her case. Be thorough. Keep the journal secure. Don’t let her know you are keeping a journal.

4. Communicate with your ex in a calm, neutral way. If you have children, you have to work right away on successfully co-parenting them. Talk to your ex about your children. Don’t stonewall. Drop the sarcasm. Don’t take the bait. Don’t be alone with your ex if she is volatile or unstable. Never raise your voice to her. Never threaten her. Don’t touch her. Keep it neutral. Leave if she gets aggressive and tell her you can finish the conversation later.

5. Find a father-friendly lawyer. If there are kids involved, major assets, or the case is contested, you need a lawyer. Find the right one. Make sure he or she supports what you are trying to accomplish. Make sure they respect your time and your requirements. Be clear in your directions. Manage your case.

6. Gather copies of all relevant information. Not to be over dramatic, but men never really know when they might be extracted from the family home. You might not have time to collect the information you need if the time comes. Plan ahead. Get copies of bills, credit card statements, tax returns, mortgage agreements, deeds to property, children’s health cards, medical records, vaccination records, lease agreements, insurance policies, bank statements, check books, business records, and anything else that you think you might need. Be proactive. Don’t wait until it is too late.

7. Get a secure e-mail address and physical address. You can’t afford to let you ex-partner have access to either your physical mail or e-mail. You need secure addresses in both cases. Rent a postal box if you have to.

8. Stay actively involved with your children. Separation will have a huge impact on your relationship with your ex. But minimize its impact on your relationship with your children. Stay active in their lives on all fronts. Establish a new status quo where you are deeply involved in their life. School. Sports, Activities. Visiting your relatives. Keep it all going smoothly and uninterrupted.

9. Build cash reserves. If you have all of your wealth tied up in joint accounts you have to act fast. You can’t impoverish your partner, but you also need to build cash. Consider liquidating assets. Divorce is expensive and the cash bleed continues for a very long time. You need cash to survive divorce so be sure to build your cash reserves aggressively.

10. Stay positive. Easier said than done. True. But it is crucial to your future to “take care of business” in doing what needs to be done. You can’t afford to “drop out” for 6 months to “sort everything out.” You don’t have the time. You have to be proactive in managing your file. You have stay engaged. Get support. Reach out to a friend. Lean on your family. Don’t think of yourself as a failure. You’ll make it through. But stay positive and engaged, right from the beginning.

Breaking up a family is one of the saddest and most difficult things anyone can do, but you have to stay focused. If this is your first time through divorce it is a very unpleasant shock. Don’t give up. Don’t cave in to your partner because you are too weary to engage her.

Stay positive and take the long run term view. You will be glad you did

High Conflict Relationships and Shared Parenting

April 30, 2010 by

I went on a business trip recently with my Dad who is widowed and retired. As we were getting caught up, he asked me about the work we do at Modern Father. As I explained the challenge facing many single fathers, and the need to entrench shared parenting into law, he seemed befuddled. He couldn’t see the need.

His feeling was that if ex-partners are cooperative, they don’t need a law to facilitate shared parenting. And if the ex-partners are in conflict, shared parenting will never work. He sounded just like Judge Brownstone, although he was not familiar with the judge’s book, Tug of War.

I tried to make him understand that in high conflict relationships between ex-partners, the kind where years or decades can pass with no resolution, an actual personality disorder might be present in one or both people. Simply put, conflict is inevitable. There is no way around it.

So what happens to the children? In the modern family court system, either the father, or more likely the mother, is awarded sole custody and the other gets “access.” The access is often very difficult to manage and sustain. The relationship with the access parent diminishes and often ends. So what is a judge to do?

There are two things to think about. First, shared parenting is the right thing to do for our children, and ought to be advanced for that reason alone. Period. But even in the context of high conflict relationships, shared parenting dampens the winner-take-all thinking fueled through high levels of conflict.

But there is more. Proposed shared parenting laws often include a provision that deals with high conflict situations. If the conflict level is very high, and sole custody is the only possible solution, a typical shared parenting provision states that the parent most likely to include the other parent in the life of the child, is the parent who should be awarded custody.

That provision got me thinking of another possibility. What would happen if the court assessed or identified a divorce case as high conflict, and once a high conflict situation was identified, the criteria for awarding custody would be weighted in favor of the more cooperative parent. It might very well work.

We know the current system doesn’t work. In family court the bias favors granting custody to the mother, if shared parenting is impossible because of high conflict levels. This is true even if the mother is the one responsible for creating most of the conflict. In fact, the current system rewards the mother for high levels of conflict.

I told my Dad that shared parenting as a rebuttable presumption was specifically needed in high conflict cases, because those are the cases where one parent is most often marginalized by the other.

Male Victims of Domestic Violence

April 30, 2010 by

Both men and women are victims of domestic abuse. Fortunately, women have options to help them deal with the trauma of domestic violence. Men are not as fortunate. Men also need resources, but they are hard to find. In this blog post we want to take a look at the issue of domestic violence committed against men, and point out some helpful support resources.

The point of this piece is not to minimize the domestic violence perpetuated by men. We have no interest in playing gender politics. This issue affects both genders. So male victims of domestic violence need to receive the same support that women victims need and get.

First some facts. One of the leading researchers on violence against men perpetrated by domestic partners is Martin S. Fiebert of California State University, who keeps an up-to-date annotated bibliography on the subject. What is obvious from reviewing the literature is that intimate partner violence (IPV) is not a gender issue. There are plenty of perpetrators in both genders. John Hamel has proposed a gender-inclusive model for IPV. His words in the abstract of his latest article tell the story nicely:

“According to the latest research, most domestic violence is mutual, men and women emotionally abuse and control one another at approximately equal rates, intimate terrorists are equally likely to be male or female, men suffer one-third of physical injuries, and males and females are equally affected by emotional abuse. In short, domestic violence is a human and relational problem, not a gender problem.”

It is important not to minimize the harm of domestic violence committed by men. Or to demonize women and mothers as habitual, violent abusers. Our goal is to rightfully remove domestic violence as an issue driven by gender politics. It doesn’t belong there. Domestic violence is not a gender issue. It is a human relations issue.

To get more background information on women commiting violence against men we can recommend the following books:

Abused Men: the Hidden Side of Domestic Violence
by Phillip Cook

Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say: Destroying Myths, Creating Love
by Warren Farrell

She Was Bad…: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence
by Patricia Pearson

We are starting to see more shelters pop up for male victims of domestic violence. That’s a good thing. All victims of domestic abuse–male and female–need and deserve our help.

We feel strongly that domestic violence is a cross-gender issue that does not belong in the generic shared parenting discussion, although it might very well be relevant in individual cases. Or put another way, domestic violence needs to be considered very carefully in the actual custody decisions involving specific children, but child custody policies driven by male-perpetrated domestic violence is the result of gender power politics, and not the facts on the ground.

Domestic Violence and Shared Parenting

April 28, 2010 by

Let me start at the end. Gender politics has no place in custody decisions. The well being of our children is seriously undermined by gender politics; we have to put a stop to it.  I can’t put it any better than Harvard professor, Ruth Wisse, who summed it up this way.

“Women’s Liberation, if not the most extreme, then certainly the most influential neo-Marxist movement in America, has done to the American home what communism did to the Russian economy, and most of the ruin is irreversible. By defining between men and women in terms of power and competition instead of reciprocity and co-operation, the movement tore apart the most basic and fragile contract in human society, the unit from which all other social institutions draw their strength.”

A juicy quote like this gets quoted frequently, and in my opinion, misinterpreted just as often. Professor Wisse is not talking about working life, or political life, or educational opportunities. She is referring to home life—and in this context right on the mark. Gender politics to ensure equal opportunity in politics, in employment, and in education should be lauded. But gender politics turns deadly when played out on the home front.

In this piece I want to look at gender politics through the prism of domestic violence and its highly prejudicial impact on joint custody and shared parenting.

Domestic violence is terrible. It can never be justified. It should always be condemned. And money spent to combat domestic violence is money well spent. But domestic violence is not a gender issue and really never has been, at least for this generation. We can go back to 1971, when Erin Pizzey set up the very first shelter for battered women in the U.K. Here is how she viewed her first 100 clients.

“Of the first 100 women who came into my refuge, 62 were as violent or more violent than the men that they were leaving,” she says. “This was not a gender issue.”

We also have the more broad-based population studies undertaken by Stats Canada (the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Census Bureau) which showed very small differences between men and women in being identified as victims of domestic violence.

Once again, domestic violence wasn’t a gender issue.

Domestic violence might not factually be a gender issue, but it is certainly a gender issue when it comes to the politics of trying to entrench shared parenting into law.  If you look at any jurisdiction where shared parenting is proposed, opponents almost always raise domestic violence as a major plank in their objection.

Here are some very typical responses from Australia, Canada, and Tennessee. We strongly object to shared parenting being hijacked into a false debate on domestic violence through the same old tired game of gender politics.

Men who abuse women should be stopped and punished. Women who abuse men should receive the same treatment. But let’s keep domestic violence out of the shared parenting debate. Let’s put aside gender politics. Children need both parents involved in their life. We need gender harmony on the home front—not more gender politics.


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