I am sure many of the readers of this blog have seen this video, featuring a Brazilian father and his baby daughter; one of those moments that ex or family courts cannot steal from us. Enjoy.
September 10th is a sad anniversary for me: On September 10 2005, I had my last supervised visitation with my girls. Truly, I did not want any more to see my girls in supervised visitations. I had swallowed all possible regimes of monitored visitations that family courts inflict on non-custodial dads and their relation with their children. Yet I was still playing the game of family court, as we all do, because too much is at stake and because we keep hope that the process is not totally rigged, and that perhaps, some humanity and justice will come out of all these paper pushers of family court, judges, law guardians, lawyers and social workers. It ain’t. These folks don’t care much, they don’t have second thoughts about biased family laws and how to interpret them. Moreover, they have not much incentive to challenge the status quo: since this is New York, they think they are cool, progressive, and at the avant-garde of social change.
You don’t survive ten years without seeing your children, and you don’t survive the idea that these years are wasted forever, with more to come. Ex has indeed scorched the earth of my relation to my daughters pretty well.
True, I’d like to see more changes simmering on the front of fathers’ rights. Let me end on a less gloomy note. The state of Massachusetts is considering changes to its family laws. These changes are inspired by stories like Shawn Gillespie’s, a father from Lowell, Massachusetts, who experienced hell in family court. In the legislative changes that are contemplated, there is the ban of the horrible word “visitation” that depicts what the extent of fatherhood is on the eye of the law, and its substitution for “shared parenting.”
Gosh, if things don’t happen in Massachusetts, where then?
A long time ago, the Greeks invented tragedy. Tragedy is about irreconcilable positions and impossible goals. Often in the mix there are delusional aspirations, because folks fail to assess their predicament.
Talking about crazy aspirations, take that one: Being “#1 Dad”, as a fellow painted on the roof of his building (see photo), when the divorced ones can barely be dads. When I saw it, I thought of a comment of a reader of this blog. The man had an accident, tried to get disability, lost his job, while his daughter was more than 18. In New York State however, child support is owed until the child is 21, and more… it is actually owed after the child is 21. Our man still keeps paying back support while his daughter is 24.
Why should he? Simply because for New York State, child support obligations is a gender-based financial yoke, whereby men are non-custodial payers bound to pay support to ex until the child is 21, irrespective of any need.
On July 1, 2015, my girlfriend and I took the boat from Mytilene (Lesbos, Greece) to Athens. That day, most travelers on the Blue Star 1 were not the usual tourists doing the twelve-hour journey at this time of the year. They were Syrians (perhaps also Afghans and Somalis), mostly men, going to Athens on a transit visa. From there they would try to reach Northern European countries.
The day before, we had seen long caravans of men, veiled women and children walking along the roads of Lesbos. Small boats coming from the shore of Turkey had dropped them off in the north of Lesbos, in small villages like Eftalou, where chances to get caught by the Greek navy are remote. The price the smugglers charge for this short trip, we later learnt, is about $1,000. The migrants were all heading to Mytilene, Lesbos capital, where a refugees camp with a capacity of 400 people is totally overwhelmed.
In my experience, the poor and the destitute often tend to be the nicest people (after them come the Greeks). First, we started a conversation with two women and an adorable 7-year old little girl who could not fully bend one of her arms, which had been crushed under stones when her house was shelled. Later, we met two thirty-year-old Syrian men, whom we will call X and Y. The deck was crowded, and they insisted on finding us chairs and offering us some of the almonds that made their dinner for the day. X and Y are well-educated civil engineers, who had finished their degree and were working in the suburb of Damascus, until it became impossible to go on: They had to do a five-year military service and fight all the foes of the Assad regime. They also have no sympathy whatsoever for Daesh and its version of Islam. Y has two little girls, who are still in Damascus, and whose pictures he keeps on his cell phone. X’s wife is pregnant. For the two men, staying in Syria was not an option, and they have the support of their family in their journey.
The next morning we did not see X and Y among the crowd landing in Athens. We hope they made it to Germany or Denmark, where they want to work and settle.
The sad thing in all this is that Europe quietly let Greece cope with these fluxes of migrants coming from Asia and Africa, adding to the aggravation of EU austerity policy inflicted upon the country. In the Financial Times, George Soros called for an integrated migration and refugees policy in the European Union. So far, he is unfortunately screaming in the desert.
It has been a long time that Father’s Day has not had any meaning to me. My girls don’t phone me, and I guess the very thought of it would make them feel disloyal to their mom. I rejoice with some of my relatives or friends who post pictures of them with their dads on Facebook, but for me, Father’s Day is like National Doughnut Day.
I happened to have caught Jasmine Hernandez’s opinion piece in the New York Post, on June 18, titled “Stop Stacking the Legal Deck Against Dads.” A timely, well-intended call inviting moms to be nice with their ex, because, you know, there are men who really want to play a role in the life of their children, let us not lose sight of that on Father’s Day. Since Jasmine Hernandez is a family court lawyer, the reader is given a short digest of New York State family laws.
That’s where her piece gets questionable, as it ultimately justifies one of the most unfair family laws in the country. Take her distinction between “physical custody” and “legal custody” for instance. Hernandez want us to believe that when “a dad has relinquished physical custody,” he nonetheless has plenty of room to exert a meaningful role in the life of his children, because he is not deprived of legal custody. Truly, legal custody is a legal fiction if mom wants ex out the life of the children; Of course, dad can resort to the services of good lawyers like Hernandez to prevent it…
Obviously, non-custodial dads would be much better off without the flimsy legal custody they have now, and if joint custody were to be the default option in divorce in New York State.
Have you ever heard about a lawyer who wants to change the law, not just walk you through it?
There is apparently in this country a building consensus on reforming the criminal justice system.
Perhaps it started with the Milwaukee Experiment, which Jeffrey Toobin related in a May 11 article in the New Yorker. John Chisholm, the District Attorney in Milwaukee County, singlehandedly decided to correct the imbalance of the American justice system which sends a disproportionate amount of young Afro-American people for minor drug offenses in prisons. Chisholm started to ask that prosecutors’ success be measured by their performance in reducing prison’s population, and not the opposite.
In New York State, the “Raise the Age” movement has focused on changing the law that sends juvenile offenders in jail at 16. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippmann, Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, has been advocating for five years to raise the criminal age in New York to 18. Lippman was heard by Governor Cuomo, who is now trying to gather support for his bill to raise the criminal age.
Interestingly enough, as the readers of this blog well know, a 16 year old is a criminal in New York State but not exactly an adult before 21, since non-custodial parents have to pay child support until their offspring reaches this age. Consistency would require raising the criminal age to 21, or freeing non-custodial parents from child support obligations when their children are 18.
This brings me to my next point. A very interesting article in the April 20 New York Times describes how divorced fathers -mostly in North Carolina and Georgia- go in and out of jail for child support debt, are denied jobs for that reason, and are drawn to poverty for life. The title tells it all: “Skip Child Support. Go to Jail. Lose Jobs. Repeat.”
It is definitely a good thing to empty jails of young people, provided one does not keep filling them with their fathers, thanks to unfair child support laws. I can’t wait to hear Governor Cuomo’s thoughts or Hillary Clinton’s on that one.
Posted in Child Support and Child Support Laws, Family Laws, Fatherhood in the Media, Justice and the judiciary | Tagged CBS News, Frances Robles, Governor Cuomo, Hillary Clinton, Ines Novacic, Jeffrey Toobin, John Chisholm, Jonathan Lippman, Raise the Age, Shaila Dewan, The Milwaukee Experiment, the New York Times, The New Yorker | 1 Comment »
In November 2014, I contacted my ex-wife to ask her to tell me where Chloé, my youngest daughter, was planning to study next year. Chloé is in her senior year at Brearley, and I do not know anything about her plans for College. I had not asked ex for my oldest daughter on time (before she turned 18) and I should have known better. My ex-wife has never ventured any information about the girls, about education, health, religion or anything, although she is obliged by our divorce contract to “inform and consult.”
At first, ex argued my request was impinging on Chloé’s privacy when she will no longer be a minor. I insisted, stating that when Chloé will be an adult, she will take care of her privacy herself. Upon my insistence, she announced to me that Chloé would answer to me herself. I received this email [CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE]:
I smelled an obvious rat: the name change – Chloé Jones instead of Chloé Lacour- the “friendly” greetings, the mention of my blog, which truly disturbs ex and ex only. This email looked exactly like the one ex would like my daughter to write to me: a statement of total indifference to what we had, and denying what we may possibly have in the future. I did not buy it.
I am tired of abiding by my side of the contract (the only side that New York State family laws acknowledges unfortunately: paying child support and unreimbursed medical expenses) and not seeing my daughters, let alone knowing nothing about them. I also have been a teenager too, and as a teenager, I broke off with my parents (God bless their souls) as a teenager would do, with the seeming rationality of passion. I did not sense it in Chloe Jones’ answer. If a break were to happen, so be it. At least, I wanted this break to be between Chloé Lacour and her dad, and make sure that it was not, again, a fake break engineered by ex. So was my answer [CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE]:
I then got the following answer from “Chloe Private”, which confirmed my doubts[CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE]:
Oops, I will not stick to the name Chloé Jones, which I picked for no plausible reason. It happened to be that of a porn star, but, mind you, I am fully aware of your obligations as a non-custodial father according to New York State family laws, which, as my “biological father,” you need to comply to.
Who ever thought millennials were trouble makers?
I believe I have not corresponded to my daughter Chloé, and I bet there are 99.99% chances that ex impersonated her. That’s why I am posting these emails; They do document a singular case in the annals of parental alienation.
(And by the way, as another proof of my doubts, there is nothing to respect with French taught at Brearley, if what you get from it after several years of French is what is reflected in this “Chloe Private”s email).