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February 20, 2009

The Divorced Mom Responds

April When I read this post, I shook with anger. Sure, you can chalk that up to me just being another bitter, single mom, but I won't be labeled without trying to set the record straight.

I think the easiest way to do this is to deconstruct the original post, paragraph by paragraph.

Jayson writes: We all know that divorce can get "ugly" for lack of a better term.  Parents will do almost anything to justify their feelings during divorce.  No one wants to be the one responsible for their failed marriage.  Although the truth is that Mom and Dad are equally responsible, whether we admit or not is another story.

The truth is that every family's experience with divorce is unique. Sometimes one of the parties involved does bear more responsibility in the disintegration of a marriage. In my own experience, for instance, had my husband not insisted on being a drug addict, stealing money from me that was to pay for family expenses to go buy drugs, and numerous other like instances, we would not be divorced today.

Jayson writes:

One of the most prominent and most difficult issues in divorce is child custody or as many states now refer to it as Parenting Time and Visitation.  If the parents can not create a mutually agreed upon parenting plan on their own or with the help of their attorneys, the courts have an obligation to determine one in the best interest of the kids. 

This often becomes a losing proposition for both parents.  Worse, the kids are the ones that really suffer.  No one knows the needs of their children better than their parents.  Certainly not a judge that has never met them nor ever will.

In fact, in my own experience, we agreed on a plan. I put reasonable conditions in place that would insist that he would be sober and have a valid driver's license and reside in the county in order to see his children. Despite the fact that he has NEVER met these conditions, I have let the girls see their father so long as another adult is there to supervise, and drive, when necessary. I have even taken it upon myself to be that adult in some circumstances. My thank you for that was when he asked to take us out for Mother's Day, he stuck me with the bill.

Jayson writes:

Parents getting divorced should be able to put their personal opinions aside, agree upon terms that work best for the kids in order to allow their children a healthy ongoing relationship with mom and dad, but sometimes its just not possible.

In the many cases I have witnessed and researched, Dad loses out. Mom gets the kids the majority of time and Dad becomes a weekend visitor. Sometimes this is a legitimate schedule in the best interest of the kids considering Dad works full time and just does not have the ability to be at home, raising kids especially if they are not in school.  Or Dad is dead beat parent and opts to not be involved on a daily basis. 

In my own experience, MOM has been the one working full-time for the past 5 1/2 years while DAD has not had a full-time job, or he's been in jail, or has just plain disappeared - as was the case two years ago when we attempted to arrange a Christmas-time visit, and DAD was nowhere to be found. And how nice that DADS can "opt" to not be involved on a daily basis. You think I have never wanted to "opt" out for a weekend or two? You think I have never wanted to "opt" out of making sure the girls get their homework done, or take their baths, or get to bed at a reasonable hour?

Jayson writes:

But what about the Dad that can work from home?  Or the Dad that has been an equal if not primary care giver because Mom is the one that works 9-5?  What about the Dad that is willing to do whatever it takes to spend more time with his kids for whatever reason?  Why do the courts always favor Mom?

Its not a surprise to most of us that Mom is the primary care giver and thus wins most custody battles in court.  The divorce court system seems to be very sympathetic to "single parenting Mom's" and in many cases appropriately so.  But there are several divorce cases, more than I think we care to realize, when Mom completely abuses the system. Mom's going through a divorce may abuse the system in order to get custody and deny Dad his constitutional right to control and parent his children, when there are no significant reasons why Dad should not have his kids at least 50% of the time.

Join us in the 21st century, when at least 70% of ALL parents work outside the home! Show me where in the Constitution it says that DAD has the "right" to control (what an interesting choice of words!) and parent his children. Better yet, show me his Constitutional right to "opt" NOT to help provide for said children. [And grammatically, I think he means "Moms going through a divorce...," unless of course, he's talking about his own mom.] Oh, and by working from home, the only time their DAD attempted to do this was a drug dealer. Aside from the illegality, he proved to be a failure at it financially, too.

Jayson writes:

Some mothers file completely fraudulent claims and testify to the most dramatic fictional stories just to make Dad look bad in front of the judge.  I know of several father's arrested for domestic crimes that were never committed, spent time in jail, were acquitted in criminal trial or the case was dropped by the DA for lack of evidence. 

Many states have a zero tolerance against domestic crimes.  Whether the father committed the act or not, he's arrested, goes to jail and becomes a product of the system.  He is not innocent until proven guilty.  He is guilty until proven innocent. He loses his rights to parent his kids because the court's victim advocate allows the victim, in this case Mom, to dictate when the father can see his kids and of course she limits the time to some most unreasonable amount.

Were you there? Because that's the only way you can know for a fact that these father's [sic] did not actually commit the crime. I have also known some mothers to be arrested for domestic crimes. This particular crime knows no gender bias, it just happens to be a crime that more men commit than women. Would you rather your OWN daughter continue to be assaulted while awaiting her significant other's trial? Would you rather the CHILDREN be subjected to more violence, either against the mother or themselves? It is a violent crime, and should be treated as such. And mothers don't decide the penalties, the courts do.

Jayson writes:

I even know of attorney's that have advised their client that a domestic violence charge would increase their chances to win their child custody case.  Then Mom sets up a scenario during a parenting exchange where she engages Dad in an argument and calls 911 to claim domestic abuse.  She may fabricate a story of getting pushed, being intimidated or endangering the children.  The police have no choice but to arrest someone and you know they are not going to arrest the parent that has the kids that day. Its Dad that will go to jail.

The domestic violence and child abuse laws have been setup to protect families that experience these very real and unfortunate events.  They happen and many times the aggressor deserves punishment.  But there are increasing numbers of Moms abusing the system just to gain power in the courts decision making about parenting time and conduct unlawful vengeance upon their ex.

It is imperative that we do what we can to alleviate the suffering of real victims of abuse. We have the best justice system in the world, but it is still imperfect. Not to mention, there are no real cases cited here to back up your theory.

Jayson writes:

Its a no win situation for the innocent father.  It's especially detrimental to the children that need Dad in their everyday life.  All divorced father's are supposed to have the same parenting rights as all divorced mother's.  Whether it's our patriarchal culture, our opinionated legal systems or manipulative attorney's that are to blame, something needs to change.  The kids don't deserve it!  After all isn't it all about them?

Not all divorced fathers or mothers are created equal. Nor are all parents created equal. My children do not need a father that does drugs, doesn't pay bills, and steals essentially from them for his own selfish desires. My children do not need a father that spends time in jail on their birthdays two years in a row. My children have thrived in the past five years, solely and exclusively due to me and what I have provided them.

I'm sick to death of two things: being told that two parents are always better than one, and gross generalizations of how I should handle my divorce, or my children.

I talked to experts, I paid for therapy for me and my girls, I paid all of the divorce expenses, and on average once a year, my ex gets his food and shelter in the jails that are paid for with MY tax dollars.

My daughters have been through SO much and don't need to be told (by Jayson in the comments section of the referenced post) to call their father and tell them they love him! In fact, they've tried that. My oldest daughter once called him 4 times before he responded. Where's the love in return? I'm quite relieved, actually, that they have gotten to a point where they no longer wait for the phone to ring.It is not HER responsibility to nurture their relationship, nor is it mine. It's HIS and his alone.

Whenever he does call, they are happy to talk to him and laugh with him and treat him the way they do their uncles. Fun playmates. They do NOT talk to him about their troubles. They do not talk to him about their fears. They do not talk to him about their lives in a meaningful way because they KNOW they cannot depend on him. They've waited for him to show up and act like a father long enough. They've grown healthy enough to know that there's no reason to wait anymore. They are quite happy with our family unit.

Having said all this, my guess is that Jayson most likely has valid complaints about his own ex. I'd be interested in hearing about them one day.

In the meantime, I'd like if he either acknowledged that some, and most likely many, mothers have valid causes of concern about their ex-husbands' ability to parent, or just said, "wow, April, you've done a great job. And sorry for adding to your pain."

This is an original LA Moms post. When April's not ranting here, working full-time, and raising her childen full-time, she posts at her personal blog, It's All About Balance.

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