I’m not talking about his emotional response to the violation of his parental rights (full video here). My personal experience and 20+ years of father advocacy tells me what he is experiencing is a normal response to the trauma that he is enduring as I’ve seen it and done it. Where he needs to “man up” is recognizing the biases within the system and how he can best survive it. He also needs to face up to his contributions to the system which is now emotionally and financially eating him alive.
Tyrese laments “the uninvolved fathers has made it bad for the involved fathers because our voices are being someway, somehow drowned out”. He goes on about good and bad fathers and the system not being able to tell the difference. It is the myth of the deadbeat dad, a father uninvolved by choice, that this system is based upon. And “good men” holding the “bad men” accountable, turning bad into “responsible fathers” for children, myth’s which fuels the injustices. The system dupes the “good dad” into believing that it only goes after the “bad dads”. I can see Tyrese fell for it by his claim to be a good dad in a system that confuses him with the bad dads.
Here are some of the realities I give to every father who enters the system, most just like Tyrese, duped into thinking they are a good dad who was sucked into the system by mistake and if they just show they are a good father then it will be OK and they will be treated fair. First, recognize that you are the only one in the court room who has to defend yourself and justify your parental right and you are the only one who is PAYING while all the others are taking in when in court.
Hard reality #1 – your abilities as a father count for nothing. Hard reality #2 – Truth counts for nothing. Hard reality #3 – The best interests of your child count for nothing. Hard reality #4 – It IS about the money, your money going to others. Hard reality #5 – you have no rights – PERIOD. Hard reality #6 – Everything you say or do will be twisted and used against you. Hard reality #7 – ANY display of ANY emotion will be used against you. Hard reality #8 – You are viewed as a potential danger to your child and Ex. Hard reality #9 – Most everyone will believe you are guilty and abandon you. Hard reality #10 – you WILL suffer injustice, persecution, indignities, and assaults on your physical and mental health.
I expect that like most of us Tyrese is now figuring out his assumptions about “deadbeat dads” and a just family court working in the interest of a child are incorrect. Many fathers come into this system thinking that they can beat it with a good attorney, win on appeal, publicize their unjust case and to win and foster change, or connections or fame will protect them. They are wrong. The system knows the myth’s. It is designed to move your assets into the pockets of those within the system and will run until you are drained of finances. Nothing you can do will change the system while you are in it.
Tyrese case is the standard. First a filing and the mother gets “temporary custody, a “temporary order of protection” (TOP) based upon “being afraid”, and ” temporary child support” all without him getting his day in court to defend himself. She then makes allegations of violating the TOP for frivolous things like contacting your child or sending gifts. He is removed from contact with his child “pending a hearing” but when you go in the attorneys broker a deal for “supervised visitation”, a scant few hours a week with someone looking over your shoulder (which you pay for). You take it as something is better than nothing.
Being separated from your child takes a toll on you. Everything you do results in another filing in court and you have to respond. Attorneys fees (yours and hers most likely), child support, and lost income to handle the action are draining you of your assets. The system assaults you on a daily basis with no contact with your children and continuous filings and you bleed money you don’t have. Emotionally you are drained but if you show anger or grief (as Tyrese did) it is used against you in court (Tyrese had 4 deputies in court who patted him down in response to his video) and your friends and family make fun of you for being “emotionally unstable” (check youtube for the response to Tyrese).
Your ex is using the system to foster Parental Alienation between you and your child(ren) and the system is more than happy to oblige. Allegations against your ex are ignored (Tyrese ex texted she would cut off his fingers and he gets no TOP) and anything you do results in allegations you have to defend in court (Tyrese was dragged in for “following his ex” based upon a private investigator hired to monitor her activity). You are running out of money (Tyrese borrowed to pay attorneys) with no end in sight to the legal fees. The stress is so bad you end up physically ill (Tyrese ended up in the hospital with chest pains).
If you end up so physically or emotionally ill you can’t continue you’ll be accused of “giving up” and “abandoning your child” you’ll be the “deadbeat dad”. If you’re broke there is no assistance anywhere to help you in court and if you fall behind on your child support you’ll be put in jail. The system defines a “good father” by child support paid. Making money will take priority, even over spending time with your child, if the loss of money means jail. Fall behind or miss “visitation” and you’ll be the “deadbeat dad”. And should you grow tired of being a “visitor” for a scant few hours a week and not a parent, the child is moved away from you, or the mother just interferes with your time together and you can’t fight anymore, you’ll be the “deadbeat dad”. And the world will pass judgement on you.
Now you know, the “deadbeat” is actually a beat dead, dead broke, and disenfranchised dad.
I reprint my tips on managing your case below. They are online at NY MAN and our NY discussion group is here and the international discussion group here. You can find links and recommended reading here.
Jim Hays, Director NY MAN
MAN’s 15 IMPORTANT TIPS ON MANAGING YOUR CASE
You woke up one day and said “I must be in the twilight zone, this can’t happen in America”. Well, you ain’t in Kansas anymore Theodore, it does happen, on a daily basis (in KS too). And to make matters worse chances are that the “opposing party” (formerly the person you would have given your life to protect) wants the divorce, filed against you, and is way ahead on the preparation.
First thing you should realize, you are not alone. With a 50% divorce rate and one third our of wedlock birth rate chances are you are sitting next to a divorced/separated “non custodial” dad on the bus, at work, school, library or just walking down the street. Just begin to speak of your situation and the kindred Dads will open up and begin talking to you.
There are some fundamentally important things you can do to help yourself. First and foremost you have to recognize that YOU are responsible for your interactions with others including your ex, your children the Courts, whoever. Second you need to build a support network. We suggest a network of three. One family member, a mother, sister or brother, etc. who can go to ALL meetings you have regarding your children. Court, school conferences and public events you children are in. One friend who understands you and is willing to attend an event or come to court when your family person is unavailable. You can also discuss your emotions with them so you don’t explode later on. One FaFNY member (or a divorced Dad), a mentor from within the organization. Someone who has been through this before. You can do this through networking, phone calls, e-mails and by attending the meetings. You need someone who has been through the system to explain it to you.
Once your support base is set try the following suggestions:
1. “Manage” your outward emotions at ALL times. You can not afford an outward display of anger toward ANYONE, but most importantly towards your ex spouse. As one father put it “I’m the Buckingham Palace Guard when I’m relating to her”. Recognize they will try to make you act angry and argumentative. Don’t fall into the trap. Adhere to the Standard Conditions of Parental Behavior on this site.
2. Keep a DAILY diary or calendar. Cases often run months and even years. Recalling facts and events is difficult and made worse because of the stress. Write down all major points of your interactions with your ex, your kids and those involved in the case such as law guardians, etc. and include phone calls made and topic discussed.
3. Buy a digital recorder or a voice activated pocket recorder and phone microphone and record ALL conversations and contacts with your ex. False allegations are an accepted practice in family court and attorneys use them as leverage. YOU HAVE TO PROTECT YOURSELF. If you never suffer a false allegation you can destroy the tapes when your case is done. But in a He said, She said when the allegations are against you, YOU LOSE. Unless you have evidence to the contrary false allegations will be believed. (Speak with your attorney on the legality of recording conversations. Presently in New York State a person can record a conversation as long as they are physically a party to the conversation. Laws change, make sure you are up to date)
3. Make yourself “father of the year”. In the adversarial arena of family court there is a tendency to respond to attacks on your character with cross attacks on character. Instead of showing you should “get the kids because she is no good” show that you should get your kids because YOU ARE SO GOOD. Build yourself up, not tear her down. Carry photo’s and brag about your kids. Get your kids because your deserve them.
4. Know your kids! Learn everything there is to know about your children PERSONALLY. Learn all their sizes and tastes in clothes. Learn about their friends and what they really like to do. Know them as people. Even if you end up with limited parenting time you will be much better off having really learned who your children are.
5. Be involved in the major decisions in your child’s life! Know who their doctor is by name and location and talk to him about your child’s health issues. Be there when they get medical attention. Know who their extra curricular activity instructors are by name in music, dance, soccer or whatever. Attend games and events. Share information with your ex spouse, they are still a parent even though not your spouse.
6. Get involved in your child’s education! Meet with your child’s teacher or guidance counselor and let them know of your continued involvement in the child’s education. File the parental access form (FERPA) with your child’s school but bring it in in person and ask that it be kept on file. Be aware of who is listed on the emergency release card and that the contact numbers are up to date. Explain the current situation to school personnel so that they are aware of the family dissolution as it affects your kids. JOIN THE PTA. Attend school (and school board) meetings and events.
7. Don’t be a Disneyland Dad. Having limited time with your children can often result in a child-parent relationship based on “we have to do something fun”, McDonalds and a movie! But this is not a natural parental role. REMEMBER YOU ARE STILL A PARENT! Act like it. Time together should be spent on normal family functions. Weekday evenings should be homework and dinner at HOME (the one they are currently at!). Do these family things together. Keep normal routines regardless of the parent in charge at the time. Spend weekends at normal family events and gatherings. Remember their religious upbringing consistent with what was done before the divorce.
8. Allow your child to express his or her emotions openly and freely. No child asks for divorce. They are truly the innocent party that has to suffer the consequences of another’s decision. Let your child express their emotions as they need to and DON”T BE JUDGEMENTAL. They want and need security, not blame. Listen. Listen. Listen.
9. Respect the other parent! Absolutely no bad mouthing of the other parent should occur. This destroys your child’s self esteem no matter which parent is “bad”. This goes for extended family, friends and the children themselves. If someone bad mouths your ex-spouse in front of you stand up for your child’s parent. You are not supporting your spouse, you are supporting the parent of your child (and thereby the child them self).
10. Nurture your child’s relationship with their family. Not only your extended family but BOTH branches of the tree. On father’s day call BOTH Grandfathers and wish them a happy father’s day. Same for mother’s day. Aunts and uncles, cousins etc. are important to the child too. Allow open contact with the other parent and all of the extended family when you are exercising your parenting time.
11. Think outside the box. Being “non custodial” means limited time with your children. You can increase your time by thinking outside of the limitations placed on you. Attend all public events your child is in. All sporting events and presentations. Volunteer to chaperone on school and church filed trips. Volunteer to be a reading parent at your child’s school. By being involved you gain time outside the court order and the limitations imposed there.
12. In Court, once you agree to it you can’t take it back. Never, EVER stipulate to ANYTHING on the record. It will get twisted around and come back to bite you. If you are unsure or confused, say so. You can agree to something in principle and ASK THAT IT BE REDUCED TO WRITING SO YOU CAN READ IT BEFORE SIGNING. If you don’t like something OBJECT TO IT.
13. Understand the terminology and what you are agreeing to. Vague references such as “such further visitation times as the parties agree” are unenforceable. “Joint custody with primary physical possession with the mother” really means she is the custodial parent and you are the non custodial parent. Make sure dates and times are specific. A statement “Christmas in even years with the father from 10:00PM Christmas eve to 8:00PM Christmas night” is enforceable and is better than “the father shall have the child every other Christmas” which is unenforceable.
14. Think Ahead!!!! You are going to be in this system until your child reaches 21 years of age. Think ahead about who will pay for college and which college. Will you spouse try to move your children away from you when she meets a new boyfriend? Ask yourself, “What can happen in the future to keep me away from my children and what can I do to prevent it from happening”.
15. Ask yourself, “Can I accept this definition of fatherhood” and “At what price is my fatherhood”? Many people enter into agreements without asking themselves these two questions. If the definition of fatherhood handed to you doesn’t meet your expectations your parental role will fade over time. Also if the price to exercise your fatherhood is to high you won’t be able to do so. If you have to work 60 hours a week to pay the support you won’t have time to be with your children if you have them say 40% of the time. If you are abused by your spouse or arrested under false allegations of abuse when you try to get your kids the price of fatherhood will eventually, emotionally and financially, be to high for you to continue. If your spouse slams the door in your face when you come to get your children will you have the energy and stamina to keep taking her back to a court that really doesn’t care about your parental time with your children?
Being a separated parent takes work. But it is the most rewarding thing that you can do. Stay at it. Don’t give up. The better the job you do in the beginning the easier it will be towards the end.