The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Do You Know Where The Children Are?

Anybody remember what divorce was like in the old days? Usually it started with some old-fashioned adultery. The dad then moved out of the family home. A leather suitcase, a pipe in his mouth, and a sad, forlorn look on his face as he did so. Looking back from the cab (mom got the car, too), across a well-kept lawn, at what used to be a great house, in a great neighborhood, full of great kids and a wife that was dishing up three squares a day and washing his shorts on a regular basis, kind of all angsty-like.

Mom raised the kids. Struggling, of course. Working a part-time job as a cashier at the corner grocery, or doing alterations for the drycleaners down the block. The dad paid child support (and often times alimony), and got visitation every other weekend, a little time through the holidays and a week in the summer. Something like that. Was it all an illusion? I'm pretty sure I knew kids in that situation in the 70's.


As time has gone on, the reality has been that a great number of dad's didn't pay their child support...and in many cases were lax on the visitation part, too...and a great many pissed off mom's (rather than banding together to form a posse and opening a can of whoop-ass on these slackers...which wouldn't have been all bad) have been instrumental in toughening up how the court's deal with dead-beat dads...the legal way. Making it tougher for men (and in some cases women...sadly dead-beat parents are not gender specific) to skip out on the cost to raise the fruit of their loins. I think that's great. I want to see people take more responsibility for their actions, especially as it relates to how it affects innocent lives that these same people have taken it upon themselves to bring into the world. Take this guy for instance...a local boy...and aren't we proud. You bet!

The condom industry should be advertising with pictures of dead-beat dads on their packaging.

Have You Seen This Guy?

Joe Hopper
Age: 41
Last Seen: Trixie's Show Club, Atlanta, GA (with a fist full of singles)
Hasn't Paid Child Support in 2 years.
Children: Becky Sue and Ralphie

If you see him, call BR549 to report his whereabouts!
Don't Let Your Taxes Continue to Raise His Kids!
And Don't Let This Happen To You! Use 48 SDF (Spermal Defense Formula) Condoms!

By the way, I should note that this advertisement is completely fictional and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. But this is exactly where you need pictures of deadbeat dads...it'd help a lot to work on this at the source.

Now, that said, I want to mention a little side-effect that has crept into the mix. Shared custody. Men (and I'm saying men because the numbers still support it) are crying "Foul!" They want more time with little Jimmy. And who says the mom is the best parent to raise little Shaniqua, anyway? So, lawyers, who were most assuredly trained at Wolfram and Hart, being the sneaky little weaseling bastards that they are, saw the opportunity to make a buck and started opting for shared custody. If you couldn't make a case that the dad was a dangerous influence, why couldn't he share in the responsibility of raising the little apples of his eye? And so, I have watched as more and more of my friends who have divorced, are working through shared custody. I have been, frankly, appalled.

The first couple, that I knew personally, that dealt with this situation, was my youngest ex-brother-in-law. When he and his wife split, it was due to domestic violence issues. He liked to beat her. Nice guy. Throw in a long and documented history of drug and alcohol abuse, a lengthy criminal record, and mental health issues that had been treated sporadically for years. Our local court system felt that his background made him an excellent candidate to co-parent a small child and act in the capacity of role model. His ex-wife had begun her career as an alcoholic just before the divorce. And shortly thereafter, graduated to crack. Between the two of them, a family court judge, felt it was appropriate to share custody of a child who was not yet two years old. Better, that they should switch off custody every 3 1/2 days...but not directly. Because of the abuse factor, they had a No-Contact Order in force, which meant that the child had to be transferred by another family member or at a police station. There's a lasting impression for a small child.

It is only now, after years of problems, that the child (who is now 10) has been removed from both homes and is being raised by her maternal grandparents. She is the only child I've ever know to have failed kindergarten, and continues to struggle in school. She has had nightmares for years. Has no sense of belonging or self. And has been in continuous counseling since she was about 4. Thanks, Judge. Good call there, buddy.

One of my best friends, had a similar custody arrangement handed down, although she and her ex weren't dealing with the violence and drugs. Simple old infidelity issues there. Though they were denied and unproven. So, I'm not sure how that works. But, the court didn't feel up to tossing a coin and opted to split the time. Again, on a schedule that has her kids shuttling back and forth every few days.

This, to me, is madness.

Now, knowing all of those things...all of which had come before my own somewhat congenial divorce (by comparison to most), I opted to go that route. Primarily because it's what my kids wanted. They didn't want to choose sides. And they didn't want to abandon their dad when they felt he needed them most. And I didn't want to make them.

They knew he had been in a situation where he'd been taken care of for years and wouldn't know what to do to run a household (calling me at my new apartment two years after we'd moved into the house he was now in alone, asking me how to run the dishwasher, was a big clue...), and felt they needed to help him. They're good kids. And they love their dad.

But I knew there was no way I would accept switching them back and forth every few days. Even every week sounded crazy. But being without them longer seemed impossible, too. My ex and I discussed it and decided to try out an every two week schedule. Going two weeks without seeing them seemed crazy. There was no way I would be able to live with that. Was there? But to disrupt their lives more frequently seemed cruel.

And so...we have embarked on this schedule. And, for the most part, the kids have adapted pretty well, to it. It's been a little over a year now. I wouldn't say it's gone as far as being without incident. But I think it's working as well as it could be. The kids enjoy being with him.

At first, my oldest would beg me not to make her go. Would cry and plead. It was tough. But it's gotten better. She still has the least respect for him. (He's having a tough time brainwashing her into remembering that he's been parenting and doing stuff around the house all along...cause he wasn't.) She's old enough to remember.

My youngest one spends a lot of time with him when she's there and looks forward to it. Sleeping in the bedroom where I once painted fairies and flowers on her wall. I'm always there with her. All she has to do is look at that. And she calls me to tell me 'good night' every night that she is gone.

My middle daughter...the peacemaker. Heh...her mother's daughter for sure. She's handling it best of all. Though there are times when they still call me and come to me with issues when they are there. Things they don't feel comfortable working on with him. That makes me feel good that they need me. I don't think he even realizes how much this still happens.

I'd be remiss if I didn't say that I'm lucky in that my ex genuinely loves his kids. I'm not gonna say that the fact that he doesn't pay child support doesn't factor into why he wants to do this, but I don't think it's near the top of his list. He really loves spending time with them. And I know alot of kids don't have that. And so, for that, I'm very grateful.

In any event, I mention any of this because we're nearing the next transfer of custody. I'm taking them back to their dad's on Saturday. And, as always, I've started missing them several days beforehand. Highlander is, I'm certain, already gearing up for the Saturday afternoon and Sunday job of propping me back up and distracting me with mushy romance stuff. It works pretty well, if I do say so myself.

I find, however, that I'm doing a little propping him up these days, myself. As he misses them, too. Misses them arguing. Misses them putting on mind-numbing dvd's and forcing him to sit through them. Misses them getting on the computer when he wants to work on something.

But I know that none of that stuff will matter at all by the time they come home again. For either of us. And I'm already counting down the days til they're back...and they haven't left yet.

4 Comments:

Blogger Marci said...

Wow, shared custody. I couldn't do it, but because I don't want my kids at his place of residence, with the other woman and her three children in a bad neighborhood (?) I am assuming since she had her husband arrested for drug and arms dealing...also, I am supporting my kids completely on my own and he is making no effort to get a job...well, what I mean to say is HELL NO. LOL. Not for me, anyway, but your situation sounds ideal! You are so together! Kudos!

1/11/2006 4:49 PM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

It was all part of the grand plan I had, which was called the "Amicable Divorce". It was the divorce where my ex and I stayed friends. We worked together to raise our kids. I left a great deal of cash and property on the table, taking a HUGE financial hit as a concession to try to make this easier for him...and the kids. Hell, I actually wrote out recipes for him, gave him classes in first aid, childcare, hairdressing and went as far as setting up an excel spreadsheet for him to use for monthly household finances. But, I'm a mean bitch, I am. No reason in the world he'd want to consider me a friend.

Tricky part is that once you sign away your rights to the property, it's hard to hold them to the friendship part. So, treating me like dirt, and sleeping fine despite screwing me, doesn't seem to be a problem for him. The continued return on the initial investment is lost on him.

Sadly for him, though, despite everything he's thrown at me, I'm much happier poor and without him.

We've agreed that until he is serious about someone he will not expose the kids to his girlfriends. I don't have much information on them. He chooses to keep it that way. And, frankly, until he IS serious about one of them, that's fine with me. No interaction necessary. My kids have advised me that there are currently 4 or 5 that he's juggling. And that would be a much bigger thing if he were parading all of these different women in and out of my kids' lives. Believe me.

1/12/2006 10:43 AM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

uh oh...I'm ranting again...and no one here to reign me in...tsk, tsk, tsk

I HATE when that happens...::BWAH HA HA HA::

1/12/2006 10:48 AM  
Blogger Marci said...

So easy to rant when exes are involved!!

I'm so glad we are friends!!

1/12/2006 10:21 PM  

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