The judicial system is F%&ed Up!! It really is. Based on this news story, this brotha was doing the right thing and handling his business (paying child support and visiting his child), and that was still not enough. It really makes you question whether the judicial system is really concerned about what’s in the best interest of the child. Now I know we’re making sweeping generalizations here based on one judge’s verdict…but c’mon. Yes the whole check variation thing and not receiving notification about the changes in visitation leads to more questions ….but C’mon…really? Jail time when you’ve paid child support and have been visiting? Check out the video and let us know what you think. You may see something different than what we see.
Below is an excerpt from the Father’s Rights Survival Guide. We thought it may be helpful for the men out there who may be having issues in their homes as it pertains to divorce and child custody. The information below should not substitute for legal advice. Should you need INDIVIDUAL or RELATIONSHIP coaching through the family drama feel free to contact us (Ayize & Aiyana Ma’at). Otherwise check out the suggestions below and if need be contact an attorney.
The Father’s Rights Survival Guide
The following is a comprehensive list of recommendations for men who are facing marital separation and divorce where children are involved. These recommendations are not legal advice. They are “street smart” suggestions gleaned from personal experiences and the experiences of other men who have worked their way through the minefield that is family law.
Although the statutes stress that decisions taken in family law litigation should be, first and foremost, in “the best interests of the children”, the fact is that almost all rulings are made in favour of the mother, as “primary caregiver” — ostensibly “on behalf of” the children. As a father, you, supposedly, have rights under the law, but, quite realistically, have few rights at all. 85% of custody decisions go to the mother (mothers have custody in the vast majority of cases); mothers rarely pay child or spousal support fathers are routinely forced into personal bankruptcy or go underground because they cannot pay onerous support orders; mother’s routinely withhold children from court-ordered ‘access” with their fathers as court orders for access are virtually unenforceable; family equity is split right down the middle, even though a mother may have only provided barely adequate child care and indifferent housekeeping as her contribution. So you must take steps to preempt and mitigate, where possible, a situation wherein you are at the mercy of cut-throat lawyers, biased judges and a very flawed system.
Although the tone of this article may seem pessimistic, I propose that it is, in fact, realistic. The plight of fathers in family law disputes is grave. However, I am optimistic because of the tremendous devotion that so many fathers display for their offspring in facing overwhelming emotional and financial challenges in the simple desire to play a meaningful and critical role in their children’s lives. And I sense a rising tide of awareness and anger in the general public, at large, at the inequalities and abuses of their rights that fathers have been suffering for far too long. It’s time that innovative solutions like mandatory shared parenting be written into the statutes to give fathers a chance at participating in a reasonable fashion in their children’s lives.
Once again, it must be stressed that the following is not legal advice. Ask your lawyer / attorney for a definitive opinion on any and all of the recommendations presented here. This document is prepared specifically relative to Ontario, Canada family law, but most principles should work relative to other North American jurisdictions.
The recommendations begin with the supposition that you are still in the matrimonial home, that your marriage is beyond saving and that mediation is not an option. If you have already separated, pick up the suggestions at the appropriate point.
1. Do not move out of the family home. If no custody order is in place, and you move out, you are granting your spouse de facto custody of your children; you immediately expose yourself to petitions for child and spousal support; you abandon all joint possessions and even your personal possessions to your spouse (and you don’t have to be a lawyer to know that possession is 9/10ths of the law); and you give your spouse leave to petition for exclusive possession of the house in perpetuity in “the best interests of the children” thus tying up the house as an asset.
2. Throughout the period of final co-habitation with your spouse, do not engage in any verbal battles..PERIOD. If the situation is volatile, do not engage in any discussions about legal or settlement issues. Do not engage in any kind of verbal or physical confrontation with her. If you do, you put yourself at the risk of her getting an order to have you thrown out of the house and possibly restrained from going anywhere near her, the property and, possibly the children. If she becomes confrontational, walk away and avoid close contact. Make the only dialogue between the two of you be about the care and well-being of the children and the day-to-day running of the home. If you simply must communicate directly to your spouse regarding matrimonial issues, do so in a written note. You can organize your thoughts better that way and avoid a verbal joust. Do not use inflammatory language stick to the facts. Date the note and write “Without Prejudice” at the top (this protects you from later use of your note against you). And keep a copy of it for your files.
3. Throughout the period of final co-habitation with your spouse, eliminate, or at the very least, reduce, your consumption of alcohol. If you have a drug / alcohol problem, GET HELP IMMEDIATELY, otherwise you may be dead in the water. Alcohol – and most drugs – reduce your inhibitions and may make you more aggressive and thus in danger of confrontation with your spouse. And later, when you come down from your high, you will suffer from depression that will impair your ability to function and may make you susceptible to suicide. In almost all cases of murder / suicide in marital disputes, alcohol is a contributing factor.
4. If there are firearms in your home, GET RID OF THEM. Take absolutely no chances that someone may lose it and grab a gun.
5. Get emotional counseling if you need it. There is no stigma attached to getting help for the stress and the anxiety depression that almost everyone experiences during the ordeal of a high-conflict divorce. Have your family doctor recommend a psychiatrist – covered under provincial health plans in Canada (psychologists and social workers are not usually covered) – or check your employment health benefits to see if referral to a counselor is available to employees. If you are a member of an organized religion, your clergyman / priest / rabbi or affiliated lay counselors may provide assistance.
6. Transfer all money from joint spousal accounts to your own sole accounts. If you don’t, chances are that she will clean out the accounts before you do.
7. Have your spouse’s name removed from all joint credit cards for which you are responsible, get her spousal cards from her and destroy them.
8. Engage legal counsel sooner rather than later. Be prepared for the fact that you will have to provide a legal retainer of (typically) a minimum of $1,000 for a lawyer to begin working on your case. Make sure your lawyer is an experienced family law specialist not someone who does part-time family, part-time real estate, etc. law, Ask him (or her) if he / she is aware of the bias of the family court system against fathers and if he (we’ll assume it’s a man from here on) is willing to fight for your rights as a parent and not be intimidated by biased court officials. For your first meeting with him be prepared with a written outline of the issues of your case. Do not make this a novel about the emotions of your marital breakdown stick to the hard, cold facts. Go to all meetings with your lawyer with a written agenda, and with all issues, questions, etc. spelled out in detail. Write down all responses and action items. Be prepared to do any legwork for him that you can (document searches, brief preparations, etc.). Use his time wisely. The meter is ticking all the while you are sitting in meetings with him or consulting on the phone. And remember two things: he works for you so be demanding; and he will not (nor shouldn’t) make decisions for you you must make them yourself with his guidance.
9. Start and maintain in chronological order a comprehensive and well-organized file of ALL documents, memos, letters, briefings, affidavits pertinent to your case. Your file is critical for referring to past actions, issues, details. Take all relevant files with you for meetings with your lawyer; and take the originals plus a second set of all relevant files with you to court appearances as back up in case your lawyer does not have the appropriate ones with him.
10. Court actions. Don’t even THINK about going to court without a lawyer. In most cases, judges will just laugh and scoff at you literally and tell you to get representation. If you persist in forcing them to allow you to represent yourself, her lawyer and the judge will take you apart. Consult with and rely on your lawyer for the timing and the appropriateness of court actions. It may be in your best interests to get to court first with a petition or motion (to be the “petitioner”); or the other side may move quickly and make you the “respondent” to a court action. Your lawyer should know what strategies are best. Assist him as much as you can with written briefs for the affidavits, financial statements, etc. he will prepare on your behalf.
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