Friday, January 30, 2004


Well, we are getting to that time of year again and while it may seem a strange topic for a divorce blog, read carefully... In this article, under the sub-heading Investment and Tax Expenses, it references time spent deciding alimony and child support in your divorce. Now, I am no expert, seriously - my own accountant hates doing my taxes because I am so uninformed and neglectful with fiscal paperwork of all types, but what I believe this article is saying is that what you paid your attorney to figure out all alimony and child support issues can be tax deductible. I have no idea how that would even begin to work, you probably would have to have your attorney provide some specific breakdown of billing (?) and then take that to whoever prepares your taxes. If you need more info, the IRS web site would be a good place to start. Otherwise, check out the article on MSNBC


Being the snoop that I am, I often look at the search parameters that directed visitors to this site. My favorite for the day: custody attorney is useless! Hopefully, somewhere that particular visitor has located some direction.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Sorry I have been so lax this week, wrapping up my project tomorrow, next week I should be back to having nothing to do...
A different story for divorced parents in Illinois concerning tuition: Daily Herald


Foster parents vs biological father: KCRA
International custody wrangling... we all think we have it bad...poor kids. NEPA News
Information about the child tax credit, apparently not only has it gone up this year, but that the increase is retroactive for last year as well: Times Record News

Monday, January 26, 2004

Okay, okay... just one for the day. This is a link to the American Psychological Association's guidelines for custody evaluators: APA


My Busy Week

I have this unbelievably big project at work this week. This is how it goes at my job -- very slow to extremely busy. Point being that I probably will not be able to post much. I'll do what I can in my free time. Feel free to email me relevant ideas, sites and news and I will do my best to get those up.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Free Legal Advice

This is it for me for the day. This is a very good site for general legal questions pertaining to custody. This site, however, is not a substitute for a lawyer. Use it to get direction and then qualify the specifics of your case and state with your attorney.

It is quite lengthy and covers an array of questions. Definitely a good starting point...

Free Advice on Custody ; Free Advice on Divorce

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Some of these are really funny, some not so much... Divorce HQ
I don't know what to say about this one. I have never been much impressed with it's content, but I am also not a man, going through a divorce, or a non-custodial father. The intent seems good and this might be a good resource for some of the more emotional issues associated with divorce proceedings and custody cases: Divorce Magazine

After looking through the magazine a bit I now have a better handle on my feeling. Divorce Magazine is like the Better Homes & Garden of the divorce literature genre. Nothing real specific, attempts to be uplifting, coves a lot of aspects of divorce but only in a minimal, fluffy way.

For example, this is one of the questions from the FAQ section (I am so going to hell for this): "My ex-wife told me many times that I have no rhythm and two left feet. What can I do to gain the self-confidence to go dancing?"

I don't know, make up your own mind, maybe more relevant if you are attempting to save your marriage, or... if you are divorcing without children. The entire tone of the site seems a little too light for me considering the seriousness of these issues.


Better Divorce

Caveat: Better Divorce is run by Divorcesource. Everything I said about divorcesource applies here as well- useless site meant to get you to pay for advice. There are far better resources out there. Really.

Using the Yahoo search engine with search terms divorce and custody, the first two entries (after the two sites under sponsor results-- which are also pay sites if you were unaware and pay yahoo to be placed at the top of the results list) were DivorceSource and Better Divorce. I am inclined to believe these sites also pay the search engines to be listed at the top of results, but not in the sponsor area so people won't be immediately tipped off that it is a pay site.

As always, feel free to make up your own mind, and to let me know if your experience has been different... Better Divorce
Linking divorce to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) in children: WFIE

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This is an interesting article as generally few people are even aware of Munchausen's by proxy. This is to the detriment of the other parent if a situation like this one is occurring; at the same time, however, it happens very rarely.

Please do not think this might be an equivalent claim it someone is unfairly levying abuse claims against you. This is a very, very serious charge. Try to refrain form claiming anything you know (or believe) to be untrue.

First, if it is proven to be untrue, your credibility will take a large hit in the eyes of your judge, as well as put in question your ability to work with the other parent in a joint legal custody scenario. Secondly, as much as you may detest your former spouse, and as much as they may be saying or doing terrible things, eventually your court battle/attorney's/judge will go away. Your former spouse will never go away and it is in your child's best interest (and yours) to maintain whatever civility you can. You are always going to have to work together on some level, orchestrate birthdays, holidays, etc... Don't say things that will inflame your situation any further.

That being said, feel free to comment and call attention to legitimate concerns you may have. Although, this may temporarily make things a bit icier between you and your ex, hopefully they will comes to terms with the fact that you were doing everything in your power to retain access to your children. Baseless claims and false accusations, however, can be much more difficult to forget and quite likely will do more damage than good in a court scenario.

Chicago Sun-Times


Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Men's Issues Page: Menweb


More Petitions


I feel as though doing this blog has opened up my eyes to so many ideas/sites/authors/causes that I did not know existed.

I am going to list the web sites for a number of petitions relevant to fathers rights. Look them over and sign them if you agree. Their impact will not be immediate, but every little step counts.

Non-Custodial Parental Rights

Petition For Redress of Grievances

Justice for a Non-Custodial Father
Okay, here's another site I just became aware of. I cannot speak to the usefulness of this site, they cover all topics related to men, not only divorce or custody issues.

I just have to say (forgive me) that for some ungodly reason I find the typeface used on this site completely abrasive. Though it is not written in all caps, the type (oh lord, how do I not look an idiot while I try to describe how a certain typeface makes me feel) makes me feel as though I am being simultaneously screamed at and talked down to. As though a reader on this site needs to have the content hammered in to them, they are barely capable of understanding it and they didn't have a shot in hell of locating it on their own.

For this reason (maybe somewhere in my unconscious I recall being scolded for using non-traditional type) I could hardly surf the pages. Each one felt like a virtual assault not only on my eyes, but my psyche as well.

Anyway, decide for yourself:
And the most recent post from Dr. Stephen Baskerville:

Dr. Baskerville has been appointed President of the American Coalition of Fathers and Children.


Stephen Baskerville's web page offers virtually all of his published material. Writings on the Divorce Regime, Family Court Corruption, and the Government’s War on Fatherhood.


"The Politics of Family Destruction"

A very interesting and well written article by Stephen Baskerville: Crisis Magazine

(Stephen Baskerville teaches political science at Howard University and is author of Not Peace But a Sword: The Political Theology of the English Revolution)


Seems to be a lot of interest in the news about Puff Daddy's child support payments: Contra Costa Times (amongst other places)

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Custody Evaluator

I lied. Apparently NY has minimal guidelines which custody evaluators are supposed to follow (thanks to reader M.L.). Overview here: NY State Education Dept.

Makes me wonder though, these could hardly be called directives, more like guidelines. Are there any repercussions for not following these guidelines? Seems as though it would be quite difficult to prove a step was skipped, for example.

Anyone from NY, report on your experience with a custody evaluation. Do you feel as though your evaluator addressed this list in its entirety?

Also, maybe all states have these, but they are all equally weak and therefore useless in type of practical sense.


Same site, more numbers: Fatherlessness 1 and Fatherlessness 2

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When I began this horrendous journey, the first thing I looked for were statistics. I wanted to know how many mothers had physical custody, fathers had physical custody, visitation schedules, effects of divorce....

I think when we look for statistics we are looking for affirmation. I hardly ever search for statistics anymore as I realize how skewed and self-serving they can be to both sides of an issue.

However, I understand the need to see some hard numbers, so without further ado... Child Custody Statistics (courtesy of

Be aware: these statistics are used to bolster a father's case. Feel free to send your feelings, comments or hate mail about these numbers and I will gladly post your thoughts as long as they are appropriate. (I reserve the right to censor any material to maintain this site's accessibility for all)

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Okay, I was mixed about even posting this since I know so little about the scenario. I have decided in light of my previous tangent about the unchecked power of independent psychologists and psychiatrists that it should be posted. If it is in fact the case that a decision was made about this mother based on a 20 minute interview, there has indeed been a travesty of justice. This is not to say that the mother should immediately be given access to her child, only that a decision of such magnitude requires a thorough investigation. Telegraph
It looks as though the Australian idea for a child custody tribunal in lieu of the court system will be rejected. The more I read about this plan, the less I liked it. While it's intentions may have been good, I cannot begin to imagine how it would have been any less convoluted than the current system. The Age
Palm Springs, CA. Public law library. If you are doing your own research and are anywhere close to this area, this is an invaluable resource for you.

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Virginia Beach, VA. A juvenile and domestic relations judge is removed from the bench after being censured in 2002 for his handling of a custody case. Pilot Online If you have experience with this judge, please share your story...


North Carolina considers giving judges more leeway (?) in child custody decisions where domestic violence may be an issue. What do you think? I think the merits of the plan are good, and I was unaware that if NC courts had evidence of domestic abuse they were unable to supersede their traditional powers. However, it also seems to open the door to the first party to claim domestic abuse.

Though the court is not supposed to consider who first files for divorce/custody, the CW says whoever files is in a slightly superior position. Could this translate into whoever first claims abuse as well?
The New Bern Sun Journal

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Last one for the day, I'm going home. Admittedly, I haven't done a very good job looking these links over, so please let me know if they are useless.

This is from the University of Nebraska and is titled Supporting Stepfamilies. Pretty basic, but worthy of a look if this is a current issue in your life. Nebraska Cooperative Extension
This is a very interesting and fact based site on step-families. Look it over, especially if you are considering blending your family with another. American Psychological Association (APA)
This is an article against gay marriage, but it does cover some aspects of children in traditional versus non-traditional (divorced, cohabitation, single) homes. Accuracy in Media
This is a pretty fluffy and generic article about stepfamilies, but what would you expect from Better Homes and Garden?
Seminar for divorcing parents in Oregon:

We have a similar procedure in my town, though they call it a class, and it is also mandatory. While the content may seem largely common sense, it does serve as a neutral environment in which the two parents can begin to find ways to work together harmoniously (or at least civilly). Further, if you try to be positive, you can surely learn good habits or habits to avoid from other parents in the class. (Seeing two other people argue about some of the trivialities of the divorce process may help you gain perspective into your own divorce). You might even make a friend...

But make sure you just meet friends, the last place you need to be looking for replacement mates is in your divorce course. Not to mention (if you have children in particular) you should SLOW down a bit. What do they say about fish in the sea? Or if it's meant to be ... it will still be meant to be six months from now. Make a statement like this your mantra, say it over and over again when you meet someone attractive. You and your children deserve better. You deserve to actualize yourself on your own, without outside influence. You have been part of a couple with children, you need to find your own parenting style as a divorcee with children. Take time for yourself, come to terms with your divorce, objectively look at why it broke down and try to apply all of these realizations to what you would want in a potential mate. Be honest with yourself as to what you can offer to someone else and what you will not tolerate in a mate. IMPORTANT: Stick to these convictions even after you meet "the one."

Remember, you have thought that you met "the one" before. Hopefully, you felt that way about your ex-spouse. You may say things like, "Now I know what it is like to be in love" or "I have never felt this way about anyone else." Yes you have. It is wonderful to be in a new relationship, you never want to be away from that person, all their jokes are funny, all their quirks are endearing, you like the same movies, food, pets... and on and on and on. Slowly, the gloss wears off any relationship. You look for independent activities, their jokes are repetitive, quirks are annoying to obnoxious, everybody likes the Shawshank Redemption but their fetish for kung-fu movies makes you want to drive a chop-stick through your eyeballs, and both choosing steak as your favorite food and dog as your favorite pet is no relationship coup. It is only once the gloss (or novelty) wears off that I believe you can truly tell if you have found "the one." If you can witness the personality quirks that drive you crazy and still love that person, still care about their day, their dreams, their fears and be able to communicate all of yours to a partner who is not only willing, but wants to listen, even knowing all of your annoying tendencies (read carefully) THEN YOU HAVE SUCCEEDED!

Ask yourself what you date for? Unless you want to spend your life unattached and just date for fun (and after a divorce I can very much understand why you might go that route) dating is a path to marriage. Dating is effectively trying out potential mates until you find "the one." Take this process seriously, there is no rush to get married. Your married life will never be as exciting as your dating life. Think about this: not only do 50% of marriages fail, 65% of remarriages with children from previous relationships fail. Take your time (particularly if you have kids). Your kids have been through enough already. Dating someone for a few years to be sure will be far easier on both you and your children than a second (or third, fourth, seventh of you are Larry King) divorce.

Dating is fun and exciting, the person is new, they introduce novel ideas and activities into your life. Very likely they initially worship the ground you walk on and vice versa. You want these type of feelings when you are dating someone. If you don't have them, it is time to move on. You have already "bought the cow," don't settle your next time around.

Marriage is a commitment in every sense, you need a mate who is caring and dependable. The novelty of dating is thrown out, you don't want to be married to someone who surprises you with a trip to Bermuda paid for on your already maxed marital credit card. Keeping your marriage fresh and interesting is important, but by far the most important is being able to depend on your spouse to... come home, pay the bills, pick up the kids on time, be consistently employed, be truthful, tolerate your family and above all to LOVE YOU when you are cranky, tired, irritable, irrational, sick, sad, stressed... You will show your spouse sides of you that you would never reveal to someone you were dating, so don't be surprised when your spouse does the same.

It is so important to remember that when you meet someone new it is ALWAYS exciting. I hear so many stories of divorce... "It just wasn't the same," "I wasn't excited by them anymore" "I felt like I was stuck in such a routine"... So do something about it. This person meant the world to you at one point, figure out what you need to do to get to that place (or close) again. Seek counseling, whatever it takes. TALK TO YOUR SPOUSE!

However you handle your situation realize this: While you new boyfriend/girlfriend may be the cat's meow today, if you are serious about this relationship and it progresses to marriage, eventually you will face the same day to day monotony you find in any marriage and then you will again be faced with the choice between working on your marriage or finding the next exciting alternative. There will always be single people you find enticing... you just need to be adult enough to realize the thrill fades. Is it more important to get your heart racing every couple years or to have a strong, committed, dependable, financially stable relationship with someone who loves you and has loved you?

Divorce is emotionally and financially devastating (as I have talked about before). I don't want to get to preachy, but just be careful. Salvage your marriage if you can, if you can't don't rush into your next one. Trust me, your kids don't even want to think about you dating, much less pledging your life to someone else. If you are dating, keep that person away from your kids until you are absolutely sure the relationship is solid and heading somewhere permanent, and then ease that person into your children's lives. Listen to your kids, if they seem uncomfortable, back off. Your kids cannot ask you not to date but they can ask that they not be forced to personally endure your dating activities. Date while kids are with their other parent, do not skip out on the time you have with them. Try to wait until your kids leave the house before you cohabitate with someone new. It is infinitesimally difficult for children to adapt to living with your new spouse, and worse, your new spouse's children.

I say all of this from experience. Both of my parents remarried people with children and I had to live amongst them. (Interestingly, both of my parents have since divorced their second spouses) In my adult experience, I dated my fiancee for over a year before I began to spend any time with his child, and then very infrequently. Very, very slowly did I become a regular person in his child's life and though this put some restraints on our relationship early on, I am so glad I did it. I could never face myself if I felt like I had made that transitional period any more difficult than it already was. More importantly, I was able to be sure that my fiancee and I were the real thing and I was not overtaken by fleeting infatuation. Only then could I feel comfortable involving myself with his child.

I am going to try and find a couple news posts about step-families. If you are in, have been, or are thinking about being in this type of situation, please share your story. We can all benefit from the experience of others.
This is an interesting article out of Australia about children's interpretations of the family law courts.
I have been trying to find relevant news posts this morning and the news is inundated with stories of parents kidnapping their own children, parents killing themselves, others and even their children after a divorce, or more specifically after a custody decision has been rendered.

Obviously, these parents have issues that I cannot begin to fathom and very likely played into their respective custody decisions. However, could a court system that was more geared toward towards parents having (as much as possible) equal access to their children, help to prevent these types of scenarios.

I am very depressed after reading these articles and all the more interested in the family court overhaul that is ongoing in Australia. I will try to find a good explanatory article about what they are trying to do.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

LII: Legal Information Institute

In an effort to get back to the point of this blog I typed child custody (I find child custody is better than custody as with the latter you often end up with stories of incarceration) into Google and decided to review the first listing. The first listing was LII. This is a non for profit legal cite run by Cornell Law School. It can be a very good resource when you are looking specifically for the legalities of a child custody case.

The site includes federal, state and even international information and cases of interest. It also contains a list of legal links that can be very useful.

I could go in depth on this web site, but the usefulness with vary by case. The NY Court of Appeals is featured, so if you are a resident of NY you might find it more beneficial.

For extensive case law relevant to your own state, I would still recommend lexisONE. However, you do have to register for lexisONE while no registration is required for LII.

LII has easy to access federal uniform laws and state acts and codes relevant to child custody. You should also be able to access the state information on your particular states web site.

So, in short, it may be a resource for you depending on how much of your own research you are handling. Link here: LII Let me know your thoughts...

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This is an editorial from Reg Weaver, the President of the National Education Association, about No Child Left Behind. I promise this is end of my political bend... USA Today
Thinking about "No Child Left Behind" I found this article: Dayton Daily News. Not as informative as I'd like but I'm headed to a lunch meeting so no time to look for something better.
More politics! (which is my other area of interest if you can't tell -- really they are quite intertwined if you think about it) Apparently President Bush is planning to announce a "Healthy Marriage" initiative during his state of the union next week. I think this sounds grand in theory, but what does it actually entail? Further, (and here we delve purely into my opinion) but between the war, Medicare, immigration programs, and journeying into space where precisely does another 1.5 billion dollars come from. For a President who is now question most frequently on fiscal policy (or at least how his policies and initiatives affect our financial bottom line) he sure seems ready to spend. Granted, I would much rather see money go towards families than a moon colony, but is 1.5 billion enough (remember 87 billion, which to date has turned into around 92 billion, for Iraq?) and will the programs he wants to institute really be effective? So far he has been substantially less generous with No Child Left Behind than he led the country to believe when he championed that initiative. The Nation
If you are political and watching the Democratic presidential candidates (particularly Howard Dean) you might find this article interesting. Apparently Dr Dean saw fit to speak on the behalf of an (or a former) employee during his custody battle: New York Post
If you live in Florida this article will be very important. I do not think it is debatable that the family court systems in this country are operating largely to the detriment of the family. They are overloaded and under-staffed as it is. Family courts make (arguably) some of the most important decisions in the entire court system. The breakdown of the American family can affect so many societal problems, this has been demonstrated in studies again and again. Yet, while our government laments about the breakdown of the family, absentee parenting, gangs, violence, theft, teenage pregnancy... they continually skim money from the very programs created to address these problems: family courts and schools. St Petersburg Times


Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Birdnesting: An alternative to bouncing the kids back and forth? Star Telegram

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New Zealand Family Court woes: New Zealand News
News for today: Man sues fertility clinic for planting an egg he fertilized into his now estranged wife without his permission.

Monday, January 12, 2004

San Bernardino Legal Aid

If you live in San Bernardino country here is the number to legal aid: (909) 889-7328.

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This article pertains to child abuse. The father allegedly contacted social services many times after witnessing signs of abuse on his daughter. He says that these claims were never investigated. The wife is currently being tried for abuse of a child under 10, apparently having to do with hitting the girl with spoons. The father is seeking primary custody but in the interim the child has become a ward of the state. Vermont Bennington Banner
This is an article about a man in Ireland who kidnapped his daughter after a court gave his ex-wife primary physical custody.
A de facto (pending) decision of custody in Miami. A mother (now incarcerated) had her 11 year old daughter selling heroin. The two children are now in the care of DCF pending an evaluation of the father's fitness to have custody. Miami Herald
This is based in Nevada and is about a judge deemed particularly abhorrent by a father's rights group in the area. The judge received a DUI and now the group is gathering signatures to have him removed from the bench. Las Vegas Sun
This article mentions a custody evaluator but that is not the focus. However, it is a very nice article about ways divorced and remarried parents have attempted to make their living situations harmonious as possible for the sake of the children. Sometimes we all need to be reminded that arrangements like these are possible and that the kids should always be the first consideration. Arizona Daily Sun

Separated Parenting Resources

This is another site extremely relevant to fathers. I had gone back and forth as to whether or not I would mention it, but I decided I would as it can be a resource for everyone. The difference between this site and many of the other father's rights sites is that is does not capitalize on the emotional aspect of these situations. While they do not hide the fact that the content of the site is primarily for fathers, the authors also seem to realize that mothers facing a custody case could gain assistance from the site as well. This could take the shape of either gaining a better understanding of the plight of the divorced father or as a tool to understand what tactics an ex-husband might use in a custody case. While the site clearly was created for fathers it does seem to realize that the father is not always the best choice either and should not be considered as such in a de facto manner.

Of interest, the site has an extremely comprehensive section of links that are generally quite useful and fact based. The Sparc site also includes a search function wherein you can find (usually) credible information on virtually every topic of interest relevant to divorce and custody. There was quite a bit of information that I took out of this site during my research but what comes to mind primarily are the pages about psychological testing in custody evaluations. (Caveat: The authors of this site very obviously have an issue with the types of tests administered in custody evaluations. Whether or not this is justified will have to be determined by you. In my personal experience these tests are neither as daunting or damning as they are portrayed in this site. However, they are expensive, time consuming and potentially an avenue through which a custody evaluator can render a unchecked opinion. All I am saying here is that if the mother's & father's evaluation are virtually identical, potentially (and not that this happens often or even ever) the evaluator could manipulate tests scores in order to support their justification for placement. At this point the parent's only remedy would be to get another evaluator to re-administer the test or have the results independently interpreted. What you run into here is that even with different results from another party, the original evaluator can always fall back on a statement like "in my experience..." or "my training indicates..." making it possible to poke holes in their interpretation but never able to nullify it all together.) To me, this is the scariest part of working with either a psychologist or psychiatrist. The courts give these people tremendous amounts of virtually unchecked power. To my knowledge, no state has a form or even set of issues that an evaluator must go over in their evaluation. Further, independent evaluators do not even have to consider the legal implications that very likely brought the case to the court in the first place. Independent evaluators, in my experience, are able to perform what evaluation they deem appropriate, they can give or omit tests, do home visits or not, talk to the clients 20 times each or 2 times each, basically render whatever evaluation in whatever format they deem fit and then make a like -altering recommendation. After all of this they are effectively insulated from any questions into their merits or methodology by being able to use their "professional opinion" as an escape. I believe if the courts choose to rely so heavily on independent parties there should at the very least be some type of format that must be covered, above and beyond could be at the discretion of the evaluator, but the evaluation in it's entirety should mandate some specifications as to intent and goals.

I'll get off my soap box now. You would not believe the number of horror stories I have heard about custody evaluators. There is no equivalent in the legal system to the custody evaluator in terms of unchecked power. You can appeal a judge's ruling and an appeals courts will decide your appeal in terms of the law and if they agree they will cite specifically the fault of the ruling they have overturned. While you technically can appeal the results of an independent evaluation, the curtain of professional experience shields the evaluator much more effectively. There could be 50 other evaluations with the opposite result but unless you utilize the state appeals process you will never have that evaluation thrown out. Unfortunately, the time table for a state appeal is (generally) quite lengthy, the court will not extend your case for the purposes of filing the appeal, you will usually have to travel to your state capital for the appeal process, and obviously you will be up against the peers of the evaluator in question, so only with a VERY, VERY good case do you even have a shot. And then all of this equates to more time and money spent on an already arduous process.

Anyway, try SPARC if you are looking for just about anything. If you are a mother, expect a lot of the content to be slanted towards fathers, and then take from it what you can. I think I will make today's news posts about custody evaluators, or try anyway.

As always, let me know if you think otherwise about SPARC..

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Friday, January 09, 2004

My final one for the day about divorced parents and children's college expenses. Appears to be still up in the air, nonetheless, interesting to keep watching. ConcordMonitor
Comic relief or deadly serious? Look, I love my pets too, but the custody of a pet could only be a sticking point in a divorce lacking children... otherwise those people either have way to much time, money or... I don't even know what. The saddest part of this article are the final comments which relate a "best interest of the pet" standard.
Admittedly I can't account for how reputable a site is, but this is another article relevant to Dads in Tennessee, particularly those who are gay. I have no idea how this ruling will hold up, it seems ripe to be one paraded through the media as a candidate for the Supreme Court, but it will surely be interesting to watch...
Is this an example of how women claiming abuse are undercut in a legal system that virtually expects all divorcing mothers to claim abuse in order to gain custody? How hard is it to weigh genuine abuse claims in light of so many fallacious ones?


I have decided to do a search of the terms divorce and custody through Google news each day (or as often as possible) and provide the top 5 (or a couple or maybe one, I shouldn't make promises). I make no inferences with these posts and do not support or decry any simply by their presence on this site. It just seems important to be up on the latest headlines. If you find any of the links dead, please let me know.

If you are a Dad in Tennessee link here: The Tullahoma News Otherwise, this is a letter to the editor concerning father's rights in the Tennessee court system.
Everything I find regarding costs is either a link to a pay service or a web site for a mediation company. I stumbled on a couple sites relative to the UK but I have no idea what 13,000 in euros equates to and it didn't clarify if those costs were with or without children. This is the closest I can come: Anyway, if you are going through this, no further explanation needed.
Okay, I am just being petty now, but here is a copy of an article from DivorceSource about the costs of divorce. Do you see what I mean? They aren't really telling you anything, just bait to get you to scroll down and pay homage to their expertise via your paycheck.


Okay, so after writing my last entry I got a bit worked up and a little overzealous in my search for the actual averaged costs of divorce/custody proceeding. This is from a pro-mediation site and even with my limited comprehension of all things mathematical, the numbers appear fairly skewed to me. However, I am sure there is at least some validity to the correlations between an uncontested divorce to that which is highly contested and including children. Anyway, until I am more successful in my search, this is all I've got: PeaceTalks

Pay Sites

I realize that not everyone has the capacity to offer up their expertise/resources for free. However, these organizations that claim to be in support of mothers rights, fathers rights or parents rights and then require payment for membership are corrupt opportunists. Requiring payment infers two things: 1) That if YOU as the parent choose not to utilize this service you are not doing everything in your ability for your child 2)That there is information available through a pay service that you will be unable to find anywhere else and almost surely it will be the key to your case.

These sites play on the raw nerves and legal inexperience of parents dealing with issues of divorce/custody. Further, generally the expense of these proceedings is a conspicuous drain on the finances of the parents. To do anything to add to this loss of assets is deplorable! It is bad enough that our legal system cannot make the connection between parents funneling money into the system in the form of lawyers, evaluators, specialists, tests, court costs ........ and the well being of the family after the case is settled. Any judge who cannot make the correlation between those funds wasted in court and those funds put into a college account should be thrown off the bench. Our system should encourage both parents to save money whenever possible as that money very likely will result in a better future for the child/children.

Ah, I digress. The point being if you are a diligent researcher you do not need to pay for those types of services. (Truthfully I can't speak to the content having never subscribed to such a service) I have had very good luck finding whatever I was looking for without having to pay for it. Do not let these sites play on your fragile emotions, suffer no guilt for not wasting more money on this convoluted process. If these sites truly were looking out for the best interest of the child, mother or father they would not require payment for their service. Instead they would do what every other self-respecting web site does to make money -- inundate you with pop-up and banner ads of all types.

To see what started this tangent link to the website. Again I was going through my favorites but I have no idea why I bookmarked this one, I remember feeling that it was particularly abhorrent the first time I came across it. Maybe just my own naivete in thinking that might be the best I could do.

As always, if you would like to defend the site or more simply have had a different experience, please let me know and I will gladly post your comments.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Child Custody And Divorce: Free Legal Advice

This is a very interesting site though it is again particularly relevant to those living in Michigan. I am not sure why so many of these links are relevant to Michigan, I don't live there. Nonetheless, it can be a very valuable resource for anyone looking for advice.

This site is written by James Whalen, Attorney at Law, based in Flint, MI. It is extremely lengthy and comprehensive and includes 50 titled chapters specifically on divorce and child custody. The two major advantages to this site are that the author is a lawyer so it is probably the most credible advice you will find online and that it is absolutely free!

This site is not slanted to either parent and covers the most basic to the most tenuous issues in divorce and custody cases. Further, and I say this hesitantly, the author even allows visitors to email specific questions that he will respond to for free. I have to make two caveats with this information:

First, he is only licensed in Michigan. This means if you live in California he will probably not be able to give you the caliber of advice that he could give a Michigan resident, nor will he likely want to waste his time trying. Divorce and custody laws change by state. Do not expect too much from this service and do not fool yourself into thinking that the advice on this site will keep you from having to retain an attorney. This site can be a wonderful starting point and reference point during your case, it should not constitute the legal premise, plan or direction of your case. Consult your own attorney on specifics.

Secondly, please read through the site before you email a question. Look to see if your question has already been answered. It is an amazing thing that this attorney is doing for free so do not waste his time by asking something that he has already covered. Further, make sure you carefully read his requests for questions submitted over email. You can find his email address under the heading News Flashes, Updates, ..., at the bottom of that page click on the link Emailer and then carefully read the information. After all of this, if you still feel justified sending your question, go for it and good luck. The site can be accessed here:

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I have been going through sites I had saved on my favorites and this is the first I found that wasn't a dead site. The FAQ section is fairly complete and this site seems particularly relevant to people living in Michigan. Further, it is particularly focused towards fathers and reformation of laws that inhibit a willing father in their child's life. As I have mentioned, I became involved in this arena through the custody battle of my fiancee, so these issues often come up in my research. However, I am in no way advocating a fathers right over the rights of a mother. I personally believe in parents rights and in situations where physical custody has to be determined that each parent should be considered a parent and not mother or father. My own father took over custody of my brother and I in our youth after our mother repeatedly demonstrated she was unable to care for us. I firmly believe fathers can be wonderful single parents, not all of them, but not all mothers can be wonderful single parents either.

Anyway, I haven't looked over the entire site yet so this link may not stay. It will probably be more poignant to a father in a custody battle. I don't recall using it for much in my research, but there are some areas (poetry, humor, slideshow) that might be beneficial to the emotional well-being of a divorcing father. Let me know what you think...
Another good source in your search for an attorney: Look for a rating of AV.

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To begin I decided to type divorce and custody in Google and see what site popped up first. The first listing was DivorceSource which I remember attempting to use several times. I am going to try to tell you what I found helpful in this site and what (in my opinion) you should avoid.

To start, when this custody battle began, the divorce had been finalized for over a year. This is just to say that we never needed help with the divorce so quite possibly someone facing a divorce and custody case simultaneously might find this site more useful.

In my opinion, this site is designed to get you to pay for information. There are some free resources but they are in no way comprehensive. You can use this site to help you find information elsewhere. For instance, if you see a particular book of interest, go find it at your public library. The available forms on the site can also be located at a library where you can make photocopies to utilize for personal use. Bookstores also stock do-it-yourself legal books and forms. If you are looking for a lawyer referral there are far better places to start. If you know anyone in your area who has gone through a similar process ask about their attorney and their spouse's attorney. Ask as many people as you can and see if the same name pops up repeatedly. If this is not possible, the American Bar Association has an area on their website for public information. You can access lawyer locater, legal aid and research through their website. This is a free service to locate a lawyer in good standing with the bar and in your area. Link to the ABA

In my county there is a local chapter of the ABA and they also offer a lawyer referral program. If you receive a referral through this chapter you are allowed a free 1/2 hour introductory visit. You can utilize this service for as many attorneys as you are referred. This is a good way to get a feel for an attorney before you have to start paying them. You want to hire someone you feel comfortable with in personality, methodology and knowledge of family law. Try to look in your phone book for your local chapter of the ABA or search online (I prefer Google) using your county, state and the terms bar association. Each state also has their own bar association so if you are unable to find one for your county, start with the state.

Your local chapter of the bar association should also be able to provide information on legal aid if you are unable to afford an attorney. Know, however, that the requirements of legal aid are very strict and only a limited number of people qualify for assistance. Most likely you will have to hire your own attorney. This will not be cheap. If you look for a cheap attorney you will get what you pay for. I know this process can be astronomically expensive, believe me, but you have to weigh the costs.

Many attorney's will require a retainer fee upfront and this may be several thousand dollars. Be prepared to hear this. What they are effectively telling you is that custody cases in particular have a tendency to draw out for extremely long periods of time. They need to know up front that you have the capacity to pay for the long haul if necessary. Your retainer will be placed in an account through which the attorney will effectively pay himself. You should be sent copies of the bills indicating for what and how much that attorney is billing you. After the retainer runs out, your attorney will either begin to bill you directly or ask that you provide another lump sum as a retainer. If you are billed directly, request that you be billed frequently so you can pay in smaller sums and so your bill never adds up to something you find unmanageable. If there is any money left over from your retainer after your case is finalized, your attorney should give that money back to you. In my area the average cost for an attorney is between $150 - $200 an hour.

Even with an expensive attorney there are ways to keep your costs down. To do this you will have to try and do as much of the legwork as possible for your attorney. If you can, until you go to court, utilize the attorney to do only the legal things that you are unable to do. Do your own research and have your own objectives in your mind. Obviously you need to discuss with your attorney to make sure you are on the correct path, but try to take as much initiative as possible. Don't call your attorney with every question that comes to mind, try and research the answer yourself. Ask your attorney what you should or could be doing to help your case.

The attorney's listed on DivorceSource have most likely paid to be listed on the web site. As a general rule (and I am sure this is not always the case) truly effective attorneys do not have to advertise. Use word of mouth and the bar association for help, do not hire the first attorney you see with a commercial or a full page ad in the phone book.

As for the rest of DivorceSource, I pretty much never used the site. Although it appears you can access state specific information, it is very generalized and almost always leads you to a link to pay for more complete info. I would say the little free information can be accessed elsewhere and in a much more comprehensive form. And I personally have never been fond of reading through pages of bulletin board postings to try and find something useful. You can access some case law, but there are much easier ways to do this as well. I'll talk about this site on a later post but try lexisone if you are looking for case law. You have to register but it is free.

If you have a different experience with DivorceSource or have at least found it useful in some specific capacity, please let me know and I will gladly post that information. To see for yourself link to DivorceSource
So far so good. I have managed to place a search function on this page and hopefully that will be helpful in the future. I have also added space for comments but I do not want this page to turn into a board for people to rant. I hope to provide relevant, valuable and productive resources and commentary and I hope comments will reflect the same.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

A link to email me is now at the bottom of the page.
Having been engaged in a particularly terrible custody battle (I suppose they are all terrible in their own way) and being a child of divorce, I have been seeking some type of outlet through which I could express my frustrations. For quite a while I have been a blog reader, though only of a political type, the idea of having my own had never occurred to me. I recall the blog explosion on the web, when the concept of the diary transgressed the shameful, "hide it under your bed" mentality to that which seemed to say to share with those closest to you is to invite ridicule while to share with the world is to identify your cohorts. The relative anonymity provided by a web blog allows all of us to say exactly what we feel without restraint or the voluntary filters through which we live.

I am also going to venture to say that many bloggers fancy themselves to be more literate in general as well as in practice. Could this be the door to some type of literary acclaim, prestige or vocation? I did not begin this endeavor for any of these reasons, however, I confess to being one of those who claims their goal in life is to write. Exactly what I want to write is still unclear. I do know that my intentions never included a web blog. In as much as I find my own random musings on life novel or provocative, the possibility of realizing they were neither was never very attractive to me.

I have been involved in an ongoing custody battle for over a year now. This is not my personal battle but that of my fiancee. However, both the happiness of the child and that of my fiancee are at risk and so the "battle" has intensely personal repercussions. (Please note that I am in no way comparing my anguish to that of a biological parent but that nonetheless my concerns, fears and anxiety are very real to me) For the past year and 1/2 I have scoured all available resources to find as much information as is relevant to divorce and issues of child custody that I could get my hands on. My personality seems to demand to be informed. While I have found many valuable resources both online and in print, wading through the crap and the advertisements for "custody specialists" was supremely frustrating. Further, and my intention is not to be incendiary, but many of the bulletin board type pages I found were decidedly useless or even counter-productive.

Since this began I have craved a resource through which intelligent information could be passed, free of charge, between those who have gone through or are going through these types of proceedings. While a web blog does not exactly fit that description, potentially it might be a start. I have a plethora of resources at my disposal that I would be more than happy to pass on to others in need. So here is my question.... is this a viable medium? I have no idea how this works, if people searching for resources on divorce will have a shot in hell of finding this site. I realize (and here I am unclear as well so please correct me if so) or I think that I am the only person who can post on this site. I would be willing to post relevant commentary by those who email me as well as provide a directory of resources if they are emailed to me. I think I am going to post this now and then try to explore my options a bit. I am not sure if there will be a link on my page to forward comments or if I will need to provide my email address for feedback. Either way, once it is possible, if you are reading this and find any merit in what I am trying to do or you have any recommendation as to how this forum could be better served, please advise. Although I am computer literate I am undeniably an internet novice.

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