Monday, April 04, 2005

What YOU Can Do With This Blog

I have gotten several emails questioning how this blog is truly useful to divorcing (or in custody battles) fathers....

I have struggled with how to answer these inquiries. One part of me wants to say "Get off your ass and stop looking for the "magic answer" on the internet. The other part wants to go into a prolonged explanation of what I am trying to do here.

Instead, I have decided to just address this on the blog and leave it at that... This keeps me from feeling compelled to answer each individual email as well as provides a forum with which I can address the "usability" of this blog for all out there looking for help.

First and foremost, this blog should be considered a resource- not a panacea to your custody battle. As I have said at numerous points, I am not an attorney and am not providing legal advice. For that matter, were I an attorney, it would still be entirely irresponsible to try and dispense legal advice in this fashion.

Here lies one of the biggest problems with using a blog- laws are different from state to state. They differ in their divorce laws (there are still a number of states who have not instituted no fault divorce), they differ in their child custody laws (some claim to have presumptive joint custody, others do not), they differ in how they calculate child support (Georgia just approved an "income shares" model that will go into effect next year - many states already look at the incomes of both parents), they differ in judicial practice and they differ in pending legislation.

There is no feasible way other than making this blog one state specific to provide detailed "advice." Even then, to give specific "ad hoc" advice without knowing the full extent of a case would be irresponsible at best.


Then what can this blog be used for?

1. I have been working on this blog since January of 2004. I am sure there are a few exceptions but for the most part there will be little repeated information from January 04 to current. I have cataloged online sites I have found useful (this info is more towards the beginning months of the blog), support groups that I have been notified of, statistics on fatherless children as well as relevant news articles about child custody, fathers rights, etc... I realize "searching" through a blog can be difficult at times and for that I apologize. To search, you can either use the search box at the very top of the page or the Google search down at the bottom. If you are using the Google search, make sure you highlight the circle to search divorceandcustody.blogspot.com and not the web.

At times the search function (using both methods) can be limited. Your search results should not be considered indicative of all the content on the blog relative to your search but may be a place to start. Also, at times when posting new blog entries related to older entries, I have provided links to the older entries within the newer one.


2. Links, in general, should be paid attention to. As my time to dedicate to this blog has diminished, so has much of my commentary regarding news articles. This is for a couple reasons - the primary being time but the secondary being that I am not here to provide you with an opinion. With all of the news articles I give you the link and (what I believe) the relevant parts of the article - you need to make up your own opinion using the facts. Certainly, my opinion can be guessed by reading older, more personal posts - and this is not something that I would remove from the blog. It is my blog and I feel like I can use it to express whatever outrage I may currently be feeling. However, with the sheer number of relevant articles lately I simply cannot comment extensively on each.

I attempt, with most articles, to provide links to the related parties. Specifically, I try and link to the legislator sponsoring bills in support of shared custody. At times, I link to other mentioned parties in the article.

So, particularly if the news is relevant to your state, you can contact the legislator to show your support for the legislation. This is so important - to let them know you support their efforts, particularly if you are from their state - general support can be helpful as well. For that matter, you can contact the adverse parties and let them know how you feel about their position. Again, this is particularly relevant if you are from that state. If there are legislators supporting bills that are harmful (for example the current Alabama bill making it easier for custodial parents to move) contact them as well with your displeasure about their bill. Again, particularly useful if you are a voter in their state.

Take note of your legislators positions on family law and vote accordingly!

If I have forgotten or omitted contact info, type their name or organization into Google to find contact info. You can do this by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the blog and using the Google web search function. I try but sometimes I forget to provide all the links. You can find this information as easily as I can.

I have recently begun to make a concerted effort to include the relevant state in the title line of postings to make info for each state easier to locate.

If (and I hope you all do) you make contact - keep it concise and courteous, get your point across without completely vilifying your ex or the courts - let the merits of your case stand on their own. If there are particularly horrible circumstances related to your case then present those - but present the facts and allow them to speak for themselves. You will not help yourself if you appear as a woman hating, child support "ducking" father. Get my drift? Child custody is so inequitable that most cases don't need superfluous explanations - if you were accustomed to seeing your children 24/7 and now you see them 4 days a month - just say that.

As always, I am willing to look over and provide constructive commentary on any correspondence. That can be sent to my email meclark_1@yahoo.com with Correspondence in the subject line.

3. As those of you who have taken the time to read over the beginnings of this blog are aware, my husband's experience in family courts was not nearly the horrific experience many fathers find themselves in. This is not to say it was not terrible (as it was and was the catalyst for this blog) but that I am getting fairly far removed from the family court system (can one year be considered removed?) and we did not have as hard of a time as other fathers. Also, child support has never entered into my husbands case - he has always had joint custody of his child with no support - so I am not particularly versed in child support.

So, presently, I cannot report on bad judges, bad parenting classes, etc... But many of you can. Use the comments area (available underneath each post) and the forum (accessible by clicking the enter my forum button on the left hand menu) to post your personal thoughts, experiences, etc... If you want to stay anonymous that is completely understandable - but POST. Tell us if you have a wonderful or terrible attorney in whatever county - if you have a good/bad judge - if you are in a helpful support group - whatever you want.

The idea of this blog was for people to have a place to share and interact with others in the same position - not for me to solely dispense advice. Many of you who email me can be far more help to each other than I can be to you personally.

Also, post your feelings on the news articles - who you have contacted, what you said- if you think the bills aren't going far enough, if they go too far. If a few people start doing this we might institute a fairly consistent dialogue of people faced with family court battles, issues, etc... I know you all are out there as you continue to email me.

4. As I have said (several times now) I will address specific questions in whatever practical (not legal) manner than I can. I would much prefer these be posted to the forum!! I continue to get emails with questions and many I have just had to ignore. I feel guilty about this and am not trying to alienate anyone but I cannot tell you how many times I get emailed extremely similar questions. For the sake of helping everyone, and so I only have to answer once, posting in the forums allows all visitors to see my thoughts (and visitors might be able to help, post ideas, opinions, advice as well).

However, inasmuch as I request you post to the forum, please post in a manner which gives enough detail about your case for one to be able to provide some practical thought on your scenario. If you look through the forum you will see at several points I have asked questions of the poster - be as succinct but thorough as you can about your case. This will help in the quality of response you may get from me or other forum visitors.


To all of you - having been through this I was disgusted at the lack of relevant information, helpful discourse and advice, and support from others in the same boat. I am doing what I can to help provide that kind of atmosphere - you have to do the rest.

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