Luckily, very few of my friends have gone through a divorce, but right now, a good friend is embroiled in a messy one. It’s been going on for over two years and I’m wondering how the legal system works since it seems to be failing spectacularly in this case. Recently, he had to be bailed out from jail, twice, from false accusations. And it’s their children getting hurt. My friend is a deeply involved and highly effective father - his children adore him and behave well under his supervision.
On the surface, it should have been a clean divorce. No one slept with someone else. No one was abused. There was ample money to split between them. Two people married young and grew up into two people who didn’t have much in common and weren’t happy together. Their divorce process mirrors the fighting they’d been having for the last three years, at least, of their marriage. Could not have been a healthy house for those kids. After two years of battling each other, all the money he made has been either spent by his ex-wife ($5000 watches, for example) or redistributed to the lawyers. They live in the only state without no-fault divorce and his estranged wife refuses to settle for less than $24,000 per month in spousal support, tax free and half the marital assets without any of the debt. A nice life if you can live it.
Now, when he calls at the scheduled time to speak to his children, they aren’t available. When he goes to pick them up for scheduled visits, he is arrested for stalking. He doesn’t want anything to do with her, but he loves his children and is committed to them. What’s a Dad to do when the courts are silent?
- The court ordered the father, mother and children to meet with a forensic psychologist. The father complied. The mother did not. The court ordered the father to sign a parenting plan he didn’t agree with – and absolved the mother of meeting with the forensic. Absolved the forensic of creating a report too.
- The mother calls Child Protective Services to investigate the father, claiming abuse. Three different calls to CPS and three investigations show no indication of abuse.
- The children are late or absent from school over 30 days per school year. Principal doesn’t report this.
- The children, who are healthy kids although one has a manageable chronic condition, have seen a doctor over 100 times in the last 12 months. Pediatrician doesn’t report it.
- She cannot control her youngest so she locks him in his room. She wants him medicated. Multiple physicians and the school psychologist report that his normal. Instead of being happy that her son is alright, she seeks more psychiatric consults until she commits her five year old and gets a diagnosis for him.
And now, she’s having him arrested – using the stalking protections for abused women to hurt him by trying to take away his children. The police realize what she’s doing, but there’s no law to protect the rights of fathers. And it’s not clear to me what part of the legal system is protecting the children. I’m sure there are women whose divorcing husbands are terrible to them – hiding money, leaving them impoverished. But there are women who lie and who believe they are entitled to a life of luxury and that they must get attention even at the cost of their children’s mental and physical well being. It will take the sisters and mothers and female friends of the good guys who want to father their children to balance the legal scales. And judges, child protective services, educators need to advocate for the ones who cannot.
So, readers what would you do if it was you? Would you abandon your children in order to stay out of jail and cease contact with your ex-wife? Would you wait until the teachers, principals, doctors, psychologists or someone who is involved with the situation decides they have a moral imperative to involve the authorities to investigate the mother? Would you wait until your child is actually hurt or does something that registers on the legal radar sparking investigation? Would you keep trying to ensure your children are in school on time, only are treated for illnesses when they are sick – even if it risks your own incarceration? What would you do?