I was doing a lot of thinking about dads this week. There is also a new web site start by an Ohio congressman that I like and want everyone to know about RaisingFathers.org. First let me say I have never been an alcoholic or even touched illegal drugs. My doctor has an almost impossible time getting me to even take prescriptions he gives me. But there are two types of dads I am going to talk about today. The dads that struggle with alcohol, drugs, or other problems, and the dads who actually want to be more involved in their children’s lives but are being blocked. Then at the end I will tell you move about Raising Fathers.
If you are a dad who is homeless, alcoholic, addicted to drugs, or maybe have other problems that cause to stay away from your kids – don’t. No, I have not been in your shoes, but I have had and do have other issues I am dealing with. But, the one thing I do know, is that your kids need to know you love them. If you think you are not a good role-model for your kids, I understand. If you are not able to contribute to your kids, I understand.
But, I want you to understand something. Your kids need to know you love them. Even if you cannot be in their lives right now – YOUR KIDS NEED TO KNOW YOU LOVE THEM. If you do not tell your kids you love them, and you are not involved in their lives. They will make up their own reasons for why they do not see dad. Many of those reasons they make up with be their own fault. I know I have seen this amongst children before. They will think they were bad and that is why dad left, or a whole host of other reasons your children will imagine. If you are having problems right now – tell your kids that. You do not need to go into detail. Depending on their age they might not even understand. But, you NEED to make them understand that the reason you are not in their lives has nothing to do with them AND that you love them. The same goes for moms who are not in their kids lives.
For a kid, just knowing that they have a mom and dad who love them is enough to make a huge difference in their lives. PLEASE, if nothing else send them a postcard (yup the Post Office still sells and delivers them), “I love you, Dad.” It really can make the difference in some kids between excelling at life or dropping out.
I understand that their are men and women who have a hard time just making through one day. Believe me I understand. But, the most important thing your kids need from you, the one thing that can make more of a difference in their lives than anything else – is to know they are loved.
Kids are pretty tough. They can accept a lot of things as long as they know you love them.
The next thing I want to discuss, is mom and dads who WANT to be more involved with their kids, but are blocked by their ex-spouse and a “justice” system that seems to care more about favoring one parent over the other than it does about kids. I worded that last sentence the way I did, because your status as the “preferred parent” depends on which state you live in and sometimes even the county within the state you live.
I know people across this country coast to coast. Often the stories are the same from state to state. The only thing that changes is which parent benefits from the system. The bias is there, we know, that you and I. Either you have gone through it, are going through it, or know someone who has. Our employees (government workers, judges and such) will deny it, but you can see it.
When I was being physically abused at the end of my second marriage, I wanted to know what my options are. I went to a Reynoldsburg police officer, a Gahanna police officer, and a Franklin county sheriff’s deputy. At first I got the “official line.” But, I told them I knew what the law said, I wanted to know what THEY saw in court. I also told them I would never quote them. Each officer told me that if I filed a domestic violence charge, I would go to jail. They said that once I was arrested and “downtown,” they details would be worked out and that the charges would probably be dropped, but I would have an arrest record for domestic violence that would stay with me. They said if it looked to the officer as if I had been abused, then we would both be arrested and my daughter put in protective services. I asked the deputy what was I supposed to do. He said I could leave or stay. But he said if I left with my daughter they would probably pick me up, even though we had not separated and there was no court orders regarding our child. He went on to say that if I left without my daughter then my wife’s lawyer would argue in court that I abandoned my daughter and I could lose all my parental rights while still paying child support. So, again I asked what do I do. His answer?
“Suck it up and wait for your wife to leave.”
In Ohio, particularly in Franklin and Delaware counties the bias favors the mother, but there are other places where the bias favors the father. You know the funny thing is, I have yet to find a state where the bias favors the children over mom & dad.
My divorce decree says I get one phone call a day, each day I am not with our daughter and my ex-wife gets one phone call a day each day she is not with our daughter. I get half the holidays and we alternate holidays each year. The divorce decree also says I claim our daughter for taxes on odd years and my ex-wife claims her for even years. Not a bad arrangement, but it is never enforced. Then the IRS says I have to have my ex signed a form for the IRS before I can take my daughter off my taxes. Of course, none of that happens. I get my daughter for three holidays. Father’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. I like to stay home for New Year’s and my ex likes to party for New Year’s, so I don’t mind that part. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Labor day, Memorial Day and all the rest my daughter is with her mother.
I am also supposed to get my daughter every other weekend. But, when I actually get to see my daughter is when mom needs a babysitter or she needs our daughter driven from one place to another. Which I do, any chance I get to be with my daughter I take.
If my ex or I want to take our daughter out of state, we are supposed to get permission from the other parent in writing. This also does not happen. Oh if I tried to take our daughter out of state the deputy assured me they would issue a Code Adam on me. But, as you read this right now, my ex-wife is taking our daughter out of the country (I found out from my daughter and her mother admitted it). When my ex-wife took our daughter to Florida, she texted me from the airport to let me know they would be out of the state for a while.
When I call the Sheriff’s Department I am told that what my ex-wife is doing is illegal, but they can’t help me – I need to contact a lawyer. I don’t have money for a lawyer. But, wait what about Legal Aid? Every time I call them they won’t help (they also don’t say why they won’t help) and tell me to call the Ohio Bar. The Ohio Bar? I explain to them that I do not have money for a lawyer and need help, and that Legal Aid and Capital University told me to call the Ohio Bar. The Ohio Bar keeps referring me to lawyers who want $2500 before talking with me. Which, if I had the $2500 I would not have gone to Legal Aid. Capital University, here in Columbus, has a program to provide legal aid to veterans. Ah, at last some help. Well, no actually they can’t help because my divorce was actually final last year. What do they do? Refer me back to the Ohio Bar again. Yup, you guessed it, and the Ohio Bar once again refers me to a lawyer who wants money I don’t have before they will speak to me. I did go to the Franklin County Veteran’s Services once, but this post is already long enough, so I won’t go into the details. Besides, by now I think you have already figured out they didn’t help either.
So, in the end, my ex-wife does whatever she wants, apparently with the blessing of the court and legal systems here in Franklin County, regardless of what the Ohio Revised Code says.
By now you are probably shaking your head, and either you don’t believe it or you are saying “Wow, that guy needs help!” But, my case is not special. My case is just one of thousands across this country. Sometimes it is a dad who loses out, and sometimes it is a mom who loses out. But, the real losers in this are the kids.
It is because of the kids that we need to start standing up to this, moms and dads together. Our kids need us both. We need to stop using kids as weapons in the warfare of divorce. We need to protect our children’s rights to have a mom and dad in their lives. The government and lawyers won’t do it; the one is more concerned with money and the other is concerned with insuring the parent of the correct sex wins. I say the one that NEEDS to win is the kids. So, let’s do it. Stop being silent, speak up.
Do not go to the law enforcement officers, they are stuck in the middle, they can only do what they are told. Many judges seem to think that they ARE the law and THEY will decide (hmmm and in government class I learned they were supposed to interpret the law not ignore it and write their own). Don’t get me wrong – their are good judges. But in the case of the good judges their hands are tied by the law (yup the same law other judges are ignoring). The people we really need to start bugging about this are our senators and representatives in our state capitals who write the law. Do not contact the ones in Washington, contact the ones at your state house. These laws that allow one parent to be favored over another are state laws not federal laws.
Then, after we get the laws changed to put the kids first monitor what happens. If the lawyers and judges don’t follow the law – report them. Write it down: when, where, what time, who did what, who was there, what happened – do not rely on your memory, your written notes are given more credibility. Report them to the Bar of your state, and go back to the state reps again and show them what is happening. Our kids are the ones being hurt by the, and they deserve better.
Now on to Raising Fathers.
I could tell you a lot of this about this page and how much I appreciate Congressman’s Johnson’s lead on this issue. But, I’ll just give you a brief quote from the About page:
“Facts are facts. Children who grow up with actively engaged and positive fathers lead happier and healthier lives than those who do not. Fathers provide the love and understanding that boost their children’s self-esteem, emotional stability, and overall mental health.
Fatherhood is by no means an easy task! Unlike other jobs, fathers can’t take a vacation from their responsibilities; they definitely can’t call in sick; and there are no raises. But even with all of the obstacles fathers must overcome, the gift of a child’s love and admiration is the greatest reward a man can receive.
Just as a child needs a father’s guidance to reach their full potential, fathers sometimes need resources to guide them in their parental journey. Congressman Bill Johnson’s Raising Fathers initiative is a resource designed to help America’s fathers make the most of the special role they play in their children’s lives. Together, fathers can share their experiences – successes and failures – and help one another learn to parent with the heart of a father.
Why is it important for fathers to step-up to the challenges of parenthood? While families come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and makeups, one thing remains true of all of them: Children who are brought up with the positive influence of a father are happier, healthier and more likely to succeed.”
Moms I want you to go their too. There is a page on the site where you can honor your father, so why are you still reading this?