A Tale of Two Lawyers: Is the Legal System Failing Fathers At All Levels?

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Photo by Mark Rabe on Unsplash
The following is an account of a failing legal system:

There once was a couple. They married young because the girl was pregnant. The boy dropped out of college, took odd jobs, and eventually joined the Army to support his family. He was young and had no other real skills to speak of. This seemed the best option. 

The Man served overseas in Iraq. The woman stayed at home with the children. There were two children,  and by this point in the story, they were aged 3 and 1, respectively. When the man returned home at the end of his tour, his wife gave him an ultimatum: Leave the military or lose his family. The man left the military. The family was living in upstate New York at the time.

The man sent his wife and kids home to Texas to find a new place while he finished up his requirements for the military in New York. He was honorably discharged. On his way home to Texas, he was informed by his wife that he no longer had a family to come home to. He picked the kids up on his way through to his parents. He had nowhere else to go. He had no job waiting for him. The man did his best to start over.

The soon-to-be ex  joined the military. She finished basic training and went to Florida. The man kept the children. He went back and forth between wanting to save his family, and knowing that the relationship with his wife had never been quite right. Eventually, he filed for divorce. The marriage was not salvageable, and neither seemed to be happy. After some time, the woman signed divorce papers. The divorce was carried out in Texas, without her presence in the courtroom. The man would raise the children. The woman would build a career in the military. She was re-married and stationed overseas within 4 years.

The Man Becomes A Case Number

The man worked whatever jobs he could while raising his children. They were not good jobs as most had to revolve around the needs of the children. He paid for daycare, and worked. The man struggled for several years. He had family to help him, and they did quite a bit. The kids had a comfortable life. The woman paid child support, but helped with little else.

The man tried to date in-between responsibility and life, but that had not gone well. There were failed relationships and many dates, as is often the case for single parents. The woman told the children, now 10 and 7, that she would be coming back to the United States in a few years so they could come live with her, and the children were happy. The man was happy for them. The woman was mostly a stranger to them both.

The man made sure they flew overseas each summer to see her. It was expensive, and not affordable on his income. Again, family stepped in to help alleviate the burden. The children participated in dance and gymnastics each school year, and each summer they spent with the woman in a foreign country.

The man started to see someone seriously during that time. His life turned around in many ways. He found a better job, behavioral problems with his children started to get better, and life was going in a good direction. The woman, who had rarely made life easy, began to make life harder. The children were being told things that no person should ever say to their kids, and the man was unsure of how long this had been going on.

 The man did his best to combat the things said to the children, but he was uncertain of how to do that. He attempted to help the children make sense of it, as he tried to make sense of it himself. The man’s household was in constant chaos. Suddenly, allegations of child abuse and irresponsible parenting were tossed around by the woman on a regular basis. The man had been raising the girls for nearly 6 years by this point.

The woman’s family had given the man compliments of the job he was doing with the children. They addressed situations that the children brought up with regard to things the woman had said to them. It seemed no one would stand up directly to the woman. It seemed no one wanted to deal with the consequences of that action. 

The man’s household was in constant chaos.

The man requested help with airfare from the woman for the two children. The travel had grown too expensive each summer, and the man’s family could not reasonably continue to help pay for this each year. The woman had chosen another overseas station, which would keep her there for another 4 years. The woman would not bend, nor compromise. He had not revisited child support in years, and the woman had reported no raises in income. The man hired a lawyer. The man became a case number.

Things deteriorated quickly, and the allegations became more ridiculous by the woman. No matter what her allegations were, she never filed a complaint with Child Protective Services. Idle threats were made to the man, ugly things were said by the woman to her children, but never a complaint filed about anything she alleged. The man had moved in with someone that he had been dating for some time by then.

The woman began telling the children that they could not be loved in their father’s house. She reminded them that their dad had moved on in life and now had more important things to worry about. They could not be loved by the new woman because she was not their mother and had two children of her own. Behavioral issues with the man’s two children increased, and disrespectful behavior grew more frequent. This went on, escalating with each year, for 3 years. The man had re-married by then.

The man’s lawyer did not discourage his client from giving the woman what she wanted. He was encouraged not to make things difficult. After all, she was a mother stationed overseas away from her children, children she decided the father would raise while she was busy with her military career. Each time the man gave in on something, it was met with more and increasingly one-sided demands. His lawyer continued to encourage this in the best interest of the child.

What started out as a request for relief of travel expenses had become a convoluted mess. It was now a battle with a woman who had not hired an attorney, nor actively fought for custody as far as the man was ever aware prior to this request. A woman whom had never filed any formal complaint despite her disturbing and unfounded accusations of the father. How had a divorce long ago commenced and the man been granted custody for all those years without the woman ever uttering a single complaint to a lawyer or authorities until that time?

The children had been told at some point through this that the woman had been abused by the man. It seemed there was no end to what the woman would say to the children. They had been told many things along these lines over the years by the woman, and still not a single complaint was filed by her or formally made to anyone in the legal system. The man put the children in therapy to try to help, but it had done little good.

The children struggled with how they felt. They struggled with their feelings about a woman they barely knew, and the things they had been told about the man who had been raising them for so many years. They struggled with understanding what love meant. They were in turmoil about speaking to their mother about the problems they were having. They struggled with saying anything that could be construed as “bad” about their mother. They wanted to be loved and accepted by her, they wanted to believe their father had not done these things to their mother.

By this point, the man’s house remained in constant chaos. The woman would send repeated threatening text messages, or call incessantly if she could not be immediately accommodated. There had been threats of police, and lawyers, and motions to enforce. The two children were on edge on a regular basis. The house was on edge on a regular basis. The children were angry for things they couldn’t understand. The adults were frustrated with a legal system that did not work.

The Man Stops Fighting

The things said to the kids had grown worse, and the woman denied having ever said them. It was possible the children were lying, but how had they made up so much in such detail? Planned family outings were disrupted with demands of phone calls, and the woman’s lawyer was convinced the father was a real dirt bag. The man’s lawyer had reminded the man of the limitations of the legal system with each meeting. 

The man started to believe the limitations of this legal system were directly related to the fact that he was a man raising the children. It had not seemed limited to his ex-wife. She had received everything she had demanded. She had walked straight through every boundary. All in the name of best interest of the child.

The woman had military status to aid her in all demands, but somehow the legal system had forgotten that the man had once served proudly, too. He had been a grunt in the U.S. Army. He had done his duty for this country. He had protected a legal system that had not protected him. The legal system did not seem to care about the man who had been raising the kids for nearly 8 years by this point. The legal system had turned a blind eye to the fact that the woman had chosen to be stationed overseas.

The woman received her scheduled visitation times with the children twice each week, her family’s visitation weekends each month in her absence, and scheduled holidays without fail. The man barely afforded overseas travel for the two children each summer for the woman’s visitation. This was not enough. The man was crumbling under the pressure.

After over a year of a back and forth legal battle that had not yet seen the courts, the man gave up custody on a temporary basis. He signed away his right to visitation because it could not affordably be accommodated. The children would be living overseas. It was possible he might not see them for a very long time. He was too exhausted by the woman to go to court, and too fed up with the system to even hope that a judge would understand the situation. He was reminded of the limitations of the legal system, and that his case would be heard by a judge who did not know the full situation. 

His family did not completely understand it. His lawyer did not understand it. It seemed that a judge could not possibly understand it either.

The man’s marriage had suffered and his children had suffered under the heavy burden of continuous problems in the household. The problems with the children escalated, but the woman denied her role in the situation. He was more limited financially than the woman, and could no longer afford to fight.

The man gave up. He stopped fighting. He no longer wanted to argue. It had torn the kids apart in various ways. He was battling a system that seemed to be designed to protect the mother. He was fighting archaic beliefs that mothers always served in the best interest of the children. He was facing a legal system that had probably already decided he was wrong. He wondered if even his lawyer believed this.

He stopped fighting. He no longer wanted to argue.

He probably should have taken it to court, but how often had that worked for others in his situation? The woman was not outwardly unstable. She was not a drug addict. She was convincing, and hid her irresponsible behavior well. It became a situation of he said/ she said. He was a man, and she a woman. None of it would be easy to prove in a court that did not know the man, the woman, or the history.

The man had been far from perfect in this tale. He had made his share of bad decisions, and had done little in the first few years to have a good relationship with the woman. Years had passed, and the man had grown up. Time and circumstances had a way of highlighting the more pertinent things in life. The time had come long ago to put the battles to rest, yet they had not ceased.

He did not want to put his oldest child, who was now 12 and old enough to speak to a judge, in the middle. That had been done enough. The child had already struggled enough with loving both of her parents because of the conflicted circumstances. He believed that this was a case of the old fable of two mothers fighting over the child. He had let go to spare the child from being torn apart. Maybe it was wrong of him. The choice seemed much better than the alternatives. Who would stand with him in what appeared to be a long court battle? Who would speak on his behalf? 

The best interest of the children had long been forgotten. The man surrendered. The hope being that maybe the woman would stop. The hope being that maybe his children could finally be happy. The hope being that maybe he and his children could finally find peace separately, something they had likely never had in the situation.

This Is A Tale Of Two Lawyers Representing Case Numbers

The more unfortunate truth is that situations like this happen every day. A system that is supposed to be about the best interest of the children is so bogged down with cases of parents making false accusations, that it does not protect the custodial parents, much less the children, who face these issues. The children rarely understand that the behavior is damaging or wrong. After all, why would any parent intentionally hurt their child? The children are lost in the shuffle to a legal system that does not personally know anyone involved.

A system that is supposed to be about the best interest of the children is so bogged down with cases, …that it does not protect  parents who face these issues.

There are countless stories like this to be found on the internet. Some are likely true, and some are probably not.  If even one story is true, it means the system is failing. Where does the breakdown in the legal system occur? Is it the lawyers who will believe any story they are being paid to believe? Is there an obligation of the lawyer to investigate their clients’ stories? Is the problem a legal system that is so out of touch with the reality of  dysfunctional relationships with High Conflict Exes that it rules blindly? Where is the concern for the best interest of the child?

If the benefit of the court system is the best interest of the child, does that require an overhaul of education to the people responsible for making sure the best interest of the child is carried out? The stakes here are high. There is never a situation that makes it okay for any parent to overrun the other, or bully through threats and aggression. There is never a situation that makes it okay for one parent to manipulate the system or the children unquestioned based on gender, while the other parent is persecuted by the same system because of their gender.

This is ignorance at its finest. These are the parents left in the shadows, helpless and crippled by a legal system that does little to protect them. Worse yet, it leaves the children the system is supposed to protect hanging on meat hooks directly in the middle of it all. It is within these cases that struggling parents find that justice is not blind. Justice sees gender, and it is biased. 

Of all the discussions had about the rights of individuals, this is one that begs attention. Where do the rights of the children come in? Does the legal system truly care about the best interest of the child, or are these simply case numbers in a long line of case numbers, like cattle in a slaughter house?

It would seem that in a country where more and more fathers are raising their children, it is time for the legal system to take a long hard look at how it is conducting business. It is time that the system threw out some of these long standing ideas about mothers and fathers, and their roles in a child’s life. It is time that the unfair bias against fathers be removed. This requires review and education at all levels of the legal system, from the lawyers to the presiding judges. Some states are already working to repair the broken legal system in recognition of cases such as this.

These cases become a tale of two lawyers, and the people they represent are essentially forgotten. The people the legal system is supposed to protect are lost in a shuffle of paperwork, back logs, and busy agendas. The system is majorly flawed. The children suffer the most, and the legal system produces new broken people to fall back into the wheel of the system that helped break them.

This is a sad tale of two lawyers representing people who became case numbers.

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