Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Great Oxymoron: Family Law

Good day to you,
Several years ago as I was going through a divorce, I recall making the statement that the term “family law” is an oxymoron. The reality of what I was experiencing was that it is very anti-family. I used an analogy then that I think still holds true today: family law is like a sleeping, hungry lion. As long as it’s asleep you can walk around it and have a ball. But once awakened, it is vicious and can shred you to pieces.
I made a promise to myself after that experience that I would give my all to ensure that other families do not walk the same road. Because when the dust settles, the winners are generally not the members of the former household – it’s attorneys and other professionals who may become involved in the process. The real losers are very often the children because they are caught in the crossfire of the manifestation of the term “it’s a thin line between love and hate.”
Now here’s the relevance of all of this to fathers. The family law system as it functions in the United States has traditionally been anti-male. Legal professionals can attest to this. It’s pretty much a way of life. A typical husband and father going through a divorce will walk away with a meager visitation schedule and child support payments and in some cases alimony. As a result, very many fathers become discouraged, to the extent that they become uninvolved in their kids’ lives.
I recall making what was a very controversial statement: the family law system helps to create deadbeat dads. Even when I was going through the process, had I not realized what was at stake regarding my 3 year old daughter’s future, I could have easily become discouraged and walked away. Very many fathers do exactly that – just give up and walk away because they’re frustrated with a system that all too often works against them.
My former next door neighbor is a perfect example of this. He and his wife went through a bitter divorce and he felt he wasn’t treated fairly by the system. They have two young sons. About a year after the divorce, he became so frustrated with the entire system that he packed his bags and moved back to his native country – cutting off all contact with his two boys, including financial support. I cringe when I think of the fact that he got to the point where he just walked away.
The unfortunate consequence to situations such as this is that it’s the kids who suffer. From a practical standpoint, the financial support is gone. And the emotional support that a father can give is also gone. This is why in previous postings I have said that there is no person or institution that can change the fact that your children are yours. And as long as you have them, you have a responsibility for them. It’s irrelevant if the system is working against you – it’s your kids’ lives that are at stake.
Today I look back at that very dark chapter in my life and I’m so thankful that my daughter passed through it virtually unscathed. Now she’s a well adjusted 12 year old who enjoys the love and care of both of her parents. It didn’t have to be so but I just know I vowed that she would not become a statistic that we read about all too often. She came out just fine but my heart aches for the thousands of kids each year whose lives are negatively affected by such circumstances.

I trust that you would be so determined that, should you be faced with the choice to stand up for your kids or walk away knowing the potential negative consequences, that you would choose your kids. They need you, dad – much more than you might ever know. They are more important than any short-term inconveniences that you might go through. I’m not saying it’s a “bed of roses.” It can be difficult and painful. But remember, it’s your kids’ lives that are at stake. And there’s no price tag you could put on that.
Fathers, let’s meet the challenges that life might present us head-on. And let’s say that, come what may, our kids’ best interest will always be our first priority. We owe it to them. And we owe it to ourselves. Let’s be “upbeat” and stand up for our kids!
The Upbeat Dad


  1. I always urge my clients who are considering divorce to consider collaborative or cooperative divorce as opposed to the traditional adversarial divorce process that you rightly characterize as often being only in the best interest of attorneys.

  2. Thanks for sharing Frank. That's sound advice. The collaberative approach, I believe, results in less damaging effects on all parties, especially the kids. I'll check out that website.

  3. It is unfortunate that the system often works to the disadvantage of fathers...unless, of course, you are a multi-millionaire who is able to hire the 'best' attorneys. It is so easy to see how a dad with inadequate resources give up easily.

    The collaborative approach is a good solution and hope that a couple who has decided they have 'irreconcilable differences' will collaborate for the benefit of their children.

  4. The first thing you will want to do when you are in need of a lawyer is remember your Rights,david genis will tell you about all the rights..