AN OPEN LETTER TO NEW JERSEY CHILD CUSTODY JUDGES
Today I feel the need to vent on the ridiculous New Jersey child custody laws and judicial decisions.
Last April I went to court to try and keep my ex-wife from leaving the state and taking my 13 year old son with her. She requested permission to take him out of state as that worked for her life. It did not work for my life. I’m not sure it worked in the best interests of my son.
In way of background, the ex decided to leave me five years ago to reconnect with an old boy friend of 20 some years before. This “Big” to her “Carrie”(a “Sex in the City” reference for you heterosexual men) had been her fiancé years before, but called it off when he knocked up another lady. The ex never lost touch and decided to re-hook-up at the first opportunity….I KNOW!! Anyway “Big” lives in Massachusetts and it was not convenient for him to move to New Jersey. It was not convenient for the ex to commute back and forth to Massachusetts.
Apparently no one thought these two should be inconvenienced, so it was OK to take my son to Massachusetts. My feelings did not seem to matter. My son was not asked how he felt about it.
I challenged the move, and spent considerable funds to have my lawyer take the case to court.
The judge heard our arguments for about 13 seconds and then ruled based on a previous decision on a similar case, “Blah vs. Blah”. “Blah vs. Blah” essentially ruled that an ex-wife could not be held “captive” in the state and allowed her to move on with her life elsewhere and take her children with her. He then advised me how Massachusetts was not that far away, only 4 hours, and with today’s technology’s of e-mail and Skype I should be able to stay in my son’s life with little effort. It was also ruled I would see my son once a month (the ex being responsible for transportation), one month in the summer, alternate Thanksgivings, and one week after Christmas. Reasonable? Well…
First, this ruling assumes I will remain “captive” in the very expensive state of New Jersey, in a town where I no longer have any ties and residents who see me as that cuckolded ass-hole whose wife left for greener pastures.
Second, the case of “Blah vs Blah” involved two female children both under six years old and a father who had to work every day and could not be the primary care giver. To equate that situation with a 13 year old boy and a retired father who was perfectly capable of parenting 24/7 is not just wrong, it is LAZY judicial interpretation. The fact that the ex may well suffer from a mental disturbance was not brought up as it was really not in my sons interests to pursue that issue at the time.
As I write this it is my son’s 14th birthday. I miss him a lot. It was our first Super Bowl apart. It will be his first birthday that we are apart.
We email once a week and text from time to time. I seldom call. That may sound harsh to some women who do not understand a man’s connection with his son. Thirteen year olds do not speak on the phone. The answer to almost everything is “fine”. Men are not verbal. We express affection with our sons by punching them on the arm, wrestling, teasing, and playing catch. We show our support by attending their games and listening to signs of distress over issues of school and (gulp) girls that only a father can hear. All that has been taken away from me and taken away from my son.
Those weekend visits once a month have still not happened. My son makes the trip from Massachusetts to New Jersey to attend the ex’s family functions, but visits to his father have always proven to be inconvenient or they interfere with his sports schedule. I expressed to the judge that this would be the case for monthly visitations. The judge disagreed. I was right, the judge’s judgment was wrong.
I visited my son in Massachusetts this fall to see him play in a football game. The Four hour drive turned out to be six hours each way and the weekend costs over $200. I was with my son maybe twelve hours seven of which we were asleep.
The strict visitation schedule the judge ordered is always at my ex-wife’s discretion. It is impossible to make plans.
I know my son has other things to do. He is at the age of breaking away from his parents. He has sports to play, and parties to attend. I know he misses me, but I don’t want to get in the way of his teenage life. It would not be productive to stamp my feet and order a visit when he might miss the chance to play with his team, go to a party or maybe even steal a kiss or better yet cop a feel from Mary-Jane Whoever. I will not be a burden to my son. I don’t look forward to his “having to see his Dad.”
My son was pulled from the only town he ever knew and friends he has had since birth. He has adapted well, maybe, but I have not. I have essentially lost my son in the years where the father son bond is the most important.
Congratulations New Jersey Courts, you have rewarded two extremely selfish self-centered border line adults with custody of a young man at the expense of perhaps the most important relationship of that young man’s life. You have deemed it OK for a father to be denied the responsibility and the joy of guiding his son through a very difficult age. That is a job which I have successfully achieved with three other children. It is a job which the mother has never negotiated and “Big” has negotiated apparently with questionable or limited success.
I ask you New Jersey Courts; should you look at a case for its individuality and uniqueness or should you just rely on the decisions of other courts on “similar” cases. Isn’t relying on decisions of similar cases taking the easy way out? Is time so important? Do you say that these cases have already been decided, then just cite them, wash your hands and walk away?
Does the law have no wiggle room? Are all cases cookie cutter cases? Does a thirteen year old boy have the same needs as two girls under the age of six? Does a healthy retired man have the same parenting restrictions as a man who is required to work full time? Did Mr. “Blah” only want his children in state to punish Mrs. “Blah”? Is the case of “Blah” vs. “Blah” really the same as my situation?
Please New Jersey Custody Judges; please take time to look at every case as unique, because they are all unique. Hell, even bank robbers receive different sentences based on extenuating circumstances.
Please New Jersey Judges, please put some thought into your decisions; after all it is only the relationship of a young man and his father that is at stake.