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.
This is sad and I am sorry you and your son are apart. That would destroy me.ReplyDelete
Cranky - I really feel for you, and I think it is so unfair for a father who so desperately wants to be a part of his sons life to be denied that opportunity.ReplyDelete
I am assuming that you have appealed the decision and are providing evidence that your ex is not doing as she was ordered by the court....
Being the mother of 3 children who's father abandoned them when I finally threw him out, and who only ever saw his children as trophies to be paraded around anyway, I believe that a father who wants to be with his children should be allowed to, and that at the very least the courts should be making sure that your ex keep up her part of the bargain at the very least, and surely at 13/14 your sons wishes should be taken into account. This is insane!
I agree every case is different, no 2 families are the same and they should not be treated the same...I would bring up your ex's questionable mental state...If she won't play fair then you need to start playing dirty - as you said, this is about the well being of your son!
This is complete BS. And I'm not one to cuss, you know me. But wow, if there were anytime for foul laungage, it would be right now.ReplyDelete
I'm wondering if there is a legal age where your son can make the decision about who he wants to live with? In our state that legal age is 14 -- and I know that some states the legal age is 18. Which I think is lame because by that time your childhood is over and you can move out on your own, anyway.
I'm really sorry that you got such a bum deal, both you and your son. I hate hearing when one parent is so wrapped up in her life and her wants that she completely disregards what is best for her child. How can moving your son away from the only town he's lived in, away from all his friends, and away from his father be good for him?
Does she read your blog? Is she one of the 16? If so..... hey Miss EX -- what you did was WRONG and completely 100% selfish. You should be ashamed of yourself and I hope your new romance crashes and burns HARD some day soon...so that maybe you will move BACK to where your SON belongs!
I highly doubt EX reads the blog.ReplyDelete
My cranky friend, at your age you know karma is served. Let's see how much fun she and Big have when son is 16. Betcha he moves back to Jersey when he is 18.
As for child custody judges...I am sure you saw the one who let that devil in Washington see his kids AFTER the 5 year old said "Mommy was in the (car) trunk"
I am a mother who was left in a similar situation when my 13-year-old son moved with his dad and new wife (whom he had an affair with while we were still married, and married her the day after our divorce was final...) to Indiana. I live in Wyoming. I won't go into the details of how such a mother/son relationship did not flourish. All of the things you mentioned happened with your son happened with mine. Almost to a T. My ex-husband and his new wife, AKA "the mud fence" alienated my boy by trashing me (LIES!!!) and of course as time went on my boy decided the mud fence was more of a mother to him and he didn't come to see me, despite what courts thought was fair. (No one's going to drag a kid kicking and screaming onto an airplane to visit). Sports, jobs--anything was more important than knowing me. There was no talking on the phone, in effect, radio silence. When I'd go out to Indiana to visit; very expensive trips, he was mysteriously ill or otherwise occupied, no matter how I tried to make arrangements. These days my son is now a young man in the Air Force. He is a good person and I received a glowing letter from his commanding officer about what a great individual he is. I believe that is due to my influence during his early years. He has reached out to me and we now visit when we can via phone and Facebook. I hope to continue to reconnect with him as time goes on. While I was going through those harsh years, people advised me to never give up and to always try to stay connected to my son. It wasn't easy and life is different since we didn't spend those teenage years being close. But whenever he reaches out, I am there. God bless you, I know what you are going through. Stay strong...ReplyDelete
Oh, Joe, I am so sorry that this is happening to you and your son.ReplyDelete
As an educator of 23 years, I get the kids' point of view most of the time--skewed or otherwise--and they are heartbroken, confused, and frustrated. I tell them that while their parents no longer love one another, each of them still loves the kid as much as they did before the divorce. I tell the kid his parents' divorce had not one thing to do with him (they don't believe it, but I tell it to them over and over. Repetition will sink in and become reality, but it sometimes takes years.) I tell them that no matter how much or little geography is between he and his separated parent, that parent stills love him, even if the kid doesn't see that parent every day anymore.
Kids have a difficult time believing this. Joe, I encourage you to write to your son every day. Whether it is a quick note to say good night or good morning, do it every day. As you know, teen dialog in an original, two-parent home is pretty much a one-way street, with the parents leading the way, but I promise you, kids really do listen and what you have to say really does matter to them, whether you know it or not. Skype your son, often. Even if he can not answer, he knows and sees you tried to contact him. Effort means so much to a teen, so much so that they will easily forgive of you of some pretty stupid mistakes if they know you care. Tell him you miss him. Tell him he is good and worthy of your love just because he is yours. Tell him every day, somehow, someway. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder in a teen; it makes it grow sadder. Send pictures of stuff you do; it will make him smile and make him feel involved and wanted in your life. You may be doing most of the work, but don't parents do that anyway, until the kids get about 21 or 22 and suddenly, their parents finely got smarter? Don't give up and don't give in.
I hope your attorney is a female, a good, tough female attorney and can explain to a judge why she is fighting for a man to have custody of his son instead of his ex-wife. Until the courts come to their senses, fight for your son every day and let him know he is only physically absent, against your wishes, but he is never absent from you.
I wish you peace of mind and heart; I wish you well with your battles in the courts; I wish you the best success a parent can know--his child's love, and I will keep you and your son in my prayers.
Best wishes, Joe.
JH, my heart is heavy for you my friend. This sucks big time. The custody laws in NJ are archaic and dated. Further, those Judges whom receive our tax dollars as compensation seem to have limited sensitivity as to how their decisions affect everyone. Unfortunately, in most of the NJ cases, the dads get shafted. glad you were able to express your thoughts. Btw I sense more than 16 of us read your posts!ReplyDelete
The courts seemed to be setup against the father. I am sure your son knows that you love him very much. When he gets of age he will come to you not his mother. If she tries turn him against you she will turn him against her instead.ReplyDelete
Dan the Mountain Man
Mountain Highs and Valley Lows
Thx all for the kind comments. My boy is coming to visit for a week this Saturday. Looking forward to it!!!ReplyDelete
Hey, Cranky, you did it all wrong. When the judge said you could have "virtual visitation", you should have told him that you would pay "virtual child support" then.ReplyDelete
Point well taken Dadz, but I have no problem supporting my son. This is not his doing.ReplyDelete
So sorry to hear this Cranky. If only the judges had to live a day in the shoes of the people whose cases they rule on- things would change like nobody's business.ReplyDelete
This makes me so sad for you and your son. I don't have experience with this but would say - try and keep up the contact as much as possible with him...send him a jersey of his favorite player in the mail with a note that says I was thinking of you when I saw this...every time he wears it he will think of you...send him a gift card to a fast food place or ice cream place in his town...text just a little bit more...call even though he doesn't have anything to say, you talk about the football game last night...I'm a grown woman who probably doesn't have much in common with your son but I wish my dad called more and asked about my life even if it's really not his top concern. I wish you and your son the best.ReplyDelete