More Myths from Divorceland: The DisneyLand Dad

We’ve all heard the term–Disneyland Dad.  This is the father who doesn’t have to be involved with the kids on a day to day basis, who “gets” to just be the one who the kids have fun with, the one with “no responsibility,” because he doesn’t have to do blah, blah blah Hard Stuff…  Generally we hear about Disneyland Dads from custodial moms who are more than a little bitter.  But there are some problems with this categorization, which land it into Myth status.

Problem #1:  The assumption here is that it’s dad’s CHOICE to only spend time with the kids every other weekend, a few hours on a weekday (if that), and some time during the summer and at holidays.  Mom makes it sound like Dad is skipping out on the day to day parenting, the homework, the colds, the trips to the doctor, all of that Parent Stuff.  And why would that be?

It’s that way because Dad is the non-custodial parent.  That’s all he’s been allowed to be by a court order…And a lot of the time that court order put him in that position because that’s what Mom insisted on, sometimes just so she can be in control and force Dad to pay child support.  And why wouldn’t Dad want to take what little time he has to be with his kids and have fun with them?  That only makes sense.  I’m not saying it’s always this way, but it definitely IS this way some of the time.

Problem #2:  If Mom is really interested in Dad carrying more of the substantive responsibility, guess what?  She can involve him more.  If the parents live in close proximity to each other, there’s no reason Mom can’t do this. She can actually co-parent with Dad, as opposed to cutting him out of any part of the kids’ lives that she isn’t court ordered to allow.  I mean, if both mom and dad work, why SHOULDN’T dad take a day off work to stay home with a sick kid, or take them to the doctor every now and again?  Why should mom be the one to always take on that responsibility?  It doesn’t have to be that way.  And if it is, it’s more than likely because she is insisting on it, because “kids need their Moms,” and she needs a little more fuel to justify her assertion that her ex is a Disneyland Dad.

Problem #3:  Sometimes Dad’s are too far away to even get that every other weekend, and being there for doctor visits, etc., is a practical impossibility.  Why do you suppose that is? Sometimes it’s because Mom decided to relocate.  There are legitimate reasons for her to relocate, for sure, but if you’ve got a Mom who’s all about moaning about her “absentee” father of an ex, or goes on and on about how he’s just a Disneyland Dad, or a deadbeat who doesn’t have to do the “hard stuff in parenting,” chances are she lives far away from Dad specifically to keep the kids away from him.  Again, when he DOES have a chance to be with his kids, it only makes sense that he’d want to do fun things with them, and make those memories that Mom has prevented him from making on a day to day basis.

So next time you hear some Poor Single Mommy whining about her ex being a Disneyland Dad, who never has to do the Hard Parenting, consider that it’s highly likely that what she really is is a Martyr Mommy–and is doing her damndest to make her ex looks like a jerk not only to the rest of the world, but to her kids.  Which constitutes child abuse.

Maybe consider that before making a judgment about that Dad you know nothing about.

**Side note:  I was gonna post some quippy memes on here, but DAMN, PEOPLE!  There is some super cruel stuff out there!  Depressed me just looking for a pic.  Maybe if we could all just grow the hell up and act like decent parents blog posts like this wouldn’t be necessary!

Fathers’ Rights….Why is this even a thing?

Unless you’ve been blessed with the perfect, family-law-free life, you’ve heard about the fathers’ rights movement.  And I have to say–Why is this even a thing??  In this age where we are so concerned with equality under the law, when fathers are being told they need to step up, when it’s been scientifically proven that children with an active father in their lives fare better emotionally and socially, WHY are fathers still having to effectively beg to have an equal part in their children’s lives?  Or in some cases, ANY part in their children’s lives?

In 2014, UCA 30-3-10 was enacted with language specifically stating that the court “shall consider the best interests of the child without preference for either the mother or father solely because of the biological sex of the parent…” (emphasis added.)  How that will be used in the courts remains to be seen.  I have not as of yet seen any caselaw from the Utah appellate court (the appeals system) that mentions the issue of bias based on whether one is the mother or father.

The legislature also enacted statute in 2014 that states what the policy behind any child custody order should be.  This is embodied within U.C.A. 30-3-32, and states in part that,  absent a showing of actual harm to a child, “it is in the best interests of the child of divorcing, divorced, or adjudicated parents to have frequent, meaningful, and continuing access to each parent following separation or divorce; each divorcing, separating, or adjudicated parent is entitled to and responsible for frequent, meaningful, and continuing access with his child consistent with the child’s best interests; and it is in the best interests of the child to have both parents actively involved in parenting the child.” (emphasis added.)

Generally the standard used in determining what type of physical custody arrangement will be in place in any proceeding involving children is Best Interest–as in, what will be in the best interest of the child.  In Utah, best interest has been defined by statute, located at U.C.A. 30-3-34.  These are the factors that the court is to focus on, at the very least, in making a custody determination.

Until fathers are being given at least the same deference as mothers, we have a problem. They are SUPPOSED to be, per our law that was proposed and adopted by our elected representatives.  It is our JOB as citizens to actively engage in making sure changes that have been put in place by the legislature are actively followed by our courts.  Because to quote the Lorax,

lorax

 

For other references and support, check out the Father’s Rights Movement.  

 

Utah’s Continuing War on the Bio Dad

Just in case ya’ll thought that things are getting better for unmarried biological fathers in Utah, think again.  I was recently made aware of an ongoing case in Utah that will be heard by the appellate court NEXT FRIDAY, January 20th, that shows that the state’s vendetta against bio dads is alive and well.  The dad, Jose Vargas, is just trying to raise his daughter.  That’s it.  But the state is bound and determine to prevent that, and to give the child over for adoption.  Why???  Seriously, Utah–What The Fu**???

Jose has a GoFundMe page to try and raise the money he needs to pay his lawyer–who continues to represent Jose even though he’s not getting paid right now, I might add.  Links to articles about the case are below.  And help out with the legal fees as well, if you’re at all able.

This has got to stop.  And it can stop with THIS dad, God willing.

jose

Jose Vargas holds his daughter, Major.  Photo was published in the Deseret News, and provided by Mr. Vargas.

http://www.elle.com/life-love/a40251/father-daughter-custody-utah/

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865670699/I-have-to-try-Father-suing-to-raise-daughter-caught-in-complicated-legal-tangle.html

https://nationalparentsorganization.org/recent-articles?id=23238

 

***UPDATE:  In this case, the juvenile court had adjudicated parentage in Mr. Vargas’ behalf (means:  the juvenile court held that Jose is the child’s legal father, which would give him rights).  The State opposed that order, and appealed it (trying to say the juvenile court wasn’t allowed to make that call.)  The case was argued on January 20, 2017, before Utah’s Court of Appeals.  The court found in favor of the Juvenile Court/Mr. Vargas.  The formal opinion was filed on March 30, 2017.  Unless the State appeals to the Utah Supreme Court (and the Supremes don’t actually have to agree to listen to their case), this case is over, and is a big WIN for Mr. Vargas and bio dads.  So many thanks to his attorney, Caleb Proulx, who went the distance with him!

From the FB Archives: April 16, 2013

Is it really about what we do with it?

Life is not perfect; I think we all know that.  I’ve had a rough couple of days.  I was up working until 11:00 last night (Yeah! E-filing! Damn YOU!!!! E-filing!!!)  I woke up with the knowledge that I had another full day, but at least my first “You must wear clothes and look presentable” appointment wasn’t until 11 a.m.  Before that, I got an email from a client thanking me profusely for the teeny tiny itty bitty thing I had done for him, and a phone call from an older lady who has called me no less than a dozen times in the past 3 months, thanking me for helping her.  I did precious little for her; I just answered the phone when she called.

This afternoon I had two new client consultations.  Not difficult stuff.  One may become a new client; one can probably handle things on her own.  The first one was distraught….Have ya’ll noticed I’m a big fat cry baby?  I try really hard not to cry with my clients, but damn it!  I suck at that…

I had other work that I did, work that pays, work that will hopefully protect my client from BigLaw’s nasty allegations come next Monday when I have to be in SLC at 9:00a.m. for a hearing.  I hope I did enough.  I hate responding to BigLaw’s filings.  They really suck.  But then there is this Woman, my client, with a child.  And I am again emotionally sucked into it without even wanting to be.

I have gotten better.  I don’t cry with all of them anymore.  I can pat their shoulders, squeeze a hand, and give them reassurance, while telling them what to expect.  I can walk away, relieved that they can’t afford a lawyer because I just KNOW they would turn into Super Needy client who runs out of money and becomes the most demanding at that point.

I had some personal distress this week as well.  And this morning, as I was sunk in the Lows of that, I had the Highs of my client and this old lady telling me that I am definitely OK.

It’s a weird place to live, my head….My therapist thinks I’m great.  He doesn’t have to deal with my neurosis….

carrying-too-much

Like the poor jackass pictured above, it’s possible I was carrying a little too much…

From the FB Archives: March 20, 2013

Law school was tough.  Like, if you just had to do law school, without adding to it trying to still pay my bills and see my kids and deal with the weather in Wyoming when driving, it would still suck.  So I hunted for inspiration.  This was something I found inspiring…

It’s not just about being a Man

I was hunting on my computer today for my address labels document/template (what exactly DID I name that thing anyway???) when I came across this poem by Rudyard Kipling that I’d found years ago and loved.

 

If

by Rudyard Kipling; 1865-1936

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thought your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings:

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a man, my son!

 

Kipling wrote this with respect to becoming a Man, but I would propose that one does not need testicles to Become the thing one would If he/she could do all of the things noted above.  This is about being a solid human being.  Hoping that I can become Kipling’s ideal “Man” someday.

file_000

My dad, his sister, and his brother…These are those who have become Kipling’s ideal “Man”.  May I be as much in my life.

From the FB Archives: January 20, 2012

*Note:  In this case it turned out that my client had probably screwed over the second ex wife while he was still competent…He more than likely got what he deserved when this was all said and done.  But when I knew him, he was just a nice, very confused, little old man.

little-old-man

Exemplar Little Old Man: not an actual photo of my client…

So in a way, being old and senile is good…

I went to Vernal, UT, today.  Not my favorite place in the world, but not my least favorite either.  I had a pre-trial hearing in a divorce case.  My client is in his 80’s.  He suffers from dementia; possibly Alzheimer’s, but no firm diagnosis on that.  We actually bifurcated this case back in November, after mediation, when the other side said they wanted to take everything my client had, I declined, and they determined they wanted a trial.  Whatever.  Point being, we agreed to split the case and have a divorce entered as to the parties at that time, and then work out the property settlement later.

My client was in the courtroom today.  He had no idea what was going on, but seemed very pleasant and un-bothered by the whole thing.  When we were done in the courtroom, we went out into the hall.  My client’s now ex-wife was out there.  When he saw her, his face lit up.  He went over to her, smiling, put his arm around her, and told her how lovely she looked.  She leaned her head on his chest and he kissed her forehead.  They chatted for a few minutes until his daughters ushered him away so that we could discuss what had happened and where we go from here.

I watched this little exchange between these people in their 80’s who should not have gotten divorced, and it made my heart hurt.  Ache, actually.  Had to really work on not crying for awhile on the way home.  And then I thought how very lucky my client is–he doesn’t know he’s divorced.  Hell, half the time he doesn’t remember ever marrying this woman (30 years ago) and confuses her in his mind with his first wife.

 

Maybe being senile can be a good thing…

UCCJEA: Jurisdiction part 2

Some time ago, in a different blog post, I mentioned the UCCJEA in terms of child custody jurisdiction.  UCCJEA stands for Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.  This is a uniform law that was drafted at the federal level, in the interest of creating consistency among the states in regards to an issue that can cross state lines–custody of children and custody determinations of children.  All but one state (Massachusetts) have adopted the uniform law in substantially the form is was drafted originally.  In Utah, it’s located at Title 78B Chapter 13 of state code.  The whole point of the statute is to determine which state/jurisdiction has the right to exert its authority over individuals who are trying to enter court orders about custody of children.  One of the purposes is to make sure that a jurisdiction that would be most appropriate for the court case to happen is the one that is making it happen and enforcing the orders that come out of that case.

The basics:

A child must have been present in the state with intent to remain for at least 6 months prior to a custody action being started in that state.  If no custody orders have been entered as to these children ever, being in the state 6 months gives that state home state jurisdiction.  If a parent takes the kids and leaves a state that WOULD have had home state jurisdiction, the other parent can file in court for a custody determination in the state that WOULD have had home state jurisdiction.  In easier language:  If I live in Utah, and my spouse takes my kids and moves to Colorado, I can file for a divorce with custody in Utah any time within the first 6 months the kids are gone, because until they’ve been in Colorado for 6 months, Utah still has home state jurisdiction.  OR, if I’ve been living in Colorado, but take my kids and move to Arizona, and no action for custody determination is filed within 6 months in Colorado, I can file for custody in Arizona.  My kids being in Arizona for 6 months changes home state jurisdiction from Colorado to Arizona.

home-sweet-home

Not always so clear…

Sometimes a child may not have a home state.  In that case, a parent can file where he/she lives for a custody determination, so long as another case hasn’t been filed in the state where the child is currently located.  An example:

I had a case where parents were not and had never been married.  ORS in Utah had opened a child support case for the child, as both parents lived in Utah.  Both parents and the child lived in Utah for 5 years, with dad and his family having significant contact with and interaction with the child.  Mom then moved to Colorado with the child.  She had been in Colorado 11 months when she relocated  with the child to New Mexico.  Dad filed for a visitation order in Utah; by then, child had not lived in Utah in the previous 6 months; HOWEVER, the child technically did not have a home state at all, because she hadn’t been in New Mexico long enough for it to have home state jurisdiction (she’d only been there a couple of weeks).

Colorado would have been the home state, but because neither parent nor the child lived there, and no action had been filed in Colorado, it wasn’t an appropriate state to make a custody determination.  We had a hearing regarding jurisdiction in this case.  The court found in favor of my client, since there were not competing court cases involved (mom hadn’t filed in NM), dad was located in Utah with the intent to remain, and the child had significant connections in the state of Utah.  The Utah court had the right to, and was inclined to, take jurisdiction over the custody determination of this child.

Notice I said the court in Utah “was inclined to” take jurisdiction in that case.  A court CAN decline jurisdiction if it feels that it’s not appropriate to take jurisdiction–like if neither parent lives in that state anymore, but it would still be the home state. Example:  I live in North Dakota.  I move with my kids to Idaho; dad of kids also moves to Idaho.  After being in Idaho long enough for me to file for divorce–which is 60 days–I file for divorce.  Technically Idaho isn’t the home state, and wouldn’t have jurisdiction to make the custody determination.  But none of us, meaning neither parent nor the kids, live in North Dakota anymore.  So ND would likely decline to take jurisdiction, choosing instead to allow Idaho to handle the case, since Idaho is a more appropriate jurisdiction to determine best interests of the kids, etc.

Some cases are fairly cut and dried, like the ones I noted above.  Others….”ees grey area.”  What if the parents were both located in, say, Oregon when they got divorced, but since that time, both parents have moved to other states.  Could the non-custodial parent change the jurisdiction of custody to his state?  Sure.  So long as the custodial parent doesn’t challenge that action, or file her own action in the state that WOULD have home state jurisdiction.  Will it hold up under court scrutiny?  Maybe, maybe not.  The arguments exist to both support it and deny it.  A lot of it comes down to the inclinations of the court, and whether another state has been asked to take jurisdiction over child custody.  And whether Oregon, in this example, will relinquish its right to continuing jurisdiction. Lots of “ifs,” thus “grey area.”

'It's only a gray area if you've got a good lawyer.'

Maybe 😉

Clear as mud?  If you’ve got questions, feel free to message me, and hopefully I can clear that mud to at least dirty water ;).

 

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