This is the interview with Anne P. Mitchell, Esq., about fathers’ rights, on Monday Night Radio. Monday Night Radio is an online (Internet-based) talk radio show where different experts are interviewed, and people around the world can listen via the Internet, and call in to talk with the expert, and ask them questions.
The Internet Patrol’s Anne P. Mitchell, Esq., is the host of Monday Night Radio, but for this particular show she is the guest.
Anne P. Mitchell, Esq.
This Monday Night Radio show with Anne P. Mitchell, Esq. was first aired on 9/6/10. In addition to reading the interview below, you can listen to the recorded show via iTunes – where you can also subscribe to the podcast of all of the recorded shows. Here is the iTunes link: [destination content has been removed at other end :~( ].
Links to the guest’s website and book, if any, are at the end of the interview.
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Male 1: You are listening to now you know; talk radio where you get to ask the questions. Call us now at 877-NYKRADIO.That’s 8776957234. And now here are your hosts, Anne Mitchell and Bryan McCullough.
Bryan: Anne Mitchell, how are you doing this fine evening?
Anne: Well, Bryan McCullough, I’m very well, thank you. Thank you for having me on the show.
Bryan: Well, it was quite tough to secure you, but I’m glad that we did because you’re going to have a great show tonight. I have no doubt.
Anne: Wow. Thank you I really appreciate that. In fact I have to tell you that we are already getting calls. We’ve already been getting voice mail. There are people twittering. You can listen to us in iTunes now. We just have so many ways that you can connect, that you can connect with us. I am so excited. Bryan, do you want to tell them all the different ways they can connect while I look up our iTunes URL so I can tell them what it is?
Bryan: Well you are not going be able to tell them what that iTunes URL is because it is long and ugly but they can search for us in iTunes. Now You Know, you can search for Anne Mitchell and filter by podcasts. It will show up that way. We will also have a link of course to the iTunes page on our website. If you want to call in and talk to Anne, tonight we are going to be talking about one of Anne’s specialties which is father’s rights. You are a father’s rights attorney or you have been in a prior life, is that correct?
Anne: That is correct. I was one of the only father’s rights lawyers in the country. I still advocate for father’s rights although I did close my private practice. I maintain a website. I have a book and I still care very much about father’s rights.
Bryan: It’s a very fascinating and somewhat misunderstood topic, so I’d really like to get into it. But if you’d like to call in and talk to Anne you can call 877-NYKRADIO. That’s 877-Now You Know Radio, 8776957234. You can Twitter us a question @nowyouknowradio. Is that correct? You’re the Twitter expert.
Anne: That’s correct.
Bryan: And of course you can join the chat room if you go to blogtalkradio.com/nowyouknowradio. You enter the chat room and ask questions there. We’ve got callers calling in already so we are going to jump into that real quick. Anne, give us a however long you want history of how you got into being a father’s rights attorney and what you saw while you were in there.
Anne: Well, what I saw while I was in there that would certainly be several shows in and of themselves. Before we start I just wanted to say a couple of things. As Bryan knows, I am trying a new sound system right now. This is sort of an experiment and so if Bryan feels he needs to tell me to speak closer, speak louder, just please let me know. You guys out there please let me know also if you feel like I’m not sounding as clear or whatever. Let me know so I can adjust it on my end. The second thing is people have been asking me, those of them who know that I am in Boulder, Colorado; they’ve been asking me about the fire. It is raging in Boulder. It is to the west of us, but only a few miles. We can see it from our front door. There are just huge flames and a glow. We can see across the way to the first set of bridges there and it is quite frightening. We have very many friends who are evacuated. But, we are alright. We don’t seem to be in any danger. I wanted to thank you for your questions and your wishes. I just wanted to throw that out there as well.
So, as to how I got involved here, it’s kind of an interesting story I think. Primarily, because when people would meet me they would say, “But, Anne, you are a divorced, single, custodial mother. How is it possible that you could have gotten into father’s rights?” In fact I have had women call me a traitor to my sex. Which, I consider to be quite a compliment given the sources. The way that it happened was, I was putting myself through undergraduate school, and I was doing this by running a dental office. I was the office manager. This was an office in downtown Buffalo. It was right near the court. We had a lot of attorneys as patients.
One of our patients came breezing in, very late for her appointment. She was very apologetic. She said, “I am so sorry I am late for this appointment, I was at the capitol testifying. I am part of the New York Family Law Bar and I was testifying about the new proposed child support legislation.” I said, “Well you are in favor of child support legislation, right?” She said, “Oh no, this is a terrible law.” She started telling me all the reasons it was such a horrible law. It had to do primarily with that it first of all gave judges no discretion at all to make allowances in a case. It set up a formula which is pretty much the law of the land.
Most states have a formula where you look at your income, you look at how many kids there are, you look at how much time the children are with each parent, and that is pretty much it. That dictates how much child support the non-custodial parent would be paying. But, because this particular law made it so the judge could not deviate at all unless they jumped through so many hoops that no judge would ever have done this it meant that people who were already paying to the best of their ability were really going to be in a lot of trouble. Especially because the other aspect of it was that it was retroactive. This meant that someone could have been paying to the best of their ability, paying faithfully every month and all of the sudden find out that they are now in arrears thousands of dollars. She was explaining this to me, and as she was explaining this to me, I was thinking about my very recent own personal experience with the family law system. I was very recently divorced, a single mother. Our divorce had been I thought very contentious, now I know that it was really quite tame compared to some. But, the point is our divorce had just been finalized. Even though we were through, for a split second I did the calculations and realized that with this new law I could have destroyed him and for that split second it was really tempting.
Anne: I quickly shook that off. I went, “Oh my god.” Here I am. I’m already done with my divorce and the power this would have given me. Just for that second the power trip that was there. How I could have destroyed him. He had just lost his job. He had a baby on the way with his new fiancé, and I could absolutely have destroyed him. After that split-second where it was tempting, I was horrified. Somehow, I don’t know how, but somehow I had the presence of mind to realize that if this passed, what it would do is it would cause these guys who were really on the edge, trying to make it, it would cause them to go underground, because they wouldn’t be able to do it. That would be really bad for kids, the kids. First of all, the moms and the kids wouldn’t be getting any support, but the kids wouldn’t have their dads.
So that’s really what galvanized me. I said to her, I was extremely politically naïve at that time, and I said to her, “Oh, my gosh, well someone has to do something. We have to have a referendum.” Well New York doesn’t have a referendum. But again, I was politically naïve. I had no idea. I thought that citizens could just go to the capitol and get something going like that. I ended up founding an organization. It had the unfortunate name of; well it was called People for Reasonable and Intelligent Support Measures. Which of course the acronym is PRISM, as you can look through a prism, it bends light. But, when I would call I would say, “Hello this is Anne Mitchell calling from PRISM.” And you can see where that’s going! People thought it meant I was calling from prison. So that was a very poor name. It was a good lesson in naming organizations. It was specifically founded to go and testify in Albany about this law and how bad it was. I am very happy to say that even though that was my very first foray into politics and father’s rights that we were at least in part responsible for the fact that those two really bad aspects of the law were taken out and were not passed. So, that’s how I got started in father’s rights.
Very briefly, I know we have callers, but very briefly, I finished undergrad. I moved to California to go to law school in Stanford. Frankly, by that time I thought…It had already been a couple of years. I was working in father’s rights. I thought I’ve done my civic duty. I’m done now. My daughter and I, remember I was a single parent, her father and she have a good relationship and I always encouraged it, but she came with me to California by agreement with her father. I thought now I’m going to graduate from law school and I’m going to get a big job at a big firm and make lots of money and I’m not going to be a poor single parent anymore. We’re going to live high.
That’s what I was thinking going into law school, but as soon as I graduated, or even before I graduated it was really clear I was not going to be able to walk away from it. Because once you have something like this under your skin and you really feel it, you just can’t turn your back on it. I founded a father’s rights organization during law school. I ran a father’s rights bulletin board from a computer in my student housing.
When I graduated I was looking at the possibility of an offer from one of those big Silicon Valley firms and an offer from a tiny, two lawyer firm that did family law and personal injury. They were going to pay me half of what the big firm was going to pay me but they were going to give me all of the family law I could have. They were going to let me still do my father’s rights work. They took me even before I passed the bar. They said once you pass the bar we are giving you our family law department. I just couldn’t walk away from that.
Bryan: That’s great.
Anne: That’s the brief story.
Bryan: It shows you have a passion and desire for this. Well let me just say that the switchboards have lit up. So we need to get to some callers here. If you are on the line and you want to talk to Anne, be sure to hit one because that indicates to us that you have a question. But first let’s throw it to Rob who is an old favorite. Rob, what do you have for Anne today?
Caller #1: Hi, Anne. I’ve got two questions for you.
Anne: Hi there, Rob, thank you for calling.
Caller #1: Hi. Can you hear me?
Anne: I can hear you.
Caller #1: Oh, great. The two questions are, what is the legal definition of father, and the second question is are there any universally accepted father’s rights.
Anne: I’m sorry. Bryan, could you repeat his second question for me? Hello?
Caller #1: Hello? Can you hear me?
Anne: I couldn’t hear your second question. Could you repeat that?
Caller #1: Yes. The second question is, are there any universally accepted father’s rights.
Anne: So the first question is what is the legal definition of father, and the second question is are there any universally accepted father’s rights. Those are great questions and they are actually connected. So, I will answer them essentially together. First of all, when you talk about father in terms of family law, what you are really talking about is paternity. You are talking about is this person the biological father. So, in that context what the law means by father is the person who is the male parent typically. Where that would be different would be if the male person has adopted the child, and therefore the law has recognized them as the father. So in terms of actually being the father, that is typically what is meant. So, for example a father-figure is not father for purposes of family law discussions. That would be typically only be the biological father or the adopted father, because only those are actual legal relationships. In terms of universally…First of all let’s talk about the universe of the United States because every country is different. We are in the United States, and most of our listeners are in the United States and that’s where I practice. So, in the United States, to the best of my knowledge in all fifty states at this present time, a biological father has an absolute right to have some sort of relationship with their child, just as under the written law a biological mother has some right to have some relationship with her child. Now that’s sort of a very bottom line default, and that right can be lost and your parental rights can be terminated, but it is very difficult to do. In fact that is a question that we get quite often submitted. We have a website where you can submit questions to ask a lawyer and one of them typically is can I terminate the parental rights of my ex because he’s no good so and so or she’s a drunk. Whatever the reason might be one parent figures that they ought to be able to essentially excommunicate the other parent from the child because they are a lousy parent. In reality it is actually very, very difficult. In fact the companion question to that typically is can I terminate my own rights because I haven’t been allowed to see my child in fifteen years and I don’t feel like I should have to pay child support or I am worried they are going to come after me for child support or whatever the case may be. Again in that case, it is extremely difficult to have parental rights terminated. You cannot voluntarily give up your parental rights unless it is because the other parent’s new spouse wants to adopt the child and you agree to that. The reason for that is because with rights come responsibilities. No state is going to let a parent off the hook from those responsibilities unless someone else is willing to step in. Now, again there are extreme cases where parental rights can be terminated typically those would be due to extreme abuse or abandonment where the child becomes under the states care either through welfare or the state’s foster care system. So, those basic universal rights as you put it, Rob, have to do really with the right to have some sort of relationship even if it is a supervised relationship if there are issues. With that go the twin responsibilities of you have to support your child.
Bryan: Thank you very much for calling in, Rob. We appreciate that. That leads us right into Sam from Connecticut. Sam, you are on the air with Anne P. Mitchell.
Caller #2: Hi, Anne.
Anne: Hi, Sam.
Caller #2: How are you?
Anne: I’m well thank you. How are you?
Caller #2: I’m doing ok. I have a question. I have a common child with a female who is not my wife. There is some spousal abuse going on actually from her to me. At this point there is a restraining order against her and I am not sure where my daughter is. How should deal with this?
Anne: So when you say you have a common child, let me make sure I understand this. You have had a child with a woman who is not your wife. You have a restraining order against her because she has been abusive to you and she has taken off somewhere with the child. Do I have that right?
Caller #2: For all intents and purposes she has not taken off I don’t believe. I don’t know that but I don’t believe that she has.
Anne: Well, Sam first of all I want to tell you that I am really sorry to hear of this situation and I want you to know, and I think it is very important for our listeners to hear, that men being abused by women is much more common than anyone realizes. That’s for a few different reasons. First and foremost, men don’t typically report it. They have been trained ever since they were little boys that you just don’t admit to it when a girl beats you up. They are ashamed. They are embarrassed. They are worried that no one is going to believe them, and in fact that is the case. People don’t believe you. If you call the police in to a domestic violence call, even if the man has not laid a finger on woman and the woman has done all of the beating, first of all the police go in there and they are trained that first of all someone has to go to jail. Because they have to remove someone from the house and get them apart so that they don’t kill each other, and 99 times out of 100 they are going to believe that the male was the aggressor because that is just what our society thinks. In fact, very quickly just to illustrate this point I had a case in San Jose where my guy (I only represent fathers) was absolutely I believe in my heart would have never lifted a hand never lifted a finger to this woman. She aggressed him. He had claw marks. His face was bleeding from the claw marks raked down his cheeks. There was not a mark on her because he hadn’t touched her and still the police arrested him. That’s actually when he came to me and we got that taken care of, but the point is that I am really, really sorry to hear that you are on the receiving end of this and it’s really very common. You say you have the restraining order, so I hope that it means that you did in fact report it. That’s the right thing to do. With respect to your child, Sam do you have any kind of order from the court having to do with timeshare and custody?
Caller #2: There is no order enforced. We were actually living together. This only happened last Wednesday.
Anne: Ok. Have you had paternity adjudicated? Do you have anything besides a birth certificate saying that you are the father?
Caller #2: Yeah, there was an issue with the court because the child was on the state mandated insurance program and the state child support got involved because they wanted me to provide insurance for her which I have no problem with.
Anne: Right, well in this case that may have really been a help to you now. Understand that I do not practice in Connecticut. So, I can only tell you what I know we would need to do if you were in California, but for the most part, most states are very similar. What you need to do, is you need to go to the court. You need to say to them, look, I have already been proven to be the father of this child, here is the paperwork. You are already having me pay, you recognize me as the father. She is not letting me see my child. You need to open up a case in the family law court and have them give you at least a temporary order that provides for you to see your child. Now, were you my client, particularly given that she has already been demonstrated to be violent and because she is not letting you see the child, what I would do, and what would work in California is I’d go in and I’d say, “We would like an order granting him emergency temporary custody of the child because she is keeping the child from him, whereas he will facilitate the child’s relationship with her.” Nine times out of ten you would get that temporary custody. My advice to you would be to talk to a family law lawyer quickly in Connecticut and ask them is this grounds in Connecticut for me to get temporary emergency custody. In any event, we need to get an order because the most important thing for you to have right now, Sam, is an order that says that you get to have your child with you on these particular days. Then, if she does not give you access to your child on the days that are very clearly spelled out in the order, and that is why this is so important, the order has to be very specific, the third and fourth Wednesday of the month and every other weekend, or every other week. Whatever it is that you do, it has to be highly specific so that if she violates the order the police can enforce it for you. Let me tell you and everyone out there listening, Sam, if your order says that you are supposed to have your child with you on let’s say the third weekend of the month and you try to get your child the third weekend of the month and that other parent won’t let you have your child that is parental kidnapping.
Caller #2: Ok.
Anne: Ok? Good luck, Sam.
Caller #2: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Anne: You are welcome.
Bryan: I tell you what, this is really bringing out some interesting questions and situations that I guess millions of people must go through every day.
Anne: Every single day, Bryan. Count yourself lucky that you have a good intact family, and keep your wife happy.
Bryan: Well I was just about to say count myself lucky that I’ve got a great friend that’s a father’s rights divorce attorney just in case that ever comes up.
Anne: (laughs) Who do we have up next, Bryan?
Bryan: We have Rodney from Milwaukee. Let’s see. Rodney, you are on the line with Anne. What’s your question?
Caller #3: Good evening, Anne, and to you, sir.
Anne: Hello there, Rodney. Welcome.
Caller #3: Thank you. My question is I am facing child support arrears. I am retired on a disability. I can tell you briefly the scenario. Back in 2007 I was brought back to court for child support modification. Ironically it was two weeks before I got married. It wasn’t until 2008 that the new order for child support increase was enforced. So, they went back to 2007 and then brought it up to 2008 which caused me to be in arrears just by that by $14,000. Now during 2008, my income was different from 2007 which did not allow me to pay the amount of child support that was asked. With that I am now in arrears. I am wondering I’ve already been to court; we are going to be going back in October for a recalculation of the arrears. I am wondering if my income taxes could help recalculate or would be enough evidence to recalculate the arrears and lower the arrears based on the income that I had worked during the time.
Anne: Ok, so let me see if I understand the situation. You already had some arrears?
Caller #3: No.
Anne: Ok, you didn’t already have arrears. You had an order for child support?
Caller #3: Yes.
Anne: You said something about getting married in there. I am assuming it was to someone who was not the mother of your child.
Caller #3: Yes.
Anne: Ok, and then you were hit with arrears. But you were current for the order that you had as far as you knew?
Caller #3: Yes, ma’am. As a matter of fact I was current until 2008. There was a request to increase the child support payments that I have been making to actually double the payment from $1200 to $2400. They based that request on the income I made in 2007. I worked a lot of overtime, but in 2008 that income was not the same as 2007.
Anne: Because you didn’t have the overtime. Were you at the same job?
Caller #3: Yes, ma’am.
Anne: But you just didn’t have the overtime.
Caller #3: No. The company downsized for the years 2008-2009. It was in 2007 where I made a lot of money because of overtime.
Caller #3: Ok?
Anne: Ok. So then there was a request for modification. That happened in 2008. They decided to grant the modification. As a result you ended up with arrearages because of the new amount. Correct?
Caller #3: Yes, ma’am.
Anne: Ok. When did that order for arrears, what year was that handed down?
Caller #3: April of 2008.
Anne: Ok. The request for modification must have been filed months before that, right? Because they can only make it retroactive to when the request has been filed. Right?
Caller #3: Yes, ma’am. It was requested in 2007.
Anne: So, what they did was they made the modification retroactive back to the date that it was requested and all of the sudden you had all of these arrearages for all of the months between when the order was filed and when the order was actually rendered.
Caller #3: Yes, ma’am.
Anne: Ok, since that order was filed, have you re-filed for another modification?
Caller #3: I attempted to file for a re-modification, but because it was a tax intercept, the letter said that I could not modify the child support. I want to add also that I got a letter from the opposing attorney requesting that I send a letter to the judge stating that I am in dispute of this child support increase that they are asking. I sent two letters to that judge. There was no response.
Anne: Ok. That tells me a couple of things. First of all, Rodney, that tells me that you are representing yourself.
Caller #3: Ok.
Anne: That is the worst thing you could possibly do. You just…Am I right? Are you representing yourself?
Caller #3: Yes.
Anne: Let me tell you one of the dirty little secrets of family law court. Well, let me back up and tell you the first dirty little secret of family law court. This is where men always get caught up. Family law court is not about justice, equity or fairness. Most men go into family law court, expecting that I’m going to go in there and I’m just going to tell the judge like it is because I am being reasonable and court is about fairness. That is not what family law court is about. Partly for that reason, men cannot represent themselves. It is extremely rare for a man to come out of family law court having done well at all, but especially if he is representing himself. Part of that reason is because he doesn’t know how to play the game. The other part of that reason is because the sad reality is, and here comes that other dirty little secret, the court, the lawyers, the bailiffs, the clerks, and the judges they don’t like people that represent themselves. The minute you walk in there representing yourself, you have two strikes against you already. So, Rodney, what I have to tell you is, if you have to beg, borrow, don’t steal cause that’s illegal, but whatever you have to do to get the money together to pay a lawyer you need a lawyer and you need one fast, because every single day that goes by that you haven’t filed the right papers, that is more money that is accruing in those arrearages. Just like when they file for a new modification that order was retroactive to the day they filed. The same thing is true for you. In order to stop the clock from ticking you’ve got to get the right paperwork filed. For that lawyer to tell you to write a letter to the judge, it could be that that was a naïve lawyer that really thought that what they were saying was you need to tell the court not me. But, it could also be that that lawyer, if they were an old seasoned lawyer, knew darned well that your letter wasn’t going to do a darned thing because that judge wasn’t going to take a letter from a party. The judge wants properly submitted papers from a lawyer. So, that’s what you need to do. Now, to your original question, which was can you use your tax records to show what your actual income was. Absolutely you can. You absolutely can. Here’s what I am going to tell you. When you do that, they are going to accuse you of suppressing your income. They are going to accuse you of reducing your income because they filed the modification. They are also going to accuse you of making cash money under the table to suppress your income. So, when you file those papers that you are going to do with that lawyer that you are going to get by begging or borrowing or doing whatever you have to do to get them, you make sure that you get a letter right up front from your employer explaining that in 2007 you had a lot of overtime but in 2008 they downsized. You know what you are darn lucky you still have a job. You make sure that that employer puts that in there, that you area valued employee and that’s why they kept you on but 2008 it was just a different financial landscape for them and that’s the reason your income has dropped.
Caller #3: That is definitely correct. I just want to add I am being represented right now. We are pleased with this attorney. I am right now retired from my job which changed my income or the circumstance of my income. Also right now there are attempts to review the arrears, like you said with the tax income. One of the things that they did say while I was working was that I did suppress the income but that was not the case. It was the overtime that was eliminated. The income remained the same. It was the overtime that was eliminated. So, suppressing the income was not the case, it was the overtime that was no longer available.
Anne: Right. Exactly, and your lawyer needs to bring that to the attention of the court over and over. That letter that you need to get from your employer that will help. Most states I know, certainly California where I practiced, but most states as far as I know cannot penalize you because you worked overtime. In fact, many states will not allow child support modifications based only on overtime, and you should have your lawyer check and see whether Wisconsin is one of them because it may be actually that that modification was improper, which would be a really nice thing for you to find out. Ok?
Caller #3: Ok. I’m sorry if you could just repeat that real quickly. If you could, ma’am.
Anne: Sure. I am going to let you take that on the air, because we have other callers. So I wish you well. What I said was that you absolutely your lawyer needs to emphasize to the court that that modification was based on overtime and that the court cannot hold you to have to continue working overtime, particularly if it is not available. But, many states will not allow a modification based on overtime. The reason is because essentially that is forcing the parent to continue to work overtime which is voluntary. You should have your lawyer check to see if in fact Wisconsin does not allow modification based on overtime because if so then that modification may have been improperly granted which means that possibly you could have it done. Good luck to you, Rodney.
Bryan: Just a reminder, if you guys are waiting in the call queue hit one to let us know that you have a question for Anne. But, now let’s go to Manere (?) in San Francisco. Manere, you are on the line with Anne.
Caller #4: Hello, Anne.
Anne: Hi, Manere.
Caller #4: How are you doing?
Anne: I’m very well, thank you. You are back in my old home area.
Caller #4: Oh, ok. (laughs)
Anne: What can I do for you?
Caller #4: I’m actually from the east bay. What happened is that I just came back from vacation and everything was fine. But, the last three days after vacation we kind of had an argument because what happened is my wife actually she was addicted to marijuana. She has a medical card and we have a three year old child. What happened is after being there for two weeks she started to have the withdrawals. So, she just got in a really bad mood. So, when we got back she decided she wanted to get a divorce. What happened is the way she got her medical marijuana card is she got it by abusing the system. She told me basically about it. What happened is that in the past she used to smoke in the house and things like that in front of the baby. I was just wondering if there was anything I could do about it. Also, my son is allergic to animals and we have had here at some point and time about sixteen animals. And he is just covered in pimples and rashes and things like that because of the animals. So we didn’t file for anything yet. She just left the house. Whenever he comes back because we have so many animals he gets rashes all over his body. I was wondering if there was anything I could do about it.
Anne: You raise some really interesting questions. I’m sorry to say that because it’s interesting for the lawyers but maybe not so interesting for you. Medical marijuana, that is such a new animal, such a new thing that is going on in this country that to the best of my knowledge there is no case law on that, because unlike other medications where you can say be sure to keep it away. Keep it locked away. Keep the pills locked away. With marijuana there’s the smoke, the second hand smoke, and there is some discussion in the cases on second hand smoke in the cases where the child is sick. I have seen orders in that case where if for example the child has asthma, the order might be that you can’t smoke around the child because the second hand smoke is bad for them. But, medical marijuana, that is a very new issue and frankly I am unaware of anything that is actually on point with regard to that. But, that said it is not entirely dissimilar from the other issue you raised which is that you have a child who is sick, is allergic to animals and there are a lot of animals around. Now let me ask you this, your wife, you say you haven’t filed anything is she just out of the house now? Is she living somewhere else?
Caller #4: Yes. She is living with her friend. She is living with someone who is also divorced.
Anne: Ok. But you are in the house where all the animals are?
Caller #4: Well actually, at my house, she took all of her animals took them all out with her. So, all of the animals live with her at her friend’s, at the house here there are absolutely no animals. It is very clean now. It used to be pretty unclean I would say here.
Anne: And the children, they are seeing both of you? You are both able to have access to the children? She is not keeping you from them? And you are not keeping them from her?
Caller #4: No, no we are able to share basically.
Anne: Let me tell you a couple of things. The first thing is you have to be extremely careful as a father to pick your fights very, very carefully. Here is the reason why, very often you will as parents who are trying to figure out their new roles and they are trying to have their rules when the kids are at their house and they want to do the best things for the kids, and they get really upset when things happen at the other house which they feel are not good for the children. Which I know may not be good for the children, and the typical example is what they get to eat or what they get to watch on television. In this case it will extend to some extent to the animals. Here’s what happens when a father goes to court and says, “I’m very concerned because of what happens at her house.” And whatever that is, whether it’s what they are eating or what they are watching or the animals or whatever, what the court hears is, “I’m an angry controlling man and I’m trying to control my wife,” because that is what the wife’s attorney is going to tell them, and because that is what they have heard from women’s lawyers since time and memorial. So, it is super important to pick your fights to make sure that it is something that you really feel is that important that you are willing to risk the court having it backfire on you essentially. I’m hearing in your case that these are unhealthy activities. Certainly smoking marijuana around your children, I would say that is not a healthy activity. And, if the animals are actually making your child sick, that is also not a healthy activity. So, it may not be as bleak as I’ve just spelled out as being the traditional thing that would happen would be. It may be in your case that there really is a case to be made that your child should not be around that many animals at least for an extended period of time. But, the only way to know that is if a doctor would actually say that that is the case. So, what I would recommend for you is talk to a lawyer in your area, and because you are in my old stomping grounds, I am actually about to give you the name and phone number of an absolutely incredible lawyer in the east bay. He will absolutely know. In fact of anyone I know, he may be one of the only lawyers that would know more about the medical marijuana issue as well. I would go to a lawyer. I would tell him these are your concerns and then I would have them, first of all you need to file something. Unfortunately you can’t get any orders from a court unless you have actually filed an action. So, you need to file a divorce action or you need to file a separation action. That’s pretty unusual to do, because if you are going to do that you might as well file the divorce action which is where you have to end up anyway. Once that action is filed and you get some temporary orders in place for who gets the children with them when. I would look at having a medical evaluation of your child in terms of having animals around them, but whatever you do, you don’t want to go off kind of half cocked into the court and just sort of make a whole bunch of accusations about how unhealthy it is. You absolutely need to have some sort of medical finding to back you up. So, it’s not you being an angry dad trying to control your ex-wife, it’s the doctor is saying this is not healthy for the child. So, Manere, do you have a pen?
Caller #4: Yes, I do.
Anne: Ok, alright. This attorney’s name is Frank Presto. His number is 9258464006. Alright? I’m going to let you go now, because the switch board is lit up like a Christmas tree. But, give Mr. Presto a call and he can answer any other questions you have.
Bryan: Alright. These are some really interesting topics that are popping up. I guess you’ve seen probably everything. But, what heartbreak to the father to have your children potentially be suffering and not really be able to do anything about it. That’s got to be tough. Next we have Lauren in Maryland. I may have mispronounced that, but you are on the air with Anne Mitchell.
Anne: Hi, Lauren.
Bryan: Lauren, are you there?
Anne: I hear him talking but I can barely hear him.
Bryan: He may have given up on us. Let’s go to Tom in Denver. Tom, you’ve got a question for Anne? Go ahead.
Caller #5: Hey, Anne, how are you doing tonight?
Anne: Hi, Tom, how are you?
Caller #5: I am a mess. I’m going through a pretty nasty divorce, I mean like every cliché in the book that you can imagine. We had court on Thursday and it was a status conference. My ex is dragging her heels. She won’t go to her parenting after divorce class. She won’t go to mediation. I filed contempt charges which were granted. I was late to court and they dismissed the charges. I was late because of construction in the courthouse pretty much. They moved the court to another building across the way and by the time I got there she had just dismissed the case so they set it again for Thursday. My ex is making all kinds of lie allegations, abuse. I don’t know what to do. The judge ordered us to get him a regular pediatrician. I had just moved, so I hadn’t set that up yet. So, she was like get him a pediatrician, because I have no insurance, agree on it and get him in as soon as you can. She was like, “Well I’m just going to take him in to the urgent care or the hospital.” The judge said, “No you don’t need to do that, but you do you need to get him in as soon as possible.” So, I got home and immediately e-mailed her a list of a couple doctors. She pretty much said, “Screw you. I’m taking him to urgent care anyway.” I said, “Well that’s not what the judge said, but at least let me know which one.” She never did. I didn’t hear from her. I was actually supposed to get my son yesterday at six. We trade off everyday. She had gone camping for the holiday weekend and at noon yesterday I received an e-mail from her saying that she was about an hour and a half away and in a national forest. That is where I had to go pick up my son. I tried getting a hold of her. She was already out of cell tower range at the campsite or whatever. I wrote her an e-mail saying, “When you get back into town, let me know. I’m not driving all the way up there by myself.” Her boyfriend is probably all talk, but already filed a police report due to threatening phone calls and that nature. So, right now I’m not going to go drive by myself into a forest with these people. It’s probably nothing, but just a bad idea, so I wrote her and e-mail and told her that. I finally picked up my son today at six. He was acting really weird. He kept saying sorry and that he was bad. He said he lied. I didn’t know what he was saying. And then I get another e-mail when I get home from picking him up saying that she took him to the doctor today and she has proof of abuse and this and that. I just don’t know where to go. I don’t have money for an attorney. I don’t know if I should call social services myself and say, “Hey my wife is making all of these allegations. I want somebody to investigate.”
Anne: Tom, do you have a good lawyer?
Caller #5: No, I don’t have a lawyer.
Caller #5: I’m unemployed right now.
Anne: I’m going to tell you this straight up. You have to find a way to get a lawyer or you’re going to lose your son. It’s that simple. You are dealing with someone who is making who is making false allegations of abuse. You are dealing with someone who is going to go the distance to do whatever she can to interfere with your relationship with your child. You don’t have the luxury.
Caller #5: She’s taking him for weeks and months at a time from me. The only reason we finally had paperwork in court was that I wasn’t going to see him again until I got a court order.
Anne: Right. So you know that what I am saying is true.
Caller #5: Yeah.
Anne: I’m sorry that you are unemployed. I’m sorry how hard it is. What I would recommend to you first of all is contact the law schools in the area. There is one CU Boulder. I think there is at least one in Denver. Again, I am not that familiar with the lay of the land here about those things. But, try contacting the law schools to see if they have a legal clinic, if they don’t ask them to refer you to one. Also contact Colorado State Bar Association and ask them if they have what is called a modest means panel or any kind of a law clinic that does a sliding scale.
Caller #5: I tried to apply. I forget what the name of the organization is, but I made really good money before I was unemployed. So, even on unemployment I was clearing $800 every two weeks. That’s enough to get me by, but…
Anne: This is what you need to do, start there. Start calling the local law schools, start calling the local legal aid societies. Someone out there is going to help you to get a lawyer. You have to have a lawyer and you need to do this really quickly because it is only going to get worse. Tom, listen I want you to give Bryan, my producer your e-mail address and I am going to mail you a copy of my book which includes how to deal with false accusations. I am sorry to rush off. I’ve got a ton of people. Really, you need a lawyer.
Bryan: Alright, very good. We are just lighting up the switch board here, Anne. This is pretty exciting. We are going to jump to a female caller. You said you’ve been called a traitor to your gender, so I’m not sure which way this call is going to go.
Anne: Alrighty. I’m ready.
Bryan: We’ll see. Tina, in Tennessee, Tina, you are on the air with Anne.
Caller #6: Hi, how are you?
Anne: Hi, Tina. I am very well. How are you?
Caller #6: I’m good, thank you. I’m calling for my husband. We have an interstate child support issue. My husband’s son is 18 now, and his current support is actually over. But, we are fighting arrearages in Georgia. My husband was divorced in Georgia back in 1994, and was ordered to pay $75 a week in support. A year later, he moved to Tennessee and got behind about $3000. Georgia sent a uniform support petition under UISSA law to Tennessee and requested that Tennessee both enforce and modify the existing child support order and Tennessee complied. They modified the child support from $75 down to $65 which included $10 a week going towards the arrearages and they offset my husband’s income taxes for the arrearages. My husband always paid his support for the entire…up until my step-son was 18 and the current support ended. But, Georgia is claiming that my husband owes $15,000 in arrearages and they are refusing to recognize the uniform support petition and the modifications that Tennessee made at Georgia’s request. I don’t understand how they can request modifications be made and then not recognize them.
Anne: Ok, so Georgia requested modification, probably expecting that it was an increase, and instead it decreased and now Georgia is saying well you still owe all this money based on the Georgia order as if the modification never happened. Is that right?
Caller #6: Exactly.
Anne: Alright. Here is what I am going to guess. Obviously I don’t see the paperwork. This is just a guess based on my own experiences and what is most likely. Whenever you have two different agencies, even when you have two different branches of the same agency involved, the opportunity for miscommunication or a failure of communication ensues. So, my best guess is that once that modification was done in Tennessee, that information while it may or may not have gotten back to Georgia when it needed to, probably never got entered properly back in Georgia. It doesn’t really make sense otherwise. Do you have any reason to know that I am wrong about that?
Caller #6: No. I don’t. We disputed it with Georgia. They basically told us that they are following UISSA law or something like that. They are not following the UISSA law. The modifications were filed under the UISSA law, but they are claiming that the law changed and they don’t have to follow the UISSA law anymore.
Anne: So, what does your lawyer say?
Caller #6: We cannot afford an attorney. We are struggling just to keep our house right now. That’s why these arrearages are so hard on us. We did file a dispute with the local child support office in Tennessee. She faxed a copy to Georgia and said that we do not owe them because it is in plain black and white that Georgia requested Tennessee to modify. They are just giving us the run around. We’ve written letter after letter and disputed and disputed. We requested a hearing in Georgia. They refused to give us a hearing. We don’t know what to do. We cannot afford an attorney. We’ve tried to find a low income lawyer, we don’t qualify for that. There is no law school that will accept us.
Anne: Alright, well here is what I am going to recommend, and hopefully you haven’t already done this, because this is the one thing that I can think of that if you haven’t done might really help. First of all, you need someone in Georgia, not Tennessee. Georgia doesn’t give a darn what someone in Tennessee says.
Caller #6: Ok.
Anne: So, contact the department in the district attorney’s office in the jurisdiction in Georgia and ask them for help. They probably won’t flat out help you but they will at least be able to put you on the right track. What you need is a person in Georgia who can look at your file, see where Georgia asked Tennessee to do that, and then see that Tennessee did it and tell you what you need to do. The only person who can do that is someone who is in that Georgia court system who is familiar with the Georgia court system. If you can’t get through to anyone in the DA’s office, for everyone listening, this is really one of the first places to start, is call the clerk of the court. Whatever court is issuing the order that is causing you heartache, call the clerk of court and ask them, “Who do I need to talk to? What do I need to do?” Again, in most cases you need a lawyer. I’m not talking to you about that right now, because I hear your situation and because all of the orders already happened I think you can get a good start with calling the DA’s office of child support in Georgia. For any question where you are not sure where to start, the clerk of court is going to be a gold mine. They have all the information you need, and if they don’t they can usually tell you where to call.
Caller #6: Ok. Thank you very much.
Anne: Alright. Good luck to you.
Caller #6: Thanks, bye-bye.
Bryan: Alright, next we’ve got, I think, our (inaudible) caller, which is exciting, I don’t know how that effects the law or not, but Moussa (?) in Vancouver, you are on the line with Anne Mitchell.
Anne: Hey there!
Caller #7: Hi.
Anne: I’ve got to tell you right now, I’ve got to give you that disclaimer that I am a U.S. attorney so I can give you some common sense ideas, but I’m not going to be able to really tell you much about Canadian law.
Caller #7: I know that. It’s just I need some feedback. I’m going through a separation. We were married for 15 years. We have three children, 14, 11, and 6. It’s been financially disheartening and an unbelievable journey over the last two years. She is getting two thirds of my income. I am still paying all of the family debt. That was part of our breakup, the huge debt that accrued over time and she wouldn’t go back to work because she wanted to home school the kids and all of that. I went along with it in the beginning. I thought, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.” As debts accrued, I said, “We need part-time. We need something. I can’t do this. Vancouver is really expensive on one income.” A teacher’s salary is just going nowhere. So, she spoke to lawyers, and recently she gave me a little paper saying, “This is what I am going to settle for. I’ve been told I can go 75% of the assets and pick up only about 35% or 40% of the debts, or not even because it is all in your name.” I’m thinking, what do I do? I sought out lawyers and I paid quite a chunk of change to somebody that I thought was going to be…they’ve had 20 some odd years experience and this and that, and what I got was no more than what I could have had from a therapist for free. I say this because all they wanted to do was, “Do you want to retain me?” Well I don’t have $7000 or $10,000 right away to retain. I don’t seem to qualify for anything because I make a lot of money. It’s like I may make that amount on paper but I’m actually living on less than $2000 a month. That’s got to take care of everything. Then, I’m hit with kids being with me and going out and them saying, “Can you get us this? Can you get us that?” And I say, “No, sweety, I gave money to that.” They say, “You’re never going to buy us anything, are you?”
Anne: I hear the frustration and the inequity, but do you have question for me?
Caller #7: Yeah, what I am trying to say is, we were married for 15 years. How long is the support payment supposed to be for the spouse? For the children, I know they are until 19, and I’m fine with that. But, she’s getting a huge amount and it was supposed to be for the first two years with the family law counselor. She said you are supposed to go back to work, find retraining. She hasn’t done any of that. I get this letter stating that I hope the support payments continue indefinitely and I’m entitled to your pension, half of it for the time that we were together.
Anne: Here’s the thing, let me tell you. I can tell you from here in the states. Unfortunately, in California for example, there is a rule of thumb when it comes to spousal support. That rule of thumb is a short term marriage, which is anything under three years, then pretty much you get a half month for every month you were married. A long term marriage, which is anything over ten years, you are pretty much on the hook indefinitely unless they remarry. In between is some gray area there. So from that standard, you would in fact be on the hook for paying spousal support pretty much indefinitely. That said, there has been a trend, and California has adopted this trend, to say that the purpose of spousal support is to help the supported spouse to get back on their feet, whether they need to go back to school to retrain or whatever they need to do so that it will not be indefinitely or so that it will at least diminish the amount, because the more they earn the less you have to pay. That’s the trend in most of the states. So, I have to believe that Canada which is certainly by no means a backward country, it’s in some ways more progressive than our United States. I would have to imagine that in your legal code that somewhere in there it says something to the same effect that the purpose of spousal support is to help the spouse to get on their feet. That said, I heard you say that she wants to home school.
Caller #7: She wants to continue and then decide when she’s ready she may come back possibly part time or full time. But, by that time I won’t have had time to build anything, so I’m entitled to your pension too.
Anne: Right. So here’s what I want to tell you. You will never, and I don’t care what country this is, this is a universal truth across all countries. You will never as a father do better than you can do by staying out of court. Now, what is important to her? The reality is that for women what is important is getting whatever they can financially. You can’t blame them for that because we as women have been told forever that when we go to family law court we are going to get screwed. Pardon my French, but that is what we are told. The paradigm is that women get the kids and the men get to pay, and the men are going to try to not pay so get everything you can. That’s what we are told. That’s what all our friends are telling us. That is what our family is telling us. That is even what the family law court in not so many words is telling us. So, it’s important for you to understand that what she is concerned about is not getting shafted financially. She is worried that you are going to try and shaft her out of what she thinks she is entitled to. Now, on your end you are just trying to be reasonable and you want to make sure you have a good relationship with your kids and you don’t want to end up in the poor house. But, by understanding her concerns you can start to figure out creative ways to offer her things that will help her to be less concerned about that. I am going to give you an example from my own practice. This example does not necessarily apply to you, but it gives you an example of what I am talking about. For example, when typically at least here in the states, when there is an issue where the dad wants more time with the kids and the mom is not letting him have more time with the kids, and she is saying, “You are just trying to control me, and you don’t want to pay as much child support. Bla, bla, bla.” I tell my guys, look if you can afford to continue paying her the amount of support you are paying now, even if you get the kids with you more so you would be entitled to pay less. Do this; offer her, say, “You know what; I understand you are worried about money. Money is tight and you are not sure what your income is going to be. I understand that. So, tell you what, if you let me have the kids with me for a greater amount of time, I won’t ask to lower child support.” That may not make sense right away. But, if you think about it, what it does is it completely takes the wind out of their sails about, “Oh well you are just trying to reduce child support.” It also shows the court you are bending over backwards to be fair and reasonable. You just really want time with your kids. Again, I am not saying that applies to your situation, but it is an example of how to think creatively to address what the unstated concern is, and address that so that you can get to where you want to be. Now, in your case, your concern really is money, because she wants to home school and she’s not working. She’s already said that she wants you to support her forever. She wants your pension and everything else. What does that translate to? That translates to she’s worried that she’s not going to be able to financially take care of…
Caller #7: She wants money.
Anne: Right. So, your job is to think of ways that you can offer her some arrangements that will address that but also address your concerns. That could look like a couple of different things. It could look like, “Hey how about we agree that for the first X years I’ll pay you this amount regardless of what you are doing. That gives you the peace of mind that you can continue homeschooling and there is no pressure on you. But then, after the third year, when our kids are older than that will drop off a bit, but you are going to get this part of this asset…” There’s ways to work it that make you seem very reasonable and also can address her concerns. Your job is to creatively figure out how to crack that offer. Equally important is come up with at least three different offers/options. Put them on the table, any of which you know that you could live with, remembering that if you go to court, you are going to be paying the lawyers all of your assets anyway. So, you might as well figure out a way to keep some of them and let your kids get them or let her get some of it rather than the lawyers. Come up with three different creative options and let her choose. That way she feels like she’s still got some control and says over it. You don’t care which one she chooses, they are all going to be better for you than what you are going to get out of the court. But, that way she feels like she has the final say. Ok?
Caller #7: Ok, do you have anybody that you may know of, or somebody that knows of somebody who would work in the same realm in Vancouver, British Columbia?
Anne: What I would suggest is this, and we should have already put this out on the air. It’s actually my fault. Bryan didn’t even know any better because I never told him. But, if you go to my website at dadsrights.org, there should be a way to look up there. I don’t know to be honest if we have Canadian lawyers on there right now. So what I am going to do is I am in fact going to have Bryan get your e-mail address, because I have two names they are not in Vancouver, but they are at least in Canada and they may be able to refer you to someone else. Ok?
Bryan: Ok, well he’s gone. I guess he got the information that he wanted. Let’s head south of him to the windy city of Chicago and Dave has an interesting question for Anne. Dave, what’s your question for Anne Mitchell?
Anne: Hi, Dave in Chicago, how are you?
Caller #8: Ok, Anne, how are you doing? Happy Labor Day.
Anne: Happy Labor Day to you. You are in the town that has my favorite pizza place in the entire world. How far are you from Giordano’s?
Caller #8: Which one? You come down; I can get you there in 20 minutes, any location.
Anne: It’s a deal. I tell you what, Bryan, Giordano’s pizza is the most amazing pizza ever. Anyway, Dave, what can I do for you?
Caller #8: Actually I’ve got two questions. One, how do I go about getting my ex-wife to stop taking our twelve year old son to a psychiatrist because she thinks that there is something wrong with him when there isn’t? It’s a long standing situation. Two, how do I go about…I like the phone call you had before with all the different scenarios and giving the woman options, she has claimed the children for the last three years on taxes. I’m trying to give her a way to figure out an option, like saying, “Hey how about you claim them on the even years? I claim them on the odd years. Or I just claim our son. You claim the girls.” How do I go about doing that? With my son, he has been seeing a psychiatrist and been taking medicines for the last three or four years.
Anne: That poor kid.
Caller #8: It started off; we went through a whole array of questions with the school districts and with doctors. The thing is what really bothered me, is when I got the pamphlet and I was asked how does our son act at this point and time. Do you ever have any troubles? I said I had nothing wrong. I gave it to the school nurse and to the psychiatrist. She did the same thing but I believe someone gave her my answers, which is actually a HIPPAA violation, she’s not supposed to find out what I said, and before I know it, he’s on three medications and seeing a psychiatrist.
Anne: Do you guys live in the same town?
Caller #8: No, actually we were living in South Carolina and because work was so scarce in South Carolina, I moved up to Chicago where we were originally from to get employment. I’ve been blessed to have a steady employment for the last year and half.
Anne: Are you seeing your kids?
Caller #8: I see them once in a while. I talk to them practically every day or text them every day.
Anne: Ok. Alright, I’ve got to tell you that from across the states, not even being in the same state, it’s going to be really tough. I’m going to tell you what you could do if you were in the same state. In the same state, what you would do is you would file a court action requesting that the court appoint a psychological evaluator to evaluate everybody. To evaluate your son, because you want a neutral person to do that, but also to evaluate the mom, because you’ve only told me a tiny bit, so I certainly can’t diagnose her. But, it’s entirely possible that you are looking at a not that uncommon situation called Munchausen’s Syndrome by proxy. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that, but that is where a parent, typically it’s a parent-child situation where the parent continually has to believe there is something wrong with the child so that they can take them to doctors to fix them.
Caller #8: What kills me is that this has been going on for three or four years. She did take them to a church psychiatrist and another psychiatrist. But, what bothers me is she did this in 2005-2006. I didn’t find out until 2007-2008. The kids did not say anything to me. It was almost like hush, hush, hush. Personally, I know I’m on the radio right now, but it’s kind of like child abuse thing.
Anne: Don’t say that word!
Caller #8: You don’t do that to kids. They have no idea.
Anne: Right. So unfortunately, again you are kind of from Chicago, that’s going to be a very hard thing for you to do. You really need to be able to be in South Carolina and to file that action. That is what you would do there. The second best thing from Chicago is to get a lawyer in South Carolina to represent you, to style the paperwork, to request the evaluation, because really that’s the only way you are going to be able to stop this is to have the court intervene and have a court order saying stop taking the kid to the psychiatrist. The reality is after four years of going to a shrink when they didn’t need to, he probably needs to. Again, I guess that you have a job in Chicago, and it’s easy for me to say go to South Carolina when your job is in Chicago. Again if that is not an option for you, what you need to do is get a good lawyer in South Carolina. Recognize that you are going to have to travel to South Carolina for court appointments and for psychiatric evaluations, but that is going to be pretty much your only bet of getting her to stop this. Unless you think that you can creatively come up with it. With respect to the income tax issues I am assuming that your court order says that she has primary physical custody. Is that right?
Caller #8: We have joint custody.
Anne: Joint legal?
Caller #8: Joint legal. She is custodian for the children. We never agreed on any type of tax basis, but that is the way it has always been.
Anne: You don’t have to agree on a tax basis. Whoever has physical custody of the child in the order gets the tax write off. That is just how it is. That is the tax law. It’s unfair as all get out, but that is how it is. Now, when I practiced, and again I always keep my guys out of court whenever possible because as I said to the caller in Canada, men never do better in court than they do with what they can arrange out of court. I always draft it so that if there is one child they alternate tax years, and if there two kids they just split it or the alternate them both, because you can absolutely agree to anything. Unfortunately if you’ve got an order that gives her primary physical custody, that tax write-off is hers. That said, as you heard talk about being creative, there may still be ways that you can come up with that. For example, if it turns out that you’d get more back on the tax return than she gets because of being able to take the deduction, maybe you could offer to split that with her. Say, “Hey, give me the tax deduction every other year. I’m going to get a bigger return because of it and I’m going to give you some of that so you aren’t really going to be out that much.” Get creative with her. If you can start getting creative with her first, that may pave the way to you having dialogues with her about, “Look could you maybe ease off on the whole psychological thing.” But, otherwise you are going to have to get a lawyer in South Carolina. I’m getting the sign now that we have to move on, but good luck to you.
Bryan: Alright, well let’s keep going through our calls, so we can hopefully get through everybody before the night is over. We’ve got Leon in New York. Leon, you are on the air with Anne. What is your question?
Caller #9: Thank you very much. How are you, Anne?
Anne: Good evening, Leon. I’m well, thank you. How are you?
Caller #9: I’m doing pretty good too, thanks. I guess everyone’s issue is a complex issue. The question I have right now is about getting custody of my two boys. They live out of state. They’ve been out of state since 2003. I’m pretty much wondering how can I put together a case to attempt to get custody. I’ve tried in past with a lawyer. I’ve also tried without lawyers. It seems like whether I do it with a lawyer or without a lawyer I never seem to get over that hump. This is what’s basically happening now, at one point they were getting spankings and when I found out about that and going to court in Virginia I was able to get that stopped at least as far as I know. Their step-father was spanking them, their uncle was spanking them, and they would tell me that it hurts really, really bad. Their ages right now are 11 and 8. So, this was going on when they were younger like 6 and 4. So maybe a year or two back I got that to finally stop. Now, they are having to do some military type punishments where they have got to hold cans out with their arms stretched out straight. If their arms drop or they drop the cans or something they get popped. I think that is crazy to be doing to children. Number two issue I have right now with how my kids are being brought up pertains to the money. I give a pretty good amount of money for the support of my children through the court and my kids aren’t allowed or they aren’t being put into any activities that I think are important for children to be raised in, like going to sports, music, chess club, I taught my kids how to play chess when they were very young. There are a bunch of things that I think that they could be doing with the money that I’m sending but they pretty much, they go to school, they come home and they are playing video games. That’s it. I don’t understand. The courts are all about the best interest of the children, and I’m the guy going into the courtroom saying that I am going to get my kids involved in a lot of different things that are positive, how something like that can’t be another issue that I can bring up. Another thing is that I pay for their dental, medical, vision care. They never go to the dentist. I took them to the dentist one time when I had them in the summer time. My older guy had three cavities. One of them was really big. Dentist said that there was a chance that he would have had to do a baby root canal and that didn’t have to happen. But, again, it shows that there is some neglect going on there. I also feel that their minds are being warped and kind of daddy love you kind of a thing, and that kind of crap is going on. It just seems like their mother isn’t just completely wacked out, the court doesn’t seem to think that these issues are important because as long as the mother is getting money and the kids grow up to work in McD’s they feel like they’ve done their job. So, I’m basically asking you do I have a case here to try to get custody of my kids?
Anne: Alright, let me ask you this, how long has she had custody?
Caller #9: She has always had custody. We were never married. My oldest guy is 11, the youngest one is 8.
Anne: Ok, so you were never…she has had them in her custody their entire lives?
Caller #9: I would say there was maybe a year where we all lived in the same house but that was…
Anne: And the custody, she has an order for custody, right?
Caller #9: There is an order for custody. There is a visitation order. There is a support order.
Anne: Alright, first of all I’m going to answer your questions in reverse order. Thank you very much for the call, because you raised some very important issues. The first thing that I want to say to you is I understand that your heart must absolutely be breaking to think of your children under going those kinds of punishments or character builders depending on how they look at it. I hear you and I hear that that is not something that you agree with. I really feel for you. When it comes to how the money is used, you are absolutely right, that you have no say in it. The court will never give you a say in it. The court doesn’t really care. The money is for, even though the child support is for the children, it is given to the custodial parent with the assumption that the parent will do the best thing for the children. You and I both know that may not be what actually happens and of course you and I might differ about what’s best for the kids. I hear you that if you had them you would put them in chess club and you would do all of these things and now you feel like you are not using that money for that. But, the reality is that you are absolutely right. The court will not care about that at all. So, to bring that up to the court, as I mentioned to an earlier caller will just make you seem like you are trying to control your ex. In a sense you are but in the most benevolent sense. You are trying to make sure that your kids have all the best opportunities. The reality is the court will not care. It will only get the court angry at you if you try and bring that up. Generally speaking, absent abuse or something other that problematic, changing custody is very difficult to do even under the best of circumstances. First of all, the courts always want to keep the status quo. Partly it’s because they just don’t want to upset kids. If the kid is getting along ok, then uprooting them, that’s a big upheaval and that can really deleterious to the children. It doesn’t mean it is, especially if they are going to go to arguably a better place, but that is the reason the court will always opt to maintain the status quo again, absent abuse. Typically, especially as a father, the reality is the only way you are going to get a change of custody, contested, through the court is if you can prove abuse, or you can prove she is turning tricks in front of the kids while she is shooting drugs up. It really has to be that egregious. So, yeah, unfortunately I am going to tell you that your odds are pretty slim. That said, it is entirely possible that what they are doing rises to the level of abuse. I can’t know that. I’m not there. I’m not sure how you are getting the information, if you are getting it from the kids or you are hearing it from someone else. But, your best bet in this case would be to get a Virginia lawyer and talk to a Virginia lawyer, and not just any Virginia lawyer, but a Virginia lawyer that is right in that same area, so they will know how the court would view this thing. Every court has a different personality. It’s driven by the judges. It’s driven by the local mores and what is considered acceptable, the norms. It is really important particularly if you are trying to do something long distance, this goes to our previous caller too, he’s got kids in South Carolina and he’s in Chicago. It is important to talk to a lawyer that works in that system where the kids are so that you can know how that court is going to view this. It might not be the same way the court where you are would view it. Alright, Bryan, who do we have next?
Bryan: Well, we are winding down. We want to really say thank you to everybody that has held on the phone for so long. We’ve just had an amazing amount of callers. A lot of people have been waiting for a long time and we appreciate that. Next up we’ve got Barry from Spokane. Barry, you are on the air with Anne.
Caller #10: Hello.
Anne: Hi, Barry, how are you?
Caller #10: Well, actually, not very good. I called into the program quite a while ago actually, but that’s ok.
Anne: I’m so sorry. It’s been crazy.
Caller #10: No, no, no. It’s a big problem, Anne. I thought man, the lady sounds nice but I think she thinks the courts work and they don’t work, Anne.
Anne: (laughs) I know that.
Caller #10: Actually they do work for making them and their comrades money as far as I’m concerned. The caller that you spoke with, I’ve got pretty much a story, my story is every one of theirs put together. Except that they left out rape, theft, forgery…Munchausen’s, well she’s a nurse. That’s 50% of it. But they don’t care about my kids. The one caller was scared to say that they are child abusers. I’m not saying that. Not only am I not saying that my kids’ mom is not a child abuser, the psychologist is a child abuser, the judges are child abusers, and some of the lawyers are too. I do know some good ones here in town. But, still $100,000 and I can’t even see my kids. I don’t know where they are at. None of the people even looked at the paper work. She says my kids are liars and thieves, tells them that I am this and that and the other. It’s ridiculous out there.
Anne: It is. I never said that the courts work. In fact if you were listening you heard me say several times that I always try and keep my guys out of court.
Caller #10: I heard that and I go well that’s pretty good. But, you know my first lawyer, she kept me out of court and come to find out the mom forged a sperm doner contract and said that I donated my sperm and she artificially inseminated herself cause she’s a nurse. It only gets better from there.
Anne: Barry, do you have a question for me?
Caller #10: Like I said, I haven’t seen my kids. The mom took off with the kids and moved. She made them tell a psychologist that I touched them down there. But, then the stories escalated and she forged some paperwork with them and all that. She is crazy. But, do you think it is worth spending $500 more to file contempt on her for leaving? I don’t know where she’s at, but she took the kids and went. Cause I’m still trying to see my kids and get custody of them cause she is out to lunch.
Anne: I do not think you should spend any money filing contempt on her, because for the most part in family law court they really don’t care about that. They don’t care about perjury in family law court. They don’t usually care about contempt. But, I do think it is worth filing parental kidnapping charges against her. If you have an order that you are supposed to be able to see your kids and she took them off, took them away from you, then she has parentally kidnapped those kids.
Caller #10: Well, the psychologist said I couldn’t see them for a while. But, I’ve taken every test because I have a clear conscience, Anne. I’ve never done anything wrong. I fought CPS and won. I fought the police and won. I’ve passed polygraphs, psychological evaluations, and everything. They are just making me spend money. That is all they are doing. That is what they want. I filed custodial interference because she wouldn’t let me see my kids. The judge didn’t care. He had her daughter. She was trying to get off Oxycontin, so she was taking Methadone. The daughter gave it to a boy and killed him. The judge didn’t care about that. He cared more that I smoke weed once in a while. I’m a terrible person if I smoke weed every once in a while, Anne. But, it’s ok to take kids from their dad’s and send them all over. My kids have been going to psychologists for five years.
Anne: First of all, I absolutely feel for you. Second of all, I want to tell you that I actually was involved in a case that was extremely similar to this. I will tell you it didn’t have a good outcome. It had a better outcome on one level once we got involved. Once you are in that deep, any outcome is not going to be as perfect as it could have been had none of this all gone down. So what I want to do is give you the name and phone number of an absolutely incredible…she is an MFCC which in California stands for Marriage, Family and Children’s Counselor. I did a lot of work with her in cases involving false allegations of abuse and I have a feeling that if anyone could give you some good advice as to what to do next short of filing contempt charges, it would be her. So, I’m going to give this information to Bryan, my producer, and then he can give you that information. Alright?
Caller #10: I want to thank you, because it takes common sense to realize that there is a problem and you are trying to fix it. You are bucking the system. You know, she assaulted me and I called the cops on her after a few different times, cause I warned her, warned her, warned her, and they wanted to arrest me for being parked in her driveway for trespassing. It’s a rigged game and the male is always going to lose. It’s to the point where I am ready to say, I’m paying nothing. Cause I feel like I am paying for my children to be abused. I’m going to go downtown and say that I’m not paying for s**t no more.
Anne: Alright, Barry.
Bryan: We’re going to have to kill him there. This is a family show, ladies and gentlemen. So, we need to keep the language appropriate.
Anne: We don’t want to kill him though, we just…Would you please give him Miss Marx’s information?
Bryan: Yes. Barry, hang on the line and we will get the info to you in just a minute. We have a couple more callers lined up. Hannah, you are on the air with Anne.
Anne: Hi, Hannah!
Bryan: Well maybe Hannah did not stick around. Alright, let’s go to, well I guess people are dropping off now. Let’s see, Donald in Kentucky, how are you tonight?
Caller #11: I’m fine. How are you tonight?
Anne: Hi there, Donald. Thank you for hanging on.
Caller #11: Oh, it’s not a problem. Thank you for having the show.
Anne: What can I do for you? Absolutely.
Caller #11: Well I have a situation, I live in Kentucky. My child and ex-wife live in Niagara Falls, New York. I have a divorce decree that plainly says that both parties shall have unhindered phone access with the child when she is with the parent. Wife shall put the child on the phone for any call. Since October of 2009, I have logged about 100 missed phone calls. I have called the police department for surety checks, which I was advised by the police department to do. So, that should be on some kind of record. I am not able to access that record without a lawyer of course. My daughter has a cell phone that was purchased by my ex-wife’s now husband; she carries with her all the time. Her favorite activity is texting and talking on the cell phone of course. I am blocked. My mother is blocked. My sister is blocked. Everyone in my family is blocked from contacting my daughter, including myself and I haven’t talked to my daughter in now two months. I haven’t’ seen her since January of this year. I was wondering is it worth filing contempt charges with the courts to address the behavior with the mother? Because I can’t talk to the mother, every time I try to talk to the mother I end up having to talk to the husband and that’s the only way that I have gotten information over the last nine months about my daughter. Other than that, I don’t even know what she is doing. Any suggestions?
Anne: Well yes. So, you are in Kentucky and they are in Niagara Falls, right?
Caller #11: Correct.
Anne: Alright and is the order from New York or Kentucky?
Caller #11: It is from New York.
Anne: Alright, then what I would recommend that you do is you need a lawyer. You need to get yourself a lawyer in New York. You need to have them file for a modification of your contact order. That modification is based on the fact that they are not adhering to that current order. The thing that I would recommend to you is that you pull together records. You said you have this log of all these calls you’ve made and these times that you’ve had to call the police just to make sure that your kids are ok. Put that all together. Put that in a spread sheet and give that information to this lawyer that you are going to retain in New York so that they can go to the court and say, “Look this isn’t just something that he is making up. Here is every time he tried to call during the times he was supposed to have contact. Here is the number of the young lady and here is the fact that he can’t call. Give them all of that information. You should be able to get some relief, but you have to do it the right way. You have to have a lawyer in New York and you have to have them file there in the Niagara Falls court.
Caller #11: Ok.
Anne: Ok? Good luck to you. Thank you for calling and thank you for holding on so long on hold.
Caller #11: Thank you very much.
Anne: Alright. Well, Bryan, that has been a full show. I am just very heartened that so many people took time out of their Labor Day evening to talk with us. Bryan?
Bryan: Yeah, sorry. We’ve got so many callers, I’m having to jump through hoops to try to find people but it’s a mad house. Apparently you know what you are talking about, Anne, so that’s good.
Anne: You think?
Bryan: Next, we have BJ from Virginia but just let everybody know that we are going to start wrapping it up. So, unfortunately we can’t take any more callers. We have a few more in the queue we will get to, but if you don’t get a call in. You can send an e-mail to email@example.com and you can ask Anne your legal questions that way and she will get back to you. BJ in Virginia, you are on the air with Anne.
Caller #12: Hi, Anne. I appreciate your show. This has been very interesting to listen to tonight. I appreciate you offering this. I just wanted to say that you’ve mentioned consistently that men don’t get a very fair shake in court. I was a firm believer of that as well. I had a girlfriend and we had a child in 1997. She was pretty much cutting off access, refusing to let me see my son. Probably 10’s, 20’s, 50’s, and 1000’s of dollars later I do have him almost half the time. It is only because I’ve had to drag her into court and I guess I got a pretty good judge. That was it, just a comment.
Anne: Well, let me just say first of all, good on you. You are very fortunate that you were able to persist and that you had a good lawyer and a good judge. I am really, really pleased for you that it worked out that way. Hopefully whatever has happened in the past, you will be able, if you haven’t already to forge some sort of a working civil relationship with your child’s mother, because one of the most important things that people need to remember is that if you have a child with someone you will have to interact with them on some level until that child is at least 18, so you might as well make it as pleasant as possible. But, good on you, let me tell you that your child absolutely as they grow up and they achieve adulthood and look back, they’ll know, they’ll see that you really worked to make sure that you were able to stay actively involved in their lives. Let me take this opportunity to say to everybody listening, even in the case where your ex is telling your child ex lies about who you are or what you did or whether you love them or don’t love them, and even in a situation where it just seems so bleak, as long as you stay the course and as long as you always do the right thing, and as long as you don’t give up and you always try to be involved with your child’s life, kids have a really funny way of growing up and moving away. When they are out of that house where they are hearing those lies, they will eventually see the truth. More often than not, it is all going to backfire on that parent that was the one that was keeping the child from having a good relationship with both parents and at some point your child will know that you were trying hard to be with them, anyway, BJ, thank you so much for the call.
Bryan: Thank you, everybody, for the fantastic calls tonight. It’s really been an interesting evening. Anne, it has come up a couple of times where people just don’t know what to do, but let’s say that somebody is right at the beginning of this process. What is your top three things that they need to do to find themselves a good divorce attorney?
Bryan: Is that a quick question?
Anne: It’s a quick question. The question is, is it a quick answer? Here’s the thing, the best way to find a good lawyer…I’ll tell you what a good lawyer isn’t. A good lawyer is not a lawyer who tells you everything you want to hear when you interview them. There are lawyers who will do that. They will do that either because they don’t know any better because they are not that familiar with working with fathers. Or they will do that because they want your retainer and they figure once you are working with them they will tell you how it really is. There are any number of reasons that a lawyer might do that, but a lawyer who will tell you everything you want to hear instead of the reality, you don’t want that. You want to know the truth, no matter how unpalatable it may be. You need to know the reality, because only when you know the reality can you actually start to deal with it. This may sound very self-serving, but my recommendation would be before you even retain a lawyer, get my book. Yeah, truthfully I don’t make a whole lot from that book, so it’s not like I’m trying to line my pockets. But, the information that is in there is distilled from my years of practice working only with fathers. Personally I like to think that it’s got some good information in it. That book is available right on Amazon. You can just go on Amazon and search surviving divorce and my name Anne Mitchell. It should pull it right up. It’s a quick read. It’s only $15. That will give you a very good sense of what you are facing in whatever situation you have. The reason that I am recommending that is cause that is how you will know when you interview a lawyer whether they are telling you what you want to hear, or whether they are actually telling it to you right. So, I would recommend getting that book. If you don’t want to, that is totally fine, it’s just an option to help you really prepare yourself. Find a lawyer. Interview a few lawyers and go with the one that A) you feel really is telling it like it is, not what you want to hear, and B) that you have a good connection with. Let me tell you why this is so important. It is important that you feel confident in that lawyer because you are going to have to trust them implicitly with something even more important than your life. You are going to have to trust them with your children’s lives. So, you are really going to have to feel like they are telling you the truth and they know what they are talking about because you are going to have to take directions from them and you are going to have to be able to feel confident that you can do what they say. Now, how do you find those lawyers to interview? The very best way is start asking everyone you know. If you start asking everyone you know that’s been through a divorce say, “Hey who did you use? Who did your ex use? Were you happy with them? What did you think of the job that your ex’s lawyer did for them? Would you recommend them? What, you haven’t been through a divorce? Wow, that’s great. Do you know anyone that has; maybe they can recommend a lawyer?” This is what you might say to someone you know maybe if that person hasn’t been through a divorce, maybe they know someone who has and they can find out what lawyer they used. The best way to find a good lawyer is through word of mouth. The worst way to find a lawyer is picking up the yellow pages. That’s pretty much the worst way to find a lawyer, is through advertising. So, definitely ask around, ask people and be prepared ahead of time so that you have some idea of what to expect.
Bryan: Ok, Anne, well thank you very much for being our expert this week and taking on that. Next week we’ve got a great show with Dr. Robert Rudman. It that correct? The orthodontist.
Anne: That is absolutely correct. I also just want to remind people that they can leave a voicemail at the 877-NYKRADIO number. Please, please, go to our nowyouknowradio.com website and like us on our facebook page through the website. So you can find out about all the upcoming shows at nowyouknowradio.com and while you are there click like on our facebook page please.
Bryan: Alright. See you next week, Anne.
Anne: See you, Bryan. Happy Labor Day.
Anne P. Mitchell’s book, “Surviving Divorce and Custody Issues”
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