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Advice by Andrew Carlan within the context it was given 


The following contains information provided by Andrew Carlan. I left Andrew's message intact, because I felt that the full impact of what he said must be understood in the context in which he stated it. In my search for explanations of the mess that we fathers are in, I feel that Andrew's comments are the most realistic summary that I have seen so far.

I inserted a few comments of my own; they are shown in italics between sets of brackets, []:

Return-Path: acarlan@pipeline.com
Date: Tue, 6 Aug 1996 04:13:09 GMT
Subject: Some Modest Tips Learned The Hard Way  

This discussion was started by Charles Bongiova, a Utah social worker and full-time father who was kind enough to include me in  his extensive e-mail list.  I felt compelled to answer him from what I know about the situation in New York.  I replied to him. He has given me permission to use to reply to his list and add some further tips of my own.

The content of this post doesn't exactly follow the chronology of the discussion.  I felt it important to highlight Thanks Gerald L. Rowles report on the President's get-tough-with-fathers speech first, because Clinton repeats all the harmful cliches in a transparently hypocritical way. If anyone wants to ask me additional questions or has another point of view, please do contact me at acarlan@pipeline.com.

Many of you got these-mail messages from fathers struggling to do the right thing.  They still have faith that ultimately virtue is respected and rewarded by our courts.

That's what President Clinton wants us to believe. All our family problems are the result of divorced fathers being malingers.

He said:

    "There's a lot more work we need to do with young parents, principally young fathers, by helping them understand what their responsibilities are and then structuring opportunities for them to fulfill it. But we can just begin by collecting the child support. "

Preach the sermon of persuasion but don't forget to pass around the collection basket reinforced by a loaded gun.

     "And there are a lot of single-parent families in this country today where the single parent's doing a fine job. And since I lived in one for a time in my life, I'm proud to say that I know that can happen."

Ask Paula Jones.  Ask special prosecutor Kenneth Star.  Hell, ask Hillary whether Clinton should be proud.  Clinton is probably the worst argument for single parent families since Oedipus. He is such a political animal he doesn't even know how ridiculous this unctuousness sounds to much of the country.

    "I'm pleased to announce today that the Postal Service...is going to post wanted lists of parents [read fathers] who owe support...A judge has made a determination that the payment can be made. Now, [such a list] may seem cruel to you, but people take it as routine to walk in the Post Office and see somebody who robs a bank or a 7-11. As bad as that is, if nobody's hurt it's not as bad as robbing our children of their future. That's the biggest robbery of all."

And the basest robbing of our children of their future is to separate them from their fathers, which Clinton has done more to foster than any recent President.

Thanks to Gerald L. Rowles, Ph.D. President, DA*DI who recommends visiting the American Fathers Coalition at: www.dadi.org/clinton.htm and also suggests that you let Clinton know how you feel at feedback@www.Whitehouse.gov.

Charles Bongiova, a Utah social worker and full-time father began this dialogue suggesting "Men, even if you don't suspect any abuse what so ever your kids are worth the 10 minutes it takes to ask your local pharmacy for records.  One may find a treasure of information. [For clarification: Charles Bongiova made the visit to the pharmacy to obtain a record of prescriptions issued for his family, for his income tax return. He apparently found that his wife was a drug addict and used that information in court. I don't remember whether it actually helped his case. I would be surprised if it did.]

I [Andrew Carlan] wrote back:

Perhaps you should be thankful you are not a [resident] of New York State. I am a lawyer here and was through a traumatic divorce and family bustup many years ago.

The authors of New York's no-fault divorce law were themselves so horrified with the way their intent has been twisted by the feminist-fearing New York courts and legislature that they finally burst out "in New York the only way a women could possibly lose custody of the children would be to have the children serve her and her boyfriend beer while naked in bed." They wouldn't even bet that that would be enough.

Our Constitutional tradition has become a transparent joke in this state. We no longer have law that is consistent and predictable but rather court opinions by the seat of the pants.

Good luck to you.

Andrew E. Carlan
acarlan@pipeline.com

[Charles Bongiova] in turn answered:

    I always thought of moving our case to New York if I felt like I was definitely going to lose.  But thanks to your advice, I won't be seeing New York too soon.  Frank Sinatra said it perfectly when he said "Keep spreading the news" Thanks for the info.

 If we men had a truly effective legal grapevine of lawyers and laymen such news would be no surprise.

I received a reply from a New Yorker confirming what may to some unfamiliar with New York courts might otherwise make my later comments
seem wild.

    "The examiner  has ruled that the gross income from my S-Corp. is  to be considered my personal gross income and he has disallowed ALL corporate business expenses,  including payroll, comp, taxes, costs of goods sold, etc. In one 15 minute hearing I went from  being current in support payments to being $20,000  in arrears.

    "I am told by an attorney who knows  the examiner that I stand an 80% chance of being  sentenced to jail."

    "My  company is a very small company with two employees,  myself included. If I am locked up we would have to  close the doors within a few days."

    "I have a personal attorney, a corporate attorney,  and a very competent CPA. They are all absolutely  dumbfounded at the turn of events and of the examiners unwillingness to accept the corp. for  what it is, a small struggling business. Is there no protection against an absurd decision? Do I have any channels of recourse I outside of the  standard "appeal and wait"?"

Unbelievably, this examiner apparently has convinced himself he is helping widows and orphans.  He needs a good basic course in economics and psychology. It is easy to grant more and more support and alimony. It is easy to sentence the goose-keeper to jail. The hard thing is to get him to turn the goose into a neurotic wreck trying to lay more eggs than is possible and expect that will increase production while sending this goose tender to jail. They actually think the goose-keeper is tricking them when egg output drops rather than rising.

President Clinton apparently has difficulty comprehending the subtitles of egg-laying. That is surprising since Arkansas is covered border to border with chicken droppings thanks to Governor Clinton's enlightened environmental policies, designed to insure children would grow up healthy.

A Pennsylvanian wrote the kind of notes you love to read:

    The District Attorney in Lebanon Co. Pa who prosecutes fathers...lost his petition and his children are in California, which makes weekend visits and softball games a little tough. Sadly we haven't  had enough legislators who have had their hearts torn out to  have this trend reverse ......yet.

MY MODEST TIPS AGAINST SUCH ORDEALS

by Andrew Carlan

I had answers from men in so many different states it would be risky to give specific advise.  But here are some general observations I have picked up over the years that you may find helpful.

  1. Although I may not have any better answer than some of your more experienced specialists, one thing that separates me from them is that I certainly would never be dumbfounded at the injustice done by the courts, especially Family Court to men.  Any incredible thing is not only possible, it is probable.  Insist your attorney be prepared for it and have some strategy ready to minimize or postpone its effects.

    [Good advice. I wish I would have had it before our break-up. All I managed, too late in the game, at a stage when the coming divorce was apparently inevitable, was to put a hold on all avenues for the ex to obtain credit. I had two jobs at the time. It was never enough. She
    always spent more than was coming in and we were constantly only a few days away from bankruptcy. To put things into perspective, in today's dollars [1997 dollars] my combined gross income was in the order of $120,000/year and the ex spent $700.00/month just on pop, cigarettes, candies etc., at a time when that exceeded the monthly income level of many people.]

  2. I wouldn't go near Family Court with a male client.  I would use every forum-shopping device to at least get the case before what in New York is known as the Supreme Court, which in most other states is called Superior Court or County Court.  Family courts were established and operate with a political agenda and under political pressure.  It is not a court in the sense in which our Anglo-American system means justice under the common law and our Constitution. 

    [I was told by Edmonton lawyers that their nickname for Family Court is "Kangaroo Court"]

    Neither common sense, sound legal arguments and certainly not being in the right have any relevance here for the male.  The normal procedure is reversed.
        First the judgment is rendered and then the trial is held as window dressing.  Since Family Court usually has limited jurisdiction try to resolve all your financial and custody matters initially in courts of general jurisdiction and do everything possible to keep away from your ex-wife so she has as few excuses to drag you into a quasi-criminal inquisition in Family Court.  The entire staff of Family Court from the judge down to lowliest clerk are paid out of your taxes to provide support for the female.

    [Good advice, and very true. I don't know whether Vern's case is to be tried in Edmonton, but the judge who was instrumental in getting the system set up and going was Judge Marjorie Bouker, a feminist. I do remember that when I fought my battles there, virtually all court workers were being addressed with Ms. I have learned that I never can trust any woman who calls herself Ms.  My fate and that of my children was being decided before I even had the first interview with the "Family Court worker."  All the judges did after they read her report, if they even read it, was to rubber-stamp it.]

  3. Men deserve the opportunity to choose attorneys who have the courage to openly doubt the system is willing to deliver equal justice to fathers and men.  Such men are weeded out in law school, in the essay portion of state law boards or in the admission process euphemistically called Character and Fitness.  This is particularly true of men who struggle to enter the profession later in life and have a track record, usually of pro se activity growing out of their own divorce and custody battles.

    [That is true here in Canada too.  A number of fathers who were forced  into representing themselves in court found that they made progress in their cases, far more so than they did when they could still "afford" to have lawyers represent them.  Some of them carried  on with their study of the law to become paralegals who provide help to other fathers fighting for the right to be parents to their children.]

        An expose of this phenomenon is running current in the National Law Journal and can be accessed at http://www.lijextra.com/news/disbarmyth.htm (The article is no longer accessible at that address. —WHS)

  4. Painful as it may be, for some the wisest course may be to husband your resources and not contest for custody unless you are very wealthy or have political connections.  Concentrate on creating a successful, fulfilling life for yourself and when your children reach an age where they begin to think for themselves they will gravitate to the more emotionally and financially stable and mature parent.  When children reach about twelve years old there is little the courts can do.  The teen has more immunity from the bigoted judges than anyone else, including your attorney.  The rhetorical question "where do tigers sleep?" is answered "wherever they want."  You may still have problems--which I won't go into here--but they won't be with your children and you will have money to deal with those problems. Money moves courts.

    [This I see as the heart of the good advice that Andrew has to offer. I have added at the end a message that I wrote in reply to this observation by Andrew. One observation of my own may be important here too. I found that in the hearings during which I presented myself, even with very limited documentation, I had more success in getting my points considered than I had in *any* hearing where a lawyer represented me. The worst thing to become involved in is an affidavit war. Those are extremely costly, are based on anything that the ex can scratch up in the way of allegations, and have no apparent ending to the good for the father. They should be totally avoided.]

  5. Anticipate your wife's filing for divorce.
  1. Start planning your strategy before your wife even files.  Women do it all the time.  Men have a habit of ignoring obvious warning signs. Remember, it is much harder to climb out of a hole you have dug for yourself than to fall in to begin with.

    [At the first sign of marital problems, assume that your wife *will* at the very least become your enemy and that of your whole family. It is much, much safer to assume that stance than to give her the benefit of the doubt.]

  2. Get professional help before any legal action commences.  Secure your funds.  Once she files, make no voluntary payments.  The court will use your generosity as a yardstick of what you are capable of paying.  Your kindness will be turned against you.

    [True. I totally agree! I have seen quite a few instances where that was exactly the case. You hold out your hand to help and you'll lose it.]

  3. Do not abandon the premises even out of misplaced consideration for the children to avoid exposing them to hostility.  Before the courts take your family hostage, take the kids and go somewhere.  (If this seems to contradict the advise above to relinquish your children initially, some fathers will accept poverty and humiliation before they will give up their children.  This advise is for these martyrs.)

  4. Don't depend on an appeal reversing the idiocy of the trial courts. It is the appellate courts who have taught the trial courts the idiocy. There is an infamous New York case in which a decent lawyer named Meyerson moved out because his little son was being destroyed emotionally by the fighting.   
         The trial court decided properly. According to the appellate court, Meyerson was guilty of constructive abandonment. He lost his son.  Apparently, the judges had never read about the wisdom of Solomon.

  1. One of the those who wrote to me had the most promising observation. The prosecutor who tormented fathers in turn was prosecuted when his wife divorced him and left him without his family and funds.  Our writer observes that he hopes this happens to more and more elected males. EXACTLY.

    1. This is NOT a philosophical battle.  This is not a battle between good and evil.  This is a battle of greed and power.  Fathers and men will only regain their rights if they become one-issue voters. Pit the parties against each other over the gender split.  Make them choose sides.  Vote for your side.

      [Most of all, never accept anyone's claim that all of the decisions that are being made against you are being made for the good of the children. The correct assumption is that all of the decisions are being made only for the good of your ex!]

    2. Not all women are feminists.  Fewer men sympathize with the feminists than the number of women who sympathize with men. We just are too lazy to organize.  We don't have to.  All that is necessary is for a few wealthy men who have been screwed by the system is to invest big money in key races.

    3. Vote against Clinton [or the favorite politician of your choice: insert the name of your choice here] simply because he supports the feminist agenda.  DON'T EXPLAIN YOURSELF.  Imitate lawyers. Be enigmatic.  "No comment" is the wisest answer.  Ignore the media and the politicians.  Don't argue with them.  Most of all don't expect that telling your story will evoke sympathy. 

      [It won't. The most sympathy that you'll get from 99% of people,
      including your friends, is that "it takes two to fight".  You'll be totally on your own.  But, I wish I would have been able to find some support by a Fathers Rights group at the time. There were none that I could find.  Now that is a bit better]


      Just vote.

    4. No women ever lost her children because of an "immoral" act. The only time your wife is likely to lose is if your attorney knows the  judge and the judge owes your attorney a favor.

  2. Keep reminding yourself that virtue is NOT its own reward in the legal system.  Judges are notorious womanizers and female staff and attorneys exploit their sexuality and then holler that the legal profession harasses women attorneys and personnel.

  3. Only in rare cases is it better to "opt out" and enter into a "voluntary" separation agreement dissolving the marriage and arranging for support, custody and visitation.  Separation agreements are supposed to be contracts.  There is a concept called "overreaching" that can be used to invalidate any  contract..   It is almost unheard of outside of family law.
        People are presumed to know what they are doing.  But it is very frequently granted [as an excuse to] the wiliest female [that she didn't], often long after she has squeezed all the juice out of the contract. Usually alimony and child support are raised and visitation decreased under a change of circumstances.  Contracted limits on where she may locate to protect visitation are nullified by the courts.  New York highest court just struck down retroactively in one sweeping gesture that key restriction on the custodial mother in many separation agreements.

  4. But nothing is black and white.  IF YOU REALLY DO know your ex and she is a reasonable person and wants to get on with her life,

    [It is far safer to assume that you don't know her. Even if you think that you do know her, consider that as soon as she considers filing any action against you she does have a plenitude of help from all kind of sectors in the judicial and welfare system, none of which is available to you. It is a fight of an enormously powerful and willful system against *you*. The ex only initiates the declaration of war.]

    both will benefit from avoiding expensive and nerve-racking litigation.  But remember she can change.  If she does, you will be left holding the bag.

    [If a survey were to be made to verify that last statement, it would probably be found to be true in more than 90% of cases.]

Andrew Carlan
Attorney-At-Large

The following is the reply that I made to Andrew with respect to his 4th point.

Hello Andrew,

Your message was received by me, the first ever from you, and I would like to thank you for sending it. I hope to see more of your writing and thoughts.

The tips given in your message concur with many of the thoughts that I had developed in my own mind over the years since the break-up of my family in 1975. In fact, the tips given by you should be considered good advice by many people who are currently in a situation of family break-up, or -- unbeknownst to them -- are running the risk of being in that situation at some time in the future. For that reason, I would like to ask for your permission to re-post your tips.

There is one aspect of the advice that you have given in point 4 of your message that requires realistic assessment though. Generally, I agree with everything that you have stated there, particularly with the statement "Concentrate on creating a successful, fulfilling life for yourself and when your children reach an age where they begin to think for themselves they will gravitate to the more emotionally and financially stable and mature parent." That *will* happen, and in my experience it has, partially.

What one has to be aware of is, that after a separation of children from their father for a considerable number of years, at the age at which they have reached the maturity that you mentioned they are finished adults that developed for much of their formative years without any influence on their character by their father. The father may not necessarily like the results of the development of his children without his influence.

In the case of those of my children whom I had very little contact with over the years, the results are quite interesting, but not necessarily appealing to me. The two daughters, now mothers in their own rights, are fairly close to me and quite open in any discussions of personal concerns with me. The three surviving sons are typical Generation-X types, and I have a very hard time adjusting to that. As a father who grew up in a loving and large family that produced nothing but children who in turn developed families who were also loving and caring--who now also produced those kind families again--, with the notable exception of the family started by me and my ex, I find it very difficult to accept the life style adopted by my sons.

One of the sons has become a father of two. The other two have decided not to become fathers. All three have jobs and are in secure income positions, primarily because they are always willing to take on any jobs that are offered. But, none of them is committed in any way to society. They are social drifters without any concerns for the future of society. They have little concern for each other, definitely no feelings of brotherly love or regard for any of their siblings. All three of them seem to feel that society owes them a living and they want to take advantage of all the things that society can provide without having to give anything back in return. It appears that they have no concern for me. The gravitating to the more mature and economically secure parent that you have mentioned has in their case not occurred.

That is hard to accept. They are all in their late 30's now. I doubt it that they will ever be as close to me as they once were, not even remotely. Two of them I have not seen now for a number of years. One I see very infrequently, about once every year or two. Physical distance is not the cause of that, emotional distance is.

Up to now I have managed to avoid criticizing their life style. Although I had come very close to doing that a little while ago, I now doubt that I will ever do so in the future. The reason for that is that we have in effect become strangers, definitely somewhat less emotionally attached than acquaintances. One is not inclined to offer criticism to strangers. Besides, they do have good memories of the portion of our lives that we were permitted to live together. Why disturb that?

I offer these thoughts for your consideration.

All the best,

Walter H. Schneider

______________

Update 2008: My sons are now ten years older. They have matured and have stable families, with two of them having children.  However, the emotional remoteness prevails.

One of my daughters told me a few years ago: "Dad, you must be proud of all of us.  None of us are playing the divorce game."

Yes, I am proud of all of them, but I sure wish we were all closer, physically and emotionally.  That may be changing, very slowly.  After an interval of 30 years during which I met my youngest son just twice, for a total of two hours, we met for two full days last year and had a good time together.  We now write one another more often and speak on the phone now and then, but how much time will remain for that?  I am 72 years old.

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