DAVID PISARRA

Archive for September, 2008|Monthly archive page

Fathers Should Get An Automatic 50% Child Custody

In Child Custody Issues, Child Support, Parental Alienation, Strategy Issues on September 24, 2008 at 9:21 am

Here’s an extract from my weekly column,  “What’s the Point?” which appears on Tuesdays in the Santa Monica Daily Press. Original column here.

 When a man is first told he is going to be a father, naturally the expectations of what the future will look like pop into his head. He may think of fishing trips and baseball games, ballet recitals and happy holiday memories being created. 

At first he and mom, are getting along great, they both agree on what needs to be done to properly raise a child. Mom’s in charge a lot, at first, because of the necessity to breastfeed, attend to the endless needs of a newborn and her own maternal instincts. This works at first, but it also sets a pattern for dad’s relationship with the child. Mom’s in charge and dad does what mom says to provide for the growth and well-being of the newborn. 

That pattern continues, and hopefully in healthy relationships the parties begin to equalize as the baby becomes a toddler and mom can back off and dad can take on a stronger role.

But not always. Sometimes, the relationship stays imbalanced, those are the ones I think I was seeing this weekend – the detached fathers who have stepped back from an active role in their family, and that’s a shame. They should be contributing and directing the growth and setting the boundaries for their children as much as Mom, if not more.

Sometimes a divorce happens. Then the parties have to come up with a written agreement on how to parent their child. Most parents don’t have too much conflict over this. Thanks to a common heritage, or at least a common set of desires, the Parenting Plan can fairly easily be agreed to. Mom gets Mother’s Day, Dad gets Father’s day, they alternate the big holidays, etc. 

Sometimes though, there is the Grand Battle Royale. Where one parent doesn’t want to share the child. Usually it is mom, who is too attached to her child, and she feels that Dad is a bad influence, lacks parenting skills, is too indulgent, or too strict, “he never shows up on time, he never returns the child on time”, and the most common complaint is that “he has a new girlfriend who is inappropriate.”

This is where the Parenting Plan becomes the roadmap of your relationship, not only with your child, but with your ex. The Parenting Plan will determine when you as a father have time with your child. If you have a cooperative ex, this can be a very flexible agreement, as simple as, “we’ll share the kids”, other times you need to have an excruciatingly specific plan.  This plan will determine how much, how long and how often you have to interact with your ex and your child. If she’s still angry and bitter, the more specific the plan, the easier it will be to have a court, or the police enforce it, and that means the fewer headaches dad will have.

Married dads don’t get to spend a lot of time with their kids, divorced dads get even less. There are few years in which a father has the opportunity to have any long lasting positive effect on his children, he should spend what few hours he has, really making a difference. That’s why I think that more fathers should step up to the plate and take a stronger role in their children’s life. It should be mandatory that if you divorce and have kids, you automatically have the kids 50% of the time.

That wont be popular among many divorced moms, partly because they are still angry, and for some, because they don’t want to see a reduction in their child support. But the reality is that, as a society, we need to have more men, acting like men, and teaching their children what it means to be a man, and that includes their daughters. So that they know what to expect of their future spouses.

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Father Wins Celebrity Child Custody Battle

In Child Custody Issues, Parental Alienation, Strategy Issues on September 24, 2008 at 7:55 am

Celebrity Sharon Stone has lost a bid to have her son moved from his stable father’s permanent custody to the circus that is Los Angeles.

The ruling said,  

“Court finds that [Bronstein] can provide a more structured continuity, stable, secure and consistent home.”

Read the full Daily News article here: Sharon Stone Loses Custody Of Son

As usual the headlines make it look like she is the victim, but in reality the child is the winner, by having a stable home life away from the craziness that is the life of a celebrity. Here’s a father who is obviously stepping up to the parenting plate and doing his job.  The court said that absent a change in circumstance, the custody will remain the way it is.  This is typical, and I’ve seen it be the standard in the Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura and Orange County courts. The reason why is that once a situation is set, courts are very reluctant to make changes to child custody, as stability is the goal in the child’s life.

Parental Alienation Loses Round One In Court

In Child Custody Issues, Parental Alienation, Strategy Issues on September 22, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Here’s the latest on Big Daddy and the Psycho Case: 


     I had a win last week, well, as much as anyone wins in the Family Courts. One of the fathers that I’ve been representing for the past 9 months had the value of his relationship to his child validated by the courts. This is a man who is going through an agonizing divorce and child custody battle. We’ve been in court a dozen times seeking and fighting restraining orders, custody orders, visitation enforcements.

     The mom has done everything in her power to prevent dad from seeing his 2 1/2 year old daughter. For 10 weeks she denied him visitation, before he hired me. She has used the Nuclear Option in custody battles and alleged that there sexual molestation by the father, on absolutely no evidence.

     Finally the court ordered an independent evaluation of the respective parenting skills of the parent, which involved full psychological evaluation of all parties. The report came back heavily weighted in favor of my client, and so, in a last ditch effort to alienate the father from his daughter, mom decided she “had to move” out of state.

     Thankfully the judge saw this case, after all the court appearances, and the psychology, for what it was. A mother doing everything she could to rid dad from his daughters life, and he put a stop to it. She can move, but if she does, dad gets full custody here in California. Suddenly she doesn’t quite “need to” anymore.

     This was nothing more than what is called Parental Alienation syndrome and it is is a hot button issue, and which side you come down on, is very much determined by whether you are the parent who is trying to destroy any relationship between your kids and your ex, which frequently masquerades as “protecting the children”, or whether you are the ex, the “target”.

     It is a pattern of behavior that creates fear, anxiety and distrust of the target parent. Frequently it is the mother, but it could be either parent, who tries in subtle, and sometimes not so subtle ways, to create a wedge in the relationship between parent and child.

     The subject is difficult to identify because of what the alienator does, as an example, “Susie, I want you call me as soon as you get to daddy’s house. You know you can ALWAYS call me if you need me.”  On the surface this looks like mom is just being a concerned mother. But the underlying message is that “Dad’s is not a safe environment for you and I’m concerned for your welfare.”

     Many judges, lawyers, therapists, counselors and evaluators will not see this as an example of PAS, but when comments like that pile up, it begins to create a wedge between child and parent. The goal of the alienating parent is to destroy the relationship between parent and child, so that in a child custody case, full custody is given to one parent in contravention of the other’s rights. Father’s already have a hard time with this, as they are usually not the primary caregiver, so already their relationship is being minimized due to time constraints.

     This topic was widely covered in the media in April of 2007, when Kim Basinger released a private family phone call from the father of her daughter, Alec Baldwin. This was a clear attempt at parental alienation, and was in my opinion a wholly inappropriate and mean spirited thing to do. Mr. Baldwin has a book coming out today about his trials and tribulations in Family Court, called “A Promise to Ourselves”. as he said in his public apology,  I have been driven to the edge by parental alienation for many years now. You have to go through this to understand. (Although I hope you never do.)

     It is a common belief that men don’t love their children as much as women. Well, in the case I’ve dubbed ‘Big Daddy and the Psycho’, he drives 2 1/2 hours each way, twice a week, to spend 2 hours with his daughter, and every other week he makes that trip a third time, to pick up the baby for a weekend visit. He spends 10 hours a week in traffic, to see his child for a mere 4 hours a week.

     Dads can be, and are, dedicated parents also.

Is Pornography Cheating?

In Uncategorized on September 19, 2008 at 11:39 am

The folks over at DIVORCE360.COM have a poll going, which shows that right now, 56% of the 62 respondents don’t think so. Take the poll here. 

I don’t think it’s cheating, but I do think it can become a substitute for dealing with a spouse and escaping or avoiding the real problems in a relatioship. Comments?

How To Pay For An Attorney When You’re Strapped For Cash

In Child Custody Issues, Child Support, Property Issues, Spousal Support, Strategy Issues on September 19, 2008 at 5:46 am

We all know the joke about why divorce is so expensive – because it’s worth it. 

Living in Los Angeles, everything is expensive, and these days cash is getting tight for many people. As the cash crunch gets tighter more relationships are breaking up. When couples start fighting over money, usually the lack of it, the divorce is not far off.

It is at this critical time that you most need to have the advice and counsel of a good lawyer, one who is experienced and knows the courts, which means they are going to charge for their time. Time is how an attorney charges for their knowledge. 

In California clients can hire family law attorneys and give them what is called the Family Law Attorneys Real Property Lien. This is a way for you to access your home’s equity, without having to put out too much of your cash today. Frequently lawyers will take a case with a smaller retainer, if they have the protection of the Family Law Attorneys Real Property Lien.

Think of it like a home equity line for your defense. It’s a way for you to get the representation you need today, to make sure you have something left tomorrow. The way it works is you and your attorney agree that they will be paid out of your half of the community property equity in the home, if you don’t pay your bill otherwise.

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Suing for Sexually Transmitted Diseases

In Spousal Support, Strategy Issues on September 18, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Sometimes when a spouse wanders and cheats, they bring home more than a smile, and when that happens, it’s a dead giveaway that they’ve been cheating.  Finding out your spouse is a tramp is bad enough, but when you get a sexually transmitted disease (an STD) to boot, it really makes you angry. One woman decided to sue her ex for $25,000,000 yes, 25 MILLION DOLLARS!  Most cases are not that juicy, but if you want to read up on it, check out this article I’m quoted in at DIVORCE360.COM.

 

Child Custody Battles – Parental Alienation Resource

In Child Custody Issues, Parental Alienation, Strategy Issues on September 18, 2008 at 2:31 pm

Here’s a Parental Alienation resource for telling your side of the story. The folks at www.keepingfamiliesconnected.org are not just building a website, they are living the horror of Parental Alienation. They built this site to help others deal with the pain of the loss, and to hopefully create a roadway back to their children and their lives. It’s a great idea, and they’ve done a wonderul job of setting up an example of what a parent who is fighting for the right to see their kids should do. The video is a great example of a father’s devotion.

If you’re a dad who is experiencing the loss of a child through Parental Alienation, creating a website here, might be the way that your kids can  reunite with you as they grow up.  Parental Alienation Resource

Changing Child Custody – The Uphill Battle

In Child Custody Issues, Child Support, Parental Alienation, Strategy Issues on September 18, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Here’s the deal – the Courts are lazy. Especially Family Law courts dealing with child custody and visitation matters. The Family Law courts here in Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange and Ventura counties are very slow to act unless there is a true emergency.

Not that they don’t want to work, but they don’t want to change things too much. They like the status quo, the situation as it stands, keep things calm and even. There’s a reason for this, and it almost makes sense. They know that kids need to have stability, and if you’re in the middle of a divorce or a bitter child custody battle, changing things all the time is not good for the children.

The court in general does not want to interfere in the lives of the people in front of it more than it has to. The more specific an order has to be, the harder it is on the judge, but also, it takes away from the realities of life. When an unexpected situation occurs, and it always will, the court wants the people involved to be able to cooperate and be flexible, to find a resolution that will work, without the court involved.

Sometimes that is possible, sometimes not.

This is why in some child custody cases, we have very short Parenting Plans, and other times, every possibility is covered, and it is still not enough.

So what does it take to change Child Custody? Generally it takes a “material change in circumstance.” That means something big has to have changed in either the child’s life, or the parent’s life. For example, Mom got a new boyfriend and they moved in together and he’s a violent alcoholic, or little Bobby is switching up to high school and it’s closer to Dad’s house.

Many times the child wants to live with dad, and depending on their age, that may be enough, if the situation is a healthy one and they are not simply rebelling at mom’s discipline.

But the bottom line is it is an uphill battle, because as mom’s custodial time goes down, so does her child support, and that is frequently her reason for fighting a change in custody. That, combined with the courts resistance to change, makes changing child custody an uphill battle.

This is also why some moms use Parental Alienation to increase their hold over their kids. It’s a brutal, emotionally traumatizing action, and it effects the child as much as it effects the dad.

Child custody battles are not right, fair or even intelligent, but they are the way they are. And men need to know the facts about changing custody and visitation, and to fight for their rights on those grounds.

CHILD SUPPORT ADVICE

In Child Custody Issues, Child Support, Strategy Issues on September 10, 2008 at 2:06 pm

When it comes to Child Support, it’s a hot issue for men. They have to pay, but have no control over how it is spent, that is a constant source of complaint for men. Mom uses “my kids money” for her nails, her hair, or her yoga. Well, sorry bout that, but there’s nothing you can do. So with that in mind, here are three things you CAN do: 

1) PAY BY CHECK – Checks are important because they give you a permanent record of what has been paid. Cash, and Money Orders are easily forgotten about, lost, and don’t have a paper trail. Keep your old, cancelled checks until you have signed release from the mom that you have paid all your child support, and I mean ALL.

2) BE CLEAR IN YOUR AGREEMENT WHAT YOU PAY FOR –  The court will make you pay support, because it goes for things like food, utilities, clothes, but you need to be clear on what you must pay for “In Addition” to the child support.

3) ACCEPT THAT YOU MUST PAY IT – You don’t have a choice over how it is spent, it’s is Mom’s to do with as she needs. You’re better off just making sure you pay it on time, keep a record and forget about it. If your kid needs something, and mom’s not buying it, man up and do it yourself without complaint.

Parental Alienation – What is it?

In Child Custody Issues, Child Support, Parental Alienation, Strategy Issues on September 9, 2008 at 11:26 pm

The topic of Parental Alienation syndrome is a hot button issue, and frankly what side you come down on, is very much determined by whether you are the parent who is trying to destroy any relationship between your kids and your ex, or whether you are the ex.

In a nutshell, it is when a parent, usually the mother, tries in subtle, and sometimes not so subtle ways, to create a wedge in the relationship betwen father and child. Professionals across the spectrum argue over what constitutes it, but a great resource for a parent who is concerned, is www.breakthroughparenting.com, Dr. Jayne Majors is an expert at spotting it, and giving men the tools they need to combat it.

Here’s an example of what a mom does  that is TEXTBOOK PARENTAL ALIENATION, “Susie, I want you call me as soon as you get to daddy’s house. You know you can ALWAYS call me if you need me.”  ON the surfact this looks like mom is just being a concerned mother. but the underlying message is that “Dad’s is not a safe environment for you and I’m concerned for your welfare.”

Many judges, lawyers, therpasts, counselors and evaluators will not see this as an example of PAS, but when comments like that pile up, it begins to create a wedge between child and parent. The goal of the alienating parent is to destroy the relationship between father and child, so that in a child custody case, full custody is given to mom in contravention of the father’s rights.

This is a big topic and it covers manys subject areas, many of my posts are tagged with PAS, as they all relate to it somehow.