Thursday, December 30, 2004

Checking out the fruitcake shrinks

I started looking into the court-recommended therapists. One of them is Judy D. Zappacosta. She specializes in sandplay therapy. I had never heard of it, and found this description from the developer of the concept:
The client is given the possibility, by means of figures and the arrangement of the sand in the area bounded by the sandbox, to set up a world corresponding to his or her inner state. In this manner, through free, creative play, unconscious processes are made visible in a three-dimensional form and a pictorial world comparable to the dream experience. Through a series of images that take shape in this way, the process of individuation described by C. G. Jung is stimulated and brought to fruition. ...

"Sandplay" is the method I use in therapy both with children and with adults in order to gain access to the contents of the unconscious. As the name suggests, it consists in playing in a specially proportioned sandbox (approximately 19.5 x 28.5 x 2.75 inches; floor and sides painted with water-resistant bright-blue paint). Boxes of dry and moist sand are provided. Clients also have at their disposal a number of small figures with which they give formal realization to their internal worlds. The figures from which they can choose should represent as complete as possible a cross-section of all inanimate and animate beings which we encounter in the external world as well as in the inner imaginative world: trees, plants, stones, marbles, mosaics, wild and domesticated animals, ordinary women and men pursuing various activities, soldiers, fairytale figures, religious figures from diverse cultural spheres, houses, fountains, bridges, ships, vehicles, etc.
So I am accused of letting my kids run loose in Kids R Us, and the court orders me to see a crackpot shrink to play in the sand?! These people have gone mad.

Another recommended shrink describes her practice this way:
I have had a mixed practice for 30+ years; working with men with emotional and intimacy issues, adults with relationship problems, anxiey and /or depression issues, and couples communication problems. I also specialize with suicidal adolecents and young adults and work with children 9-years and older. 20%-30% of my practice is of a Forensic nature for Family Court as an Evaluator, Expert Witness, Consultant, Co-parent Counselor, and Special Master. I also am the Psychologist Consultant for San Jose PD's Domestic Violence & Stalking/Threat Center.
My kids are aged 5 and 7, and they are definitely not suicidal.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Child visits strip club

A reader sends this North Carolina story:
Cary Dad In Trouble For Taking 4-Year-Old To Strip Club

CARY, N.C. -- A Cary man could be charged with neglect for taking his 4-year-old son to a strip club.

The boy's mother said her son went to Pure Gold in Cary on Christmas Eve while in his father's custody.

Child Protective Services and the Cary Police Department are investigating.
I am not sure what to make of this. It sounds odd and inappropriate, but I do not think that it is criminal neglect. Child neglect laws are designed to make sure that kids get necessary food and shelter. They aren't written to punish odd behavior.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The evil of court psychologists

I am thinking about writing as essay that explains all the things wrong with the way the family courts use psychologists. There are lots of books and articles that explain what's wrong with the family courts pretty well, but I haven't seen any that explain the evil of using psychologists.

For a court to ask a psychologist how I should raise my kids is about like asking an economist how I should spend my money. The supposed experts may have plenty of academic knowledge, but that knowledge says little about the choices ordinary people make every day.

Court psychologists have become like judge and jury. This article says:
You're only going to get ONE chance to do well on the Parenting Evaluation. Once the parenting evaluation is over, it's over. Evaluators almost NEVER go back and change the final recommendations in the evaluation report. To do so would open up all the previous reports they've done to reinterpretation, as well as all the future reports they're going to do.
If that's true, why do we have lawyers and judges?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Innocence Is No Defense

Bob sends this Reason magazine article with horror stories about how the laws against deadbeat dads are abused. Here's one:
That’s how a man like Taron James could be slapped with a support bill for thousands of dollars from Los Angeles County in 2002, and continue to be barred from using his notary public license, even after producing convincing DNA evidence and notarized testimony from the mother that her 11-year-old son, whom he’s seen exactly once and looks nothing like, is not his child and that she no longer seeks his support. James says his name was placed on the child’s birth certificate without his consent while he was on a Navy tour of duty; then the mother refused to take blood tests for eight years, and he became aware of a default order against him only when the Department of Motor Vehicles refused to issue him a driver’s license in October 1996. By that time, James had missed all the relevant deadlines, the court was unimpressed with his tale of woe, and he has since coughed up $14,000 in child support via liens and garnishments.
I think that all those deadbeat dad laws should be repealed. In fact, I am suspicious about anyone who even uses the term deadbeat dad.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

A generation of risk-takers

A reader named Bob forwards this message:
Subject: We Who Survived

TO THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED the 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O. K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no internet or internet chat rooms.......... WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live in us forever.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!

Little league had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS! Please pass this on to others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives 'for our own good.'

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!
The court-appointed custody evalutators do not seem to understand this message at all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Paying for non-existent child

I have heard of fathers paying child support for someone else's child, but this New Mexico story tells of a man who paid for a child that doesn't even exist!
After Barreras was hauled into court, peppered with threats and demands for money for a child he adamantly denied fathering five years ago and even paid out $20,000 to support, his ex-wife was under a judge’s order to produce the child.

So last week, Viola Trevino picked up a 2-year-old girl and her grandmother off the street, promised them a trip to see Santa Claus and $50 and took the girl to court, alleging it was her daughter. ...

The elaborate ruse stretched over five years and involved fake DNA evidence, a forged Social Security number and birth and baptismal certificates, court records show.

Last week, state District Judge Linda Vanzi ruled the child did not exist.
If a man committed fraud like that, he'd be in jail. She was only able to commit the fraud because she had the assistance of state agencies who were eager to punish men based on flimsy evidence.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Feminist wife can be ticking bomb

The Feminasty blog starts with a good essay about how a woman who first marries in her thirties becomes a ticking bomb. It sounds like he speaks from bitter experience.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Wife cancels vacation just to spite me

I just called my father-in-law, and he confirmed that my wife and kids cancelled their Florida visit and Caribbean cruise. He was mad. He accused me of ruining their Christmas, as he had bought tickets for all his 4 kids and 8 grandchildren. He said that she couldn't go because I wouldn't sign the papers. I told him that I had signed the papers, and he said that he didn't believe it. Then he said, "I hope that she doesn't treat you the way that you have treated her", and he hung up on me.

I am stunned. I expected my wife to go, whether she had a signed agreement or not. She had gotten the kids very excited about the trip, and their were counting down the days.

All I wanted was the opportunity to take our kids on a trip to visit my relatives. The court order provides for splitting the Christmas vacation 50-50, so don't know why she might object to that. She never even gave me an answer, so I don't really know if she objected or not. I called her several times on Friday evening, and left messages on her home answering machine and cellphone voicemail, telling her that I had a signed agreement waiting for her.

My father would say that she cut off her nose to spite her face.

My father-in-law is not entirely innocent in this matter. He was the one who paid the legal fees associated to my wife's motion for "sole legal custody" of our kids. That was the single most destructive act in our whole divorce court mess. Up until that point, he had always been good to me. I made one attempt to explain to him the damage that he was doing, but he wouldn't hear of it, and just told me to go get my own lawyer.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

A military punishment story

A reader named Bob tells a story about an American soldier with an attitude problem. He was assigned to stable-cleaning duty, and he was doing fine until he got caught with the colonel's 14-year-old daughter. So he was court-marshalled. At his trial, he bragged about not only doing the colonel's daughter, but also his wife and his horse, and that the horse was the best of the three. Instead of finishing the trial and sentencing him to a military prison, they just told him to go away and not come back.

I found this story inspiring, in a odd sort of way.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Vacation permission

My wife wants to leave with the kids on vacation tomorrow, but she has so far failed to get an appropriate amendment to our custody schedule signed. She refused to deal directly with me, and turned it over to the lawyer.

Her law firm sent this about 3 days ago:
Mr. AngryDad: AngryWife informed Jennifer Gray that she provided you with an itinerary for the Caribbean cruise this morning. Ms. Gray has drafted a proposed stipulation and order that she would like for you to review. Please review and contact Ms. Gray as soon as possible with your comments. Thank you.
I responded:
Here is my counter-proposal.

This is an agreement between George AngryDad and AngryWife AngryDad to modify a court-ordered custody schedule.
AngryWife has been planning a vacation for over a year. On Dec. 6, she told George that she intends to take the kids on a trip from Dec. 11 to 20. That conflicts with a week of school and with five days of George's scheduled access to the kids. On Dec. 7 AngryWife finally sent George her itinerary, which include a Caribbean cruise to the Cayman Islands, Mexico, Belize, and Tampa. AngryWife gave no explanation for not informing George and the court earlier.

George consents to the trip, on the condition that he is also allowed 10 days with the kids on dates of his choosing. The remaining portion of the Christmas holidays is to be divided equally.
My wife's lawyer, Ms. Gray, sent these responses yesterday and today:
Mr. AngryDad:
I received your proposed stipulation. I have not had an opportunity to review the contents of the proposal with Ms. MaidenName. I will not be going to court this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. to seek an emergency order from the court allowing Ms. MaidenName to go on vacation with your daughters. As of this e-mail, based on your objection, Ms. MaidenName and the children are not permitted to travel on December 11, 2004, unless you both agree to a stipulation in writing.

Mr. AngryDad:
As you know, the two of you may agree in writing to modify the present custody arrangement to allow Ms. MaidenName to travel with the children. You assisted in obtaining birth certificates for the children in November, in preparation for this trip. You did not voice any objection to the trip until this week. As a parent, you understand why the trip is important for the children because you took the girls to visit with your family earlier this year. The children will miss visiting with their grandparents and extended family. We offered alternatives for making up any time you miss with the girls.
At this time, the decision to cancel their trip arises out of your actions. If you wish to remedy the situation for the benefit of your children, you will need to contact Ms. MaidenName and advise her that she may go on the trip. Otherwise, she will stay in Santa Cruz and the present schedule remains in effect.
I sent the following, and got no reply:
Ms. Gray, I am disappointed that you continue to tell lies in an apparent effort to sabotage AngryWife's trip.

It is not true that I voiced an objection to the trip this week. I never voiced any objection, except to point out the necessity of complying with the court order.

It is also not true that you "offered alternatives for making up any time [that I] miss with the girls."

It is also not true that any decision to cancel the trip would arise from my actions. The only impediment to her trip is the Nov. 16 court order that you and AngryWife supported. I vigorously objected to that order, and I refuse to take any responsibility for it. If you don't like the order, then I wish that you'd complain to the court about it, and stop complaining to me about it.

In spite of your tactics, I have attempted to make the trip possible by proposing a reasonable agreement that AngryWife and I could sign. You acknowledged receipt of it, but you have refused to say whether or not the proposal is acceptable.

I have already advised AngryWife that you have been lying to her, and that she can easily take the kids on the vacation by just bypassing you and signing an agreement with me.
Her scheduled flight is 10 am tomorrow. I don't know what she is going to do.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

California law specifies equal custody

A reader named Bob thinks that he has a solution to some of these family court problems. He says that when two people get married, they should agree to a contract that governs the dissolution of the marriage, including child custody. Then the family court would just have to apply the contract.

But we have that system already. Marriage is just a standardized contract, with the terms spelled out by the state. Couples are free to sign some pre-nuptial agreement, if they wish to modify that contract.

The California Family Code states:
3010. (a) The mother of an unemancipated minor child and the father, if presumed to be the father under Section 7611, are equally entitled to the custody of the child.

3020. (b) The Legislature finds and declares that it is the public policy of this state to assure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage, or ended their relationship, and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy ...
So the California marriage contract already specifies that child custody will be divided equally in case of divorce. The trouble is that the family courts refuse to take this language seriously, and use all sorts of crazy arguments to sabotage equal custody.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Modifying a court schedule

My wife successfully got a court-ordered custody schedule to her liking about 3 weeks ago, and now she has discovered that it conflicts with her long-planned Carribbean cruise. She has tickets to leave this weekend.

She first realized her problem on Monday evening, and tried to get me to give her permission over the phone. I had to explain to her that under the order she advocated, she has to give me an itinerary in advance, and to execute a signed agreement modifying the schedule. The next day she talked to her lawyer. She refused to send me an itinerary, and the lawyer tried to schedule an emergency court hearing to get some judge to approve the vacation.

I tried to tell my wife that we can get out from under the court order if only she is willing to settle the case. She said no.

I insisted on an itinerary, and my wife finally sent one yesterday. She plans to go on a 10-day trip, including a cruise out of Tampa to Grand Cayman, Mexico, and Belize. She and her lawyer have finally admitted that their court order can only be modified by a written and signed agreement. Her lawyer finally drafted a proposed agreement and emailed it to me at 3:27 pm. By 4:00, my wife was already complaining that I hadn't signed it yet.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Good book on fatherhood

I just started reading Warren Farrell's book, Father and Child Reunion, and it looks quite good. I'll have more comments later. I was published in Jan. 2001, but I just got a copy.

It paraphrases Norman Mailer as saying:
You never know your wife until you meet her in court.
Yes. I already knew that she was capable of betrayal, but her court actions have really stunned me.

(According to some net sources say, the actual Mailer quote is, "You don't know anything about a woman until you meet her in court.")

Monday, December 06, 2004

My daughter should act her age

A couple of days ago, my 7-year-old daughter said:
The problem with [my sister] is that she acts like a 10-year-old. She should act her age. She is only 5 years old, and she should act like a 5-year-old.
I didn't tell the kids, but this is actually an extremely serious problem for them. Both kids do indeed behave with a high level of maturity that is very uncommon for kids of those ages. It seems like proof of good parenting to me. But to the court-appointed psychologist, it is proof of my "unorthodox" parenting, and just another reason to send me off to a re-education camp. In other words, I must be punished and the kids must lose a father, because they are too well behaved.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Defining eating disorders

This NY Times article describes how wacky psychologists struggle with definitions of eating disorders:
Imagine a 20-year-old woman who refuses to eat anything except carrots and toast because she is afraid of gaining weight, even though she is 5-foot-8 and weighs only 99 pounds. She exercises to the point of exhaustion five mornings a week because, though she is bone-thin, she thinks her thighs are too flabby. Her periods are irregular, but she has never gone more than three months without menstruating.

Another woman, who is also 20 and also 5-foot-8, has an opposite eating pattern. She goes without eating all day, and starting at 6 p.m. she eats nonstop, whatever she can get her hands on. Her favorite pastime is to sit in front of the television with a gallon of mocha-chip ice cream. She maintains a normal weight of 130 by occasionally forcing herself to vomit. But purging is not always easy in her college dormitory, with four young women sharing a single bathroom, so she ends up vomiting, on average, about once a week.

Everyone can agree that these women have some sort of disordered eating.

But psychiatrists would say that neither one falls into the strict definition of anorexia nervosa, the most severe eating disorder, or its relative, bulimia nervosa. According to the bible of psychiatric diagnosis, the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, anorexia must be accompanied by cessation of menstrual periods for at least three months in a row, and bulimia must involve vomiting or other forms of purging at least two times a week, on average.

Instead these women, and thousands like them, would fall into a category that doctors have been relying on for years, a vague nondiagnosis known by the acronym Ednos: eating disorder not otherwise specified.
My court-appointed psychologist thinks that I have a "vegetable of the month" disorder. I don't see it listed in the manuals anywhere.