Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Adoption”

Another Heart Broken

As usual with this subject of the post, I must offer the following disclaimer due to trolls that stalk my page…


I think I made this perfectly clear.

In divorce, there are two types of parents when it comes to custody.  Parents who want to be in their child’s lives, and those who do not.  And while statistics may show an overwhelming bias against one parent over another, the critical point remains that a child who starts off with two parents, needs both of those parents, regardless of gender, even after divorce.  This post is not about a mother or father who does not care.

As an adult child of divorce, I am especially sensitive to the relationships between children and parents during a divorce.  And having been divorced, I must deal with issues as the parent, as well as memories of my childhood, or lack of.  So the things I say, I do not take lightly, but most certainly, take sincerely.

Today, I received an email from a reader, who happens to be a father.  Like the majority of my followers here, I do not know identities (except for some of the trolls that I have figured out).  Given the details of the email, I know this email is the real deal.  An email such as this will end one of two ways, the parent is given some additional support to see things can get better, perhaps a direction how.  The other result, as far as I am concerned, 100% unacceptable, the loss of the parent from the child’s life.  This occurs most likely through either suicide, or surrendering their rights as a parent.  In either way, the system clearly fails if this is how not just this father’s story ends, but any parent.

Ask any parent whose child has passed away due to either illness or accident, the hole left if their heart will never heal.  And though the situation is different, constructing a narrative that causes the destruction between a parent and their child, even though both remain physically alive, creates a similar feeling of loss.  Some may recover from this neglectful and abusive behavior.  For some, this ends up as permanent, as if the child had actually died.

This father writes me, to mention that he has decided to surrender his parental rights, no longer able to sustain the fight for his children, financially, emotionally, or physically.  As is often the case, custody cases can easily approach six figures, emotions can take one step forward only to take two steps backward, and the wear and tear on the body from the stress may never be able to recover from.  Clearly to this father, and he did not state which of the three factors, or a combination of all of them, led him to this point.

As I said, I will not discuss my own custody issues, but I do what I can to encourage others, both mothers and fathers to work things out, for the sake of children.  And I do this not as a divorced father, but as I mentioned, as an adult child of divorce.  It is a relatively new concept, or concern, because all of this time, attention has always been paid to the lives of the children, assuming that once in adulthood, all would be good.  Well, except for the glaring statistic of divorce rates of children from divorced families.

In communicating with this father, I found myself dealing with a new issue, that even through my own situation, I never recognized as an option.  But I was going to convey it to this father, the decision he wanted to make was going to be a huge mistake to not only him, but to his children.

My father made decisions that he made in my young childhood.  I had always made it a point to not know what happened between he and my mother, because whatever happened between them, should have made no difference to me.  In the end, it did, because my father would eventually make the decision to “disappear.”  He never surrendered his rights to me.  But even with an ultimatum leveled on him at my high school graduation, he still made his decision, and it was one that could never be taken back.

Now, obviously, the picture above, clearly shows that my dad and I did eventually make up.  We had a very special relationship, the rebuild caused by a tragic event.  The first half of my life with, rather, without my father, was gone.  There was no getting any of it back.  But with grandchildren that loved him very much, it gave my father and I a much needed opportunity to heal.  And in the end, I forgave my father, and loved him for doing what he could for his grandchildren.  All these years later, I still do not know, why things happened the way that they did.

I have several friends who were divorced, and now have grown children.  I have heard their stories of those who gave up, and those who fought, and fought, and fought.  And the only true regret that I have ever heard,  was from those who did “walk away.”

And then I felt myself dealing with a new issue, that I had never felt before.  And this emotion would be the catalyst for how I would encourage this father, do not give up.  Though I got the opportunity to make amends with my father, and spend some valuable time and memories, there was one issue that was never, and will never get the chance to be cleared up.  And it is something that will last me, as long as I live, because he is no longer here to defend himself.

From the time my children were adopted, through the beginning of the divorce, to today, my children know me as the loving father I have always been.  As of late, geographically things are not convenient, but my children know that I will always be there for them and will do everything I can to help them, no matter where I am.

And here was the new issue.  My father did not.  And he lived less than twenty minutes from me growing up.  He not only was responsible for the decision to spend time with me or not, but he also chose not to fight for that right either.  And this is now the issue I struggle with.  It is one thing for me to be able to proclaim that I will never give up my rights as father to my children, it is another that my Father did not.  And for that, I cannot forgive him.

And that is what I tried to get across to this father.  Giving up must never be an option.  I get it.  Our bodies take a horrible beating from the stress and financial toll of this fight.  But that does not even compare to a child will never forgive you for “giving up.”

Should we have to fight til our last heartbeat for our children?  No.  And fortunately, states are now realizing the relationships between parents and their children need help, and are changing the law to allow these changes to take place.  It is a slow process, but it is happening.

I do not know the age of this man’s children, but they sound young.  He has lost everything in fighting for his custody, and likely will not recover any time soon.  But the ultimate loss will come if he stops fighting for his children.  I have no idea how my father felt making the decision that he did.  But I do know that I did not want this father to find out either.

As I wrote this post, I received an email from someone else.  And this father had just won his custody fight, a very long one.  It turns out, that he was good at documenting, and presented the judge with an overwhelming amount of documentation that showed how relentless the other parent was, in trying to take the kids away from him, no intention of co-parenting, or even letting the children be in his life.  Seriously, if you have to try this hard to prevent your children from seeing their other parent, you are using your children as pawns or weapons.  Shame on you.  And you need to know, it will never be the other parent that will pay for that, it will be the offending parent that is despised by the child, no matter how much the denial.  It will happen.

I asked the email owner if I could forward it to the other writer, who could definitely use some encouragement.

Look, if you walk away from your child, know that is something you will never get back.  But if you truly love your children, you do not ever give up any fight for them.  Giving up is never an option.

Happier Times Remembered In Hong Kong

Being an adoptive parent of an international child, I have an understanding as well as at least some experience understanding the culture of the country where my daughters come from.  During my first trip to China, I learned first hand, the many misconceptions that I had about the country, and learned some new things as well.

Knowing that I would be travelling out of the country, I notified the bank of the credit card that I would be using for the trip, that purchases would indeed be showing up, in person, outside of the US, during a certain time period.  At that point, I thought I had taken care of everything.  I was ready to go.

To match my enthusiasm, I received good news from the adoption agency, that the trip was being moved up three days earlier.  I definitely had no problem becoming a Dad officially sooner.

We landed at the Hong Kong airport and were met by our guide for this brief leg of the trip before heading to mainland China.  We made our way to the hotel at the airport to get as good a night sleep as we could.  More good news.  Instead of meeting our children two days later, we were going to fly into mainland China, check in to the hotel, and then proceed right away to meet our children.  It is impossible to describe the excitement.

I got to enjoy that excitement approximately ten minutes.  As it was my turn to check in to the hotel, and handed over my credit card to secure my room, the attendant behind the counter responded, “card declined.”  Not sure what I had heard, I just automatically told him to “try it again.”  His response was the same.  Panicked, because I had taken care of everything to make sure the card worked before I left, I demanded “try again.”  The third time was not the charm, as it was declined again.  Long story short, eventually after 3 stressful days, the confusion would be straightened out, but for the purposes of this post, that is a different story.

It was at that time that I learned about Hong Kong, a former property of Brittain, that although Hong Kong is considered a “free” country, it is also part of China.  The expression goes, “one country, two systems.”  Obviously, the one system being a democratic free society even with its own currency, the other Communist.  Yes, people, Communism still exists though today the word “dictatorship” is more commonly used.  Either way, Hong Kong is considered part of China.

What I had cleared with my credit card company, was that I would be travelling to China on a certain date.  But remember, I traveled three days earlier than I was scheduled, and unknowing to the fact, that Hong Kong would be considered separate from China.  Two different facts than I had presented to my credit card bank.  And it made a difference as the bank killed my credit card after trying to check into the hotel.

That is why, when I overheard the news about protests at the Hong Kong airport, and many countries issuing warnings about travel to Hong Kong, I wanted to find out more what was happening.  And though Hong Kong is on the other side of the world, the events occurring right now should be of concern to Americans.  Because the people of Hong Kong are fighting for one thing and one thing only, their freedom.

For the most part, protesters have been peaceful, just numerous in size and gathering.  Admittedly, there have been reports of some clashing between authorities, and at least five deaths recorded (all suicides).

As I said, Hong Kong, while part of Communist China, is considered a “free country”.  The issue at hand, is that China wants to issue an extradition policy that would result in offenders in Hong Kong, being extradited to mainland China to face their charges.  Again, China is Communist, and their courts and punishments are often at the center of human right violations.  And this is what the people of Hong Kong are fighting to prevent.

I am sure that there have been other issues between Hong Kong and China, but this is one that is grabbing international headlines.  Given China’s size and power, it is likely that the policy will be instituted, which will only be another chip away at the democracy that the people of Hong Kong have been enjoying for so long.

I have so many happy memories of Hong Kong.  And having been through the airport, I have a crystal clear image of the chaos and crowds now filling the airport.  The islands of Hong Kong, yes, they are islands, are beautiful with the architecturally unique skyscrapers, peaceful temples and statues, all the while an excitement of many other big cities.

I hope that this current crisis in Hong Kong gets resolved, and resolved as peacefully as possible.  But as the people of Hong Kong will tell you, freedom is worth fighting for.

Shared Custody – Is Another State About To Do The Right Thing?

One of the best news stories to come across my news feed in a long time, is that it appears another state, is about to join many others in a major movement, making “shared parenting”, or 50/50 custody, the presumed position when it comes to figuring child custody.  In Pennsylvania, HB1397 was introduced on May 6th, which will hopefully be approved, making a long overdo correction to Title 23 of Pennsylvania custody law.

Title 23 breaks down to seven different types of custody, and unless both parents involved in the divorce can agree, the custody is decided by the judge via one of these seven types:

  1.  shared physical custody – the child gets equal time with both parents, just as the child had when the parents were still married
  2.   primary physical custody – one parent has a majority of the physical custody according to the calendar year (often referred to the custodial parent)
  3.   partial physical custody – one parent has a less amount of time with the child according to the calendar year (often referred to as the non-custodial parent)
  4.   sole physical custody – the most extreme custody, denying any custody of the other parent
  5.   supervised physical custody – the result of high conflict activity in the divorce or other legal issues with one of the parents
  6.   shared legal custody – both parents have the same rights to medical and educational records and appointments (only as good as the cooperation of the parents)
  7.   sole legal custody – as with the physical, an extreme ruling that takes away the rights of the other parent

As you can see, none of these take into consideration the rights of the child to have equal access to both parents.  What exactly did either parent do to the child, for the child not to have the equal rights to both parents in divorce, as when the parents were married?  The answer?  Most likely nothing.  The decisions are usually based on several other factors before the child’s needs.

  1.  attorneys that feed off of high conflict divorce resulting in rich paydays (many times averaging between $50,000-$100,000 just for the original order, not including modifications that become necessary)
  2.   proven or assumed risks to the child by a parent’s behavior (such as drugs, violence, etc.)
  3.   revenge by the parent on the receiving end of the divorce filing

Only one of those three things actually address the concern or safety of the child.  The other two are strictly selfish, and quite honestly, harmful to the child.

But under current guidelines, this is how decisions are made.  And it is up to the parent on the shorter end of the stick, to prove their worth to have any more custody time or rights, even when that parent has done nothing wrong.  The current law presumes only one parent should have the majority of the rights, even though in marriage, there were no issues.  And it is up to the other parent to fight to restore their rights… as long as they can afford to.

HB1397 in Pennsylvania will do what so many other states have done after realizing that children need both parents, even in divorce.  It will assume the rights to be equal for both parents as the starting point.  This is a win for the children.  It is a win for the many parents often on the end unable to see, or limited in time with their children.  Of course, those against, the lawyers who will lose money in less high conflict battles for custody, and parents who only seek to destroy the natural bond between the other parent and their child.

HB1397 is a start.  It needs to get passed and join the other states in this right for the children.  But two other issues that need to be addressed and gaining attention rapidly, co-parenting and parental alienation.

Co-parenting is literally what it spells.  It is raising the child in the same manner as when the mother and father were married.  It means making sure that a child (or children) are prepared for the switching of households from one parent to another.  Both parents are on the same page when it comes to medical care and issues of hygiene and puberty.  Co-parenting is continuing to raise the children with the same rules as they had always known, especially behavior.  Educational needs are still necessary to be supported equally by both parents, as well as family gathering or other special activities that both parents need to be, and should attend, whether school related or extra curricular.  And finally, the most important factor of co-parenting, communication.  Co-parenting is not one parent telling the other how it is going to be, but rather seeking input, for what they jointly feel is best for the child.  Communication makes sure that there are no scheduling conflicts, or issues that may get out of hand before the other parent is notified and involved.

Co-parenting is not trying to get an edge over the other parent for favorite status with the child.  Co-parenting is not seeking vengeance for the hurt of the end of the marriage.  Co-parenting is not about using the children to make the other parent suffer.  Co-parenting is not about finding ways to gain additional custody time, or worse, turn the child against the other parent.  Co-parenting is not about quizzing the child about the other parent, or asking the child to keep secrets.  Co-parenting is not using the children as messengers to carry conversations back and forth if the parents cannot do it themselves.  Co-parenting is not manipulating the child financially or emotionally.  Co-parenting is not eavesdropping on conversations.  Co-parenting is not notifying the other parent when an event or medical issue has taken place after it has happened.

HB1397 will hopefully pass.  This will also hopefully be the step forward to reducing the amount of conflict that arises in custody issues.  Yes, there will be situations that need to be addressed by the courts, but not at the expenses of the innocent parents who have done nothing to lose their parental rights, or the children to lose their rights to equal time with both parents.

Parental Alienation… that is a post of its own.

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