11 years without seeing your child brings the strongest men to their knees
In 2017, it had been 9 years since I had seen or held my beautiful daughter in my arms. That last time was February 13th, 2008. I fought several times until 2013 until finally giving in to defeat. I accepted that I would never see my daughter again. My place in her life was dumbed down to simply a paycheck. I had to sit and watch her believe someone else was her father. Unless you are in this situation you will never understand the pain and torment you endure feeling this way.
In 2012, when I accepted that I would never be able to be in my daughter’s life, I left Idaho. For 5 years I hated myself for not being able to be there. I thought of her every single day of my life. So in 2017, I made the decision to give up everything I had in Texas and move back to fight. I just had to be able to see her again and knew it wasn’t going to be easy. My life in Texas was nice but it wasn’t good enough knowing I wasn’t with my daughter. I spent all my money to move back in January and bought a home in Idaho. That was the first step, I still had to get the money to actually fight which took over a year.
In May of 2019, I got the financial ability to start my case. I was so confident. I thought to myself that I’m a good person. A decorated combat veteran and a successful professional, a homeowner and a financially stable person. I could provide my daughter the life she deserves. What court would deny a loving father whose only fault was being too poor to fight a biased system against an ex who hated me for the simple fact that we just didn’t work out? This is about the child, right? I never felt so nieve in my life.
In June, we had our first hearing. My ex had responded to the affidavit with lies and comments trying to simply destroy my character where I was just trying to focus on my daughter, ignoring the past, in mine. I still held my confidence high… until I entered the courtroom. I was absolutely destroyed. Regardless of anything on the affidavit. I wasn’t there, I served my country honorably but I still wasn’t there, I tried to fight several times for 5 years but I still wasn’t there. I wasn’t there. It’s something that is even to this day brought up constantly as I prepare to go trial, it rings in my head like a woodpecker on my soul. I left that courtroom shocked, distraught, outraged, saddened, it was a cocktail of emotions. Why would a judge, whose job is to protect children, ignore everything? Everyone was baffled.
The initial ruling was reunification counseling, however, if my daughter wanted nothing to do with me then my rights would be terminated. For over a month I was terrified. Life was a living hell for me as I awaited the outcome of this. On July 11th, I received word that my daughter was informed about the process. I collapsed when I read this email, with tears in my eyes, because after all this time my daughter knew that I existed. Come to find out, 3 years prior, she actually found out about me and wanted to know more about me but that was refused by her mother and stepfather. At that moment, though, life was great. I expected the process to go slow with reunification counseling but I got even greater news.
On August 1st, I was told that my daughter wanted to meet me! Words cannot even describe how I felt. I was scheduled to see her again, after 11 years, on August 7th. That first session was amazing. The first thing I told my attorney was “I saw her this morning. I am still in such a state of aww right now because she is such an amazing young woman!” Of course, there was pushback from her mother and stepfather trying to say that it was moving too fast, but that didn’t stop the process. Over the next 4 months, which has felt like an eternity, we have grown to have a very close bond and friendship. I feel extremely lucky and blessed for that.
At this point, for the sake of confidentiality, I cannot say everything that has happened until at least after the trial. However, the entire process has been a giant battle. My daughter and I are extremely close now and parental alienation is starting to happen. It isn’t very successful, except for the fact that my ex is in complete control, and it’s emotionally and psychologically affecting my daughter.
A child should not be forced to choose which parent to love
After witnessing the real effects this can have on a child, regardless of age, it does terrible things. There are several concerns I have that there is just absolutely nothing I can do about, except be supportive and loving. Regardless of what my ex did to me, the years of my daughter’s life she stole from me, I still want my daughter to have a functional, healthy, and loving relationship with both her mother and stepfather. I suffered from parental alienation and hated my father for false reasons. I understand, very personally, the effect it can have on a child. My daughter and I have so much in common and every minute we spend together is amazing. Even though the therapist has recommended, and my daughter has requested, more communication, we still only get to see and talk once a week.
According to the Martin Law Firm, there are seventeen common behaviors of parental alienation.
- Badmouthing the other parent
- Limiting Contact between the child and the other parent
- Interfering with communication between the child and the other parent
- Interfering with symbolic communication
- Withdrawal of love and approval
- Telling the child that the other parent does not love him or her
- Forcing the child to choose between parents
- Telling the child that the other parent is dangerous
- Confiding in the child
- Forcing the child to reject the other parent
- Asking the child to spy on the other parent
- Asking the child to keep secrets from the other parent
- Referring to the other parent by his or her first name and encouraging the child to do the same
- Referring to a stepparent/new significant other as “mom” or “dad” and encouraging the child to do the same
- Withholding medical, academic, or other important information from the other parent and not including that parent’s contact information on relevant documents
- Changing the child’s name to eliminate the association with the other parent
- Undermining the authority of the target (other) parent and cultivating dependency on the favored parent
Of those 17 items, knowingly to me, my ex is exhibiting 11 of these items. I will not refer to which ones. However, 11 out of 17. We are all guilty of accidentally doing things like this. I can be honest and say that looking at this list I’ve exhibited 2 of them a few times without realizing it. However, 11 out of 17 is no accident.
Be there to support and love the child, not replace their actual parent
This is an issue that I do not see mentioned enough. Something constantly posted by fathers’ rights groups is how much easier it is to be a stepparent over being a real parent in a separated family. There is nothing wrong with being a stepparent or having a stepparent. I have a stepfather that raised me since I was 2 years old, I have a stepmother who showed support and loved me unconditionally. I love them both to death. However, from an early age, my stepfather tried to counteract the things my mother would tell me about my father. He encouraged a relationship with my father, he supported it, he was there for me. This is how a truly loving parent would act, regardless of biology.
Then you have the other side, which happened in my case. I found out very shortly after my daughter’s mother started dating her now-husband that he would tell people my daughter was his. I would get asked by people if she was my daughter or not because of what they heard from him. This is toxic stepparenting. If this isn’t a proper terminology, it should be. This is selfish, this is not true parental love. Parenting is not a competition. Let me say that again, Parenting is not a competition.
If my daughter’s stepfather truly loved my daughter the way a father would love a child, they would not want to hinder or support the refusal of her knowing her biological father. Of someone who tried to be there, who wanted to be there, who spent years telling this person that. You would think that when he had his own children he would had realized that, but instead he focused on his selfish ways and continued the pattern of psychological abuse by withholding that information.
From an article I found on SheKnows.com there are 5 things a stepparent should never do:
- Don’t bad-mouth the biological parent
- Don’t be a disciplinarian
- Don’t be a replacement parent
- Don’t play favorites
- Don’t expect things to be perfect
At this point, I have noticed all 5 of these behaviors exhibited by my daughter’s stepfather to her. He successfully stole the role of being my daughter’s father from me. As a mother, you are not the child’s owner, you cannot play doll with your child and decide who is going to be the other parent. This is a huge problem plaguing society as, in several cases, children find themselves thinking they have a new father every few years. The same thing can happen to mothers as this does not go one way and if you, a father, is doing this. Stop it immediately. However, I am speaking mainly for the majority of it though as that is a proven statistic.
The more I got closer to my biological father over the years, the more my stepfather supported it. Even after my mom passed away, 11 years ago, I still call my stepfather “dad” and I still love him just as much because he’s always supported me. However, for my daughter, her stepfather is not supporting the relationship my daughter wants to have with me the way a truly loving stepparent should and would.
Equal Parental Rights
Children’s Rights, not Mothers’ or Fathers’ Rights
Now the title of my website may be “Idaho Fathers’ Rights” but I believe that the true cause is the rights of the children. The child’s right to have both of their biological parents involved equally in their life. We need to get past the gender stereotypes, get past the social constructs society has created around the roles of being a father and being a mother. A father is just as capable of raising an infant as is a mother. A father is just as capable of being a parent as a mother.
There is nothing about a father that makes him better than a mother and there is nothing about a mother that makes her better than a father. From my own experience dealing with my own custody battle and witnessing other cases in this movement. These are the problems I feel we need to address.
- With family courts, judges do not follow the constitutional burden of “innocent until proven guilty”. Parents can make false claims against each parent without proof which immediately costs the victim parent their custody. Unfounded claims have no repercussions which encourage more false claims.
- The “tender years doctrine” has been thrown out of family court, however, judges are still basing their ruling on this exact philosophy.
- There is very little accountability in family courts. For example, with the above-mentioned point judges are making rulings based on that without any actual accountability ensuring that these things don’t happen.
- Currently, a parent, in which around 99% of cases tend to be the father, has to prove why they’re are a good parent and why they should have equal custody. The courts base custody from the bottom up. This goes to my first point. The parent should prove why the other parent shouldn’t have custody. Not the other way around.
Why I Became an Advocate
Never believe a problem doesn’t exist because it hasn’t happened to you yet.
This hasn’t just become a custody battle, this has become an emotional and psychological battle for myself and everyone surrounding me. When I started this case I was so nieve and ignorant. Before, I believed that the horror stories were exaggerated and those were just the worst cases. These kinds of things usually don’t happen.
Further, I started to go down that rabbit hole. You see endless stories of parental alienation, family court injustice, mother’s kidnapping their kids, corruption of judges and lawyers, a system that is fundamentally flawed for money that is destroying the welfare of families across the entire world. Court orders in many places have no meaning, judges don’t enforce them, the police won’t or can’t enforce them.
Mothers are capable of doing whatever they want to whoever they want without any fear of repercussions. I could not believe the things I heard, the things I’ve seen, the things I’ve experienced. Every single day is a struggle for me, as I await the unknown. Being a father who has no control over the wellbeing, protection, and support for their child is a terrible feeling to have. It is an emotional rollercoaster where my strengths and weaknesses eat at me.
I feel that I have a solid case, I feel that I have my daughter’s best interest and welfare in mind, I have provided facts and evidence. That may never even matter. Family courts are the modern wild west. Only the strongest can win. If you don’t draw fast enough, you lose. Some have even lost their lives. We all know in family court the winner takes all.
I am a strong person, I have endured combat, I have been close to death and I have seen and dealt with things nobody should have to deal with. Nothing in life could have prepared me, could have strengthened me, could have helped me handle being a father who was successfully erased from his child’s life. This is a battle that I will be facing at a minimum of the next 6 years of my life.
Don’t give up
Do not give up. I gave up for 5 years and it is the biggest regret of my life. I hope that anyone reading my story and my thoughts will see that you are not alone in this. Fathers, and mothers, all over the world are facing these challenges and it is by far one of the biggest struggles a person could face in their life. Even now, I question myself if I should let it go as I am afraid of what this is going to do to my daughter. Every day I question myself but I am doing my best to stay strong. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. Use those to motivate you and never stop fighting.