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Why fathers should not request jail time the 1st time they take mothers to court

by Casey Alexander

What separates TFER from most father's rights organizations is our philosophical approach to the problems created by the child custody industry. You will not see us picketing outside the Tarrant County courthouse or crying about the unfairness of laws in a courtroom (the time and place for that is during the legislative session in Austin, Texas). You will not see us pushing martyrdom* by encouraging fathers to violate court orders because the orders are unfair and do jail time just to prove a point.In short, our approach is to define the individuals problem and solve it. Plain and simple. As one certain Tarrant County family court presiding judge put it, TFER has become and organization about "solving problems and not making noise."

At TFER, we know you will come to our office unless you are having problems. It will be a cold day in hell when a father comes through our doors and says, "I want to join your organization. My ex-wife is so incredibly reasonable. I am so happy with my current divorce decree and the Attorney General is so incredibly helpful that I just have to join." No, if you are in our office, you have a problems.....big problems.

One problem we see at TFER is mothers (and sometimes fathers) denying fathers (and sometimes mothers) their court ordered possession and access, hereafter referred to as visitation. Denial of visitation is a very common problem and we take a unique approach to the problem.If you come to a lawyer with this problem, you will probably hear the terms "motion for enforcement" and "contempt of court". Many attorneys address the problem of visitation denial by requesting that the other parent be thrown in jail. We don't agree with this approach. Yes, many fathers have been thrown in jail for violating child support orders but two wrongs do not make a right. At TFER, we believe that in most cases a first time solution to the problem of being denied court ordered visitation should not be a request for jail time. Instead, we encourage our members to request a modification of their orders that will limit the opportunity the other parent has to deny you visitation of your children.

We encourage you to ask the judge to modify the orders as follows:

  1. Change the drop off times to the time child returns to school. This gives you Thursday (or Wednesday) overnights (instead of 6:00 to 8:00) and gives you Sunday overnights instead of returning them at 8:00 pm! Change the place of the pick up and drop offs (on the days the child is in school) to the child's school. Change the place of the pick up and drop offs (on the days the child is not in school) to a supervised exchange facility that will monitor both parent's compliance of the visitation order.
  2. This approach is extremely effective. If your children are school age, then you (or any competent adult you designate) are picking them up from their school. It is much harder for a parent to deny the other parent visitation from a school then from their own house. They would have to withdraw the children from school early to deny your visitation and in doing so would create indisputable documentation for your next hearing (the hearing in which you really do request jail time). The other parent probably realizes this. If your children are not school age, or on those days your children are not in school, the visitation takes place at a supervised exchange center. These places document when each parent shows up. Again, if the other parent doesn't show up then he or she has created indisputable evidence against themselves for the next hearing. Again, the other parent realizes this.

TFER advocates this approach for the following reasons:

  1. The first (and weakest) reason is that judges rarely put mothers (or fathers) in jail the first time they are found guilty of violating a visitation order so why ask them to? Go to court to win. Not to prove a point.
  2. The second (and strongest) reason is that it is probably not in the best interest of your children to ask a judge to throw their mother in jail. Now, if you are experiencing the problem of visitation denial your response to this might be, "Well, denying me my visitation with my children is not in their best interest either!", to which I respond, "Two wrongs don't make a right!" Your children do not need the internal conflict of knowing their father (who they love) tried to get their mother (who they love) thrown in jail. Their is enough grief in their lives already because their parents are not together and don't think for a moment that this is not heartbreaking for them.
  3. The third reason is that it works. Nearly all of our members who have taken this approach no longer experience the problem of visitation denial. This approach sends a message loud and clear to the parent who has been denying visitation. Often times at the modification hearing, the judge will make it plain and simple to the other parent what will happen at the next hearing regarding denial of visitation......jail time.

I've been called words that begin with "p", "w", and "b" for advocating this stance within our organization but it has caught fire and we are experiencing great success doing it. These people who want to take the same adversarial approach to enforcing visitation as private attorneys and state agencies take to enforce child support have one thing in common which makes me care less about their opinions. These people do not get that two wrongs do not make a right! If you don't agree with this approach I encourage you to ask yourself the following question, "Is my goal to punish the other parent or is my goal to be able to see my children?"

God bless our children.

* I use the word martyrdom because I actually heard a member of another fathers rights organization say that his going to jail for being behind on child support would be a good thing for his daughter because it would show her what a bitch his ex-wife truly was! He referred to this organization as a bunch of P****** for taking the approach we do regarding visitation enforcement. Of course, within 24 hours of being incarcerated he was calling this organization pleading for help. He ran up over $100.00 in collect phone call charges from jail promising to pay it back which he never did. He is a classic example of two wrongs don't make a right. In my opinion, both he and his ex-wife are ruining that child's life.

Fathers For Equal Rights is such a great help to people in need!
  -- Joe & Rachel B. - Fort Worth, TX

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