A true testomony of a fathers journey: “It Didn’t Come Easy”
story in his words: by Lonnie Good
Though it’s been over twenty years ago, I can still feel my emotions rise as I contemplate how to tell my story. Not only my story, but the story of my children, the story of the judges, the story of an attorney, the story of a broken and biased system that needs to change.
Like so many stories, it begins with a boy and a girl. The boy was smitten when as he watched her singing on stage, she was so unashamed and simply carefree. She was the drummer in a rock band. The boy was lonely, just trying to heal up from a broken heart.
Though carefree, she needed someone to be her savior. He was a mechanic, he would work on her car. She needed a place to live, he was on his own. The first few months were ok, her eyes sparkled when she looked at him. And he had found hope again.
He was a very conservative guy, while she loved the feeling of being unchained. It was not long before they moved into separate houses. He had friends that gave her a room, to try to help.
They would still see each other from time to time. Together they created a child. He felt compelled to marry her. While married they had one more child. The marriage lasted about one year.
She found an attorney who took her case. Every attorney is encouraged to take some case “Pro Bono” or as an act of good will. It did not take long to realize that his entire clientele were young women who were divorcing their husbands.
The first year of the divorce found him in court every Friday on the Civil Calendar. A funny name he thought, as there was nothing civil about it.
After the first hearing, wherein the attorney tried to have him thrown in jail for failure to comply with the first temporary orders, the attorney said to him, “you will never have custody of your children again”.
Each week, the young man would shake as he walked up to his mail box, each week there was a packett in the mail box. A big yellow envelope full of legal pleadings. All of them aimed at one thing, to destroy his life, to take any control away from him, to take any and all fiances from him. And to call him into court to answer all of the allegations about him.
He did not have money. He did have a good job but most of it was going for child support and spousal maintenance. Though she had a job, the attorney drafted pleadings that made it appear that she had nothing.
It took several years to have the numbers corrected. In the meantime, he lived on beans and burritos and drove a $50 car.
There was a great disparity between real life and the pictures painted by her attorney. In the beginning he had scraped up enough money to hire his own attorney. But the weekly onslaught continued, it became impossible to keep his attorney paid. He was already paying her attorney fees, and all the other bills.
He found another attorney, but that attorney also dropped the case. The young man was faced with the only option he had. He had to represent himself. So, I began to represent myself.
I was not one for public speaking in any arena, let alone in a court of law. One of the greatest hurdles was learning how to check my emotions at the door. There were a lot of things that happened at the door to the Superior Court, little of which ever was known by the judges.
It was still early in the case when I was walking away from the court house steps. Her attorney was having a smoke, surrounded by several of the pretty young women he was representing. As I walked past them toward my car he called out, “Nice tail between your legs”. He had just won everything he had asked for at that morning’s hearing.
Maybe he did that for the benefit of his ladies, or maybe he was simply having fun using his legal skills and the court system to his advantage in burying another man with a mountain of pleadings, bills, time off work, etc…
I said it once but it’s worth repeating, the first year found me in court every Friday. The second year saw a reduction of hearings, it dropped to every other Friday. I was untrained, unrepresented, unable to deal with the onslaught. And it seemed that at every turn there was more to litigate. I had flex time so I was able to change my work schedule to accommodate a midweek visitation and each weekend with my kids. She was enjoying a lot of freedom to do as she pleased, which was playing with her band. Which was all unreported income.
A funny thing happened. One small thing that was meant for her own good and to giver her more freedom from caring for the kids was written in an order by her attorney. It said that she had to give me her work schedule each week. Whenever possible I was to have the kids if I was not at work.
And then there was the day care records, which I had access to. It became readily apparent that she would drop the kids at day care where they would be for up to ten hours a day. Day Care was paid for by the State. I began keeping track of the schedules. After I had enough to prove beyond any shadow of doubt, I filed a motion, including the records showing the kids being at day care at the same time when she was not working. This went on for months.
In short, the State was paying for day care while she was playing with her band and not working, which is why the State was picking up the tab. That and other issues that I had brought before the court was more than enough for the court to change custody, which is no small thing. This did not end the court hearings but life did begin to normalize.
In the end, the court battles lasted for 13 years. Over 300 Superior Court hearings. So, for any fathers finding themselves in the throws of this completely legal take down, I say this. Be encouraged, and get equipped. One of the things that happened to me in the middle of all of this was I was caught in the downturns at Boeing and lost my job. I was given some “dislocated aerospace dollars” for training. I went and picked up an AA in Paralegal.
The attorney threw in his towel.
The court system, in my opinion, is not the place to deal with these issues. It’s an adversarial system at it’s core, it’s designed to be that way. That is not the environment for families who have separated and who have children. But until that changes, you have got to learn how to stand up for your rights and the rights of your children, otherwise, you will be played and used.
You have to learn how to set all of the emotions aside and put your attorney hat on. There is nothing that can stand against your rights as a father as long as you are in that role. There is nothing more important on the face of this earth. If you are to win in this arena, you must be like a warrior that is equipped. You can learn from everything they throw at you. Each pleading, each motion, each order, is an opportunity to learn. You need to learn how to draft your own pleadings, attach your own exhibits that prove your argument. Dress the part, play the part, by the very best that you can be.
Bury your adversary in litigation. Make sure each motion you file has merit, otherwise you can be held accountable for the fees of your opponent. Learn how to represent yourself. Check your emotions at the door. Live your life in way that no one can bring any kind of accusation against you.
I was a worship leader at a small church. There were only three things in my life during this time, my children, my job, and my church. Prayer was a place to find the strength I needed. The book of Psalms is full of passages that were written, seemingly, for this very thing. There is nothing more fierce than a father’s heart toward his children. The court cannot withstand your love and desire to be what you are, a father.
Go do war.
My children survived. I now have 13 grandchildren. My children come to my home to see me and to spend time with me. And I did find a wonderful spouse. Life is good. It didn’t come easy.
– Lonnie Good
Championship Fathering: How to Win at Being a Dad
by Carey Casey
As CEO of the National Center for Fathering, Carey Casey uses his experience and stories—and his engaging, personable tone—to inspire champions-to-be in fathering. Championship Fathering will help fathers raise healthy, well-adjusted, confident kids—mentally, physically, and spiritually. It will help fathers use the principles of championship fathering: Loving, Coaching and Modeling. Men will appreciate Carey Casey’s experiences in sports. He is currently chaplain for the Kansas City Chiefs. The book also includes a foreword by Tony Dungy. A 3-minute daily radio feature hosted by Carey Casey, Today’s Father, is heard on over 600 stations nationwide.
Fathers’ Rights: Hard-Hitting and Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute
by Jeffery Leving and Kenneth Dachman
Millions of fathers are currently embroiled in the fight of their lives to win custody of their children. Wounded by the acrimony and greed that often accompany divorce proceedings, many wonder if they will ever again be an important part of their sons’ and daughters’ lives. With this landmark book, renowned men’s rights attorney Jeffery M. Leving offers disenfranchised fathers true hope and meaningful advice certain to save years of anguish and possibly thousands of dollars.Drawing on more than fifteen years of frontline experience, Leving leads fathers through every twist and turn of the legal system and shows them how to protect their rights (and their children’s)—both before and during divorce litigation.This authoritative and accessible book covers every aspect of the custody process, including protecting the parent/child relationship as a breakup occurs; finding a competent and sympathetic lawyer; drafting a “Shared Parenting Agreement”; demonstrating parental competence when falsely accused of abuse; avoiding parental alienation; determining when to settle and when to litigate; techniques for dealing effectively with psychologists, social workers, and other domestic relations experts; and much more.Illustrated with vivid real-life examples, Jeffery Leving and Kenneth Dachman’s practical guide is essential reading for the scores of American fathers routinely excluded from their children’s lives by a biased legal system in which avarice and recrimination too often overwhelm compassion and justice.
This must-have resource presents essential advice for divorced or divorcing dads of any age, background and marriage history. Written by Jeffery M. Leving, the country’s leading authority on father’s rights, the book is filled with practical ideas for staying connected with children and dealing with ex-wives – and in some cases a new girlfriend or the wife’s new boyfriend-during the divorce and afterward.
Throughout the book you’ll find advice and stories that show how other dads have coped successfully with divorce and made a difference in their children’s lives. How to Be a Good Divorced Dad offers news for divorced dads and counters many of the myths that paint divorcing fathers as alienated, irresponsible, or absent.
The “must have” book for any single or soon-to-be-single father (or anyone involved with a single father), written by fathers’ rights lawyer Anne P. Mitchell. Mitchell is a nationally recognized fathers’ rights attorney and spokesperson, and was one of the first fathers’ rights lawyers in the country. She is the founder of DadsRights.org, and a leading advocate for children of divorce having a strong relationship with both parents, even in a social and legal climate that often seeks to reduce fathers to weekend “visitors”. The advice and information which was once only available to her clients is now available in this straight-forward, plain English, easy-to-read book. In addition to sections on parental alienation, parental kidnapping, and false allegations, Mitchell includes a section on how to shield your children from the fall-out from your divorce so that you can ensure that your children still have a happy, well-adjusted childhood, along with checklists for various issues you may encounter, and a directory of legal organizations and clinics in all 50 states.
The Father’s Emergency Guide to Divorce-Custody Battle: A Tour Throught the Predatory World of Judges, Lawyers, Psychologists & Social Workers, in the Subculture of Divorce
by Robert Seidenberg and William Dawes
There are dozens of divorce books by lawyers, but this is the first to combine a lawyer’s expertise with the experience of a fathers’-rights activist who has endured the fire of custody litigation. This is an emergency guide because the actions you take at the earliest stages of your case are of critical importance, and because the outcome of your case can have long-term repercussions on every aspect of your life. This book gives you the tools you need to take command of your divorce-custody battle: it shows you how to hire a competent lawyer and avoid lawyers engaged in fee inflation; it tells you what to expect from psychologists, social workers, and guardians; it shows you how to prepare your case, how to act in court, how to write a custody agreement, and how to calculate child support. It reveals the strategy most often used to win custody.
But it also shows you a system that is dysfunctional and pervaded with corruption. And it confronts you with a stark truth: no matter what the facts may be in your case, no matter what lawyer you hire, no matter how much money you spend, there is a very real chance that you could end up bereft of your children and financially destitute. For this reason, this book also explores the larger social and political forces that have an enormous influence on judicial decisionmaking.
Child Custody A to Z: Winning with Evidence
by Guy White
Help! is the first word a parent yells when dealing with a child custody battle. Author Guy White cuts through and captures the essence of how child custody cases are won and lost. Child Custody A to Z navigates you through the flawed system of justice. Evidence is the most overlooked aspect of a child custody case. This book explains and addresses:
How to choose an attorney
How to impeach court experts
How to gather evidence
How to expose a personality disorder
How to investigate your case
Child Custody A to Z is replete with case studies that tell the real story of the controversial game of child custody. There is no substitute for preparation. White reveals judges, attorneys and court experts for their bias and incompetence. The author takes you through the step-by-step formula for winning with evidence.
by Dr. Richard A Warshak
Your ex-spouse is bad mouthing you to your children, constantly portraying you in a negative light, perhaps even trying to turn them against you. If you handle the situation ineffectively, your relationship with your children could suffer. You could lose their respect, lose their affections-even, in extreme cases, lose all contact with them. The conventional advice is to do nothing, that fighting fire with fire will only result in greater injury to the children. But after years of consulting parents who heeded such advice with no success, Dr. Richard Warshak is convinced that this approach is wrong. It doesn’t work, and parents are left feeling helpless and hopeless. DIVORCE POISON instead offers a blueprint for effective response. In it, you will learn how to distinguish different types of criticism, how and why parents manipulate their children, how to detect these maneuvers, and how these practices damage children. Most importantly, you’ll discover powerful strategies to preserve and rebuild loving relationships with your children.
DIVORCE POISON is a time-tested work that gives parents powerful strategies to preserve and rebuild loving relationships with their children-and provides practical advice from legal and mental-health professionals to help their clients and safeguard the welfare of children. Whether they are perpetrators of divorce poison, victims of it, or both, parents who heed Dr. Warshak’s advice will enable their children to maintain love and respect for their parents-even if their parents no longer love and respect each other.
The Divorced Dad’s Survival Book: How to Stay Connected with Your Kids shows how to navigate the process of getting a divorce so as to minimize the negative impact on one’s children. The goal of the book is to show how fathers can use the divorce to improve their relationship with their kids. David Knox, a divorced father of two, presents a book designed to show fathers how to replace the fear of losing their children with insightful knowledge of what the children may be experiencing during the divorce and offers specific suggestions on maintaining and improving relations with them. The father-child relationship cannot only survive but also triumph over divorce through conscious and deliberate planning and execution.
The Child Custody Book: How to Protect Your Children and Win Your Case
by Judge James W Stewart