I am not in the habit of sharing information from my personal life, especially when it involves my children and their mother. However, these are exceptions and I believe, reflect the reality of the "custody system" in South Dakota.
I want to comment on something you mentioned to me regarding "negotiating" and "compromise".
When I was separated from my spouse, I negotiated for over a year to be able to equally share in the raising of our children. I spent thousands of dollars in attorney costs for this negotiating, money better spent towards building up my home for my children. My spouse at that time refused mediation.
The problem was, I was negotiating from a standing of weakness or less than the standing of the mother. We were negotiating from the basis of the South Dakota Visitation Standards parenting schedule which permits the traditional schedule of 4 overnights per month and 1 - 2 "visits" per week. The negotiated results ended in her saying "no" to equal shared parenting (equal overnights) and my "being allowed" the visitation standards (including one "visit" per week) and as a bonus, I was allowed to take my son to Boyscouts the other night of the week (since, my son has left boyscout).
Did I take it to court? In retrospect, I should have as I see that fathers are increasingly getting custody. However, I had spent enough money, my attorney indicated this is the best I would get and I didn't want my children to feel the tragedy of litigation. I knew I had been and continue to be a great father to my children and was an equal caretaker of my children. Yet, I knew what the odds were. Then add false allegations of abuse of myself against my own daughter, restricted visitation and just going through the divorce process. There just wasn't enough strength left to fight. And here it remains.
My situation is not unique.
And now, we are suppose to negotiate again from the point of weakness with the government. Aren't we missing something here? This is primarily for the children of our state. In fact, we should probably be negotiating the issue that fathers are the better choice for custody after reviewing a sizable body of research supporting this.
Same story, different day.
I hope you understand where I am coming from and why I am somewhat upset. I understand the politics of this all, yet, it doesn't help my children and so many others around the state who do not have the equal involvement of their parents in their lives.
This email reflects an example of an opportunity that is lost for my children due to the perverse system in South Dakota. (it has been edited for confidential reasons)
Original E-mail - 1/30/03
I have been invited along with (our children) by House Speaker Matt Michels to come to the House while it is in session. In fact, Matt invited us to come and he will present us to "the body" ON the House floor. This is an honor most citizens of South Dakota do not get and it would be so wonderful for (our children). Usually they are recognized in the Gallery.
They rarely bring families down to the floor but being the Speaker of the House, it is his privilege. Of course, this would mean that (our children) would miss a day of school but what an experience they could share with everyone else once they come back.
Would this be ok to do within the next couple of weeks? Please let me know as soon as you can.
Response from Children's Mother - 1/30/03
Response to Representative Matthew Michels 1/30/03:
I am sorry. Have you ever seen a grown man cry? And (our children) wanted so much to come.
This is what I and so many others are up against and it just continues. And it's not worth putting my children through further litigation. I love them too much. I can't afford it any way.
Please, SB 60 with the Shared Parenting portion, Maximizing the time between parents has to pass.
Maybe a personal invite from you to (my children) and their mother would help. Just so (my children) get to go. Please.
Their address is (omitted).