Unclassified Info: Family court is no place for a dad

I was in Utah over the weekend when I happened to hear a radio spot in my rental car. The commercial was for a law firm specializing in the rights of fathers in the Utah family court system. The message pointed out the court system is stacked against fathers, and the only way to ensure a fair trial in a biased system was to have expert representation from their firm.

This struck a nerve since I happen to believe the family court serving Glendale has similar issues. I’ve been inside our local family courtroom more times than I care to remember, and each time I feel as though I am fighting for my rights within a system that seems partial to mothers.

I know that writing this may not serve me well the next time I am in court. But I think this matter needs to be addressed, and I flatly refuse to shy away from an issue I believe is important simply to protect my own interests.

The news of men pushed to the brink of violence as a result of what they feel are injustices at the hands of the family court seems to make the news with more and more regularity. I have often wondered how many of these rampages will occur before someone notices a link between family court and fathers and ex-husbands going off the deep end.

As someone who has been involved in the system for seven years now, it doesn’t look to me like the real goal of family court is to facilitate a positive relationship. It talks a good game with seminars and classes, but divisiveness rather than resolution seems to be commonplace.

In the past, I have been ordered to make child support payments that have made it difficult for me to save any money in nearly seven years. Ironically, every time I do save some money, I seem to be dragged back to court for more custodial battling — I will get to this in a moment.

I have been surprised on more than one occasion to submit income and expense declarations to the court with everything but gross income going completely ignored. The court does have the power to reconcile the number calculated by the Dissomaster (the long out-of-date computer program that determines child support) based on actual living expenses, but I have never seen it done. Asking for expense information looks like nothing more than a formality — another box to check off in a broken system.

For the record, I have not missed a bimonthly child support payment in more than three years. I have even voluntarily supplemented child support with thousands more in additional support. Thus, I have paid for the right to comment upon this without persecution.

As far as custody is concerned, men seem to be utterly ignored and treated as nothing more than cash dispensers. To get the court to agree to let me have an extra day with my children requires spending thousands of dollars in legal fees. Again, divisiveness runs amok over cooperative co-parenting.

In the past, the court has flatly ignored evidence that my custodial rights have been violated for months at a time. Even after presenting this evidence, the court’s only response was to order I pay more child support and a portion of my ex-wife’s attorney fees.

This most recent turn in court has fared no better. The court had misplaced filings, the second time it has happened, which makes me seriously question how often that occurs.

In the five or six times that I have been in family court, I have yet to feel like the system treated me fairly. I would not expect to win every time. That would be an unrealistic fantasy. But I have submitted compelling arguments and exhibits to prove many of my points. To lose every time does seem like a distortion of justice.

Having heard that radio spot in Utah, I am more inclined than ever to believe bias in the family court system is not unique to the family court that serves Glendale and Burbank. It is an issue stretching across the entire country.

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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