Friday, July 13, 2012

How one S.D. father is losing the battle to see his son (Part 1)

How One South Dakota Dad Is Losing The Battle To See His Son (Part 1)I don’t know where to turn anymore or what to do. But I guess it’s all my fault. Again.I turned to this blog to get how I feel off my chest. This is better than alcohol and other self-destructive behaviors. That almost ruined me in the past — and almost claimed my life. Those details I will share in a later post.For now, the turn of events this weekend is what tears me up inside. And, like I said, I don’t know what to do anymore.This spring, I learned that my 10-year-old son, Gabriel, would be visiting the U.S. from mid-June to mid-August. My window of time to visit, or so I thought, would be in mid-July. It’s not happening. Why? My ex-wife said so on Saturday, July 7. Why does she get to decide? She’s the primary custodial parent. South Dakota said so.Here’s the summary: My son will be staying with my ex-wife’s father in a little town outside Council Bluffs, Iowa. Drive time: About 150 minutes.My ex-wife’s father also paid for the trip for him to visit — not my ex. Or, at least that’s what she said. She moved to Sweden with my son in December 2010 to take a job teaching. Did I try to stop it? I sure did. But a judge did not find in my favor because she is permitted to find work. It doesn’t matter whether a father expresses concern about the difficulties and expenses that a greater distance a father would have in an effort to see hi boy would have nor, apparently, whether that job is in Europe or Orange City, Iowa. I use Orange City as an example because while I was working as a copy editor for the Argus Leader, I would look at the classifieds for education jobs near Sioux Falls. There was at least one position I remember seeing that she would have been qualified for. That was during a time when my ex-wife had been unemployed for two years while living in Des Moines with our son.That also was a time when my child support was at a level double what it is now. That also was shortly after my ex-wife decided to leave for Sweden. That also was a time when, according to her, it was important that I was more of a father in his life. More on that also later.So, in keeping with that theme and as a father who wants and is fighting to have a relationship with our son, I made plans to bring him to Sioux Falls to spend time with him. I knew he would be in Iowa in mid-July after talking to Gabriel on the phone. He gave me a generic window of when he would be there. It wasn’t my ex, Jen, so much. I get vague details, so it’s left up to me to guess. And plan around guesses. I should ask more questions, I guess. I’m a horrible father.I was told in late March-early April about the trip in an e-mail. I had asked about a summer visit. I thought I had better ask about a summer visit because I was told 11 days before Christmas last year that Gabriel wouldn’t be able to make it to the States for Christmas. Jen couldn’t afford it. More on that in a later post.I sent an e-mail to Jen’s father on June 28 asking when I would be able to see our son. Nothing. Crickets. No reply.So, on July 7, I called my ex’s phone, her dad’s phone and her stepmom’s phone. A short time later, I got a text message from Jen saying I should’ve planned better. I can’t expect to see my son on short notice and should’ve called her father earlier. Besides, her father paid for the trip. And my ex-wife is not my son’s “social secretary.”I told her that South Dakota visitation guidelines do not allow her to forbid me from seeing my son. Especially in a situation such as ours. I also told her that I did indeed intentionally wait until the last minute because of what happened in the summer of 2011. At that time I had scheduled two weekends to see him and told Jen so before my time off was officially approved. Shouldn’t have done that. I didn’t get the one weekend. My following weekend was approved and I enjoyed my time with Gabriel. I was able to get the weekend after that off and told Jen upon my return with him.Too late. I was informed he would be spending that time with her boyfriend in Des Moines before flying back to the East Coast to return home to Sweden.I did not want to get jerked around again this time. But I am now, even though I tried to hold off making plans until I could pin down a time that was guaranteed. But that’s hard to do when you’re given vague details, are fed lies and deception and “it’s not about you.”The quote is part of the last e-mail I received this weekend before deciding to launch this post. I will be writing more about this saga. This isn’t intended to be a sob story. It’s life. A very difficult life.For now, I just want all fathers out there who sincerely are interested in having a relationship with their sons but struggle because of legal, financial or other reasons that are worthy of merit to know that I’m in a losing battle, too. I also want the mothers out there who are primary custodians of children in a divorce to respect those fathers who sincerely are interested in having a relationship with the child or children to honor and respect that. It shouldn’t take a guideline, memo or legal action to generate an act of decency and mutual respect on your end.I’m not perfect. There are reasons why we divorced. More on that in a later post, too. But I’m not behind on child support payments, nor am I a monster, felon, child molester or some other type of cretin who would deserve this type of treatment, either. I’m just a father trying to see his son.So, for now, I will go to bed and continue stewing over what transpired this weekend. Because my brain hurts. My heart hurts, too.
(The photo is of myself and my son in Des Moines about four years ago)