Fighting For “Equality”

I sincerely hope those who fight for gender equality will take their fight down to the courthouse steps – the steps of Family Courts all across America. Fight for men who are blindsided by unilateral divorce and truly want to be fathers to their children.

If you have been inside of any family court, you know equality is a dirty word. If you are a father, and have tried to deal with family court judges, you know what I mean.

There is an incredible amount of gender bias in the halls of these places and it needs to be put to rest. Neither parent deserves to be with the children of a couple more than the other. The blatant inequality that is on display should be addressed in a manner as vigorously as activists seem to do with issues like child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence and poverty. In fact, it is all related.

The removal of the father from the home directly contributes to poverty, which in turn, can lead to instances of child and domestic abuse. The splitting of the home into two creates separate sets of expenses and often leads to financial hardship for both the mother and father. The long-lasting effects are far-reaching and incredibly devastating for many communities, especially ones that are without the means to work out their custody issues in a more rational, less emotional manner.

Family court is in no way the arena to find the best solution for families and children. Family court judges are certainly not looking out for the best interest of the children. If it were, the judges would find a way to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents.

Children need both their mother and father. It appears family court does not see that as a viable solution. They envision the father leaving, and paying the mother according arbitrary guidelines that are not related to the specific case in front of them. They also relegate the father to visitor status – a visitor to his own children – every other weekend.

Never good.

 

 

Don’t Touch My “Fro”


My little man has grown out his “fro” as he calls it. I ain’t mad at him.

He has worked on this over the past four months. Maybe he is ready to take a knee, play for the 49ers, be part of the resistance or just be the coolest son this father could ever want.

I say stay out of politricks son, it’s a trap!! Grow up to become a free thinker and just be yourself lil’ man.

I’m happy to be back in the city to be a father to my kids. I miss little things like this.

Remote Parent

 

I tasted a bit of the life of a father who is cut off from his kids. I’ve been away from my kids since July 9th of this year. The last time I saw them was in the middle of August, and that was only for about five hours.

It is the beginning of November as of the writing of this post.

My separation was voluntary. I accepted a short term job offer on the other side of the country with the expectation that making this sacrifice now will lead to longer term employment down the road. As it stands now, I have no idea if this was the right move. What I do know is that I’ll never choose to be away from my kids for this long again.

Never again.

The father who has fewer options and is separated from his kids due to a vindictive mother and/or the family court system has it worse than I do. My pain is self inflicted. I can only imagine how awful it is to know that the court system forced them away from their own flesh and blood.

It truly is a miserable experience being away from my children. I do not recommend being apart from your kids for work reasons for long. It’s just not worth the money most of the time.

I know for a fact that my children need me to be there for them. I’m missing out on months of their school year. I’m missing out on seeing them transition to new schools, meeting their new friends, new teachers, and new experiences. I can’t answer the questions they might have, address their concerns about schoolwork, engage with them regarding their thoughts about current events. I’m not able to fully engage because I’m not there. Being on the phone and speaking to them is one thing, connecting through video chat is another. Being face to face is a whole other ballgame.

It’s important for fathers to be present in a child’s every day life. They need our guidance, perspective and protection. The post-divorce model of “every other weekend” dad just doesn’t cut it. It is incredibly inadequate and doesn’t provide the necessary balance a child needs in their formative years.

Attempts at remote parenting are futile. Trying to stay close by chatting on the phone is similar to having a long distance relationship. It might work for some, but just imagine if you could only see your partner every other weekend? How close do you think you could actually be in the long run? Would you want a husband or wife if you could only see them this way for 18 years?

I’m glad I have the option of being away from my kids and not being forcibly removed. I won’t make this decision ever again. Most divorced fathers don’t get this opportunity. The feeling of powerlessness is overwhelming at times. Not being able to have a physical as well as spiritual connection is demoralizing and dispiriting.

I’m no longer choosing the remote parent model. I’m sticking close to my kids and watching them grow up up close.

 

Clayton Craddock is a stay-at-home father of two children in New York City. He has a B.B.A from Howard University’s School of Business and is also a 17 year veteran of the fast paced New York City music scene. He has played drums in a number of hit Broadway musicals including “tick…tick…BOOM, Memphis the Musical and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill with Audra McDonald. He has worked on other musicals; Footloose, Motown, The Color Purple, Bare, Rent, Little Shop of Horrors, Evita, Cats, and Avenue Q and is currently the drummer in a new Broadway bound musical titled Ain’t Too Proud.
Clayton has written for A Voice For Men, The Good Men Project and is writing a memoir about fatherhood.

Too Little-Too Late

I woke up a few days ago to a tweet from Paul Elam linking an article on his site “A voice For Men.” It was called A Father’s Lament.

I have been reading A Voice For Men for years. I stopped over the past few because I haven’t found the information useful at this point in my life. It was certainly helpful right after my divorce because I saw there was a whole community of men who felt very similarly as I did about the family court system. I wasn’t into the bashing they tended to do with feminism and women in general at times, but I certainly understood where the hatred of feminism came from.

My views have changed since I started reading the publication in 2011, but some things remain the same.

I see way too many articles like mine still being published. The one I mentioned above sounds similar to so many other stories fathers have of getting kicked out of their home along with the trials and tribulations they endure afterward. I wrote an article called Why I REFUSE To Pay Child Support. The original is HERE. If you want to read the comments on the one published on their site, click HERE.

The issues with regard to custody, family court, “visitation,” women’s groups, hopelessness, despair, anger and frustration still persist. It seems as if the same tales get published year after year on sites like A voice For Men and very little has improved with fathers and divorce stories. I know the laws are changing in a few states so that the presumption of shared parenting is the starting line, but far too often, fathers wind up losing the race in the matrimonial marathon.

Why do men think that everything will work itself out? Why do men wait until it’s too late for advice with regard to divorce? Why don’t fathers search for information that will help them BEFORE they get run over by their future ex-wives? I continuously ask that question and get frustrated to hear excuse after excuse from people. They probably think “oh, she won’t do anything crazy.” Men might also think that bad things won’t happen to them or maybe they are truly afraid of their wives. I feel it is laziness, lack of drive, and fear of failure.

Well, let me tell you, this can be a cruel harsh world that we live in. Don’t be surprised when that lovely bride you married 7 years ago is now a totally different person. That beautiful woman is now uglier than you could ever imagine. That sweet woman is now a thorn in your side that won’t go away for 15-21 years…all because you were not asserting your rights to be a father to your children and you left everything up to your attorney and some magical force in the sky. Nope. That ain’t gonna work.

I get really tired of reading stories of men getting thrown out of the house THEY pay for, arrested in front of their kids, made to look powerless in front of a family they led the day before, and torn to pieces financially with the help of the state. It’s beyond infuriating.

When are we going to learn? When are we as fathers going to take advice from those who have already been through this and learn from their mistakes. I sure did. I was well prepared before I was even served. If I were to go back and do things over again, I would have served my ex instead of waiting for her to pull the trigger. Yeah, it’s time to be as assertive as we were when we were trying to court the women we were with. What’s up with the passivity?

Times have changed, I’ve changed, and the laws have changed. The resistance to step up and assert ourselves hasn’t. Too many fathers wind up playing catch  up and have to pick up the  pieces instead of being the one in charge of the wrecking ball.

Please, reach out to me, anyone in these organizations here or talk to any other divorced father if you feel your marriage is on the rocks. Belive me, your wife has already done it.

Be proactive. Stop being reactive. By the time you get served, it is often too little too late.

 

Clayton Craddock is a stay-at-home father of two children in New York City. He has a B.B.A from Howard University’s School of Business and is also a 17 year veteran of the fast paced New York City music scene. He has played drums in a number of hit Broadway musicals including “tick…tick…BOOM, Memphis the Musical and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill with Audra McDonald. He has worked on other musicals; Footloose, Motown, The Color Purple, Bare, Rent, Little Shop of Horrors, Evita, Cats, and Avenue Q and is currently the drummer in a new Broadway bound musical titled Ain’t Too Proud.
Clayton has written for A Voice For Men, The Good Men Project and is writing a memoir about fatherhood.

How do you spell dad? It goes L-O-V-E

Waking up at the crack of dawn sucks. It just does. Well, it does for me.

I’ve never been a morning person. I never will be. I like to get up at about 9 or 10AM. Well, that’s just not the life I’ve chosen to live.

You see, I get up so early for a reason.

I usually arrive home from work at 11PM. I’m totally wired and wide awake. I eventually wind down so I can get to sleep at around 1AM. My alarm goes off in the morning, but I snooze for a few more minutes before I jump out of bed. I try to shake the cobwebs out of my brain and think of where I parked my car so I can go pick up my kids.

I drive over to my ex-wife’s house and get my kids at 7:15AM. We spend about 45 minutes to an hour getting to school. There are mornings where we just listen to the radio. We sometimes laugh about stories from the previous day or if we see something silly on the way. When a serious event happens in our country, we might have a brief thought provoking discussion. When I see the opportunity, I let my kids know about some cold hard truths about growing up in America. They soak it all up like sponges. In the end, I have that special time with just me and my kids. It’s time well spent.

I get the balance of my sleep some time during the day by taking naps if I’m not working. I ain’t afraid to admit, I LOVE naps. Later in the day, I pick them up from school and we spend the afternoon together at my place until I bring them to their mom’s house after I cook them dinner.

It’s exhausting, but totally worth every hour I miss of sleep during the night.

Why do I do this to myself? Well, I asked this question every morning when I got out of bed to get my kids. As soon as I think of why I do what I do, I think of how much I love my kids.

I love them. I really do.

After 15 years of fatherhood, nothing has changed. I’ve been there since the beginning. I’m glad I saw every little step my kids have taken over the years and witnessed every little development along the way. Our time is very limited on this planet and I am making sure I spend as much of it as I possibly can with my kids before they are adults and off on their own.

I wasn’t going to allow any silly “family court” system to keep me away from this. I’ll lose all kinds of sleep but I won’t lose out on being a father. That’s just not going to happen. I made sure of that.

Fathers….

We love our kids as much as mothers. We care too. We want to be there as much as we can even though we may be tired, working long hours, traveling, busting our ass to get a promotion or more money or any other thing that might keep us temporarily separate.

Dads…

We are not the babysitter. We are the guidance the protection, the focus, the spiritual uplift, the support system, the provider, the backbone, the rock, the stability, the L-O-V-E.

I heard about this artist and song a while ago after chatting with a colleague of mine named Felton Offard on Facebook. (he’s an amazing guitarists by the way). He hipped me to this guy Sho Baraka. Sho has a great new album out called ” The Narrative.”

I think this is right on point:

I learned that love ain’t based on performance
Make a mistake and I will love you in the morning
I see life in my children’s eyes
And when I’m wrong I’ll be the first to apologize
Peace to all my fathers who are working through their flaws
Fulfilling their duties and they don’t do it for applause
It’s true, any fool with a tool can reproduce
But a father is that dude that’ll see it through
Forget the stereotypes lets be clear
There are good men out there we are here

……………..

How do you spell dad?
It goes L-O-V-E
How do you spell dad?
It goes L-O-V-E
How do you spell dad?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TZxuDQZyOQ

Responsibility

Looking back at how my parents raised me, I realize how important the lessons of responsibility are to children.

I remember my father always reminding me to clean my room. He would make me take out the garbage, mow the lawn, help wash his car and clean the garage. He would offer to wash the dishes if I dried them and vice versa. No, it wasn’t a real offer, it was his way of telling me what I was going to do. He was, in his own way, giving me a small say in the matter.

My mother taught me how to separate the colors when washing clothes, how to iron and fold sheets. She taught me how to dust, polish furniture, how to set the table, how to sew on a button and how to keep our home looking spotless.

My father told me time and time again to stand up straight. He instructed me on how to shake a person’s hand as well as how to speak up with authority.

My mother was supportive. SHE was the one who bought my first set of drums from my cousin. She was the one who said I could make it as a musician. And I eventually did.

I know things are different at my ex-wife’s home, but there is very little I can do about that at this point in my life. All I know is what happens in my home. When our kids are with me, they know that one of their responsibilities is to set the table for the dinner that I cook for them that evening. They also help make the food with me. After we eat, they clear the table,  sweep the floor, and wipe the table and counters. When they sleep over, they make their bed in the morning.

After school each day, my kids know they should never come in my apartment and drop everything to go and play. They must first hang up their coats and put their shoes in the right location. If they get a chance to play after their homework, they take out their toys and put them away where they got them after they are finished. They make sure their room is in the same condition that they found it.

I am starting to notice how my son gets up in the morning, usually before I do, and dresses himself. He is so proud. He also tells me to look in his room because he already made his own bed! My daughter makes it a priority to have her hair washed and styled before we have breakfast in the morning. She also sets the table before we all have breakfast.

While it’s not perfect, after many years as a single father,  it seems like things are starting to get into a groove at daddy’s house. It can be rough on a single person to run a home as the only adult. I don’t recommend it at all. I still don’t see the attraction of the choice of single parenthood. Since I was forced into this life, I will make the best out of difficult situation.

I love the day-to-day aspects of raising children and think having a solid foundation like I had growing up helps. I feel it is important to pass on these values to our children.

I don’t know what other people do, but I feel it is important to teach responsibility to our children and to hold them accountable. It helps prepare them for life on their own.

Many of these lessons last a lifetime.

 

Why I REFUSE To Pay Child Support

When people ask me how can I be divorced with two children and pay no child support, I tell them I took a cue from Nancy Reagan; I “just said no.”

I took the road less traveled. One that more men should be allowed to travel.

For the past 18 years, I have been fortunate to be a full-time musician. Since the time of our daughter’s birth in 2003, I was at home with her during the day and working at night. Three years before my marriage ended, my wife and I agreed to switch roles. In order to make this arrangement work, I was extremely ambitious and found a way to work a 9-5 job as well as teach, perform in an Off-Broadway show and perform in weddings and corporate events. I paid all the bills while she took care of our daughter.

After two years of trying to fit back into the corporate world, I noticed a lack of communication between my wife and I. My focus was on our family; her attention appeared to be on the social calendar. My frustration with what seemed to be a lop-sided allocation of duties in our home-made for several stress filled months. Not only was I the sole breadwinner, I took care of many of the duties at home. The birth of our second child only intensified the tension in our home.

Working a full time job, gigs and doing much of the house work burnt me out so I quit my corporate job. Meanwhile my wife was unwilling to continue the therapy sessions we’d set up to find a way to repair our marriage. She hired an attorney and filed for divorce.

Our custody battle began in Family Court. During our first hearing, I received a court order for spousal support, which stated I was to continue paying all the bills until our case went to Supreme Court. On top of paying the household expenses, I had to pay my ex an additional $500 cash each month. I was furious. I questioned why I was responsible for everything and my wife was only responsible for being with the children.

Soon after filing, my wife began using the children as pawns. She filled the kid’s day with play dates, and after one of our many heated arguments, took the kids to her mother’s home in another state for two weeks so I could not see them. In addition to the attempts at alienating me from my children, my wife called the police after several arguments in futile attempts to have me vacate the marital residence and be thrown in jail. Luckily for me she was never psychotic enough to hurt herself or abuse the criminal justice system’s bias against men.

When our case was transferred to New York State Supreme Court, things began to change. A few months into our dispute I received an unlikely source of inspiration. My family had given me a father’s day gift certificate to a men’s spa. Here is where I received life-changing advice from a female staff member who’d gone through a divorce several years before. She and her former spouse had mutually agreed that their son be raised by his father. She informed me that in New York State, couples had the option to “opt out” of paying child support upon dissolution of marriage. I immediately called my attorney and told him I wanted to do just that: opt out.

I must acknowledge one piece of the puzzle that gave me a slight advantage that no one has today. At the time of my lawsuit, New York was the last state who hadn’t adopted no-fault laws. This gave me leverage that no one can use in court today. Now, everyone is at the mercy of their spouse and can’t contest their divorce. In fact, most people have no idea that your spouse can file for divorce for any reason and not have to prove why they want out of the marriage. This is a real disadvantage for the monied spouse in my state because the custodial parent gains an advantage with the child support guidelines. The spouse who makes more money is ordered to pay the non-custodial parent.

At the time, my attorney and I decided to contest my ex’s grounds for divorce. We were willing to compel her to tell the truth under oath. My ex would have perjured herself in court since there were several inconsistencies in her sworn deposition. Her attorney decided it would be unwise for her to proceed in that manner. This was the turning point that forced a settlement.

 

After 11 months in and out of court, we agreed that my parenting time would take place during the day; hers at night and that no one would pay child support. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I walked out of the courtroom secure in the knowledge that I could financially support our two children in a way that made much more sense to me. I did not succumb to the societal pressure to pay an ex-wife, child or spousal support because men have historically done so.

I’m not sure many men have the testicular fortitude to endure the pain it takes to achieve this goal today. Particularly since the avenue I pursued is now closed off to men in the family court’s crusade against fatherhood. I certainly thought of giving up but never did. I was also determined to get the court to understand the seriousness of my desire to be a fully committed parent and I was willing to go through the financial expense of seeing it through.

During my custody battle, I came to a deeper understanding how the courts system works and how the law applied in my particular case. I persevered by demonstrating that I was rational, reasonable, and always focused on the best interest of my children. Instead of relying solely on my attorney’s advice and historical precedent, I saw the bigger picture and thought long term.

I used several tactics to my advantage. I never left or was forced out of our marital residence, I managed to avoid physical altercations by keeping my emotions in check as much as possible, avoided being taken to jail by the NYPD by calmly explaining my side of the story and kept my focus by remaining totally devoted to my two children. I always took the high road and never talked badly about my ex to our children, no matter how tempting. I still don’t-she is the mother of our kids. They love her just as much as they love me.

I know all too well the stories of men who get taken advantage of by unscrupulous attorneys who don’t offer alternatives and other potential options their clients can pursue. State ordered child support should only be enforced when a spouse chooses to abdicate the responsibility of raising their children. There is no excuse for a parent to abandon their children. In my subsequent research, I have discovered that many fathers do not want to leave their children. Many times they are FORCED out.

 

Mandatory arrests laws that were written to protect women over the years have often been abused and are at times used to force fathers from the home straight into jail. This, in conjunction with punitive child support orders and the threat of imprisonment if it isn’t paid have been just a few of the reasons for the increase of widespread fatherlessness over the past 40 years.

The threat of divorce, child support orders or jail should ever stop a devoted father from having a healthy relationship with his children. No one should have the right to deny that important relationship unless there are serious criminal matters and there is due process.

Today it seems that many women intentionally abuse a system that was set up in the 1950′s and 1960′s to assist with the necessary expenses of child rearing for children that both parents gave consent to have. Now that women have joined the workforce in unprecedented numbers–and birth control frees them from the constraints they were otherwise under–it makes little sense to keep men stuck back in an era that has long passed. Women don’t want to go back to that era-men don’t either. If times have progressed for women, why are men forced to stay in the past?

I have seen many cases where spousal and/or child support is automatically assumed to be part of divorce even though it may be unwarranted, and most attorneys don’t even discuss potential options for their clients. I truly feel that men who desire to be a part of their children’s lives need not pay their future ex-wife at all.

My ex wife and I, more often than not, peacefully co-exist without a state ordered child or spousal support. I must emphasize this particular point: if anyone chooses the road I took, it requires a lifelong commitment of taking care of your children – something that unfortunately, most men today are not even given an opportunity to do.

I feel the default option in custody cases should be joint legal and physical custody with no court ordered child support absent a strong reason. Start with a 50/50 split of parenting time with the children. If that can’t happen and money needs to be transferred, the person receiving the funds needs to be held accountable for how the money is being spent. As it stand now, there is no way to account for how the funds are being used for the children.

 

The more often we keep the filthy claws of state and federal government out of our lives, the better. Once they get in, they never let go. The formation of the family court system, the state and federal offices of child support enforcement and all of the affiliated positions associated with it, has resulted in the creation of a massive state controlled Industry whose sole function is to affect the massive transfer of wealth from the father to the mother. The increase in state intrusion in our personal lives coupled with the culture of entitlement and unreasonable expectations currently embedded in our public consciousness, creates a system that feeds upon itself. It appears that this former government safety net has turned into a spider web. Eventually it will bleed fathers dry and the real victims will be their children.

When there are two loving parents that want to be actively involved in their children’s lives after divorce, there is no need to travel down the expected path of family court and mandatory child and/or spousal support. Women can learn from my story and understand that just because you may no longer love the father of your kids, your children do. Children need their mother AND father. Find a way to stay out of that hell hole they loosely call “Family Court.” I am living proof that there is another way.

John The Lion

 

When I put my kids to sleep, the bedtime ritual can often seem routine. I tend to make it fun when they are with me overnight. I already feel a strong bond with both of my children, but the little things we do with our kids sometimes have greater meaning than we think.

I’ve been telling stories to my daughter ever since I can remember. She is a lot older now, but for the first few years of her life I had this little thing I did before I tucked her into bed. I tell the story of John the Lion and his daddy.

Since I love being creative, I would just make up stories of a little lion and his dad on many adventures. I start out the story with John saying, “daddy…daddy… DADDY! Can we go to….” I would insert a specific place that a kid would want to go, like the zoo, the park, the circus, etc. Then I would keep the story going. Daddy would reply “No John, we can’t go now because it is too……late, or too far…etc..” I would make up some lame excuse. John would plead for his dad to take him and he would finally give in to his request.

The story would unfold from there. I would actually surprise myself with how interesting my stories would be. My daughter LOVED it. It was just a little thing I would do to have a special bond between her and I. It started to fade away during my divorce a few years ago because I was not able to tuck her in to bed. My court order kicked me out of the marital bedroom. Looking back, I would never suggest ANY man agree to be kicked out of their own bedroom or home. Don’t allow the relationship between you and your children ever become interrupted. But I digress.

So, when I finally got my own apartment and the kids would stay with me, I revived John the Lion. Well, at least I tried. Sleeping in a completely different place with a slightly new routine was tough for a while. My son, who was 2, missed his mother and it was still a little rough on my 6-year-old daughter at the time.

I slowly weaved my storytelling back into our bedtime routine over the years. Children tend to be highly adaptable. Now, my 5-year-old son begs me to tell stories. My daughter is even requesting some of the old stories I used to tell her. It’s amazing how I even remember the details of the classics.

The new stories are fascinating to both kids. I guess my 30-plus years of creativity and improvisation as a musician has applications in places I would never suspect. It can be quite a challenge to make up a complete story on the spot, but is incredibly rewarding to see the smile on their beautiful little faces before they fall off to sleep.

Sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference.

This is just one of my favorite parts being a father to two wonderful kids. Maybe one day they will continue John the Lion’s adventures to their children. Something tells me they will.