Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You

Is Divorce Court Unfair To Dads?

October 05, 2023 Attorney Billie Tarascio
Is Divorce Court Unfair To Dads?
Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
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Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
Is Divorce Court Unfair To Dads?
Oct 05, 2023
Attorney Billie Tarascio

In this episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast, host Billie Tarascio talks with an Arizona father of four, Ken Crockett, who talks about his long court battle to get regular - and fair - parenting time with his kids. Ken is a moderator who helps others navigating similar situations on the Modern Divorce Facebook Group.

Ken's ex moved out of town, making a 50-50 split impossible. Ken talks about what arrangements he made and how his uphill battle eventually led to the climactic win he was hoping for.

If you'd like to talk with Ken, jump into the Modern Divorce Facebook Group, where you'll be able to chat online with him and others who have gone through the arduous court system. You can also find him on LinkedIn here.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast, host Billie Tarascio talks with an Arizona father of four, Ken Crockett, who talks about his long court battle to get regular - and fair - parenting time with his kids. Ken is a moderator who helps others navigating similar situations on the Modern Divorce Facebook Group.

Ken's ex moved out of town, making a 50-50 split impossible. Ken talks about what arrangements he made and how his uphill battle eventually led to the climactic win he was hoping for.

If you'd like to talk with Ken, jump into the Modern Divorce Facebook Group, where you'll be able to chat online with him and others who have gone through the arduous court system. You can also find him on LinkedIn here.

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Hello and welcome to another episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast. I'm your host, Billie Tarascio, Arizona family law attorney and owner of Modern Law and Win Without Law School. Today we are joined for a It's a special father's focused episode with Ken Crockett. Ken is one of our OG moderators of the Modern Divorce support group on Facebook, and he has been through the ringer in family court.

Ken, welcome to the show. 

Ken Crockett: Thanks. Thanks for having me. 

Billie Tarascio: So Ken, you have done so much already in family court on your own and with a lawyer. You've been doing this process for quite a few years. Will you just take a minute and introduce yourself to the audience? 

Ken Crockett: Uh, yeah, my, my name's Ken. I went through this fun family court process, uh, starting in 2019.

but yeah, it started out just, all right, we're, we're divorcing, let's just go through the process. chain, you know, going [00:02:00] through all of that, the new changes, trying to adjust to Uh.

Fortunately, uh, had to go back a few times, uh, and it's been a very much a learning process. The whole way. 

Billie Tarascio: Yeah. Yours has really been, so you, you, you got divorced and you agreed to it in 2019. And then since then it's just been change after change after change. How old are your children now? 

Ken Crockett: Um, my oldest is 18, just graduated high school and turned 18 months after that.

Uh, and then I have my three youngest children. Um, we've got a 10th grader, I've got a kid in junior high and my youngest is in elementary school. 

Billie Tarascio: Yeah. Wow. So four kids now, and originally you all agreed that mom would be the primary residential parent. Is that, is that [00:03:00] correct? 

Ken Crockett: Yeah. I really wanted to do 50 50.

Unfortunately, at the time my employer wasn't, flexible. It's probably the best way of putting it, uh, with my schedule to allow that to actually be something I could do. I worked late hours, went in. You know, it'd be great for mornings because kids off to school, but I wouldn't be getting home till seven, eight o'clock at night.

So, uh, until that could be done. yeah, we, we adjusted and went the route that we went, with that till my understanding till my work would allow me to make those changes, which actually only happened a few months after we divorced. But, unfortunately it didn't go that route of, well, let's, let's adjust this.

You know, we can make these changes and agree to it. Didn't end up being that way, so. Sure, 

Billie Tarascio: so originally you agreed that mom would be the primary residential parent, your work wouldn't allow you to do 50 50, and today you are the primary residential parent, is that correct? I am. Okay, [00:04:00] so tell us how did we get there?

Ken Crockett: Well, it was kind of through a long, long process, multiple, times going to court, kind of fast forwarding a little bit. You know, I would have the kids over every day. Once school started, my ex had gone back to work. So I, I had him every other weekend and then a day in the middle, pretty standard.

I know in Arizona, when you don't do 50 50, that's pretty much the standard. so I would have them and. They were coming over every day after school. Their mom was it worked out well. Uh, I didn't go, well, we

need to go back for child support. I was happy to have my children and getting to spend every day with them. I got to make dinner for them. We sat down, had dinner together. It was, it was great. Um, and I was able to pick them up. Their mom looked like five minutes from me. Wasn't even planned. It was just how it worked out when we.

Divorced and we both found our own places. Come to find out, oh, they're five minutes from each other. This works out perfect. That sounds [00:05:00] optimal. It was definitely optimal at the time. Um. But, there were instant, there were some things that were coming up, um, with all of that. And my, uh, ex was looking to, to move, and, and, well, fantastic, but wanted to move our children.

Mm hmm. 

Billie Tarascio: And she ended up moving to Sedona and relocating with your kids there, correct? Mm hmm. And how long were they there before you ended up getting custody back? 

Ken Crockett: I want to say a mere year and a half, maybe two years, close, probably closest to two years when everything's all said and done. Okay. Um, it was, it was, it was closer to two years.

Billie Tarascio: Okay, so for about two years, they lived in Sedona, they went to school in Sedona. Um, did you have a long distance plan at that 

Ken Crockett: point? Um, yeah, because we had gone back, um, because she was saying, hey, I'm gonna, I'm gonna move the kids. And I didn't agree. I wanted us to go to a [00:06:00] 50 50. My work perfectly allowed that at that point.

Mm hmm. Um. Like, my schedule wise, um, plus with COVID and everything else, I was fully remote, like, and have been, have been ever since that, like, it just worked out very well that way, so I, I just wanted 50 50, I just wanted us to split, and the court said, well, That's not going to work because mom lives up there.

Like, this is not going to work. 

Billie Tarascio: Right. 50 50 is impossible when, when you don't, when you're not both local. So the court ended up kind of, um, sticking with that original agreement because you had, you know, you had agreed to her being the residential parent. So they just kind of continued.

Ken Crockett: The We, we had, uh, the judge at the time, we were in a different county, um, that where we both were living, because it was where originally we divorced. And he, judge basically said, look, I'm going to order [00:07:00] mediation and you both need to come to an agreement because if I have to, you're not going to like it.

Paraphrasing a little bit, but that was essentially what he said. Sure. Um, and I didn't want to not have any sort of control. Let's, let's work together and let's figure something out. So, um, we did, and unfortunately it wasn't what I wanted to have happen completely. Like obviously 50 50 is still it. That's what I would love to do, uh, but it wasn't going to work.

So we, we came to an agreement and it ended up being, I would have the kids three weekends out of the month, um, had them for breaks, you know, three day weekends, I would have them during the summer. It was a lot more time with them and it was fantastic. I, I love, I loved it. Yeah. Just having them around is, well a parent doesn't want that.

Yeah. 

Billie Tarascio: Yeah. So you didn't hate the 

Ken Crockett: schedule? I didn't hate it, obviously, [00:08:00] again, having, having that 50 50s ideal, but I didn't hate the schedule at all. It was, it was a lot more time with, with my children. So who, yeah, like I said, who, who wouldn't be opposed to that? 

Billie Tarascio: So how did you end up with them back here?

And by here, I mean in Maricopa County, in the Phoenix area, so two hours away from Sedona. 

Ken Crockett: Yeah, so there's a lot of aspects to it, and I'm not going to go into all of those, just because it's a lot of, it's a lot of stuff. Um, anybody who wants to reach out to me directly, and my story hits a... you know, hits a chord with you and you'd love to know more.

I'd love to chat with folks one on one, but yeah, there was a lot of different things that kept coming up and coming up. And after that was in place that I realized, you know, one, it was important to document. So I was That's one thing I can tell any parent, not just fathers, any parent, if there's something [00:09:00] that's not going according to your orders and is in violation of them or seems off, even if it's not outlined, document it, document it, document it, like time, date, when it occurred, what it was, put, make those notes.

If you have a picture or email, whatever the case is, something that goes along with it, also back that up, document it. So I would document everything that was coming up. Did you 

Billie Tarascio: use a specific, um, mechanism for collecting those and keeping those documents organized or how did you do that?

Ken Crockett: Yes and no. I mean, I made it my own. Um, I used, I have a Mac, I have Apple, everything. So if I was out and about on my phone, I'd go into the notes app and just type it all out and put a picture. I can embed it into that. Um, I would [00:10:00] create, you know, my, my iCloud account had everything folders for every little thing where they needed to go dated.

So I would just Copy, you know, save an email, all those things and just file it away. So I had everything outlined. Um, and then when I got to further in the process, ended up printing everything out, putting it in a notebook. So I had time, date, specifically what, you know, what the situation was. So, and then that was set by time and date.

So it would be like, oh, well this thing, you know, this type of scenario or this type Something with one of my kids, whatever it was, had it all documented and outlined out. And so yeah, I didn't use any existing tools or anything that are out there for parents for that kind of stuff. It was just kind of, I'm going to do this all on my own and create my own system.

Billie Tarascio: I love it. I love it. What works for you given the devices that you're using all day, [00:11:00] every day anyway? That makes a lot of sense. I think that that's great advice. So you were documenting everything that wasn't going according to the plan. And then how did you decide I've got to do something? 

Ken Crockett: Everything kept building up and I knew we were getting close to the year point because you can't file for a year unless there's extenuating circumstances.

And we had gone through that when the children were moved. Because, yeah, this was going to happen, like we, that was an extended circumstance. And, and it was funny because the judge had called out and he goes, during that time, he goes, well, you're not supposed to do that before a year. And like, really called it out.

Like I did something wrong, but then was like, but this is an extended circumstance. It was just a very odd way of doing things. Um. And at that time, I even wanted to have it moved to Maricopa County and the judge was like, no, we're not going to do that because we're not going to hand Maricopa County a landmine, which I can get from a [00:12:00] professional legal standpoint.

You know, you don't want to just be like, you know, here you go. No take backs. Um, so I, I started going through the process and realizing that the year, the prior time we'd gone back, I, I did, you know, I think I handled it well. Um, and I had had some assistance with, with a paralegal, but I was, you know, I was pro se, I was completely, you know.

representing myself. I knew I couldn't do that that time. Uh, and so I started looking around trying to find, find legal representation that could assist and help. And I ended up finding the lawyer that I went with, um, after a lot of searching and he was amazing. He was awesome. Just, you know, listened to everything that was going on.

Didn't. [00:13:00] Didn't make me feel like I was, you know, another number, another, another paycheck, so to speak. Um, cause obviously, you know, and, and folks out there that are going through this process, you know, you pay a lot of money to the lawyer and sits in that retainer and he never made me feel like I was just that for him, like he truly cared about my case.

So I went with him and oh yeah, it definitely does. And the whole team at that, that law firm really. Like, everybody that was involved was... Very helpful. And so we kind of, we went through the process and went over everything and, Hey, you know, he, I'm going to be realistic here. This is an uphill battle for you.

Yes, there's all those things in place and you need to say something about it, but that doesn't mean anything's going to change at all. Like This is just, you know, things have been the way they are, [00:14:00] you kind of agreed to have this change happen back when you did, like, it very well will stay that way.

We'll fight as hard as we can, but you need to know this is going to be very much an uphill battle, and that's a sobering moment to hear. Uh, a little bit like, Hey, yeah, this is going to be an uphill battle and it's probably not changing anything, but you know, also making sure that I had my day in court to be able to tell my story, to outline everything.

And 

Billie Tarascio: obviously it did work. So you went, you had your day in court, you made your case and the judge agreed. And how long have the kids been with you now? 

Ken Crockett: December of last year. 

Billie Tarascio: Okay. 

Ken Crockett: So we had, we had new end of summer is when everything trial happened and then we had the full, it was interesting as my lawyer was like two weeks, he's usually pretty quick with these things.

We had the full 60 days. Wow. So it was just for 60 days wondering. And I, uh, I ruined [00:15:00] the surprise when it all came through, because I got a little impatient, so I would constantly check, uh, the ECR lookup, uh, that I had access to through everything, and I saw all the new orders come in, and then about an hour after that, my lawyer called to say, Hey, we got the new orders.

I'm like, Oh, yeah, I know. But yeah, so, and then it just became a month of trying to go through the process of, okay, we gotta get school, I gotta get schools all set up. my fiancée and I had just moved literally the weekend before trial. Wow. And got our place in Gilbert, and like, we chose where we did because we wanted the schools.

Sure. We had scoped out all the schools, you know, in the valley where we were at. Should things change, we wanted to make it clear, this is where We want the kids, you know, this is, this is where I want, you know, my youngest to go to elementary school, my elder to for high school and all of that, so. 

Billie Tarascio: So you had chosen a home that would accommodate you having custody, thankfully.

Ken Crockett: That, and like to me, education's very, very important. I wasn't happy with the [00:16:00] schools that were up there. Um, got it. I, the schools are the, it's Sedona, so you have what's there. 

Billie Tarascio: Right. 

Ken Crockett: but I, I wasn't happy with the reviews and, and various things that I had seen. I just didn't feel great about the education.

So to me, education first and foremost was a big. A big, big deal. 

Billie Tarascio: So what did it feel like to get that order 60 days after trial? And even though you knew you, you, you know, that it was an uphill battle and that you might not prevail, what did it feel like to read that you had prevailed? 

Ken Crockett: Very reassuring. I have no problem getting that balled like a baby, uh, to the point I made myself sick.

So, uh, 

Billie Tarascio: it's heavy, you know, when you win, 

Ken Crockett: yeah, like I, I, I was working and my boss was like, Yeah. Take a few hours. You're good. Just don't even worry about it. Like, you're good, dude. Um, quite a few walks around the neighborhood just to kind of sink it in and some walks. You know, put in the AirPods, crank some music, and just try to center myself again.

It was... Very surreal moments of like, this isn't happening. Is [00:17:00] this like, 

Billie Tarascio: And how did the kids take it? 

Excited, 

Ken Crockett: but also sad too, because they had established, you know, friends and stuff up at their schools that they were at. one of my children made the comment and I was like, this is like the sweetest thing you could say.

And he's like, uh, you know. I'm excited because I get to make more friends. And that was my youngest and, and was eight at the time, uh, when that was said and then turned nine, like a month later. But, uh, yeah, it was, it was really, my oldest was like, yeah, okay, like I'm going to go with the flow. And one of my other children wasn't happy because they have established friends and sat with them and saying, Hey, I want to do what I can to help there.

Cause I know you have friends, like we'll do what we need to, whether it's. Take it up there on a weekend and maybe your mom picks it back up or brings you back Just you know, let's plan things ahead, which I know is a little harder to do with friends sometimes But you know like day of your day before like if you know [00:18:00] Let's try to stay away from some of that just a little harder because right if we can make it work I'll make it work.

But you know, that's a lot harder to do especially with three other Siblings and all of their schedules and all the various things they do. 

Billie Tarascio: Did your children know that, there was a possibility they were going to move or they were going to stay and how did you kind of keep them informed but also keep it neutral and keep them out of the litigation?

Ken Crockett: I don't know how much. I think they knew more, probably more than I'm comfortable with telling them just because I wanted to keep them out of it as much as I can. still do. Uh, that's, to me, that's, it, it's kind of sucky in Arizona. Like, I know judges will take children's thoughts and, and all that into consideration, but in the end, as sad as it sounds, what a kid wants doesn't mean anything to the judge in, in the grand scheme of things.

They're going to make the decision they feel is in the best interest with all the facts that they have been given. I, Anytime my kids [00:19:00] would bring it up, I just let them know, look here, what your mom and I aren't agreeing. And we need some other adults that have to help us figure it out. Their job is basically to say, all right, you don't agree.

You don't agree. Where can you guys compromise? And if we can't, they have to make the decision for us and say, here's all of the things you need to do to co parent and, and do your best. And that's about the extent I have taken it with, with the kids. 

Billie Tarascio: That's really helpful. Thank you for sharing that. Now, have you and your ex and your children been able to establish a relative peace?

Ken Crockett: At times, yes. At times, yeah. the kids have gotten into the routines and whatnot and, and I've helped, I've gotten them into therapy and stuff so they can work through the transitions. I, you know, that's a tough thing on kids, especially when you have to travel back, even whether it's every weekend or every other weekend, like it's a lot, um, and adjusting to, to two home environments and in a roundabout way.

And I know there are some couples when they divorce, they keep all their [00:20:00] parenting very copacetic between them, but I think that's the exception, not the rule, for sure. I do. Uh, you know, and getting used to those different dynamics and, and parenting and, I want to help prep them for, for life and I hope they never have to go through this process themselves, but, you know, I want to try to.

Make it as, as what's the word I'm looking for it, making it as perfect of a co parenting relationship as they can. They can see I want to try to do all I can to, Hey, you know, we work, we're working together here. We're both on the same page with things. So, I just, I always try to show that to the kids and, and they do get for the most part.

And of course there's times from time to time where, well, I'm going to go do stuff with my friends or, well, I'm allowed to do this at mom's and the typical stuff that kids have during that process. So that's kind of where we're at with a lot of it. 

Billie Tarascio: Ken, if you had to predict, do you think that your family court journey is done, [00:21:00] or do you think that you'll end up back in court?

Ken Crockett: I hope and pray I never 

do, because, uh, it's great, and it is... Great of an experience. And I don't mean great in like the, like, oh my gosh, this was just amazing. It was not. It sucked. I hope I never have to see the inside of a courtroom if someone has to sit at one of those tables ever again. Never want to do it.

Will I if I have to? Yeah, of course. I hope not. But, uh, you know, I also know the reality there's a good chance that that could happen at some point too, so. 

Billie Tarascio: It's a, it's a long game, right? It's not a sprint. It's a marathon. It is. 

Ken Crockett: It is. And trying to always be prepared of like, what, uh, you know, what's going to happen if I do this?

Is this going to happen? Then, you know, are they going to, are they going to think this? And then next thing we know we're in court again, like, and that's been the hardest part through it of like, letting go of that and going, right. You know what? I'm going to follow the orders. I'm going to do exactly what those orders state.

And as long as I'm following it and I'm doing what we're supposed to, if we can agree on something and work [00:22:00] together, great. And if we can't, then we follow what's outlined. 

Billie Tarascio: That's a great rule of thumb. It's a great rule of thumb. Like if you're in a co parenting relationship, you got two options. You either both agree to something that's not in the order or you follow the order.

Those are really the only two options. 

It, 

Ken Crockett: it, it is. And that's what it's there for. It's, it's there. And I can admit early on. Like I just thought, whatever this says, this is what we're supposed to do. Sure. No matter what. And for the most part, that's how everything was being done. 'cause we were both very new into the, the, the experience and, and, and the situation.

But when it comes down to you, just, you, you follow the orders. If you can't make an agreement of any kind, follow those. That's what it's, it's what you spend all the money on, whether you had a lawyer or didn't. Right. Uh, it's what all the courts, you know, spent their time doing. Let's not have wasted everyone's time.

So if we can't agree, Follow. Follow what's there. 

Billie Tarascio: Well, Ken, thank you so much for coming on the show. It's been a really [00:23:00] great episode. Any last words for fathers or parents going through this situation? 

Ken Crockett: Yeah, um, fathers who are fighting, and I'm in a few different Facebook groups who fathers and, and my story is minuscule and piddly compared to what I've seen some dads go through, like not, not to belittle everything that I've gone through, but like, no, there's some dads who are fighting, who are going through crazy, crazy situations.

Don't give up. If your kids are important to you, you'd never give up on them. I can say that even as an adult, my parents don't give up on me. You know, they reach out, hey, how are things going? You know, they want to, they want to know how I am. Even though I'm an adult, I'm in my late 30s, like, no matter what your kids...

They're important to you, they're important to you and just fighting for your kids. And there's good dads, there's bad dads, there's good moms, there's not great moms. You know, there's the, as you know, it's, it's a [00:24:00] wide situation for everybody. do, do right by your children. And yeah, for dads, there's a lot of stigma and things are changing.

I know a lot of different states are starting to realize. So yeah, dads have gotten the kind of. The raw end of the deal. Uh, there's a lot of old stigmas of, well, well, it's the mom. So kids should be with a mom. And, and a lot of States are realizing, wait, dads are very important. There's all these studies out there going, how important fathers are to children and for them to have those relationships.

And that's why you're starting to see, I think a lot of States switching to that 50, 50, um, where they hadn't been in the past and really trying to drive that point home. And it's going to be a long process. Um, I know a lot of states, it seems like they overcorrect a little bit, um, and, and you hear instances in the news of kids going to a dad who's probably not the best, or going to a mom that's not the best, and it's, it's, I think the family court system's kind of a big ship.

You know, it steers [00:25:00] very slowly and there's a lot of, sometimes there's some overcorrections and you just kind of have to realign and readjust. 

Right, right.

Billie Tarascio: Well, Ken, thank you so much for coming on the show. It's been a great episode. If you all have enjoyed this episode, please like it, download it, rate it, share it with your friends and family.

You can find Ken at the Modern Divorce Support Group. He is one of our moderators and he runs our Dad's Chats. He's a fantastic person and a resource for you to get in touch with. And if you would like to be a guest or you know someone who would be a good guest on the Modern Divorce podcast, make sure to reach out.

Thank you so much and we'll see you soon. 

Thanks so much for listening to the Modern Divorce podcast. Remember, anything you've heard today or anything you read online is not the replacement for actual consultation with an attorney and does not create an attorney client relationship. Even if you called in and we spoke to you, you are anonymous and we don't have your details and you have not become a client of Modern Law.

However, we would love to speak with [00:26:00] you, or you should seek out the advice of legal counsel or counseling or any other expert near you. And if you have an idea for a show topic or you need to speak with an attorney in Arizona, you can reach me at info, info@ mymodernlaw. com.