Well, one year and counting!
Eadaoin and I gave my life a lot of thought after my rant about goals in June. So my Quetelet Index is north of 30, and from there it only gets better. My measured cholesterol levels, if I told you them, would raise your eyebrows, and my levels of physical are low enough to describe as statistical artifacts. Put together, this makes my weight a good target. Dublin doesn’t help; the city is as bad as Las Vegas when it comes to easy ways to put on and keep weight. While the city isn’t a grid with fast food on every junction, the Luas has the city center at one end and Dundrum at the other. If I wanted, I could just get the train everywhere, live off crap and enjoy a short, rich life as a land whale.
I don’t want that.
With the resolution made, I understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and abrupt changes fail. Eadaoin and I have adopted more incremental strategy: change one thing, see if it sticks and repeat. Weekends have been our first target; I go stir crazy at home, so we try to get far away from the house at the weekend. Last week we went to Bray and today we hiked through the Dublin Mountains from Stepaside. Next week we will both be on the road, but in two weeks we’ll be doing the Colour Dash in Phoenix Park with our families.
The Cairn of Theseus
Our route took us through the grounds of Fernhill to the Blue Light, and thence to Sliab Lecga. The cairn on Two Rocks is a good example of the Ship of Theseus. Passersby often add or remove rocks on cairns, and this cairn dates to the Bronze Age. With those in mind, how many rocks now on the cairn were there six thousand years ago? Is is the same cairn if none of the original rocks remain? Put your rocks down! The questions were rhetorical, food for thought for our hike down.
Tors and Passage Graves, Oh My
Eadaoin and I hiked down from the peak and cairn at Two Rocks to the eponymous tors at Three Rock. It was past one o’clock at this stage and rain threatened from the west, so we hurried to the forest at Ballyedmonduff. There is an old wedge tomb in the dell. At least three thousand, five hundred years old, the Ballyedmonduff tomb is…generic? Ordinary? People’ve been in Ireland for about nine thousand years. By the time someone built this tomb for a rich dead person, Ireland was already littered with half-forgotten tombs. Fuck, Newgrange would have already been around for fifteen hundred years. I said this in April after I met Eadaoin’s family: Ireland’s landscape is so stamped human history that the tomb is just another random artefact.
Bad Food, and Home
We walked the main road from Ballyedmonduff to Eadaoin’s old local, the Step Inn at Stepaside. It was a pub that offered pub food so I shouldn’t complain, but lunch was fucking awful. My tuna melt was some sort of aborted half-breed fish pizza; dry tuna on soda bread smothered in enough cheese that I couldn’t see the sandwich for the cheddar. Eadaoin’s turkey sandwich looked like it came from the snack shelf in Tesco (and tasted liked the wrapper, according to Eadaoin). I’m a fat bastard; I’ll eat almost anything, anywhere. I had three bites of the sandwich.
Bleah. On the topic of cairns, we finished our walk with a stroll down to the Glencairn and then the Luas back home. Great day: fifty calories burned, pictures taken, walk had, relationship strengthened.
So holy shit, Eadaoin and I have been together for almost a year. We have completely failed to manage to kill one another, which is great; it’s a real step up from my marriage. Our first trip together was to Bray and Greystones in Co. Wicklow, where we walked the cliff trail from the former to the latter. Last Saturday we went back, but went in the opposite direction and took the path over the top of the head than along the cliffside.
The weather was the same as last year: warm and cloudy, with some sunlight breaking through toward evening. We saw the Welsh coast again! Snowdonia stood out clearly through some quirk of the atmosphere, to the point that we could count peaks and see what looked like Holyhead in the foreground.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. Do not interpret this article as anything but an account of my personal experience. Do not interpret this article as legal advice. Speak to a solicitor if you have questions.
I say this over and over: every new experience has the chance to be transformative. Every novel new encounter can has the potential to turn my mind around or bring new concepts and learnings into my life. Sure, the experience itself may not be good, but even an awful experience can lead to new and better things.
Yesterday I attended the District Court in Galway in answer to a summons from the Central Authority for Maintenance Recovery. My ex-wife started the process a few years ago through (AFAIK) Medicaid in Las Vegas. While some of the paperwork dates to 2010, the majority of it dates to 2013. My ex-wife’s side of the story is a different one that mine, which boils down to I’ve been prevented from doing so.
I say the above because I realize how much stigma surrounds separated fathers, child supports and courts. “Ah shure, isn’t he a deadbeat dad, off getting dragged to court!” I want to support my son, but I have been prevented. Going through the courts, even in this reverse manner, gets support to Garrett. I feel no shame.
But the stigma remains. Google is a wasteland. There are news articles, informational pieces, solicitor’s blurb pieces and little else by page five of the results. Nobody talks about their experiences, and if nobody talks, nothing changes. My own journey to this point is beyond the scope of this post, but I think it is healthy to broach the topic and air my experience in court.
Talk to your estranged spouse!
There is no useful information online about what a father can expect in court. No site will tell you to whom you can speak or what documents should you need at a maintenance hearing. If you’ve reached the point that you have a court summons, then communications for some time. The process is slow, and you have every opportunity along the way to reach a voluntary settlement. It’s one thing to hear, over and over, that the court prefers the parents to reach an agreement before they appear before it. It is another to watch the judge lambast parents and solicitors for their failure to communicate.
I am serious: have a good reason!
The Central Authority will want a snapshot of your finances. Exactly what they expect is vague. As I am a self-employed web developer with an accountant, I already have to keep track of my business finances. At the start of every calendar month I export my bank information in CSV format and use this to determine last month’s finances. I gave this to my accountant, who returned a statement of my finances under her letterhead a while later.
Do not self-declare your finances if you are self-employed. The Central Authority will reject this. If you are in regular employment, present your pay stubs along with outgoings payments like your rent and car. If you receive an unemployment benefit, the Department of Social Protection can provide a letter that states your benefit scheme and weekly payment. It takes about five minutes to prepare and they can do it while you wait.
You may be asked to complete a Statement of Means by the court, which is a standardized form to assess your income.
I paid €100 to have my accounts prepared, which isn’t cheap, but it was way easier than the stress of preparing my own finance. Either way, do not hesitate to speak to an accountant, the Legal Aid Board if you believe you qualify, or a local solicitor.
Maintenance payments are relative to your income and in consideration to the needs of the child. As well as a flat payment made weekly, you will have to contribute to ongoing costs at occasions like the start of the school year and Christmas. The amount also considers your own ability to support yourself. A court will not leave you in the position of being unable to support yourself.
What to expect
Soul-destroying boredom. The District Court holds family law days at regular intervals, because most issues are quick to settle. On the day, the court will first triage cases, with issues of child welfare and safety trumping questions of access or support. When the registrar mentions your case, announce yourself. The opposing solicitor will speak likewise.
After that, the court expelled everyone. This was at 11am. For myself, I met with the opposing solicitor and spoke at length with him. I expected him to spit fire, brimstone and wear all the other trappings of the Catholic hell. He took me aback with his warmth and humanity about my case. I presented my finances and clarified my story. He took my numbers and presented a tentative rate. Again-I’m happy to pay, but the court still has to ratify this. This was at 12pm.
The solicitor and the court left us to our own devices after this. We left for lunch, met Alanna, came back, sat around, left again and sat around until the close of the court at 5pm.
The context for the judge’s harsh remarks was that they were toward a couple who failed to reach any agreement. They sat there for seven hours and didn’t even talk. My impression is that eleventh-hour settlements are both common and expected of the parties present.
The bailiff brought us all back into the court at five o’clock. The judge apologized for the delays, and adjourned each case in turn until later in the year. I have to return in September.
I am not one of the fathers who has lost out on access in court in the past. My own case won’t be for a while to come, and I am heartened by the Children and Families Relationships Bill. The bill expands my rights as a single, separated father. I am hopeful! I am frustrated because my day in court didn’t quite happen, but I came away more informed about the theory and reality of the maintenance process.
If you are a single father, your first stop should be Unmarried and Separated Parents of Ireland. USPI are father-oriented nonprofit who will give advice and provide legal services. They ask for a nominal donation in return. My experience with them is that they are ballbreakers who Get Things Done. They hold two weekly clinics in Dublin, one on Monday in Fairview and the second on Tuesday in Tallaght.
The quality of material on the Internet isn’t great. Much of it has become outdated in the wake of the Children and Families Relationship bill. Speak to a person. Get a solicitor, find an accountant and make another attempt to speak to your spouse.