Book Excerpt: 'A Promise to Ourselves'

I agree that I did make things worse for myself. Foolishly, I walked into a courtroom with the expectation that I would be given some equitable rights regarding my daughter. I ignored the less than subtle message that tells non-custodial parents, especially fathers, to abandon such hopes and face the realities of this system. Walk away, we're told. Accept your fate as your penance for the poor choices you've made. Write off this failed family as the price of learning difficult lessons. The longer you hold out for what should be the right of every parent, the more expensive and painful the process becomes.

Indeed, I went through very bitter litigation. But I did not have a contentious divorce proceeding because I sought alimony or other financial concessions from my ex-wife. My litigation did not involve unreasonable personal demands about where my ex could live or whether she could move on with her life. Alternately, I did not seek to move my daughter to London or Paris.

I had a contentious divorce because I wanted a meaningful custody of my daughter. I refused to settle for becoming a "Disney Dad," one whose role is nothing more than outings to theme parks once or twice a month. Instead I wanted to share the joys and responsibilities of raising my daughter. I wanted to be a real father, and the system punished me for that. Ultimately, I refused to give in and, for a period, I prevailed.

If the circumstances of my case had been truly anomalous, I likely would have taken my lumps and got on with my life. I would not have written this book if I felt that my experiences were isolated. However, I have seen the other broken lives and destruction that this system leaves in its wake. I have even had attorneys, in a fleeting moment of candor, admit that the system is terribly flawed. I am not stating that every divorce proceeding is the same. Nor am I suggesting that most divorce lawyers and family law judges are at best inept or at worst corrupt.

There is, however, enough injustice, inefficiency and corruption within the system to compel us as a society to closely examine what is being perpetrated on innocent men and women, funded by our tax dollars. As you read my story and the stories of others that follow, I believe you will reach this same conclusion.

Some people will, no doubt, criticize me for tilting this book so much toward my own dilemma as opposed to that of my daughter. However, due to restrictions set by court orders, as well as a desire not to expose my child to any further unnecessary scrutiny, an open and frank discussion of my observations of my daughter's experiences is, to an extent, better left alone.

My relationship with my daughter is a casualty of parental alienation, aided and abetted by the Los Angeles family law system. As I have suffered, so has she, in my opinion. I have attempted to inlay as much of my daughter's reality as I saw fit.

I have seen the psychological toll that divorce litigation takes on people. These are not an isolated few, hidden away from the rest of society, as was often the case some generations ago. Today, more than half of marriages end in divorce, and the damages are not limited to the couples themselves.

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