community, women

Questioning My Faith in a Broken System

She was unstoppable

When I left our family court hearing early last Friday morning I was frustrated to hear the decision would be mailed to us later that day. In 2015 it was to be mailed on actual paper with a stamp and all. My husband was away for work all week. I turned Liam over to his father at 4:00 on Friday afternoon and proceeded into one of the longest weekends ever. Thanks to a full dose of Tylenol PM two nights in a row I did manage to get my first sleep in weeks but I wasn’t rested. I was restless.

I was more than happy to wake with dawn on Monday morning to retrieve my Love from the airport and then go get my little boy and return him home. But by Monday afternoon the pain of uncertainty was slowly driving me crazy. The mail came earlier than usual and I was sorely disappointed to see Anisa, our mail carrier, go to the houses of our neighbors and never come to our door. I called the matrimonial office at the courthouse and asked if I could come to pick up a copy of the Order. They didn’t have it. They called the judge’s chambers. It had just been signed Monday afternoon and it was abundantly clear that coming down to get a copy was “not necessary since a copy [was] being mailed to [me].” Just signed, three days later! So I settled in with Wednesday being the earliest day we would get the Order.

On Wednesday afternoon Liam goes to his father’s house for an overnight visit. It was my dream to get the Order before his father, see him pull up in his Audi, and go out and say, “I’m sorry, did you not get the Order? Your Wednesday with Liam has been eliminated.” He would then throw a fit and call the police on me. The police would arrive and I would hand them the Order. They would then remove my ex-husband from the property. He’d obviously not be happy and end up getting arrested. This was my daydream.

Instead, the mail arrived at 3:25. Liam was still asleep when Oliver handed me the letter with the return address of the judge’s chambers. I shook and eagerly opened the envelope. Over and over I was seeing “the Plaintiff’s request to…DENIED.” Request for psychiatric evaluation was denied because I failed to show any basis for such an evaluation. I’m sorry. What?! Since when is a Personality Assessment Inventory, administered by a licensed professional, indicating a possible personality disorder not a basis for further evaluation? Has the overuse of the word “narcissist” in our pop culture led people to believe that the biggest offense of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is spending too much time looking in the mirror? This was my ace in the hole. This was what I was holding onto for the right time to get Liam out. It failed.

I knew when I read that decision that we would also not have a change in custody. Not even a minuscule change in parenting time. Very little changed and the things that we “won” were things that were previously decided and now merely being enforced. Our biggest “wins” were in the form of defense. Every part of his cross-motion was denied. No reduction in child support (though done so without prejudice so I am expecting a brief with a further request for a reduction in the coming weeks). No summer school or expansion of Liam’s school schedule. No additional overnights. And I was not ordered to reimburse Liam’s father for the airfare he was seeking or counsel fees. Yes, he wanted me to pay for the airfare of a trip that the family court judge made him cancel.

In general, the people in our lives who love us see major wins. I am struggling to see it as such right now because the Court has failed to keep Liam away from his father, leaving him repeatedly in harm’s way. What we did get is enforcement of Liam’s father’s support of his son’s extracurricular activities, both emotionally and financially. I’d love to know how to enforce the emotional side of this but Liam has already said that his dad said he was going to let him take dance class, so we will see what kind of show we get out of him.

Our final custody settlement agreement outlined the need for each parent to complete three months of psychotherapy. I have, of course, completed that and have done so much more to provide healing for myself. He, of course, has done nothing. Last year I asked for the judge to add a timeline to this point and it was denied. This time when I asked that this point be enforced she Ordered that proof that he has begun therapy be submitted within fourteen days. That’s a week from today. Something tells me I will be prepping another motion to enforce this one soon. This is actually very good for us, depending on who the practitioner is. Hopefully, it goes about as well as our couples therapy went and the this licensed professional will now be on the record and witness to violent behaviors and distorted thinking. It is a step in the right direction.

When I filed this motion “the Defendant” was almost $6,000 behind in child support. He is now up to date and my credit card balances are all paid off. The judge has also authorized the Probation department to garnish Liam’s father’s bank account should he have more than two weeks of arrears. I don’t know how this will work but I guess I will find out on Monday since he will already be two weeks past due on payments (charges are made every Saturday). This has the potential to provide us with a more solid financial base and eliminate some of my stress. We will see how it plays out. I know the child support war is not over, though we continue to be the victor in all of the battles.

The biggest win for us was on a point that 8 days ago I was wishing I hadn’t put in the motion. It was a request I had already made a year and a half ago and had it denied, but I felt circumstances had changed enough that I could ask again. In light of everything else that we were looking at it seemed a careless request that could potentially seem disrespectful to the judge. Lo and behold, this time my request to register Liam in the religious education program at our congregation and all other congregational life was granted! I was not expecting it at all and am thrilled that Liam is going to get to enjoy the comfort and support of a strong peer group and a moral and caring community. Because of the enforcement of the extracurricular point of our custody agreement I am pretty sure that this means Liam’s father will have to make sure that Liam is at these activities as well. I will be happy to have him come watch us joyously rehearsing at children’s choir or for the holiday pageant.

Though we had our biggest win this week I still cried when I read the Order and I continue to be uneasy about the decision. I am not content to sit back and let my son continue to live this life of instability. I am not ok with my son telling me at bedtime “I don’t think my daddy loves me. It’s my fault.” And I am not prepared to let this be the FINAL decision made regarding Liam’s parenting schedule. So we keep going. Until I can rest easy I know that there is still a fight to be fought. The black lace weaver spider mother literally feeds herself to her hatchlings to ensure they get the nutrients they need to grow. It’s hard to imagine encouraging Liam to eat me but I am certain I would give my life to save his. And so we move forward with eyes wide open.

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