I am a divorced mother of four children, ages 26, 20, 14, and 12 years old. Although my divorce was finalized March 2006, I have been in perpetual “litigation”, having been taken back to court an average of twice a year since the divorce was finalized. Each motion my ex-husband filed was nearly identical in nature, several appear to be copy/paste’s of the previous Motion. In each motion, it was for contempt and modification of custody. I ignorantly assumed that I could successfully manage this type of harassment, thinking his ultimate goal was to (1) harass me, which it was, but, I was seriously wrong in thinking he would tire of this, in time (in actuality, his behavior became more aggressive and unmanageable, which interfered with my ability to maintain a healthy, balanced life, and prevented me from any semblance of a normal life; (2) my other error, or misconception, that proved fatally wrong, was thinking that, besides the harassment, his other ulterior motive was a campaign to reduce child support as he was very angry over the whole issue … being told an amount, when to pay said amount, … all of the reasons a person with control issues would have for resenting a piece of paper telling them what/when/where to do anything; he WAS successful, in one of the aforementioned contempt hearings, in reducing child support, in which his attorney was more astute and aggressive, having gotten away with his client not only in filling out a completely inaccurate, falsified financial statement, just a few minutes before court, but in being successful in having it allowed and accepted into the record; my own attorney at the time, was in contempt issues personally with my ex-husband’s attorney, and, more focused on, as was I, the fight in addressing the ever tiring claims for custody of my minor children. At the end of that particular day, having child support reduced in one fell swoop from $400 per child, to $225 per child (in a time span of less than two years of the original divorce and child custody and support agreement. At that time, I didn’t feel or worry about the financial blow at all, only relief at having survived yet another attempt to remove my children from my care completely.
There is a great deal of documentation, and information in between, but I find myself in a position that I have been learning is not that uncommon these days, but feels painfully and agonizingly unique to me. On November 28, 2011 hearing to address having my minor son returned from 15 months totally cut off from communication with me, my world was forever changed when not only was my son not returned to my custody but also my youngest child, my daughter, aged 10, was removed from my custody, both being placed into the care and custody of their father who had never been their primary caregiver.
Two years passed since that time during which I endured restricted, limited, day-time only visitation with my youngest child, my daughter (no official or professional help was given to help or encourage visitation with my son). The appointment of the guardian ad litem (our second, in 2011), was pivitol for the success of my ex-husband in completing his mission of abuse against me. This guardian ad litem was recommended by my ex-husband’s attorney and this guardian ad litem committed several errors, and outright illegal actions that are in total violation of my children’s rights, not to mention my own. Since the time of this guardian ad litem’s appointment the primary focus was never on the best interest of the children but instead stayed clearly and solely on the matter of the guardian ad litem fees, whether the issue of these fees were legal, and properly earned and fairly allotted, and, of course, my ability, or, inability, to pay said fees.
Being divorced from an abuser with clear narcissistic-abusive tendencies, also being a first generation son of Sicilian immigrant parents with large pocketbooks and very conditional love leaves no doubts as to what a person such as this with a tightly knit, well-to-do, dysfunctional, yet highly loyal, family can do to a woman. Having an 8 year span of time to hurl darts at my character, and reputation, was not that hard for him to do. While I was naive enough to think I could continue on a somewhat peaceful, post-divorce life that carried some sort of honorable truce, and, in the city my ex and I had moved to before our divorce some 200 miles away from our original jurisdiction, I set out to continue on to live and provide for our children a quiet happy calm uneventful life away from abuse and family drama, with some relative success for a few years between frivolous court appearances. What I didn’t account for was my ex’s years-long campaign to turn as many family and friends against me while I held to my one biggest flaw (a flaw I once thought of as one of my strongest characteristics – never to respond to criticism and gossip).
200 hundred miles away from the daily darts of defamation and slander, my ex continued a denigration campaign. In his world, wives and children are seen more as property than as human. I also struggled with aging parents who were quietly enduring elder abuse at the hands of my youngest sibling
Once the second appointment of a guardian ad litem was ordered, I was fast running out of money, and options. Then came the shock of the custody switch and enduring restricted visitation and struggling to breathe, fight, and make the 400 mile round-trip restricted visitation with my children.
The majority of professionals, community leaders, educators who even noticed my children long ago turned away puzzled, shutting away the truth as if it were a door to a closet that never has to be cleaned. I understand this and have no animosity, just sadness. Because I am living the nightmare and I still have to remind myself that it’s real, it’s not just me and my children singled out for a silent horror movie of a life. It’s very real. It happens right under our very noses, in our community, our schools, our churches and clubs, our towns, our state, our country. I was a woman, a mother, with no criminal record. I am not, nor have I ever abused drugs or alcohol, nor have I been diagnosed as crazy, nor have I ever been promiscuous, though my ex-husband was all of the above. It boggles the mind.
012013: (Sunday): Today, was the first time I chanced to take my youngest child, my 12 year old daughter, to a church. My daughter and I have been prevented from attending any church services together for over 14 months now. We have not seen the sunrise together in over 14 months. We have not been able to spent a full day together, watch nightfall, except for the one occasion this last March, over 10 months ago, which was a random spur-of-the-moment whim gesture given on behalf of her father, who, having plans on an “off” visitation, Friday evening, offered for me and my daughter to spend a few extra hours together. Before our next “scheduled Saturday restricted-day-visit”, my ex-husband made sure to subtract this extra time my daughter and I had the previous Friday evening.
These restricted visits were ordered November 28, 2011, on the day the court took my children away, for no legal or explicable reason and gave them to my ex-husband. On that day, my divorce had been final for five and a half years. Up to that time, I had been the primary caretaker for our children since our separation, over six years prior…. 6 years since the day my ex-husband left me and our three minor children, and returned to the home we had moved from some 200 miles north, back to the county in we had resided for some 10 years before moving our family to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. When he left, he closed all of our bank accounts, immediately filed for divorce, and, for custody of our three minor children, claiming I had kidnapped our children, and moved to another city in order to hide them from him. I was very well aware, at that time, what price I would pay, financially, by allowing him the time, the opportunity to close our accounts. It was a matter of honor, to me, that I not use money as a tool, to punish or vent. That was disgraceful and repugnant to me. I was young, and healthy, with a bright future still ahead as a title abstractor on the Gulf Coast which was booming with new development… that was the defining reason we’d chosen the Coast for our new home. That, and a desperate attempt to save our marriage by moving away from the negative influences from both sides of our extended families, as well as the negative influence he blamed on his co-workers and friends. At that time, I was certain of very few things, but I had no doubts whatsoever about the concept of right and wrong, money was absolutely worthless without inner peace; I still firmly believed “living by example” was the best and only way to raise children, and, I was certain, absolutely positive, that justice always prevailed. I was, after all, an attorney’s daughter. I cut my teeth at my father’s office, where he was a sole practitioner, answering phones and scheduling appointments at an age when other kids were out …. . I had been somehow been deigned, by my father, to be the one child of his seven, who’s destiny it was to become a lawyer. I almost followed his dream, completing nearly 3 years at Mississippi College, while doing title abstracting for Jackson-area attorneys. The duties of being a wife, and a mother of four, never dampened my love of learning, and I continued my education, randomly putting in college hours a few at a time. I was content being an abstractor, with a flexible schedule that allowed me time off whenever I needed it…. My youngest two children were now past toddlerhood and I could buildup my clientele in abstracting again. I loved being an abstractor. I loved being a mom even more. I was excellent at both.
I had been a self-employed title abstractor for nearly 16 years by early summer, 2005, when, left penniless by my ex-husband 3 months after our move to the Mississippi Gulf Coast … penniless with three children, ages 13, 6, and 4, to care for. Penniless, with 3 children, self-employed, in a new town, facing divorce after 14 years of marriage, and, only 6 weeks before Hurricane Katrina flattened our new home and took absolutely everything else I had, materially.
That summer I scrambled to hold fast to my faith and my wits and regain a foothold in my profession as a freelance abstractor in a new town while assuring my children did not become a part of the divorce circus I knew to be coming. I worked valiantly to make certain that my children did not become victims of a silent, never-home, single mother. I worked valiantly I would test the very core and center of my own courage by holding firm to my resolve to not answer to criticisms, the criticisms of extended family, who, unbeknownst to me, were in the beginning of an 8 year the barrage, badgering and brainwashing techniques of my ex-husband, and who would in time, also become part of his arsenal in his campaign as he made war against me, and against anyone who knew me …
My daughter was removed from my care November 28, 2011, at the end of the day of a Hearing in which we went in hoping to have her 13 year old brother returned home to us after a 15 month separation which occurred when their father failed to return either of them from an impromptu 4-day Tennessee vacation; he had been taking both children, every summer, for the whole summer, without returning them, and, against court order, while they were in my full physical custody since the summer of 2008 … that would be ’08, ’09, and 2010, three summers, without any consequences for his actions. This particular summer, 2010, he succeeded in deflected this original fact, and focus of habitual kidnapping by making the 200 mile drive to Ocean Springs to file sexual abuse criminal charges against a youth minister of a church I took several children to for activities on Wednesday nights (these charges were fully investigated, and dismissed, “no-billed” … many, many years later).
At the time my ex-husband filed these charges, he brought with him only our 12 year old son, whom he needed to collaborate the sexual abuse charges he would be making, and leaving behind our 10 year old daughter under the careful watch of his family members, my ex-husband secured the position that I would not have him arrested by the OS police when he arrived to press charges against this youth minister. It was another move of his, done out of ignorant genius that comes naturally to an abuser that is also an extreme narcissist … he secured another move in this chess game of my life, and my children’s lives, a very real game that sealed all of our fates completely on that day in June of 2010 … it altered the entire course of our already stressed existence , and impacted the lives of our dearest friends, our community, our oldest friends and former colleagues, and eventually testing fragile familial bonds of the unwitting relatives who had become an abusers pawns.
To say that we have been traumatized by this and other behaviors, that I have found identified by Family Right’s groups as a form of domestic violence, imposed by “ex” spouses, intended to continue abuse “by proxy”, brutalizing the target spouse the only way possible after a divorce is granted … continued verbal abuse, child-snatching, disobeying court orders, and forcing incredible expenses to be incurred by frivolous, repeat, returns to court, which accomplish what they intend … to appear, by all intents and purposes, as if “we” were/are a contentious couple who just cannot get along. Even the stoutest, lionhearted of all mother’s weaken if forced to endure this way of life, with no protection, and little support.
I have a great deal in common with the other parents that have been courageous, energetic, and righteously indignant enough to make public outcry’s in order to bring attention to this abuse. Thankfully, now there are several, reputable professionals, from legal and psychiatric, to government youth workers who have selflessly offered their own time and energy into publicizing this horrible injustice. It has taken over 20 years of research, misinformation, hits and misses, but, they are finally getting it right, placing it before Congress, the AMA, the American, and State Bar Associations, forcing reforms, and oversight committees … if compared to the length of time it took to acknowledge, and expose, child sexual abuse, which remained a hidden, abhorrent, crime the public in general, not to mention the “people in charge”, I wonder every day… where does this leave me, and my children? If we are somewhere in the middle of the identification and expose’ of this family-violence action, now labeled, identified, but not yet reformed, we may have a few more years to go.