Five years and eight months.
That is how long the girls and I have endured the chaos caused by an individual with a Cluster B personality disorder. In the beginning, I latched onto the first explanation that was thrown my way by a therapist. That term was “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (NPD) and it made sense at the time. As time has gone on and I’ve learned more, I actually believe Seth’s issues run much deeper than NPD. I have heard all the terms to label him over the years…and all from very credible people – psychopath. NPD, Dark Triad and Sociopath. To be honest, I don’t care what the label is. A label will not ease the pain that he has caused my children.
Our supervised visits came to a screeching halt earlier this month after one single visit on the heels of a 15-month long, Seth-imposed hiatus. According to our court order from July 2013, Seth was entitled to 4-6 visits per month. He missed a total of 70 visits. The visit ended before they really began because the Commissioner suspended them based on an ex parte hearing I put on calendar. That single one-hour visit caused a tremendous amount of anxiety in the children. Nightmares resurfaced and other anxiety-related issues. These issues were noted by myself, my husband and by the girl’s therapist. I knew that I could just accept the visits knowing that the girls were physically safe with a professional supervisor OR I could take a risk and put this back in front of the court with the hope that they would listen. I am thankful that I took that gamble and filed the ex parte.
Today was the hearing to discuss my ex parte request.
I was incredibly nervous this morning. We had enjoyed a month of peace since the ex parte hearing and I was not ready to step back onto the rollercoaster ride. “Not ready” was a vast understatement….I wanted to run from the courthouse. I nervously watched the hallway waiting for Seth’s arrival. Minor’s Counsel arrived and entered the courtroom. Within minutes, the courtroom was open to the public and we entered but Seth and his attorney were no where to be seen. After the Commissioner began calling cases, he mentioned that Seth’s attorney, Mr. Slaromon, had called in and was running late. No mention of Seth and I was secretly praying that he didn’t show up.
Seth’s slimy attorney finally arrived and our case was called forward. I took my seat and Mr. Slaromon sat to my left. Minor’s counsel sat to my right. The Commissioner started proceedings and appeared frustrated. He started off by asking why Seth should even be given visits. He went on to say that he exhibits sociopathic behavior. I was in shock. Everything felt like a blur in that moment. I thought I was going in to establish a reunification plan because as we all know, the court’s goal is to reunite families. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from the Commissioner. I didn’t know that revoking his visits was even an option. I knew better than to be that bold in court because you run the risk of being seen as overly dramatic. Hearing that the Commissioner would even consider stripping Seth of visits left me scrambling for a new strategy…the statement that I had carefully prepared was now out the window.
Next, Minor’s Counsel was given the floor. He discussed his communication with the girls’ therapist and relayed an incident that happened last night in therapy. As the therapist brought up the topic of Seth and potential visits, Sarah peed her pants. It is one thing for me to report things like this but another for my daughter to pee her pants in a therapist’s office at the mere mention of her father. For those who aren’t familiar, this is common in children who have experienced early childhood abuse or trauma. My divorce from Seth began when Sarah was only two years old and she was forced into overnight visits from 2009-2011. A lot of emotional abuse occurred in that two year period of time. I still have a difficult time reflecting on those days because they were so small and so innocent.Minor’s Counsel continued to discuss the past 16 months – that Seth had many opportunities to visit the girls and that I had gone above and beyond to communicate with him to no avail. Minor’s counsel went to bat for my daughters and actually did an excellent job covering everything I had planned to say.
Next, it was my turn to state my case. For the first time, I didn’t feel rushed. I felt like they actually cared about my position and what I had to say. I acknowledged that I agreed with his (Commissioner’s) position – that it was best to remove visits completely. I then went on to describe the past 16-months. I described two little girls who were thriving and then I described what the past month had been like: nightmares, anxiety, potty accidents and even missing school due to the stress. I described the phone calls – sometimes intoxicated, bizarre demeanor and even discussing inappropriate things such as child support and that it “wasn’t his fault” that he couldn’t visit. The calls made the girls uncomfortable and I acknowledged that they had been refusing calls since April of 2014. I then reminded the court of the recent police report (Seth had attacked a woman) during our 3111 investigation. I reminded the court that this was the 5th woman to come forward since our divorce began.
The Commissioner and Minor’s Counsel bantered back and forth and the word, “Sociopath” was mentioned again by the Commissioner. I sat and watched with wide eyes and a hopeful heart. Some portions of the bantering are a blur because I decided to pray. When Seth’s attorney began to talk, I prayed harder. I remember him blaming our issues on the fighting between Seth and I. I just shook my head as I watched his attorney in action. He then went on to blame me. He told the Commissioner that I had created a blog, books and a career through this battle and alluded that the continuing conflict was my doing. The Commissioner’s response: “I know she has a blog and I know she’s written a book. I haven’t read either. What I do know is that Seth is supplying her with a lot of material to use.”
I just stared at his attorney. How can he sleep at night knowing who Seth is? How can he drive three hours to represent a person like Seth? He KNOWS that this man is not safe to be around my children or any children for that matter. Why doesn’t he send HIS children for a weekend visit with Seth? I will never understand it….
The Commissioner asked what we propose (in terms of visits) and the bantering continued. Seth’s attorney recommended weekly visits. Minor’s counsel recommended minimal visits with Seth being ordered to meet with the girl’s therapist.
The Commissioner said that he had a dilemma: “In the court system, parents have rights but…children also have rights.”
Before I could even blink, the Commissioner said the following:
“There will be no more visits. There will be no more phone calls. Communication between Seth and the girls is restricted to letters only. We all know that he will probably still try to call so Ms. Swithin has permission to record any of his calls.”
I raised my hand slightly and he nodded at me. “Can I ask that all letters go through the girl’s therapist,” I asked? “Yes, all letters are to go through the girls’ therapist,” he answered.
I thanked him and I walked out of the courtroom. I felt like I was going to faint. I sat down. I shed a few tears. Minor’s Counsel exited the courtroom and stopped to shake my hand.
I have been trying to process this all night.
No review date.
This is it.
This is peace for my daughters. This is peace for my family.
5 years. 8 months. Finally. It’s over.
We have peace.
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