Tag Archives: california family court system

Child Custody: Six Month Review Hearing

Child Custody: Six Month Review Hearing

On September 14, 2011, I sat with tears streaming down my face as the Commissioner handed down the verdict: he awarded me sole legal and physical custody and my X was stripped of his overnight visitation.  At that point, he set a 6 month review hearing.  That hearing is on Wednesday, March 7, 2012.  Two days away.

Over the past six months, there have been a total of ten weekend visits.  Of the ten scheduled visits, there have been:

  • Two complete weekend visits (4 days total) where he was a no-show with no phone call or email notification.
  • Two weekends where he was either 45 minutes late for pick up or to drop off the girls.
  • A DUI offense.
  • One weekend where I cancelled his visitation due to his failure to comply with the court orders.
  • One weekend where he hit my daughter– the first time she has ever been hit in her life.
  • Several weekends of calling me names in front of the children and several weekends of a photo of me being kept on his fireplace mantel taped over for my daughters to see.
  • And then there was the most recent incident where he completely traumatized my daughters in a church parking lot resulting in the Commissioner stripping him of his visitation rights again.

Last Friday, I received another one of his bizarre, rambling emails where everything is my fault.  He is the victim.  He takes no ownership for any of his mistakes.  He takes no ownership for what he is doing to the girls.  As much as I learn about narcissism, it is still hard to swallow and harder to understand.

I finished the paperwork for my case on Friday.  Now I sit and prepare for court on Wednesday.  Battle gear on.

I am asking for a psychiatric evaluation and professionally supervised visits in a public place pending the evaluation.


Another Missed Visitation

Another Missed Visitation

This weekend was suppose to be my X’s weekend with the children.  He refused to comply with the orders as they are written even after being lectured by the attorney representing my daughters.  The result: visitation cancelled.

I made the decision to cancel Saturday’s visitation for non-compliance and gave him the chance to see the girls on Sunday.  It’s such a simple order– email around ten am the day prior (24 hours notice) confirming in writing that he will exercise his rights to visitation.   He has a Blackberry and he has internet on his phone.  He also has Gmail.   Last night I described it best: it’s like having a stand-off with a two-year old.

If you are having a stand-off with a two year old then there are resources available to help.  There are parenting books and television shows like the Supernanny.  When you are having a stand-off with a 37-year old man, it’s just plain frustrating.  Like another single mommy who I admire recently said, “Actions = Consequences”.

The bottom line is this: his defiance caused him to miss time with his daughters.  That is sad.

Saturday afternoon, the girls and I went to a New Year’s Eve celebration at our local Children’s Museum complete with a 12pm countdown, balloon drop and apple cider toast.  We made party hats and noisemakers and had a great time.  We went on with our day and that’s what we will continue to do —whether he chooses to participate in their lives or not.

This morning I was talking to the girls at breakfast about the new year and my aspirations– to have more joy in my heart and to live each day in gratitude.  We talked about things we each hoped for and wanted to work on.  My 6 year old daughter looked and me and said, “Do you know what I wish for but I don’t think it will happen?  For Daddy to be nicer to you“.  I didn’t know what to say– I just leaned over and gave her a hug.

There is no manual or script and there are no cue cards or Cliff Notes.  Sometimes I don’t have the answers– just hugs.

Refusing to Comply with Court Orders

Refusing to Comply with Court Orders

When you are dealing with a person who refuses to follow orders, it gets to the point where you just want to bang your head into a wall.  That’s how I was feeling this morning.

He is still refusing to comply with a very simple order: email 24 hours prior to a visit to notify us if he plans to exercise his right to visitation.  He doesn’t like following rules.

This morning, I finally reached out to the attorney who was ordered to represent my daughters.  He was also frustrated and doesn’t understand why its so difficult to follow a very simple order.  He called my X directly and read him the order verbally.  He assured me that there shouldn’t be any future problems (yes, I am knocking on my wooden desk right now).

The attorney also confirmed the bottom line: if he doesn’t comply then there is no visitation.  Period.  I knew this but it also helped to hear it from someone else– especially someone who was appointed to work in my daughters’ best interest.

$24,958.99 in Arrears

$24,958.99 in Arrears

There is a looming court date in January.  This one doesn’t cause me stress– it’s a date put on the calendar by my X to lower his “current” child support amount.  This is not my battle to fight nor do I care too.  I leave everything between him and the local Child Support Services office.

The long and short of it all: he lost another job.  I should clarify what I mean by “current” child support amount.  Technically, there is no current amount nor has there been since May.  There is a past-due amount that keeps accumulating each month.  In 2010, he hid income by failing to mention large bonuses that he had from his employer.  These issues were addressed in court last year and now he is in arrears.

The past due amount currently sits at $24,958.99

He lives in a luxury condo in San Francisco paying two-thousand dollars per month for a single bedroom.  He always has new clothing, shoes and carries a Blackberry yet he has never asked if the girls need school clothing, groceries or if I need help with their health insurance.  It’s been difficult for me to understand how a man can do this.

I recently read an article by Karyl McBride, Ph.D. in The Legacy of Distorted Love .  Here is an exert from the article which sums up the current issue at hand:

Their entitlement needs get in the way of fairly dividing property and money and in the end they do not think of what is best for the child or children. They think about what is best for them. 

His goal is to hurt me by finding ways to beat the system and to avoid paying child support.  He will inevitably find jobs under the table or borrow money from friends and family.  He really isn’t hurting me.  He’s only hurting his daughters.  In the end, we will be fine and I will make things work just like I always do.
In all honesty, it’s been quite empowering to discover that I can make it without his financial support.

Merging Forces

Merging Forces

As I mentioned before, Christmas Eve (yesterday)  was our “new” annual tradition and we decided to spend the day in Morro Bay, California.  We ate breakfast at a little small-town diner called, The Coffee Pot and lunch at the Otter Rock Cafe.  We spent the day walking the boardwalk, shopping for prized shells and then letting the girls play in an awesome little park called, Tidelands.

This was our third year celebrating our Christmas Eve tradition however, it was different this year.

This was the first year that Glenn joined us on our adventure.  In our 2.5 year relationship, we’ve taken things very slow.  He didn’t meet the girls until we were about six months into our relationship– we both wanted to be sure that this was a solid, stable and long-term relationship before we involved the hearts of two little girls.  We got a lot of raised eyebrows from people who thought that we were being overly cautious but I’m glad that we choose the path that we did

This is also the first year that Glenn, the girls and I have woken up in the same house– and celebrated Christmas together.  We’ve very recently merged forces– a single dad and a single mom combining two completely different worlds under one roof.  Glenn is the father of 3 boys (17, 20 and 22) and I have 2 girls (4 and 6).  It’s a huge step filled with learning experiences, growing experiences, patience and understanding.  It’s also filled with love, mutual respect and companionship like I’ve never known.

It was nice to spend Christmas with someone who wasn’t waiting for the last present to be opened so he can slip out the door to embark on a long distance bike ride.  It was nice to spend Christmas with someone who was present in the moment rather than just giving presents.  I yearn for more than material items.  This Christmas, I have gifts that money can not buy– love and happiness.  That is an amazing feeling.

The girls are with their father’s family from 12-7pm today and I have time to reflect on where my life was three years ago and where it is today.  As difficult as the past three years have been– I’d do it all again to be where I am today.

The lesson I’ve learned: while I couldn’t understand “why” while I was in the moment— having faith gets you through the moment and into a place like this.  My heart is happy and content.

Confirmation- In Writing

Confirmation- In Writing

This morning I went to the courthouse to pick up our court order from last Wednesday.  As I already knew, it was pretty straightforward and stated (word for word):

The Petitioner shall email the Respondent 24 hours in advance to let her know he will exercise visitation, if no email is received visitation is cancelled”. 

This new order protects my daughters from the constant disappointment of waiting at the pick-up location when he doesn’t show up for visitations.  My goal isn’t to keep them from their father– he is who he is and they will figure that out on their own without my help.  If he doesn’t email us to confirm visitation then it allows us to make other plans and go on with our life.  My goal is to stop his ability to rule our lives which is what he thrives on.

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To Re-Cap: This weekend, the X and I had a “stand-off” pertaining the most recent court order.  The problem, I didn’t have it in-hand to prove what the judge had ordered.  We were in court on Wednesday and it usually takes a few days for the order to hit our file.  I am well-versed in the court timelines by this point.  In my mind, the order was pretty clear.  I assumed (wrongly) that he understood the order as well.  I knew it wouldn’t sit well with him because it was another rule that he had to follow– he doesn’t like rules.  He doesn’t like being told what to do.

Friday came and went– no email.  Saturday morning, as expected– he was at the pick-up location and insisting that I bring the girls immediately.  Threats followed– he was calling the police…he said I was vindictive…he said that I was “this- that- and the other”.  The email rant followed the voice mails– accusing me of Parental Alienation Syndrome…accusing me of having Lupus versus Multiple Sclerosis (he MUST be smarter than my doctor who graduated from Harvard, right?)…on…and on….and on.

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Music is therapeutic for me and the right song always seems to come on at the right time– Christine Aguilera’s song, “Fighter” just came on and Wikipedia describes it this way, “This video shows the metamorphosis of Aguilera’s slow, yet steady progression of her inner-strength, from being heartbroken, to becoming unbreakable”.

I have inner strength– that’s what got me through this.  It’s been a process.

I feel unbreakable– that too has been a process.

A Huge Thank You

A Huge Thank You

I started this blog at the end of October 2011– I’ve been working forwards, backwards and sideways to tell my story— to paint the entire picture.  I still have pieces to fill in…in less than 8 weeks, I’ve received over 9,000 hits on my blog.

I’ve received emails and messages from women who have laughed and cried while reading my story.  Women who thanked me because they felt so alone and had no idea that “this” was happening to other people.  In the very beginning, I would have loved to connect with one other person in the world who could tell me that “everything was going to be okay”.  There were so many times that I doubted that.

Today I was accepted as an “Expert” on About.Com and through my research on this topic, I am healing more than I ever thought possible.  Today, I came across an article called, “Staying Sane While Divorcing a Narcissist” and it covered so many things that baffled me before I truly understood narcissism.

These are the characteristics of a Narcissist that rang true in my X husband (taken from Cathy Meyer’s Article)- not one item…but ALL seventeen:

  • Has a need for admiration,
  • A need to be right,
  • A need to be seen as the good guy,
  • A need to criticize when you don’t meet their need,
  • Is charismatic and successful,
  • Lacks the ability to feel remorse,
  • Has no conscience,
  • Has a tremendous need to control you and the situation,
  • Have values are situational…if you believe infidelity is wrong, so do they,
  • Uses a facade of caring and understanding to manipulate,
  • Is emotionally unavailable,
  • Nothing is ever their fault,
  • Hangs onto resentment,
  • Has a grandiose sense of self,
  • Feels misunderstood,
  • Is not interested in solving marital problems, it is their way or the highway,
  • Is envious of other’s success,

Here are some of the things which caused me to have “Ah ha!” moments in the article:

1. When divorcing a narcissist, Dr. Bansckick says, “he completely dismisses any of your needs, or all the years of devotion and mutual companionship that you had built together.

During our marriage, and prior to my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and having children, I worked between 60-100 hours per week on our businesses.  Sometimes I stopped work at 3am for a 30 minutes cat nap only to wake up and put in another full day.  I did anything and everything to keep our companies thriving.  If you ask him today what I contributed– he would answer nothing and take credit for everything.   In his mind, I stayed on the couch eating potato chips and watching television which is the farthest thing from the truth.

2. A narcissist finds it hard to accept that his influence in your life is over. Whether they file for the divorce or you, the narcissist will attempt to remain in control of his influence over your life. If you have children with this person they will work over-time at attempting to control how child support is spent, how child visitation is handled and every other aspect of the co-parenting relationship.

My X doesn’t view child support as his responsibility in the care of our children– he views it as a way to control me.  Mentally, I’ve recently shifted the way I view his support (which is currently $25,000 in arrears) and it has allowed me to break free from that control.  I am strong and I am capable of providing the basics for my children.  We will have to sacrifice the “extras” such as ballet lessons, gymnastic lessons and other fun treats but they have a well-rounded life and we will be okay.  He doesn’t have control over me and that is a good feeling.

3. Examine your role in the ongoing conflict. The healthier you are emotionally the more success you will have in dealing with the narcissist. You are giving into the narcissists attempt to manipulate every time you respond to him.  

This is something that I came to terms with over the recent year.  He is welcome to send a long, attacking rant by email but it is my choice to read them or not.  I usually skim over it and respond to the valid questions.  I’ve come to view his insane emails as just that– sometimes I just shake my head.  Usually, I respond to the required questions with simple, unemotional responses.  He doesn’t deserve emotion from me nor will he generate it.  I know that’s what he wants and I won’t give in.

4. Deal with the reality of the situation. The world of the narcissist is made up of fantasy, nothing is real, all is a expression of their need to be someone they are not. It is imperative you see the narcissist for who he/she really is and not for whom you wish he/she was.  

This is the thing that I need to constantly remind myself of.  It’s difficult but the reality is- I can’t hold him to my standards.  If I expect him to act in a rational, healthy matter— I am setting myself up for failure.  It just isn’t possible because he is NOT a healthy, rational person.

5. You can’t teach or expect the narcissist to ever respect your boundaries. You can, however refuse to allow the narcissist to cross your boundaries and cause you undue stress during the divorce process. This is done by you controlling what behaviors you will and will not allow.

This is a prime example of the past weekend’s visitation fiasco.  My X interpreted the new visitation orders the way that he wanted them to read because they way they are written gave him even less control and more restrictions.  I made an exception this time but also made it clear that in the future, I would follow the orders exactly as they are stated.

I end this (LONG!) post with a thank-you to Cathy Meyer for an article that resonated with me on every possible level.  I also thank you for reading my blog and for the amazing comments and emails that I have been receiving.

In Gratitude— Tina

Torn

Torn

We were in court just last Wednesday and I asked for the current court orders to be modified.

He fails to show up for visitation a lot lately and it is very difficult on my daughters.  I asked that he be required to call us when he is actually at the pick-up location (Starbucks) and that we would drive down there at that point.  The judge made slightly different orders.  His orders were that “He” was to notify us 24-hours prior to each visitation if he planned to have the girls.  This allows us time to make plans or to alter our plans if needed.  It saves the girls from being disappointed constantly.

I emailed him Wednesday night with the dates for the 2011 visitations and re-caped the details from court– specifically the 24-hour notification order.  He was supposed to notify us by 10am on Friday morning.  Friday morning came and went– no notice.  I finally sent an email on Friday afternoon (4pm) asking whether or not he planned to pick up the girls– no response.

I checked my email several times this morning– still no notification.  A complete violation of court orders.  Scheduled pick-up time was 10am.  10:05am– he began calling my phone.  Several times.  10:30am he emailed– one of his normal, attacking rants.

I was torn.  Do I follow court orders or do I let him continue to operate with no regard for the judge, court or orders?  If I do not hold him to the orders then in essence, I am also violating the orders.  His mother began texting me.  He began denying the order existed and created his own version of the order.  I sent him an email stating that I would make an exception this time however, moving forward I planned to follow the order as stated.

I sit here listening to Pandora radio as I type this blog.  A song came on that is very dear to my heart– John Mayer‘s “Daughters“.  It makes me cry every time I hear it.  Fathers have such a huge impact on the lives of their daughters.  In our situation, that isn’t a positive thing.  It makes me want to work extra hard to be a strong role model for my daughters– to counter the negatives that lie ahead of them.

Sometimes it feels like it will never end.

It feels like he will never change– and always feel above the law and above court orders.

Family Court Services- Today’s Court Date

Family Court Services- Today’s Court Date

Today was another day in court.  I woke up.  I felt confident.  I felt strong.

I had three items on the agenda:

1. Change our pick-up/drop-off location.  It’s not fun to drive one-hour round trip when the other party doesn’t feel that showing up for visitation is a great priority.  I asked for the location be moved to a coffee shop less than five minutes from our home.

Verdict: Granted.

2. I asked that he is ordered to notify us if he plans to show up for visitation. I would rather not subject the girls to disappointment and waiting at a coffee shop if he doesn’t plan to arrive.

Verdict: The judge ordered him to notify us 24-hours in advance if he plans to attend his scheduled visitation.

3. T-Rex.  I spoke to the attorney who was appointed to represent our daughters and he agreed that this is harmful and must stop.  At today’s hearing, the attorney passed out the emails in which “He” admitted to calling me this name in front of the children.

Verdict: The judge agreed that it needs to stop.  The attorney agreed that it needs to stop.  I agree that it needs to stop.  The judge then went on to voice his concern by saying, “Nothing that I order seems to matter.  I’ve already set this order into place.  The orders are not followed and on top of that, ‘Mr. P’ sits in my courtroom and lies to me (referencing the last court date and string of lies)”.

We all agree that it’s harmful.  We all agree that it should stop however, the judge doesn’t even have faith that “he” will abide by orders.  What’s the point in more orders when the initial ones aren’t followed?

What I learned today:

Have patience.  The truth will eventually prevail.  It took 2.5 years but the courts (Judge and attorney) now see through him.  There were times when I felt like giving up– when the odds seemed to be stacked against me.  I did what I do best- forward march.  The truth is clear to everyone involved.  The Family Court System does want what’s best for children but it takes a while to sift through the “muck” and come to the truth.

What else I learned today:

“He” announced that he has once again been fired from a job.  I learned that I have one person in the world that I can count on to financially provide for my daughters– myself.

Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome

My ex-husband’s “Aunt N” works as an advocate for special needs children in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She is the person who has given him legal advice, encouraged him to lie (see previous post, “Steps to Ponder“), falsified stories and documents while encouraging him to drop legal terms such as Parental Alienation Syndrome.

I don’t doubt for a moment that there are parents who fall into this category.  When they first started dropping the term, I looked into the syndrome.  I fit none of the criteria.  I have never once bad-mouthed him to my children let alone tried to turn my children against him.  It’s absurd.  In fact, I deal with the exact opposite: him speaking poorly about me in front of the girls.  It’s escalated to the point that my oldest daughter brings it up daily because it bothers her so much.  She has expressed that she doesn’t want to go to his house because of these issues.

I want to repeat– I’m sure this syndrome exists.  In my particular case, it does not.

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Joan Meier, Executive Director of Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP), said, “PAS was invented to defeat child abuse claims – and it has been remarkably successful in misleading family courts into believing that women who are sincerely trying to protect their children and themselves from abuse, are just seeking to end the children’s relationship with their noncustodial father.”

Meier states that research has shown that children become “alienated” from a parent for a variety of valid reasons, most often resulting from the parent’s own negative behavior and relationship with that child.

“The proponents of ‘parental alienation syndrome’ are purveying invalid junk science that is not even legally admissible.   PAS has been emphatically rejected by the Presidential Task Force of the American Psychological Association and by the National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges.  Leading researchers in the field of custody have agreed that PAS has no scientific validity and the only courts to address the issue have found it inadmissible,” said Meier.

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So, if Parental Alienation Syndrome exists in our case, it is not in the way he is claiming.  He is personally starting on a path to alienate our daughters from ever having a healthy, loving father-daughter relationship with him.

He alone is creating this syndrome by his own actions.

  • My daughters are learning that they can’t depend on him when he doesn’t show up for visitations.
  • They are learning that he speaks poorly of their mother in their presence.

I want nothing more then for them to have a healthy, stable relationship with their father.  I want him to be healthy for them.  I want him to get help and be emotionally available.  I don’t know if that is possible.  It’s what I pray for.