Tag Archives: child custody

Tina Swithin survived a Category Five Divorce Hurricane and has taken shelter in her book titled, “Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and in her blog, “One Mom’s Battle.” Tina’s ultimate goal is to bring education and change to the Family Court System. Tina resides in sunny California with her fiancé, two daughters and three-legged tortoise named, “Oliver.”

Releasing Toxic Emotions

Releasing Toxic Emotions

My goal is to rid myself of the anger and resentment that has come from this divorce.  The marriage and divorce were both toxic.  I feel like an emotional hurricane has just ripped through my world and now the I am dealing with the clean up efforts.  My goal is to rid myself of those toxic emotions which will be mentally freeing on so many levels.  I need to find the rainbow after the storm.

Two months ago, I sat in my therapists office and I told her that I have been in “battle mode” for so long that I haven’t had time to feel.  I spent two years preparing for the next court date and going through the motions.  Many times I felt robotic.  I had to think of each court date like a project– and leave the emotions behind.  Now in the aftermath of court, I am left with a TON of feelings that I need to process.  The feelings are of anger and resentment.  They are toxic and I want to free myself of them.  Those feelings are not in my job description– I am a happy, fun and loving person.  I am balanced (the Libra in me!) but I don’t want to balance good and bad in this case.  I want to overflow with good.

I am taking steps to rid myself of the negative.  With each post I write, I am able to re-live the experience, feel the feelings associated with the experience and then release the experience into the cyber-world.  (Warning- step away from your computer screen as you don’t want to be in the line of fire!).

I watched a video this morning from Deepak Chopra on releasing toxic emotions.

Click here to watch the video: Deepak Chopra Releasing Toxic Emotions

Below is an excerpt from the video above: 

Toxic emotions can cause toxicity in the body. Toxic emotions like anger, resentment, anxiety, guilt, fear, depression…
What is anger? Remembered pain from the past.
What is fear? Anticipation of pain in the future.
What is guilt? Directing pain back at yourself.

7 steps to handling toxic emotions by Deepak Chopra

  • Take responsibility for your emotions.
  • Witness them without judgement.
  • Label them. Is it anger? Is it resentment? Is it guilt? Is it jealousy…
  • Describe it. Describe it in the first person. Describe it from a second person’s point of view…a third person’s point of view. Expression.
  • Share them with someone you trust.
  • Release them through a ritual.
  • Celebrate. 

So, I will continue on my path of releasing these emotions so that I can begin to be “me” again. 

Happy, fun and non-toxic…just like the crayons that I love so much 😉

Focusing on the Angels

Focusing on the Angels

While writing this blog has been therapeutic, it has also been difficult on occasion.  The blog gives me a voice that was previously forced into submission.  I’ve been able to break free from the choke hold.  It’s empowering.  I don’t want to be seen as a victim– that’s not who I am.  There were times in this story that I felt like a victim but that’s not what I want to be known for.  I would go through everything again to be the strong, confident woman that I am today.  I would do it again to find the strong friendships with the people in my circle because I was previously lacking that.

One gift that I’ve been given is the ability to look at a situation and see the positives.  A very wise friend once told me that the story has already been written– it’s my job to walk it out.  I want to walk out my journey with a glass that remains half full at all times.

I’ve received a lot of feedback on my blog from random people and others who are very near and dear to my heart.  I’m listening to all of it and taking the comments to heart.  I appreciate the opinions– the good and the bad. 

I want to stay true to myself with the blog and staying true means remaining grateful for the angels who have appeared in my life.  When things look dim, I try to look for little bits of inspiration– a quote on a coffee cup, a song on the radio or someone who comes into my life at just the right moment.  It’s amazing how the simplest thing can stop a pity party dead in it’s tracks.

In 2010, I met with an attorney in Morro Bay, California who reviewed my case and actually offered to help me for free.  While he could not represent me– he offered his assistance in reviewing my paperwork and giving me advice.  At the time I was incredibly appreciative however, I had a difficult time accepting free help.  I went on my way– court date after court date and loads of paperwork to prepare for each.

In the beginning of 2011, I had reached a breaking point.  He wasn’t showing up for visits, he was violating all of the items in our parenting agreement and was ignoring my attempts to finalize the divorce.  I went back to the attorney and explained to him that I could see the light at the end of the tunnel however, I was out of steam.  I needed to prepare my trial brief which was overwhelming and I didn’t know where to begin.

The attorney and his wife (my two angels) offered to help me once again.  He met with me and reviewed my case.  He gave me pointers on my trial brief and then offered to review it and meet with me again before court to prepare me for trial.  His wife helped me to subpoena the records I needed and helped me with the proper forms.

I went home and I went to work.  I worked night and day on my trial brief— and then again the next day.  And the next.  My final trial brief was 47 typed pages.  FORTY-SEVEN typed pages.  I drank a lot of coffee and I got a few new wrinkles.  My bedroom floor looked like a paper factory exploded.  I didn’t sleep very much during those two weeks– I went to work during the day….I was “mom” in the evenings and after sunset, I became my own attorney.

I met with my “angels” a couple of times for further review and additional pointers and then…I went to trial.  With my 47 page document in hand and my game face back on…Pro se legal representation is defined as advocating on one’s own behalf before a court and that’s what I did.

Celebration of a New Life

Celebration of a New Life

Today, I am having a divorce party. I’ve been struggling with the title…”A Divorce Party”.

Turns out, there are actually businesses popping up who plan your divorce party such as the Divorce Party Planner.  I don’t plan to celebrate to the point of needing a planner but it’s good to know that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the United States!

I tried to wrap my mind around WHY I was having such a hard time with the title.  I didn’t want those around me to get the wrong impression.  I care a lot about what people think- sometimes too much.  Most people in my world have no idea what I’ve gone through in this process.  I took the high road and chose not to speak publicly about the specifics of my divorce.  The people in my life—“my people”….they know.  They have been on the sidelines, in my court and sometimes in the trenches with me.

If I wasn’t already struggling with what others would think about my “Divorce Party”…I got an email which confirmed the outside thoughts.  The subject line: Divorce Party?  The message basically said, “I will not be able to attend your party.  I hope you know that I think highly of you however, I must confess that I am disappointed to see that you are so publicly celebrating the loss of your marriage”.    

I am not celebrating the loss of my marriage—BUT I am celebrating a new life.  I am celebrating the end of a nightmare and the beginning of my new life.  I have been through battle and I’m not naive enough to think that it’s over just because I have a piece of paper.  I am celebrating the end of a huge court battle that was always on the forefront of my mind.  This was a court battle that kept me up late at night with mounds of paperwork.  A battle that I thought about day in and day out.  I didn’t have an attorney to go to battle for me.  I had me.  It’s over and I am celebrating.

The milestones that I lived for had to do with the next court date—or the next filing deadline for the next court form.  As much as I WANT to “live in the moment” and practice what I preach when it comes to enjoying life…it’s been impossible for me to do.

So…tonight I will celebrate this new life with my closest friends and my people from the trenches.

The Big Court Date: Part Two

The Big Court Date: Part Two

September 14, 2011 Something came over me in court– the same sense of calm that I had felt the night before.  It was a feeling that went to my core– I knew everything was going to be okay.  I was in court alone this particular day– in the past, that alone would have normally caused me anxiety galore.

Today, it didn’t cause me anxiety.  For the first time, I felt like I was in control and I had this one.  I did have this one.

I brought up the fact that he was lying about my children’s whereabouts on the weekend visits.  In fact, he was lying about the most recent visit.  He claimed that they were in San Francisco all weekend.  I knew they weren’t.  In the past, it would have been my word against his.  Not this time.

The judge asked him where the children were residing.  He replied that they were staying at his condo in San Francisco.  The judge asked him to describe the weekend visitation– what time he picked them up, what they did after that and so on.  He claimed that he picked them up at 3:30pm.  This was true.  He claimed that he took them to Avila Beach for Farmer’s Market.  This was true.  He claimed that they had dinner and drove to San Francisco afterwards.

The judge pressed more– what time did they get to San Francisco?  What did they do Saturday morning when they woke up?  What did they do during the day on Saturday?  Saturday night?  Sunday?  You get the picture.  Speaking of pictures, he painted a huge mural using a colorful palate of lies.  He claimed that they arrived late Friday night– he carried my sleeping daughters to his condo around 11pm.  They woke up the next morning and went to a Starbucks in San Francisco…then to a park…and so on…and so on.  An entire weekend of fun and games in San Francisco.

I waited for him to finish.  I raised my hand and said, “that is not true”.

Ironically, the judge asked, “Does anyone have GPS to prove who is lying”?

“I do” – I answered. ..and I did.

I pulled out my GPS reports which showed my daughter’s location every hour on the hourall weekend long.  They weren’t in San Francisco– they were four hours south of San Francisco.  They were staying at his brother’s home the entire time.  It was another lie however, this time he was lying to the judge…to the court…and to the attorney.

At the advice of two friends in law enforcement, I had purchased GPS about two months prior to the weekend in question.  It gave me peace of mind to know where my children were at all times and he had no idea that I was tracking them.  The night prior to court, I printed out sheet after sheet of GPS reports and I was ready.

The judge called a recess.  The attorney and I along with the other people in the courtroom were dismissed for a 15-minute break while the judge reviewed the paperwork.  The attorney asked me why I hadn’t told him about the GPS and there were two reasons:

1. I had called his office and emailed multiple times with no response.

2. I knew that my only chance in proving him to be a liar was to catch him in the act– in the momentin the lie.

Court resumed and we were allowed to take our seats.

The judge stated, “Mr. X, I have told you on multiple occasions that you have lost all credibility in my courtroom.  Today, you lied to me…you lied to my court and you lied to Mr. (Attorney).  There will be sanctions for this.  I am awarding full legal and physical custody to Ms. Swithin.  There will be no overnight visits– visits are restricted to 10am-4pm on two weekends per month.  Ms. Swithin will be able to sleep at night knowing where her children are– in their own beds.”

I stood up and tears started to stream down my face.  I could barely see to open the little gate in the courtroom.  I looked up through my tears and the people in the courtroom….complete strangers were silently clapping with their hands and smiling.  One woman was holding her heart and I could see tears in her eyes as well.  I completely forgot that these people were there.  I went into a “zone” and I became Mama Bear.  These people who I had never met had felt my pain and they were cheering me on.

After 2.5 years of fighting to protect my children, I did it.  I succeeded.  My daughters still get to see their father and I get to sleep at night knowing that my daughters are safe in their beds.  This court battle has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  There were times when I wanted to throw in the towel– when I didn’t understand why the system was failing us time and time again.  I kept my game face on and I gave it everything I had.

I never lost sight of the goal: protecting my daughters.

My Girls: Despite everything they’ve been through— they are happy, healthy and they are thriving.  They are my girls and until I am confident that he is a healthy addition to their lives— I will always wear my battle gear and fight for the two most important people on Earth.

The Big Court Day- Part One

The Big Court Day- Part One

September 12, 2011 It was two days before our big court date and no one had been contacted by the court-appointed Minor’s Counsel.  I was anxious once again.  To him I was just a case.  To me, this wasn’t just a case.  This was my case and my daughter’s well-being was dependent on this investigation.  This was what I had been waiting for.

I pictured the “hurdles” in my mind.  Some people have their happy place that they go to in their mind.  My counselor told me to picture hurdles in my mind– jumping over one after another.  Sailing through the wind– hurdle after hurdle.  Ironically, the same week that she had given me this “visual image” I received a letter from my sister.  Inside the letter was an inspirational card to carry in my pocket.  It contained a poem about jumping over life’s hurdles.  In my “happy place”, I am strong, driven and I fly over hurdles with ease.  THIS was the mindset that I needed.

The day before the court date, I received a call from the attorney’s paralegal.  She was asking for the names and phone numbers of people to contact.  I was confused.  They had all of this information.  What was happening?  I felt like I plowed straight into a hurdle.  I gave her the information requested and I prayed.  Hard.

I sat and thought about it.  I was feeling powerless.  Why was I feeling powerless?  I was giving my power and my faith to another person- an attorney and a court system that is overloaded.  These people didn’t have to go home with me and look my two little girls in the eyes.  These were MY daughters and I needed to take control and fight.  I needed to awaken my inner momma bear again.  I needed to go home and prepare myself for tomorrow.  I needed to put on my “big girl panties” and do what I do best: protect my babies.

I went home and I reviewed my paperwork to prepare myself for battle.  I made bullet points of my key issues.  I know from past experience that nerves can take over and the best laid plans can go awry.  I had a burst of confidence and a sense of calm come over me that night.  I thank God for that and I thank two angels who have been in my corner through this process.  These two angels are in law enforcement and gave me a suggestion that ultimately saved my case.  I knew in my heart that their advice was going to help me drastically however, I had no idea of the magnitude.

September 14, 2011– Today is the day.  Court.

I arrived in court and discovered that my ex-husband was not going to appear in person.  He was going to call in and appear via the court speaker phone.  I was relieved about that.  I sat at the table as the attorney reported his findings– he had spoken to my daughter’s school principals along with my oldest daughter’s therapist.  He had also called my ex-husband’s cousin who gave him rave reviews as a father.  He called my ex-husband’s friend who is a local chiropractor and he also gave him rave reviews.  He didn’t call the people who knew us– the teachers, the nannies who lived in our home or the teachers from Mommy & Me classes.  He didn’t call my cousin nor did he call my friends.  I was devastated but kept my cool.  I waited patiently for him to finish– I checked the items off my list as he addressed them.  He closed his report and they asked me if I had anything to add.

I did.  I had many things to add.

I brought up multiple issues:

1. Drunk in Public offenses that the attorney had uncovered during the investigation but didn’t mention– these substantiated my claims of alcohol abuse.

2. My ex-brother-in-law (Brother A) and the disturbing issues that pertained to that topic which weren’t mentioned or investigated.

3. I brought up the fact that he was lying about the whereabouts of my children– each weekend and in fact, the most recent visitation of September 3 and 4th.  He claimed they were in San Francisco.  I knew they weren’t.

To be continued on 2nd Post……

Court- August 2011

Court- August 2011

 

August 10, 2011–I sat in court- again.  I remember how nervous I was before each court date.  There were times when friends would go with me and there were many times that I went alone.  I would cling to my little bottle of Bach Rescue Remedy which is a homeopathic stress relief concoction.  Four drops directly under your tongue– there were times when I wanted to drink the whole damn bottle.  Four drops should suffice for normal stress– this didn’t feel normal.

On this particular day, my rock (aka Significant Other) went with me.  I had never brought him into court prior to this but no one else could attend and I needed him there.  I needed someone to remind me to breathe.  It seems simple, right?  Inhale…exhale.  Repeat.  It isn’t always that simple.

The court ordered an attorney to represent my children– someone who could dig deep and get to the bottom of the issues.  I was beyond ecstatic.  I felt like the Family Court Services’ Parenting Evaluation had failed us for many reasons.  The evaluator was sold on his charm even with piles of evidence– she bought the story that everyone buys.  He is the ultimate salesman which has been my biggest obstacle through our divorce.

He didn’t adhere to the restrictions in the Parenting Agreement and there were zero ramifications.  Zero.  I was clinging to the hope that this was the final ticket.  I filed a plea with the court: please, please grant Minor’s Counsel to represent the girls.  I felt like it was my last hope.  I sat in the courtroom and listened to the judge approve my request.  I felt like jumping up and down right there in the courtroom.  This was a well-known attorney– the best money could buy if you were seeking a divorce attorney.

Our next court date was scheduled for August 31, 2011.   

I met with the attorney who was appointed to represent my daughters.  He listed to my concerns.  He asked all of the right questions.  I was hopeful.  I was organized– I had my 3″, pink binder and everything was labeled and in order.  I had been waiting for this moment for so long.  He asked me to email him additional information on several topics that we discussed.  I agreed.  His job was to call everyone who knows us: teachers, principals, nannies, babysitters, marital therapists and friends.

I went home that night and I stayed up until 1:30am compiling everything he asked for.  I emailed it along with contact information for all of the above-mentioned people.  Then…I waited.  I wondered.  I waited more.  I was getting anxious.  The court date was approaching and my daughter’s teachers still had not heard from his office.  Our former live-in nannies had not heard from him.  No one had been called.

One particular visitation before court, he (my ex) was refusing to tell me where the children were going to be residing in his care.  He was due to pick them up at 3:30pm.  I reached out to the attorney for assistance.  The attorney called me back at 3pm and expressed frustration with his lack of cooperation– I told him that he thrives on causing me to worry about my daughters.  He agreed that it seemed to be the case.  He didn’t understand why it was so difficult for him to simply tell me where my children were going to reside.

August 30, 2011— The day before court and still no one had heard a word from his office.  I couldn’t figure out what was happening.  I didn’t understand.  This was the person who was supposed to be working in the best interest of my daughters.  At 5pm, the night before court, I received a call.   He asked if it was okay to postpone the court date– to ask for a continuance.

I was relieved.  My greatest fear was the attorney going into the court with limited information.  I was confident that now he would contact all of the people who knew us– who could attest to my concerns.  People who could verify my claims.

Court was postponed until Wednesday, September 14th, 2011. 

Brother A

Brother A

OSC-– a term that was foreign to me.  It means, “Order to Show Cause”. 

In “human-speak”, it means: “Dear Judge– Please add me to the court calendar because something needs to change- now”.

The term isn’t foreign to me anymore.  In all honesty, I feel like we’ve had an OSC on the court calendar every other month for two years.  The Commissioner probably cringes when he sees our name.  If there was ever a case on his desk that he’d hope to transfer to another judge– it’s ours.

I received notification that Seth had added an OSC to the calendar.  Basically, he wanted the order lifted that currently prevented our daughters from being in the presence of his older brother.  There were strict guidelines in our Parenting Agreement on when our children could be near “Brother A”  (There are four brothers in the family– I’ve fought hard to protect my children from “Brother A” and will continue to do so).  The visits were limited to four annual holidays and my ex-mother-in-law needed to be present.

What are the issues you are probably asking?  Here are excerpts from a letter that my ex-husband wrote to his mother  a few years ago about “Brother A” and why we didn’t want our daughters around him.  It sums up many of the issues– but not all.  I have removed names from the email:

*********

Hi Mom,  I left (Brother A) a message early last week on his cell. Once a year or so I encourage him to write an apology and let ”by gones be by gones”.  His anger, comments about ”fags” and fat women, resentment towards me (likely a deep rooted jealousy of my career success, finding a cute blond girlfriend that he deliberately tried to sabotage, credit ability etc.) and his poor judgement. His beating dogs which our daughter repeated for two weeks.  Scarier was at Applebees where he talked about raping and killing (his ex-girlfriend).

Cumulatively, any licensed counselor or psychiatrist would agree he needs counseling and maybe meds. Until he apologizes to Tina even in email, Until he acknowledges and begins working on his anger and ending his redneck statements about gays, women etc. We do not want his influence or interaction with our daughters. That is a simple reality. Uncles and aunts have tremendous influence on nieces and nephews.  Attitude is even stronger influencer. Successful families have successful offspring.  Somewhere or sometime, he let anger interfere with his potential.

I am sorry that you are the most affected.  “Brother A” was the Senior Class President. Yet, he has two friends left –what happened to all these friendships?  He makes sure everyone who isn’t  on his agenda ”is done.”

“Brother A” is on a pathway to being a cantankerous hermit.  His decisions cause the alienation–one friend or family member at a time.  He needs counseling. Get him to go and then we can get back to being a family.  (Signed– “Him”)

*********

Those issues are the tip of the iceberg.  Why does he now want my daughter around this man?  Why???!!!

I can tell you what the court paperwork states–  “Brother A has changed— he now has a wife and son.  He is a family man…yada…yada…yada”.

Fast-forward to reality:  “Brother A” does in fact have a wife and son.  He purchased a mail-order bride.  He brought her to America– she abandoned a child that she already had  and came to live here.  Together, they had a baby.  Being a husband and a father does not cure him. It does not change the person who beats tiny puppies, who is homophobic and talks about raping and killing people.

August 10, 2011 Court Date Re-Cap:  The court lifted the order slightly– and finally granted my request for a court-appointed attorney — Minor’s Counsel, who would look into my allegations and make a recommendation in the “best interest” of my daughters.

A new date was placed on the calendar— August 31, 2011.  This would be a report of findings from the attorney who would be representing my children.

Once again, I was hopeful.  I was also ready to put on the battle gear and fight.  Again.

A Monster and the Parking Structure

A Monster and the Parking Structure

My daughters came home from an overnight visit with him in San Francisco.  A few weeks after the visit, my daughter confided in me that “Daddy was mean” to her little sister.

The story as told to me by my daughters:

Our four year old daughter was crying because she was scared of a spider in the room where she was supposed to sleep.  He couldn’t find the spider and he was increasingly frustrated with her cries.  He threatened her— if she didn’t stop crying then he would put her in the car overnight…in the dark, scary parking structure.  He knew that she was afraid of the parking structure– so he threatened her.  Then he left the room.  She was hysterical and couldn’t calm down.

My older daughter, age 6 became so upset that she left the room and followed him.  She begged him not to put her sister in the parking structure and promised him that she would keep her sister quiet if they could sleep together.  He agreed.  She went back in and comforted her sister.  Once again, she had to play the role of the mother– of the protector.  Protecting her little sister from a 37-year old bully who uses cruel and mean threats to get his way.

I was confident that this would stand up in court.  How could they not listen to this?

I was hopeful because my daughter had confided in her therapist about this exact story.  The therapist then told the attorney who had been appointed to represent my daughters in the final months.

The Annual Father-Daughter Dance

The Annual Father-Daughter Dance

Saturday, June 4th, 2011 was a very important day in the lives of two little girls.  It was the “Annual Father-Daughter Dance” through my daughter’s Girl Scouts Troop.  The event was talked about at each Girl Scouts meeting for two months leading up to the event.  The girls were so excited about attending this Greek Themed Ball.  These events are a big deal when you are four and six years old.

At that point in time, my X’s visitation was to begin at 3:30pm on Friday and last until Sunday evening.

We drove to the Starbucks location on Friday afternoon where the pick-up was supposed to take place and we waited.  Then we waited some more.  He never showed up.  We called his phone- no answer.  We left a voice mail and then we drove home.  I was livid.  How could he do this to them on such an important weekend?  To this day, I will never understand it.

I was careful not to upset the girls.  Glenn and I had already discussed a back-up plan in advance.  I had even discussed a back-up plan with the girls when my oldest asked, “what if daddy doesn’t come”.  I told her that her Uncle would take her (he lives 2 hours away) or Glenn would be happy to accompany them.  I’ve learned to always be a step ahead of him.  Glenn offered to step in and take the girls to their dance.  They were excited.

I got the girls dolled up in their finest Greek attire – white gowns with gold sashes, gold bracelets, make-up and fabulous up-dos.  They danced, participated in hula hoop contests, played games and had a great evening.  The night was saved and the girls were happy– that is what mattered most.

It is his loss–he missed out on a precious moment in time with his daughters. 

I later discovered that he had been fired from his job just days before and spent the weekend drinking wine in Napa.  Alcohol came before our daughters once again.

Always on Guard

Always on Guard

I received an unusual email from “X” with an offer to take the girls on Valentine’s Day weekend– he wanted to switch weekends with me.  He said, “I’m happy to take them so that you and Glenn can have a weekend away”. I knew something was up.

1. He has never said a nice thing about Glenn and in fact, constantly makes digs about him being older than me.  The reality– Glenn is nine years older.  That’s it.

2. He has never offered anything nice or kind in his life– at least not in the ten years that I’ve known him.  His “offers” always have something to do with his needs or gains.

I declined stating that we didn’t have plans and would be home.  He got frustrated and the truth came out– he had plans.  He said that his work was sending him out of state and that he was unable to keep his normal visitation.  He needed to switch weekends with me.  I didn’t have plans so I agreed to switch.

The power of Facebook and Social Media— his Facebook page showed him snowboarding in Utah all weekend.  Not the work trip that he had cited.

Why the need for lies?  Someone once told me that if you tell one lie, you need to tell at least 20 more to cover the initial lie.  I know this to be truth.  Had he just told me that he needed to switch weekends, I would have gladly done it.  Instead, it was a slew of lies– 1. He was offering to help us have a romantic Valentine’s Day…then he had an out-of-state work assignment…then he publicly posts Facebook photos of himself enjoying a weekend in Utah.

The lies are constant and unnecessary.

The truth is rarely utilized.

The result: I am always on guard.