Tag Archives: legal custody

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

In My Perfect World

In My Perfect World

I received a very kind and heartfelt email from a friend who read my blog today for the first time.  Then she asked me a good question– “In your perfect world– what do you want?  What is your desired custody arrangement if the court stepped aside and you were in control?

Great question.

In my perfect world…what do I want?

I want to know that my daughters are safe (physically and mentally) when they are being cared for by their father.  In my perfect world, their father puts them and their best interests first.  In my perfect world, my X gets the help that he needs so that he can be the type of dad that my daughters deserve.  In my perfect world, my X is an active participant and co-parent to the girls.  In my perfect world, my daughters are never held to the standards of perfection that was expected of me when married to their father.  In my perfect world, my daughters feel happy, loved and accepted no matter who they become or what they do in life.        

Until that happens, the perfect visitation arrangement (in my opinion) is the one that is currently in place: four days per month from 10am-4pm.  This allows the girls to know their father and have a relationship with him but there are limitations. 

My goal isn’t to keep my daughters from their father— it’s to protect them from the dysfunction and shelter them from the things they’ve endured for the past three years.  They get to spend time with their dad but they get to sleep in their own bed each night.  For now, this is my perfect world.

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.

Re-Claiming my Identity

Re-Claiming my Identity

My divorce took an eternity from start to finish.

From the time we separated until the day the paperwork was stamped and signed by the judge– it was approximately 2 years, 8 months, 12 days and 34 minutes.  Who’s counting?  I am.  From the time he legally filed for divorce, it was 2 years and 2 months from start to finish.  Regardless of which date you focus on…it’s a long time.

Our custody battle took that long.

It took that long for me to finally show his true colors to the courts.

We didn’t have things to fight over.  We lost everything when our financial world collapsed.  The things that we held onto were lost when he invaded my  home ( Lying in Wait ) and stripped me of everything.  In a way, it was a blessing.  It was a cleansing and a chance to start over.  I didn’t have “things” to remind me of the past.  In some ways, he did me a favor.  He got what was so important to him: things.

I got what was so important to me: the chance to walk away from a pretend world and reclaim my identity.  The nice couches, furniture and art was all symbolic of a fake and empty existence.  I am not fake and I am not empty.

I devoted yesterday to re-claiming my identity.

To sum it up: I spent all day at the DMV, the Social Security office and the bank.  I’m not a fan of sitting around and waiting so it took a lot of personal motivation to walk in, take a number, sit and wait.  And then wait more.  And more.

I walked out of the DMV with a piece of paper that made me feel even more empowered then I could have imagined.  I left the Social Security Office with my true identity back.  I ordered shiny new checks from the bank with MY name on them.  The name that I was born with and the name that I was meant to have for the rest of my life.

Last night, I went to sleep as “Tina Marie Swithin“.

Cheers to small victories that mean a lot to me personally.

Damaging my Daughters

Damaging my Daughters

Today my 6 year old daughter asked me if the upcoming weekend was her visitation weekend.

“It is”, I replied.

She informed me that she didn’t want to go and asked if she had too.  I informed her that she did.

Do I want her to have to go?  Of course not.  Do I have a say in the matter– no.  Do I want her to want to go?  Of course I do.  If she wants to go then that means it is a good situation.  It means my daughter is happy and safe in his care.  I have let go of that hope.

I asked her why she didn’t want to go with her dad.  She was quiet and didn’t really respond.  I let it go and dropped the subject.  I want her to know that I am here for her yet I don’t want her to feel pressured.  I want her to talk to me when she is ready.  It pains me to know that this tiny six year old girl is feeling angst.  

  • I heard a voice from the backseat as I pulled my car into the driveway, “Dad calls you ‘T-Rex”, she said.
  • “What”, I asked…confused.
  • “T-Rex.  Dad says bad things about you to everyone and he calls you T-Rex so I won’t know who he’s talking about”, she explained.
  • “Who is everyone?”, I asked.
  • “To Popi, Uncle Brian and other people in the family.  He says really mean things and I don’t like going over there anymore.  I wish I could just stay home”.

Deep breath.  Another deep breath.  I wish that she could stay home also.  I hate that I am forced to put my children in the care of someone who doesn’t care.  Their own father.

What I wanted to say: “He says mean things because he is a mean, sick  person.  He is an evil, selfish man who couldn’t care less about the damage he does to his daughters”.

What I said instead, “I don’t understand why dad would do that.  That is hurtful to you and it’s hurtful to me.  It’s a poor choice and I will talk to him about it”.

I emailed him.

I won’t get a response.  It will be an excuse– an attack– a denial.

Tina Rex.  I’ll claim it.  I’ll claim it as my role in protecting my children.  Fierce and fearless against evil predators.

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.