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Question

I cannot get my ex spouse to co-parent in any way. he does not return calls or emails, and exchanges are hostile - he openly records me or has someone at the house at the time I arrive then later makes allegations that I did something I didn't do. when I attempt to take a silent witness with me, he is aggressive towards the person or puts "No trespassing" signs up to attempt to isolate me from having anyone with me. there is a history of aggression and I had an exparte against him in the past for physically assaulting me in front of our child. we meet at the police station for one exchange, but for the other, I must go to the house. I pleaded for supervised or staggered exchanges with the courts, lawyers, gals's for a year, NO ONE would listen. Now we are divorced and I still cannot get anything accomplished. He doesn't follow the parenting plan, continually commits parental alienation, cancels doctor appointments. I make with my son (even though we have joint legal custody) and tries to deny me access codes to our son's daycare (and enrolled him in a daycare without consulting with me on the decision). worst yet, he got primary physical custody against mountains of evidence, on the basis of bringing 3rd parties/complete strangers to exchange my son which created conflict and attempted to paint me as an angry, unreasonable parent. I was always the responsible attentive parent. However he would not work, locked my 7 mo old son and I out of our home, then took all our savings, made horrible, false allegations of 'mental illness' which I had to prove were false by taking a psych evaluation. He also refused to provide his son any clothing or belongings out of the home, had a positive drug test and negative psych evaluation, hired babysitters with criminal records, on and on. The custody is now under an appeal process, but money is a huge problem. According to many, I had a "bad lawyer," and the only thing that can help me is a high-powered, expensive attorney, which I cannot afford. I feel totally helpless, powerless, completely devastated and alienated from my son. I do not know what to do anymore to respond to the situation or protect my son from my his father's lack of concern for his care and poor judgment and the conflict between us as I have tried everything available. i feel like i am going crazy, or will, if something doesn't change or i don't get custody of my son back. (I was a devoted mother and have NO history of mental illness, drug use, abuse, etc. yet my baby was given to this man on the basis of false allegations including continually manipulating his visitations to gain favor in his custody case - and of course, he had more money to pay the GAL b/c he took all our finances. These people are crooks and care nothing for the child, only who can pay them). I see a counselor to help me deal with the stress. have tried to return to school and do something positive, but can't concentrate on classes or much else. can't date because the situation scares men away! Thank you for any feedback you can offer that would help!!! My sweet son is now two years old.

Answer

Beverly Willett Replied: I feel such compassion for you and your family and the horrors you are going through. I, too, am a single mom with two teenage children. My ex-husband left in 2002; it is now 2010 and I can relate to many of the things you are going through. Sadly, after eight years I continue to be frustrated that certain things will never change and so, as hard as it may be to hear, you must realize that things from your ex-husband's side may never change. I continue to gather my own strength and attempt to move on. These are the thoughts that I find useful and that I continue to come back to for strength. First, I will say, that it seems clear you have tremendous strength and endurance. Endure and be strong. When you feel that you have reached the absolute bottom of the well from which you have no more strength to draw on, trust me that if you have faith, the strength will be there for you when you need it. Forgive yourself, too. You are not a miracle worker and can only do the best that you can do with the best intention you can generate in your own heart; you cannot control what he does, only what you do. Know that you are not alone, not by a long shot. It feels that way, I know. But I have met so many women going through so many similar situations. That does not diminish yours but knowing that you are not alone may help. No matter what he does send out blessings in your heart to your ex-husband. One day the delusions you describe may clear and his heart may open. Nothing is impossible. I am a writer and still involved in litigation with my ex. When the litigation is over, I hope to write more and hopefully have some influence on these issues you mention. Perhaps you can find a positive outlet to effect change as well. Unless women start to speak out about these issues and band together, things are not going to change on their own. I hope you have a few good friends to talk with. Don't be ashamed to open your heart to them; if they are truly good friends they won't mind your unburdening yourself. I don't know what I would have done all these years without my best friend who continues to lend an ear when I need one. For me, prayer is an important part of my life. There is nothing like a dose of prayer and singing God's praises on Sunday morning at the Episcopal church where I live to renew my spirits. Finally, no matter what, your son is better off having you in his life for whatever time you have with him. My prayers are with you.
Posted On 2010-05-25 10:17:53
Sondra Drahos Replied: My heart goes out to you and your son. There is a lot going on with this situation and you are obviously under a great deal of stress because of it. My first piece of advice to you is to start taking better care of yourself. Eating right, getting sleep and plenty of exercise will help you to step back and gain a fresh perspective on what is happening. The court system (depending on the state you're in) can be hard to manage without a lawyer to guide you. There are women's programs and support groups that can help navigate you through the system until the appeals process is complete. As someone who has been through a high-conflict divorce and works with clients (both men and women) going through similar situations I can tell you that the legal part of your situation is what brings the most stress. Most individuals find that once the legal aspect of their divorce is complete (even temporarily), the stress for all family members decreases significantly. Stay calm, take care of yourself and envision your son happy and living in two healthy homes as he grows up. Communicating with your ex-husband might be a challenge right now, but if you take care of yourself, forgive your ex for what he's done (as difficult as this may be) you will find peace that will get you through this.
Posted On 2010-04-22 15:37:09
Mike Mastracci Replied: I am sorry to hear of your situation. Given that you are in an underdog position, if at all possible get a good lawyer. Find out who the players are (you likely know by now) and see who will give you a free consultation. Do not start off by saying that you have no money. Get all the advice you can and tell them that you know it might be expensive and you are waiting to see how much money your friends and family will loan you. Then ask what they recommend if they can't or won't give you what you need. Go to as many lawyers as you can until someone offers you a possible solution. I would try that even before looking for the low fee or pro bono lawyers. Your goal should be on getting as much money as you can. Credit cards, loan, home equity, someone else's credit. Have a friend take out a interest only loan or line of credit on their house and you make the monthly payments. You need a good lawyer and given your situation (appeals in family law are more often than not a waste of time and money). Contempt proceedings and modification motions will be more effective generally. Always have someone with you when you see him, period, regardless of his No Trespassing signs. Document everything, when each of you have your child, every appointment, conversation etc. List all the dates and times he has violated the current court order. Have as little communication as you can but always give information about your child of the type that you would want to know. If possible communicate by email and pretend that the judge will read every word. Kind of invite him to prove he is a jerk in his emails to you. It sounds like he is too far ahead and in control for you to effectively level the playing field without a good lawyer. Best of Luck. Mike
Posted On 2010-04-21 22:20:55
James Crist Replied: I'm so sorry to hear about your difficulties with your ex-husband. Sadly, these situations are all too common. The person with the most money to spend on attorneys does best in court. Since he has primary physical custody, your options and influence will be more limited. I would recommend that you educate yourself as much as possible about the legal process involved--the website noted below gives an excellent overview of child custody matters. While it is not a substitute for having a competent attorney working with you, it may help you in preparing a case. Be sure to document all exchanges and problems in coordinating. In some states, parent coordinators can be appointed, and their job is to work with parents who do not get along. If there is a women's center in your area, try contacting them--as they may know of additional resources. Also, try to make your visits with your son as positive and upbeat as possible and shield him as much as you can from the negative effects of the situation.
Posted On 2010-04-19 23:24:32
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