To this day, I still remember the struggles I endured surrounding the first Mother's Day after I filed for divorce. It is striking that I filed in July, and as we approached Mother's Day the following year, we had no Parental Responsibility Plan in place and so it was unclear how that holiday was going to be handled. You might think that it would be automatic that the kids would spend Mother's Day with me, but not so.
From the moment I filed for divorce the previous July, pretty much the attorneys in my case, including my own attorney, and the GAL and custody evaluator had made sure that I didn't get any of the holidays--not Thanksgiving, not Christmas, not Martin Luther King's day--if it was a holiday, I didn't get it. I suppose the purpose was to crush my spirit, and they had been doing a pretty good job of that so far. FYI, since this time, I've learned this is a common tactic used against mothers.
Another issue that I wrote about really early when I established this blog is that I was not given exclusive use of the house even though my ex lived out of State. This meant that my ex would drop by the house any time he pleased, follow me around, scream and yell at me, and pretty much cause all sorts of problems. On the more weird side, at every visit my ex would remove property from our home and then haul it off to his property out of State. This meant furniture, mattresses, computers, bicycles (including mine), and the children's sports equipment. By the time he was done, our house was pretty much empty of everything except the items I put away in storage or placed under lock and key.
On the even weirder side, my ex would remove screws from the doors of the house so they hung at odd angles, he disabled our furnace by pulling out the wires, put nails in the tires of my car, and pretty much caused as much harm and mischief as he could. He had the freedom to do whatever he wanted and the attorneys in the case, plus the GAL, and the custody evaluator, pretty much allowed him to do whatever he wanted unchecked. When I explained what was happenening they acted like I was nuts. Thus, I was presented with an extraordinary example of male privilege; as a man, my ex could do no wrong. It was an incredibly frustrating situation, but there was nothing I could do about it.
This meant that as Mother's Day approached, I was particularly anxious that I might not be able to spend Mother's Day with my kids, and even if I did, I could imagine my ex barging into the house on the day and wrecking the whole occasion. He had shown himself quite capable of doing something like that numerous other times. My life since filing for divorce had been one incident of harassment after the other to the point where my head was spinning, the police had been called on several occasions. I was constantly filled with dread regarding what would happen next.
It was in this spirit that on the Monday of the week that would end in Mother's Day, I initiated a discussion with my attorney asking him to make sure that I was able to spend Mother's Day with my kids without harassment. Now, I can't remember the exact series of events, but I do recall that by Wednesday my attorney and the opposing attorney agreed that I should have Mother's Day without interference from my ex. This made me happy, but what I asked my attorney to do via email was to get a written agreement that I would have Mother's Day signed by my attorney and my ex's attorney. With fax machines readily available, this should not have been hard.
Just in case, should anything happen, I wanted to have a signed agreement on hand should my ex show up and create a problem. That way, if the police were called or I had to negotiate with my ex to have him leave, I'd have some paperwork on hand to protect my position.
Thursday rolled around and I didn't hear anything. Then on Friday, I finally picked up the phone and tried to reach my attorney. He wasn't available. I tried again a few hours later, and still the receptionist said he wasn't available. I expressed my concern to the receptionist and explained my problem, and she said she would be on the alert for my attorney and be sure to give him the message. Time continued to tick by and I still hadn't heard from him, and it was approaching 4:00pm. I called the attorney's office, and the receptionist told me he again was not available. I said, is anyone available who can address my concerns. After a bit of back and forth, the receptionist connected me with one of my attorney's associates.
She did not know where my attorney was, but she gave me some advice as to how to handle my ex should he show up unwanted on Mother's Day and create a ruckus. I thanked her. Then I hung up, called the receptionist again and asked her to be sure to have my attorney call me if he came in during the next few hours. He never did. From the billing statement I received later on, no effort was made during the week, not even on Friday, to obtain a signed agreement as I had asked.
They simply blew me off.
This is the thing--if you are the victim of Domestic Violence, or being subjected to Coercive Control either by your ex and/or your attorney, if you have no Parental Responsibility Plan designating how holidays are handled, how decisions are made, and granting some protections from your ex random drop ins--you are totally screwed. Individuals with marginal difficulties knowing the difference between right and wrong, folks who think going off the ethical chart is acceptable, people who are unable to recognize when their behavior goes across the line into criminal conduct must have strict guidelines to their conduct, along with guaranteed consequences. Otherwise, they will be completely out of control and potentially put other people, particularly their own children, at risk. When the Family Court system doesn't make sure these Parental Responsibility Plans are in place up front, essentially the entire legal proceedings in a divorce case is at risk of a damaging outcome for the victims.
As it turned out, my ex had apparently run out of fun trouble making things to do for that weekend, so I ended up having a reasonably nice Mother's Day, despite being extremely anxious. I actually saw my kids, which is far more than many family court victims are able to do on this day devoted to mothers. I know of many mothers who today, on Mother's Day, will not have the opportunity to see their kids for dumb and trumped up, stupid, clearly flimsy reasons. It is incredibly sad.
Be that as it may, the repercussions of that Mother's Day were not over for me. Later that year, my attorney decided to withdraw from my case, essentially because I refused to act like a doormat. For those who are unaware, the majority of women in the CT Family Court system are expected to act like doormats and are treated like doormats. So if you do not shut up and agree to be a doormat, and if you ask for basic legal services to defend your parental rights like any average citizen would anticipate as their right, you will end up being clobbered.
I had that experience when my attorney got on the stand during the hearing on his motion to withdraw and claimed that I had harassed, bullied and intimidated his staff prior to Mother's Day foolishly demanding an entirely unnecessary signed agreement. Of course, this was a complete lie--I hadn't bullied anyone. His testimony was hearsay and inadmissible, since he was not in the office that day and not on the phone, so he had no direct knowledge of my conversation with the staff. Yet the judge acted appalled as if it was God's Truth simply because the false accusations emerged from the mouth of an attorney.
No matter if there is absolutely zero evidence or probability that what an attorney has said could be true, Judges will act as if they believe every precious golden word. So this ridiculous attorney was allowed to withdraw from my case just before trial simply by virtue of being a practiced liar. It was a harsh lesson in the reality of what goes on in Family Court to mothers who are unable to defend themselves.
My purpose here is not to rehash old wounds. My purpose here today in retelling this story is to inform citizens about the harm and damage Family Court does to mothers, particularly around Mother's Day. This is the day when attorneys, GALs, custody evaluators and judges go out of their way to tell good, loving, fit mothers--you are not good enough to see your kids today. They do it because they delight in harming and humiliating these good, loving, fit mothers and they want to take the opportunity provided by the celebration of mothers on Mother's Day to tell victims, "You are no good, so you can't see your kids, and if we have it our way, you'll never see them again."
The sadistic behavior of these family court professionals on this day of all days towards mothers is horrific and appalling. What I am doing in telling this story is informing members of the community so they can look around. Is there a mother you know walking around with a broken heart today, struggling to control her tears and hold in the sobs? Give her a hug today. For those mothers in this situation, my heart goes out to you, and let me say again as I have said since I started writing this blog, "You are a great Mom! You are worthwhile! You do not deserve what Family Court has done to you--a loving mother--and your innocent kids. God bless you on this day, and one day you will get your kids back one way or another!"