Tina's Story

A Broken Family Court System and an Enabling Mother

Pink-Broken-Heart-Cartoon-PictureNote: In my books, I refer to my ex-husband’s mother as, “Cleo.” I refer to my children as Piper and Sarah and my ex-husband as Seth. Even though the adults in this situation have been publicly outed, I will continue to protect the identities of everyone except my ex-brother-in-law, Jason Robert Porter.  

by Tina Swithin

As a mother, one of my primary goals is to raise happy, healthy children who turn into happy, healthy adults. Since my children were in a high chair, I have taught them about consequences. If they drop their sippy cup on accident, I will gladly pick it up but if you launch your sippy cup across the room on purpose…bummer. No more sippy cup.  They aren’t even teenagers yet but my children will tell you that every action has a consequence – positive, negative or neutral.

When I was dating Seth and through our marriage, I looked up to his mother as a teacher, a school counselor, a wife and a mother when it came to parenting advice or life wisdom. As time went on, I began to see red flags. She turned her head when her husband grabbed my step-mother’s butt during a family gathering. She turned her head when we told her about inappropriate comments that her husband had made to my friends while drunk. When I discovered she was turning her head when confronted about her husband’s indiscretions on a trip to Thailand, I was appalled. I began to notice that her husband and her sons could do no wrong. She walked around like a Stepford Wife and never stopped smiling. During a rough patch in our relationship (ie I was holding him accountable for something), my ex-husband commented that he wished I could be more like his mom — she was always happy according to Seth.

My mother-in-law is a classic enabler.

When I told my mother-in-law that her son, Jason Porter, was suicidal and homicidal, she BEGGED me not to tell his therapist or his doctor. She didn’t want him to be hospitalized or thrown in jail. Her instructions were to keep him under control until she returned home in a matter of weeks and then, she would take over. As someone who prided herself as having a master’s degree in education along with a family that often reminded me that I lacked a college degree, I looked up to her and trusted her. I did as she asked — I didn’t tell anyone that her son was suicidal or homicidal. His highly qualified mother was going to be returning within weeks and she would get him the help he needed. Or so I thought.

“Cleo” didn’t get Jason Porter help. She continued to enable him. Getting him help would have made her family look less-than-perfect. She continued to ask us to “play nice” and pretend to be a happy family.

June of 2006 was the last straw for me. After Jason Porter beat a litter of 10-week old puppies on Father’s Day in front of my one-year old daughter and his parents did nothing about it, I cut off all communication with him. Two years and six weeks later, we received an email from Cleo (July 27, 2008) in which she begged us to come together and “pretend” to be a family — because that’s what enabling mothers do….they pretend:

“Think about how you feel holding on to this sense of wrong, self- righteousness, anger. It’s been two years and six weeks now. Is it making you feel better? Is it making you a better person? Is it in the best interests of you – really? Of your family – either immediate or extended? Is it based on love? Or is it based on disappointment in the other person, hurt feelings, pride that you have been wronged, treated with a lack of respect, based on the reality or perception that someone else did not honor you and your person?

So, I am going to ask each of you to do something for me. I know that you are not yet ready to forgive one another for wrongs, real and perceived. I honor that, and so I am not asking that you do that – forgive one another – nor that you let bygones be bygones and go on like nothing has happened. LOTS has happened and it’s real. I am asking however, just this:

When Dad and I are home for summer or Christmas, can we please be a family for those few weeks? Can we get together once a week for dinner all together – I’ll buy – I’ll cook even!? Can we meet at concerts in the park, or go to Mass together? Thanksgiving together? Can we share Christmas– just for that one day? Can we celebrate Father’s Day (scary, I know) and have a big old bash on the 4th like the old days? Can we suspend, for what will be no more than 10 shared times per year, our hurt and anger and mistrust? I really don’t care at all whether you talk to one another or acknowledge one another’s existence when we’re not home – that is up to you. I realize I am asking a lot. But I believe in you. While we are home, I want us to be a family. I need us to be a family.”  – Cleo

Fast forward to August 10, 2011, two-years into my custody battle when I was fighting tooth and nail to protect my daughters from Jason Porter. In a court declaration, Cleo wrote the following:

“My husband is a 40-year educator, and locally, a past principal before we moved overseas where he served a similar role. I am a lifelong educator as well, currently working as a school counselor. I DO hold a valid and current California teaching credential. I come home to California for about eight weeks in the summer and two weeks at Christmas, while my husband is here living with Jason’s family in Paso Robles. We have grown sons and are a close-knit family and extended family with ties on the Central Coast since 1976.

I respect Tina Swithin as the mother of our grandchildren. However, Ms. Swithin has decided that being in the presence of our eldest son, Jason Porter, somehow presents a risk to her children. This has no basis in fact, and is the reason my husband and I would like to address the court today. I do understand Ms. Swithin’s concerns. But while I understand them, I in no way agree with them. Jason has had some issues with depression in the past and has said and texted some terribly inappropriate things to Ms. Swithin. His intentions were to protect and defend his brother, “Seth”: his methods were wrong and we do not agree or condone them. However, that does not mean he is a danger to Piper and Sarah. We resent the implication that we would somehow put our grandchildren at risk. We resent the implication that Jason Porter is a terrible person and that merely being in his presence will damage the girls.

Jason is now married, a father of a one-year old son and a respected contractor in North County. He would be here today were he not required to be on a job. It has been difficult already to have so little time together as a family when I’m home and to further divide that time between Seth and the girls on their weekends together and the rest of the family. My husband and I share a Paso Robles home with Jason, his wife and our grandson.

We are simply asking you, your Honor, to modify the custodial agreement so that when Seth has custody of the girls, they can be in the presence of their uncle, Jason Porter, and can grow up in a caring family-oriented environment with their Aunt and cousin.”

She continued to enable him. She did NOT respect me as the mother of my children contrary to what she wrote in her court declaration nor did she respect my fight to protect my children. This woman was more concerned about herself and the fake family image she worked so hard to maintain. Her supporters are now claiming that she didn’t live with Jason Porter — yet her court declarations say she did. Her supporters believe that she shouldn’t have lost her job but she had no problem using her status and professional background (under oath) to lend credibility to her plight to put my children under the same roof as a vile, evil child molester. You don’t get to pick and choose when you use your status as an educator. A mandatory reporter living in a child porn factory is a disgrace in my opinion.

If you are a mother enabling your children, I beg you to stop. You are not only harming them but you are potentially harming everyone around them. If you know your children are disturbed, GET THEM HELP and stop brushing things under the rug. That rug becomes so full that now, an entire community has been affected.

This monstrosity never should have happened. Please teach your children that actions have consequences. I beg you. I hope that by sharing my story, other people will wake up and take notice. An enabling mother and a broken Family Court system are a horrific combination. I pray that my family’s suffering was not in vain. I pray that justice is finally served and that all of the affected children can begin to heal. I pray that this entire family is held accountable for their part in protecting this monster. I pray that the next time a parent sits in a courtroom or in front of a custody evaluator or in front of minor’s counsel, that maybe, just maybe they will actually LISTEN. Maybe, just maybe, they will do their jobs and act in the best interest of the children.

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One Mom’s Battle: Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), Custody Evaluators, therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2009, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother, (Tina Swithin), navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth. Tina’s battle spanned from 2009 – 2014 during which time she acted as her own attorney. Ultimately, Tina was successful in protecting her daughters and her family has enjoyed complete peace since October 2014 when a Family Court commissioner called her ex-husband a “sociopath” and revoked his parenting time in a final custody order.

Tina Swithin: Tina Swithin’s books are available online at Amazon (print, Kindle or audio format). Each year, Tina offers life-changing weekends of camaraderie and healing at the Lemonade Power Retreat.  Tina also offers one-on-one coaching services and a private, secure forum called, The Lemonade Club, for those enduring high-conflict custody battles.