I BEG you to get involved in your state — if you want to make changes and have your voice heard, start speaking up because these 50/50 bills are only going to cause further damage to our children. — Thank you!  Tina

This was emailed today to the following Representatives in Illinois: repford@lashawnford.com, Cabello@ilhousegop.org, lindachapalavia@il83dist.com, skillicorn@ilhousegop.org, repwillis77@gmail.com, justin@repslaughter.com, info@repmikezalewski.org, repjones.jones@gmail.com, wheeler@ilhousegop.org, winger@ilhousegop.org, rephammond@macomb.com, staterepterribryant@gmail.com, arthurt@ilga.gov,
Halbrook@ilhousegop.org

Dear Illinois Representatives;

I am writing to you today in regard to HB4113 (Equal Parenting Time). I would like to share my journey with you in hopes of opening your eyes to how detrimental this bill would have been to my daughters, and how detrimental it will be to so many other children who are currently being used as pawns in high-conflict custody cases.

In 2009, I began divorce proceedings in San Luis Obispo, California, naively believing that the best interest of my children would be a priority. Instead, I quickly discovered that parental rights carry more weight than children’s rights. By all outward appearances, my ex-husband and I appeared to be the perfect, all-American couple; educated, articulate and well-dressed. My ex-husband’s family were pillars in my community, life-long educators and presented very well in the courtroom. My ex-husband makes six-figures and looks like the boy next door. My ex-husband fought for 50-50 custody not because he cared about our daughters; he did it for power and control, using our daughters as weapons in his reign of terror.

I would like to take you behind the scenes of my six-year custody battle. Sadly, my story is not unique. Because my ex-husband left me financially devastated, I was forced to represent myself in pro se through a trial, over 30 court dates, and two full custody evaluations. Minor’s counsel was appointed, over twelve police reports were generated and a total of three Child Welfare reports determined that my ex-husband was a “moderate risk” yet did nothing to actually protect my children. We were in court 13 times in 2012 alone. While it took almost six-years for the courts to protect my daughters, my ex-husband was stripped of his parenting time (and all contact) by a family court commissioner in 2014 based largely on emotional abuse which is so difficult to prove. What my daughters endured between 2009 and 2014 is unconscionable but I am thankful that we finally have peace. While I don’t have all of the answers, I do know that it should not be this hard to protect a child. The only difference between my story and the stories that I hear every day, is that my concerns were finally validated.

A huge portion of my custody battle centered on my concerns about my ex-husband’s family, whom my ex-husband lived with. My concerns were continuously dismissed for years by family court professionals. In 2016, my ex-brother-in-law, Jason Robert Porter was arrested and currently sits behind bars on a $7-million-dollar bail, facing fourteen life sentences in the most atrocious child molestation case in the history of our county. This from a family that touted their reputation and status in our community throughout my custody battle. My worst nightmares about this family were validated and I cringe when I imagine what my daughters would have endured if the courts would have given my ex-husband the 50/50 custody that he demanded.

As a result of my custody battle, I founded a grassroots movement in 2011 called One Mom’s Battle. This issue is one of epidemic proportions- it’s not just one mom’s battle. My custody battle was not about my ex-husband’s love for our daughters, contrary to what he told the court. It was about winning- his motivation was to hurt and control me. He lost power when our marriage ended so the children were his only weapons. This is true in most high-conflict custody battles but, both parents are often (unfairly) grouped together in the “high-conflict” category.

What is the common denominator in high-conflict custody battles? Often, one parent has a Cluster B personality disorder – whether diagnosed or not. The three disorders that are most common are: Borderline Personality Disorder (more common with females than with males), Narcissistic and Antisocial Personality Disorders (more common in males than in females). With each of these three Cluster B disorders, there is a pronounced lack of empathy and a repeated testing of laws, rules, and personal boundaries. The high-conflict parent will purposefully become delinquent in child support to exercise financial control over the other parent. There is a high level of manipulation to meet their own needs which can fluctuate with their mood or state of mind. There is often fraud or other criminal activities. Substance abuse, addiction (alcohol, drugs, sex/porn) and other forms of mental disorders are prevalent with these disorders. Most of these men and women present very well and are successful in deceiving those around them, just as my ex-husband did for many years.

While a 50/50 custody split may be what is in the best interest of children who have two healthy parents, each case needs to be carefully evaluated before coming to this conclusion. Children should not be divided like marital property and HB4113 will ensure that is exactly what happens. A high-conflict individual’s portrayed interest in being a part of the child’s life is the furthest thing from the truth. I refer to this as the courtroom mask – the narcissist is wearing a mask in the courtroom or when the eyes of a court professional are upon them. Outside of the court setting, the mask falls and the narcissist’s true colors show.

When a Judge is making a decision that impacts the life of a child (present or future), it is important to err on the side of caution if a parent shows a history of abuse, impaired empathy, disregard for boundaries and poor impulse control with their children or former spouse. The children of our country are counting on you to uphold their rights to be safe, secure and happy. These rights should supersede parental rights. Because of what my daughters and I have been through, I have dedicated my life to helping survivors of Cluster B personality disorders (diagnosed or suspected) so that my daughters’ suffering was not in vain.

If you are interested in further educating yourself on the reality of high-conflict custody battles, here are some additional links:

I appreciate your time and will be available to answer any questions that you may have!

Tina Swithin, Founder of One Mom’s Battle, Author of “Divorcing a Narcissist,” and Family Court Advocate

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