(Shared by an anonymous follower)
In June of 2009 I met the ex-husband. After having 2 seemingly serious relationships blow up in my face he felt like a breath of fresh air. There were so many things he was “honest” about that should have made me run, but instead I moved him in with me after 3 weeks. I was someone who had never had a run in with the law, never tried any illicit drugs and he was living in a halfway house having just come off a meth relapse and his son had been taken to another state to keep him safe. I believed him when he said that son’s mom and grandma kidnapped him and that his first ex-wife did everything she could to keep him away from that son but made him pay for a child he wasn’t allowed to see. How unfair, he cried at every mention of his sons – and fairness has always been something super important to me so he used it against me right at the outset.
I had always dreamed of being a wife and mother, so when he said he’d never get married again I convinced myself it was ok to let that go and “play house” with him forever. I mistakenly told him that I was willing to let a huge part of myself go in the interest of being with him. How powerful he must have felt. Six months later, and after large payments from a 10 year lawsuit I had been a party to started coming in, he proposed and I thought he had changed for me. Before the proposal the abuse was small incidents where he said I made him so mad he couldn’t help himself. After the proposal he punched holes in the walls and doors next to my face and told me I was lucky he didn’t hit me. Everything that went wrong was somehow my fault and I was left to pick up pieces of shattered glasses, figurines and the happy life I was supposed to be living. The last six months before we married were truly awful – like I was getting a glimpse of what I had signed up for.
Although he never hit me, he would grab me and shake me like a doll, he would push me into walls and furniture, he would slide his arm across a table or our dresser making a huge mess and demand I clean it up. I spent a lot of time crying on the floor during that time. After we were married things continued along the cycle of abuse regularly. Then about 5 months into our marriage we moved in with an ill family member of his and the almost 2 years we spent there I’m sure saved me from the abuse escalating. He couldn’t punch holes in the doors there, he couldn’t make huge messes and demand I clean them up there, he couldn’t put a hand on me there. But the emotional abuse was terrible and something that still triggers me to this day.
When we left that house with our 3 month old daughter, we left safety behind. Shortly after that he picked a fight about something dumb and it ended with him strangling me. I didn’t call the police because he stormed out of the house and made sure my focus was on what he might do instead of what he just did. Our daughter was almost 6 months old that day, and I still didn’t leave. I told him that was the one and only chance he had to ever lay his hands on me because the next time I’d disappear with our daughter. He for sure knew then that all the times before never counted in my head, and that almost killing me I downplayed to just laying his hands on me. He knew he had all the power he wanted over me then. A
Almost 2 months later he threw us out of the apartment so he could move his mistress in. I went back home with my family believing we were only taking a break so he could figure things out. That day was when his true colors were allowed free reign. I did everything I could think of to keep him involved with our little girl. I offered phone calls and Skype and even considered letting him watch her while I went to testify in a friend’s personal injury trial. When I realized the marriage was really over I researched interstate custody plans and the UCCJEA and shared all my findings with him, thinking we could amicably work out something so Court wouldn’t be a big drawn out issue.
I thought I had my ducks in a row, but Family Court was nothing like I expected. From the first filing until the final decree was issued was 18 months and 22 court appearances. I was so fortunate to find a lawyer that took our case pro bono, but in my case I got what I paid for. I naively thought I could go into Family Court and tell them he had an established pattern of abandoning his children and they would protect my daughter. They did not. In fact, they held the threat of ordering me to bring “the child” back to his jurisdiction if I didn’t comply with every single order issued.
Supervised visits were ordered due to the fact that he had not seen her at that point in over 8 months, just over half her life. When we couldn’t agree on a supervisor the Court ordered me to supervise the visits. Almost every visit the police were contacted – because he threw a chair at us in a restaurant, because he claimed I was stalking him after we left a visit, because he didn’t have a proper car seat to transport her, because he gave a false itinerary once visits became unsupervised. It was always something. One visit he actually had the police come question me in the hopes they would arrest me over a tv. He thought that the police would just hand custody over to him because he was dad. The harassment and constant provoking almost made me crazy. I had to talk about things in court I never wanted to say out loud. I had mountains of documentation of him not using his parenting time, of him harassing me, of him lying about his income, of him taking trips to places within 40 miles of where we lived and not arranging a visit while crying to the court he was too poor to travel. I was sure after everything I was revealing that the court would see the pattern and not put my daughter through this at such a young age. But everything dragged on and he seemingly got away with it all.
Then our daughter, at 2 years old, was appointed a Best Interests Attorney (BIA) and I thanked God because I knew this would turn the tide in our favor. How wrong I was. This BIA told me several times that he was an inept parent and had shown no interest in learning how to properly care for our daughter and was adamant that all of this was my fault. I thought he got it, and I placed all my hopes for my daughter’s safety on his shoulders. When he told the Court that he felt supervision was not necessary and he should have unrestricted parenting time whenever he wanted in our town. I was devastated. I
In the end the Court did restrict his parenting time dramatically and gave him a step up plan to increase his time if he followed all the orders the first year. The BIA told me that we’d only have to deal with him a year or so and then he’d disappear because that’s what this guy does. When I asked him why it was ok to let our daughter go through that, he said something that all Family Court parties hold tightly to – he’s her father and he has rights. Those words ring loudly in my ears every time we are forced to endure him popping in and out of our lives. That first year of visitation he didn’t follow the orders and the step up plan didn’t go into effect. There was a provision written into our decree that after a lapse of a certain amount of time all parenting time was suspended and he would have to get my written permission or another court order to start parenting time again.
When that time came and passed I thought we finally were going to have peace. Slowly court ordered Skype dwindled and he went complete no contact. My daughter and I were free – until we weren’t. After nearly 18 months from the last visit and almost 8 months of no Skype contact he came back and rocked our peaceful world. He did things that were just on this side of legal so I’d have no recourse. But the fear I felt rocked me to my core. I had panic attacks and seriously feared for my life. I started sleeping with my hand wrapped around a baseball bat, when I could sleep at all. I had nightmares and flashbacks and I was afraid to be at my house alone but terrified he’d follow us if I left. Just writing this my heart is pounding. T
Thankfully nothing much came of it, this time. And therein lies the problem – there is a high likelihood of a next time. All during this time since we separated about 4.5 years ago I’ve said over and over I just want him to leave us alone so we could have peace. I don’t know that we’ll ever really have that as long as he’s alive but I do know this – I can teach my girl to enjoy the peace while we have it, and when we don’t to be grateful that we have each other and God to see us through.
#ijustwantpeace is my heart’s deepest wish for our life.