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Research

October 10, 2008

After experiencing an emotional breakdown at my parenting class, the counselor recommended a book to me. He said that it may give me some valuable “expert” advice on young children living in post-divorce situations. So hoping it would an asset to my case, I asked Jiji to get the book from the college library (our public library sucks).

Let me just say that my preparation for this case makes me feel like I’m writing my senior thesis again. Forget that, this is twice as much work as I did in college. I have a case file that weighs 20 lbs.  I thought I was finally free of carrying a diaper bag. WRONG! Its been replaced by a tote full of books, notes, journals, files, legal pads, emails and scads of internet research.

Yesterday I finished a 7-page explanation of why it is in “The Best Interest of the Child” to be with her mother. I looked up Colorado State Domestic Law: Title 14, Article 10, item 14-10-124 and its 13 clearly stated factors in which a custody decision is based on.

I went through each factor and applied them to my personal situation with Rooferman, listing every event which could fall under each category. I refered all events back to the actual journal entry with time, dates and details of the situations. I also made a list of witnesses who could verify the events if we ever get to trial.  Basically I made an outline, a friggin’ 7-page outline, and that’s only for physical custody, not “decision-making” responsibility.

I was very proud of my work. Looking at it, I don’t see how a judge could deny my claims that it would be in the best interests of the child if she continues to live with me. Then I read this book.

The book follows the lives of 8 different kids over the course of 25 years. All the kids grew up in a post-divorce situation, and all the kids were involved with some form of visitation and custody through the courts. The book is written by a child psychologist, who after witnessing the effects of custody arrangements, claims that the courts do nothing to protect and nurture the social, emotional and mental development of children. They follow a law, which is based on making sure the parents have equal rights to their children, and thus the children should be better off.

When I read this, my heart sank. All the research I’ve been doing, all the articles and interviews and personal accounts on visitation, custody, emotional growth of a child, toddler’s reactions to be separated from their primary caretaker, verbal and emotional manipulation by angry parents, grown children’s horrific tales of abandonment, detachment, loneliness, pain and suffering is useless in a courtroom. A judge has to look at what’s fair, what’s the law, and what are the parent’s rights. Where do the individual needs of a 2-year-old factor into that? How is that very subtle, yet extremely important issue become part of a court order?

I read all these deeply depressing stories about kids who, even though their parents were unhappy, wanted nothing more than the family to stay together. They were ripped from their former lives and forced into something they hated, feared and ultimately suffered from. The only thing the kids felt from going through the court system was powerlessness.

My daughter is 28 months old. We’ve been on our own since she was 9 months old. I may be wrong, due to my limited knowledge of early childhood development, but I doubt she has any memories of living with her dad. It has always been just us two. I have always been there. Her home is my home (in fact, my car is “her” car).

Every time I read a book on how divorce affects children, I think “Yeah, but I wasn’t married! My daughter has no conscious memory of me moving out of her dad’s house. There is no before and after for her.” All these other kids DO have that memory. My daughter doesn’t.

Suddenly I realized that my daughter doesn’t know her life is screwed up. She doesn’t know she comes from a broken family. All she knows is that her mommy loves her, she goes to school during the day, she comes home and goes to sleep at night. She plays in the park. She sees her grandparents, and once in a blue moon she sees her dad. She is blissfully ignorant.  No one has told her that’s wrong. No one has told her she should be seeing her dad in order for her to have a more “normal” life. She doesn’t know what “Child’s best interest” is. All she knows is she feels safe and loved, and that bananas and chocolate soy milk totally rock.

I think about all those kids who don’t have a dad because he died, or because they have two moms, or they live with their grandparents. All those “broken” or “alternative” families. Do those kids feel less human, worse off? Are they just as happy as kids who are forced to go back and forth between two parents because a court decides it?

The idea of this not even being considered when I go to court pretty much floored me. I can’t stop the tears right now (but we all know how much I cry, right?)

LB has never been in Rooferman’s care, just one-on-one, but because her dad’s DNA runs through LB’s blood, he has just as much right to say he’s as competent a father as the next guy. LB’s teacher at daycare as spent more time nurturing her than daddy has. That’s basically what I’m faced with. I really can’t think of anything more horrifying right now.

What if all this research and preparation I’ve been doing is for nothing?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. reader permalink
    October 10, 2008 2:57 pm

    Coming from a background in psychology and child development, working as a behavior therapist to special needs kids and also working with typical kids in various school settings, here’s my two cents…

    The first few years of a child’s life are the most important in human development. Even if it seems that your daughter is blissfully ignorant, of course you know that her father’s negligence is awful for her. She can carry scars from him long after her blissful toddler years, even if it’s subconscious.

    You have to stick to the facts during the case and also keep in mind that it will probably go by much quicker than you ever expected.

    As far as the ‘what if?’ I come from a divorced home and know firsthand that once you get to a certain age, (teens usually) the court regards your opinion much higher. I didn’t want to see one of my parents after their divorce and the court respected my wishes. Eventually LB will see who her dad really is and she’ll be able to make her own decisions.

    I do hope you get custody though! He sounds like such a mess, I doubt he’ll be prepared for the case. Have you wondered if maybe he won’t even show?

    Stay strong (I know you will.)

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  2. October 10, 2008 6:54 pm

    My “broken home” stepdaughter, who was 3 when her parents split, has just accepted an internship with the U.S. government – as a college junior – her mother raised her (and I have the utmost respect for the way this girl was raised and how AWESOME she is)…

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  3. October 10, 2008 7:37 pm

    One deep breath! All of this is scary and hard to go through but you are doing this for all the right reasons. Don’t question yourself or how it will turn out, you can just do what you have been doing — tackling things as they come and doing what you think is best. Clearly you are doing an excellent job because she is a happy, secure and loved girl and what she knows is happiness.

    Hang in over there!!!

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  4. laurakim123 permalink
    October 10, 2008 10:22 pm

    Well done on all the research! While it may be scary its good to get all the facts and know all the possibilities.

    I went through a custody battle with my ex – we had the courts involved. It was horrible and what made it more frustrating is that at the time he hadnt seen the kids in months but was fighting me for custody. He wasnt even paying regular maintenance then!

    The court awarded him joint custody with the basic every second weekend thing.

    Like you said – unless you can prove the father neglects, abuses or will put the child in harms way – the court has to do whats fair.

    Even if they do award him part time custody it doesnt mean he will pitch or see her more than he does now.

    As for the emotional side – I think its more damaging growing in a household where there is abuse than in a 2 parent home.

    LB will be fine. She has you! She is loved! She will be ok!

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  5. October 11, 2008 9:14 am

    Oh, boy…I have so much to say on this, I don’t even know where to start.
    First, I am SO incredibly impressed with all you’ve done to fight your custody battle. It is NOT worthless, it is EVERYTHING. It is saying that you have taken this extremely seriously, and that you have done this all for your child. What an amazing extraordinary box of evidence you have to prove it.
    Second, these are EIGHT families. Eight. Out of how many millions? You cannot convince me that this is a representative sampling of what we all have gone through.
    And my own personal experience already disputes her evidence. My parents have been happily married for 42 years. Both of their daughters have had 2 divorces. I believe that there are fewer men like my dad out there – I know that’ll piss some men off, but whatever. This book does not account for the differences in our culture in the past generation.
    I believe that as long as we are cognizant of what is unique about our children (under ANY circumstances), our children will be better off so long as we help guide them through their weak spots.
    It’s kind of like horoscopes. Our astrological signs and charts can help us learn more about ourselves, but it doesn’t mean our destiny is pre-determined, right? To me, astrology and this book are tools – when used properly, they can help us find better outcomes.

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  6. October 12, 2008 5:42 pm

    Crap I have such a stomach ache NOW! This is one of the reasons I’m still not actually divorced yet. Right now my son is with ME, and I say were and when he does anything. I can not afford a lawyer to make sure it stays this way, I’m scared as hell to try on my own and have a judge tell me my son can go sleep on the floor at my X mother-in-laws house…HELL NO! Right now I still have some control and my X doesn’t push too hard, they do most of their visits here at my house. However I think he’d fight if it was actually on paper that I have sole custody and he doesn’t get over-night visits. I’m just not ready to deal with this issue without a lawyer!

    My hat goes off to you for handling this on your own, if we lived close enough I’d take you out to celebrate.

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  7. October 13, 2008 8:25 am

    This legal stuff really sucks. You’re doing a good job though. Sounds like you’re as prepared as you can be and of course you’re going to get scared about the outcome. (And if it makes you feel any better, I would probably cry over this one too.) I wish I could tell you it will all work out, but there is no way to know.

    Here’s a little bit of encouragement for you. My friend was a single mom with two kids from two different dads. She has remarried and wanted her husband to adopt her kids. It was a long process, but the court awarded her total custody of both kids, and took away all of both dads parental rights. Then they were able to go back and do the adoption. This happened this year. And the kid’s dads weren’t abusive or anything like that. They just weren’t around. And the kid’s aren’t teenagers either. They are five and eight years old. So, even though they say it never happens, it does happen. I’ll be going through the same thing early next year (suing for rights, not the adoption thing). I’m not looking forward to it, but the judge and my lawyer pretty much told me that I would win, so hopefully…

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  8. October 13, 2008 11:15 am

    I read that book and loved it. I think there was a lot of really great stuff that explains why I am the way I am, for one thing, which helped me a lot. The things about it is, we can all sit here and say bullshit all we want, but the facts are there; they aren’t just there, they are EVERYWHERE. Kids need two parents, whether they are married or not. Kids do better in two parent families, hands down. We all know that. However, in cases like ours-yours, mine, April’s, a million other women, it was ans is worse for our kids to live in an addicted, alcoholic household-we were forced to bcuk up and say bulsshit to that, to, and do what we had and continue to have to do-to make the best decisions we can based on what we have to work with. Period. So take what you can out of that book, but for God’s sake don’t stop the fight for LB. Of course it is worth it-and you are not taking something away from LB, HE is. HE is the one who is the fucktard asshat piece of shit who is basically throwing away the most precious thing in the world, NOT you. what you are doing is taking steps to make sure she is and will be okay-in other words’ you are being a parent. To counteract the feelings engendered by that book, try this one: WE are Still A Family.” I can’t recall the author right off, but it is an equally excellent book from the other side-from OUR side.

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  9. October 13, 2008 11:15 am

    sorry. got a littl nutso there.

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  10. carrielt permalink
    October 13, 2008 12:08 pm

    My parents divorced when I was 12. I can tell you it made me grow up fast. I don’t think I would have turned out as well if I didn’t have to help pay bills and care for my little sister. It made me who I am today.

    My dad lived three blocks from us and I saw him maybe once a month and that was in a quick hello. It didn’t take long for me to realize what type of person my father was. Kids are not dumb and can read people. Sure I wanted to believe what he was saying, but I didn’t buy it one bit.

    Your daughter will turn out just fine since you are such a caring mother. Times will be tough, but going through all this will prepare you for what’s down the road!

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  11. Shiona permalink
    October 14, 2008 1:59 am

    It is good that you are doing so much research. I’m sure everyone has your thoughts and worries before that day in court. Based on what you have said about Rooferman there is no reason he should win. He messed up not you. all of this is helping. And I think that having these thousghts is heling to better prepare you.

    My parents were divorced and we never saw my dad once he left. After 3 years he finally showed in interest and that was only because he was so behind on child support. He had an out becuase my mom basically fell apart once he left. That hasn’t happened with you so you have plenty to be happy about.

    The point I was trying to make was that even though it’s hard not to think about the negatives you should think about all of the things LB has that are good. She more than likely wouldn’t have them had you stayed with Rooferman.

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  12. October 15, 2008 12:34 pm

    Wow! This is all frightening facts but it does sound like you are well prepared and you have done your homework. I really hope things work out for you and LB.

    I am currently going through a custody battle that began over 5 years ago and now my son is eleven years old. He is now at that age where he is able to see for his own eyes what is currently unfolding in comparison to when he was a toddler and knew nothing but the safe world I created for him, knowing that one day he would grow up and realize the mess that surrounded him. This was a fact that I had to live with and I tried to protect him from this world as long as I could but it is only a matter of time before reality sank in.

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