Your ex will inevitably make different parenting decisions than you and up to a point you’ll have to learn to accept that those are their decisions. When those decisions impact your child’s safety however, you have a responsibility to speak up and take action.
For the last four years my current guest, Tina has been involved in an ongoing custody battle with her ex for their two daughters. It’s been a slow process but she has been successful in getting his custody limited to daytime visits, four days a month. Because of her concerns for her children’s safety she’s seeking to get those visits further restricted to supervised visits. Here’s Tina:
In the very beginning of our custody case back in 2010, my ex-husband had left my youngest daughter asleep in a car for 45 minutes while he went into his elite health club and watch a triathlon on TV. She was only about three years old at the time and she had just been released from the hospital after having a seizure with orders to never leave her unattended. He admitted leaving her in a car.
When my daughters came back to me for a visit, my oldest knows that it’s wrong to leave children in a car unattended and within about two minutes of getting back in my car, the first thing she said was, “Mom, dad did something really bad. He left my sister in a car by herself.” I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing. Thank God at the time we were going through a custody evaluation through the court and so the girls were interviewed by the evaluator who then reported the incident to the Child Welfare Services.
He’s also left my daughters unattended in a swimming pool and they almost drowned. We’ve had issues with alcohol where he shows up to visit hungover or he calls the girls when he’s very intoxicated.
I’ve had a lot of reasons to be in court and it’s frustrating, because the judge is frustrated with us in general. I don’t think they’re educated on personality disorders.
You have such a short timeframe to be in front of the judge and to express what’s going on. I describe it as being herded through like cattle. You get into the courtroom and you have five minutes to convey that your children are in danger and yet they have no bruises, there’s no physical abuse going on, and there’s no sexual abuse going on. I believe the courts are conditioned, just like doctors become conditioned to the cycle of life and people dying everyday.
They are so conditioned to drug addicts and physical abuse and sexual abuse that when they see two well-dressed children who don’t have any bruises on them they equate it to, “Well, it’s not that big of a deal. They’re not being physically harmed.” That’s been my biggest frustration. He’s very sick and very manipulative and the damage that he’s doing to my daughters emotionally is so significant but it’s difficult to quantify in front of a judge.
In 2011, I actually caught him in court in a lie and I was able to successfully prove it. He was constantly lying about where the children were staying. There would be some weekends where they would stay in two or three different places. I purchased a GPS tracking device and sent it with my daughters and so in court after he had told this huge lie about where they were staying, I was able to pull out the records and show that he was lying. Since then he has been limited to daytime visits only. He has the girls an average of four days a month and just 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
I have been asking for a year for a new evaluation, mainly because when we had our original one back in 2010, I really wasn’t educated on what we were dealing with and patterns had not been established at that time. While I had all of these little accusations against him and issues that were going, now there are very clear patterns over four years that show major issues. I’m really, really hopeful that the evaluator will order supervised visits.
In sharing this segment, I’m not asking you to determine the case that Tina has for limiting custody. That’s for Tina and her attorney now. But there are several important points in this segment.
First, you have to be the judge of your child’s safety. If you believe your child is in danger, you have a moral responsibility to act and to keep acting until you believe your children are safe. Don’t give up. Follow Tina’s example of step-by-step, detailed documentation.
Next, and this is a frustrating one, if a legal decision doesn’t go your way it doesn’t necessarily mean that what you’re seeking is unreasonable or unacceptable. Often times what it means is that there is no basis for a judge to make the decision you’re requesting. It could also mean that a particular legal procedure hasn’t been followed. That’s where having competent legal advice is important and if you aren’t able to afford that, then doing thorough research is essential.
Finally, many of us do not have firsthand experience dealing with people who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder or other personality disorders and that makes it hard to believe some of the behaviors. The actions are often so far out of the range of our normal that they don’t make sense and in trying to make sense of them there’s a tendency to discount or disbelieve the incidents or to assume that the actions of the other person must somehow have contributed.
There will be situations where you have no say such as the judge who’s assigned to your case but whenever you do have input, you want to make sure that the members of your professional team have experience dealing with your situation. That almost certainly means that you’ll need to do some upfront research on what possible diagnosis applies to your STBX. Knowing about possible medical conditions will also give you a better understanding of what you’re up against.
Tina Swithin describes herself as a one-time victim now survivor. She’s spent the past four years in a horrific custody battle with her ex who she believes suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. You can read about her journey at her blog, One Mom’s Battle and also in her book, Divorcing a Narcissist.
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