The forecast of how my summer was to unfold started back in the cold dreary months of February. Ted told Grant and Kristy to tell me they planned a trip to the Philippine’s this summer (step-mommy’s homeland) in addition to their annual big family vacation. I told Grant I did not feel comfortable at that moment in time with them travelling half way around the world on no knowledge of the country or anything else about the trip. The next day Ted filed contempt of court charges against me, stating I would not allow the trip, without ever OFFICIALLY asking me. His email came after he filed. It simply stated “The children say you have questions about our trip to the Philippine’s this summer?” I asked for a month to think and research.
Per our divorce decree as the non-custodial parent, I am to divide the summer parenting time following our state guidelines and notify Ted by April 1. My answer would be due two weeks before the deadline.
I have never been any further than the Caribbean, so I hit the internet. I quickly learned the US State Department had a travel warning for US citizens traveling to the Philippines. Just wonderful. I had no idea what the Philippine’s were like or where in the large country they would be travelling. Ted offered very little real information, other than a 2 page history lesson about the Spanish taking over the country God knows when, and that his wife was of Spanish descent.
The contempt hearing was changed to a Case Management Conference for the middle of March. I prepared and filed my response to the allegations with exhibits of emails proving all of Ted’s accusations to be false (with help from my incredible support group). This was the first time I ever went up against Ted pro-se and it was nerve wracking.
The day of the Case Management Conference came. (For the full story, see “Pro-Se litigation vs. A Narcissist: Is there Any Chance of Winning?”) This time in court felt different. I could tell I was different. I was stronger and I was prepared. Ted’s voice shook as he spewed his lies to the judge, repeating over and over the same lies. I calmly spoke when it was my turn, the judge’s comments showed he either did not read my response or had only skimmed it. The judge accused me of stalling, yelled at us both for being back in his court room, made threats to make us “both very, very unhappy if we return”… then ordered the mediation I asked for in my response.
In mediation, I was so blessed to receive everything I asked for. The kids were going to the Philippine's as long as they were properly vaccinated and a schedule to continue our court ordered daily phone calls was established before they left. I also was to have just as much parenting time as Ted during the summer. This is something he has always fought, manipulating everyone possible to believe his interpretation of the decree in the past. For the first time, the head mediator spoke up. She told him summer parenting time is not intended by the courts the way he has always interpreted it. My mouth about fell open. It was an unusual mediation anyway, which really worked to my benefit in the end. There were a panel of law students running the mediation with their professor who has been a mediator for 25 years, which proved to be much harder for Ted to manipulate.
Two weeks later, I received a new set of contempt charges. The hearing was set for the middle of my summer parenting time. I strongly feel this was intentional to ruin my summer. Once I knew Ted’s exact travel dates to the Philippine’s, I moved my summer parenting time.
While they were away, it was my quiet time. A time to sign up for extra shifts to try to cover the time I would need off for my summer parenting time, and time to find an attorney.
I interviewed two attorneys. Both recommended I start the change of custody of my daughter now, instead of waiting until she turns 14 in November. I am seriously considering seeking change of custody of Grant as well. I understand he will be 16 in a month and have more of a say of staying with daddy dearest, but the alignment with dad is so much less ( less attitude, less lying, walls come down a little)when we have quality time together.
Three weeks without seeing Grant and Kristy about killed me. I emailed Ted and asked to exchange the kids before he went to work on the first day of my summer parenting time. I had a special day planned for Grant to spend with one of his best friends; the last full day they could be together before the friend was to move out of town. Ted refused to honor my request and convinced his “golden child” that sitting home all day while he was at work was better. Kristy was furious.
Two days into my 17 days of continuous time with my babies, we left to go to the farm. Kristy was thrilled, Grant developed a huge chip on his shoulder that remained the duration of the trip. It ended up being exhausting. Grant had attitude all but one day we were there, Kristy slept bad about half the time because her allergies were bothering her and had resulting attitude, and Dane’s very high energy son Bradley had his moments. I tried to remain positive and make the best of what little I could offer in a vacation for Grant and Kristy but mostly it just all made me really tired. Grant and Dane even butted heads a few times. Dane was raised a hard working farmer with strong family values who believes everyone needs to pitch in and help no matter what we are doing…while Grant was acting like a typical teen being disrespectful and lazy, and with distaste and complete refusal to try anything new or different.
On about our eighth day at the farm, Ted received the paperwork from the court announcing my new attorney and request for change of custody and child support. He harassed Kristy on the phone that night, leaving her in tears during dinner. He threatened her he would find out “what she texts (me) when we go to court.” Grant’s attitude worsened a few times after he had his nightly phone call with dad. I just tried to keep things light and have as much fun as I could with them. I emailed Ted a short three sentence email to stop the harassment, to which I received a retaliation email I just ignored. Ted has left Kristy alone since, so it must have scared him enough to stop for now.
We arrived home last Tuesday and I had my regular parenting time over the weekend. Kristy spent the night at a friend’s on Friday night leaving me some quality time with Grant alone. I made him his favorite dinner, we watched an episode of his new favorite tv show and played Kinect the rest of the night. We had a great time and giggled and got sore arms from the sports games we played. I am so thankful for that time with him. I don’t know if it meant anything to him, but hanging with my baby boy with no walls up meant the world to me, especially after the vacation we had. He is still in there. And that is why I have to keep fighting to keep him in my life.
I have found as I continue to heal and get stronger, my emotions still lie very close to the surface. I cry easily at anything emotional. I am so much stronger than I have ever been, though. I am ready for a new chapter to begin and the page is turning. I am taking control of my life back and it feels good. As one of my support group girls’ calls it…..onward and upward. No looking back. For anyone who has not heard Rachel Platten’s Fight Song, you must. It is my new ringtone and makes me smile every time asswipe..er…I mean Ted calls to talk to the kids.