I just got word from a reliable source that my custody evaluator, whom I will refer to here as God because that’s the kind of power he has, is a “Fathers’ Rights Guy.” According to my source, I’m screwed.
Let me be clear: I think sane divorced fathers should have the same rights as sane divorced mothers. Not that long ago, the family courts did skew custody in favor of mothers, whether or not awarding them sole custody was in the best interest of the children. In a perfect world, wherever that is, garden-variety divorced parents would have 50-50 custody. So I don’t have a problem with anyone who advocates for fathers’ rights, assuming those fathers aren’t sociopaths.
What I do have a problem with is a custody evaluator who begins an evaluation with an agenda. Especially given my case, which involves an ex-husband with a raging personality disorder, who is also the poster boy for Parental Alienation.
I am not asking for more custody. I am asking to retain my legal rights as Luca’s mother. And I am asking to keep Francesca’s time share (62.5% with me) the way it is because I do not believe her dad is genuinely interested in spending more time with her. If he were he would take her the extra four nights a month I’ve offered him. He would pick her up from school on his Tuesday timeshare day, instead of having me play au pair by collecting her at 3 p.m., babysitting her for 2.5 hours, then chauffering her to his house at 5:30 p.m. When she was younger and on a few occasions clung to his calves, begging for a father-daughter outing (since she routinely watched him take her brother on father-son outings), he would not have replied, “I’m pretty busy this week, I’ll see you on your regularly scheduled day.”
People with personality disorders (think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction) should not be awarded more custody. People who undermine their kids’ relationship with the other parent should not be awarded more custody. Destroying a child’s bond with a parent is a form of child abuse. Lest you think I’m being melodramatic, check out Amy J.L. Baker’s Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties That Bind. The book is filled with interviews of adults who describe the psychological damage they suffered while growing up in a cult-like environment in which they were brainwashed into believing that one parent was bad, incompetent, uncaring, and a host of other evils. If you are an Alienated Parent and you want to send yourself completely around the bend, read this book at bedtime.
You may be wondering, right about now: Was Pauline in a coma? Didn’t she realize she’s got only one shot at justice? Did she not vet God?
I did, actually. God came highly recommended by several people, one being my attorney and another being an esteemed family law attorney with whom my lawyer frequently consults. (I will be taking up the matter of God’s Fathers’ Rights rep with my lawyer later this week). However, God was not my first choice; he was simply the least unfavorable choice.
Where I live, selecting a custody evaluator is an arduous process that goes like this: both parties propose three evaluators and give reasons why those evaluators would be appropriate for the case. If the parties cannot agree on one of the six proposed evaluators, then the judge will select one from the list.
Of the three evaluators on Prince’s list, one was reputed to be heavily daddy-slanted; one was a complete unknown, and; one was God, who is a major player on the 730 playing field. The truth is, almost every evaluator I inquired about had some bad rap on him/her and the ones that didn’t, nobody could vouch for.
Neither of my top two choices made the cut. One had a nine-month waiting list and the other, a Parental Alienation expert, knew my current husband, Atticus. Prince was adamant about not selecting anyone who had worked with Atticus, who is a fairly well-known mental health professional in our city. So that shrunk the pool of potential good evaluators considerably.
Of the three good evaluators who did make my list, two were women, and I knew it would be unlikely for Prince to agree to either of them since he is a spectacular misogynist. So I put a man on the list, a custody honcho whom I hoped Prince would select. Little did I know that Prince’s weaselly attorney who I call Alfalfa because he is 5’3″, squeaky-voiced, appears not yet to have had his first shave, and has a lick of greasy black hair sticking up on the back of his scalp–this character, Alfalfa, is suing said evaluator because he didn’t like the recommendations he made for one of his clients.
If I’d had an extra bucket of cash, I would have refused all of Prince’s choices, sashayed into court, and argued for one of the women on my list. But my bucket is almost empty, so I said yes to God, whom I have not yet actually met, but who, in fact, has already cashed my $3750 retainer. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know that I am blazing through assets, inheritances, and gifts from family to pay for the privilege of remaining my son’s mother, and, I firmly believe, to do right by Francesca by keeping her time share status quo.
Besides, as anyone who has spent any time in Family Court will tell you, the whole enterprise is a crap shoot. You can mount a great case believing you have the world’s best custody evaluator in your pocket and still get trounced.
But I’m not ready to turn Luca over 100% to a man who wants to destroy his relationship with his mother. I’m not ready to turn my son over to a man who is more concerned with sending him to the “right school” than setting appropriate limits and getting him the proper mental health treatment. I’m not ready to give Francesca more time with the too-rich-to-work father who can’t be bothered to pick her up from school on his timeshare day. And there’s this: Francesca recently told her teacher that she wants to spend more time with me because there’s so much fighting between her dad and Luca. But that’s a story for another blog.
Last summer I had a few sessions with a therapist who specializes in high-conflict divorce. Her advice was to avoid court altogether, which would mean signing over my kids to Prince. Preparing me for what might be my end game, she asked: “What’s the worst nightmare you can live with?”
The worst nightmare I can live with is that Prince gets everything he wants and the kids suffer for it. The worst nightmare I can live with is that Prince makes me a non-person in my children’s lives–that he symbolically banishes me to the back of the bus.
The worst nightmare I couldn’t live with would be knowing that I accepted that back seat voluntarily, without advocating for myself or my children, because that’s where I thought I belonged.