Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I've got to find my courage...

I need reassurance that I can't find. I don't think anyone can give it to me, yet I continue to search for it instead of taking the next step. I'm afraid once I take that step I will be disappointed with the results. Do I fight for what my heart knows is right if I'm not confident I'll win?

I know that I really just need to find a great attorney and make an appointment for a consultation regarding how to handle the situation with IFKAMH, but I can't seem to do this without already knowing that I've got the law on my side, and I can't find the evidence that it is. Sure, there's a possibility, but it seems most of the resources indicate the law will not weigh in favor of what I know to be right for my boys. Most of the resources indicate that the law will just want to try to keep both parents involved, provided the parents won't cause actual harm to the children.

My problem with this is: what constitutes harm? I would say the emotional trauma he's already put them through was harmful and trying to force his presence upon them by disrupting the life they have grown accustomed to in his absence is harmful. The fact that he wants to undermine the bond they have formed with NS by telling them NS isn't their "real dad" seems incredibly harmful. (Yes, that is exactly what he suggested I do in order to help the boys understand who he is.) But what if that isn't legally harmful?

Provided his sporadic and sparse phone calls don't qualify as consistent contact, I think I may be able to make a case for abandonment. I can't see a phone call made once a month (a generous average, I'd say, because sometimes they were less, but there may have been a month where there were two) to toddlers being considered having contact with them. Even if they somehow are, the frequency may still fall under the definition of "little contact". Of course, it may be determined the fact that I receive child support proves he has not abandoned them. I can't even explain how furious that would make me. Just because our divorce was granted in Florida, where they appear to have their shit together when it comes to child support enforcement, and the court ordered amount of support is forcibly witheld from his paychecks doesn't mean that he provides it. IFKAMH is not the kind of guy that can make "unemployed and homeless" work for him. So, you see, as long as he insists on having a roof over his head, he has to keep a job, and as long as he has a job, the state will take the money on my children's behalf before he ever gets his check; he doesn't have any choice in the matter. That is how I get my child support. Prior to our divorce, which was 9 months after our separation, I received only two financial contributions from him, neither of which was for the amount he had agreed to send every other week (they weren't even for the same amount), both of which were paid after the paperwork for our divorce had been signed and filed, so he knew he was going to have to get used to making payments. There is no basis for a reasonable person to believe that he would willingly part with his money and send regular payments to me if it wasn't for the intervention of the State of Florida. According to what I've read about abandonment, I would say he has. But would a judge? Would an attorney?

And, that is why my actions are haulted. I've only seen abandonment applied to petitions to terminate parental rights. What if I contact a lawyer to pursue disallowing his visitation rights and am told that there's no chance of a ruling in my favor? Do they even have cases that will disallow visitation without a removal of parental rights? Is what I really want going to be considered termination of his parental rights? I think it may. I don't want him to be able to question my decisions about discipline, schooling, medical treatment, etc. Any contact between him and the boys should only be at their request, in my opinion. So, I guess it is that I don't want him to have rights; I only want M and J to have rights. The right to contact him, the right to ask him to visit, the right to ask to visit him, those should be their rights and be things they choose to happen. The more I try to find the reassurance to take the next step, the more I am discourged by what I find, yet no two cases are exactly the same, so I can't make a truly educated judgement on where I stand. It pains me to believe that some stranger who thinks any involvement a biological father has with his his children is good for them would decide that IFKAMH has the right to barge into his children's lives whenever he has a whim of guilty conscience and a spare moment. Pains me to the point of nausea and fear and inaction.

I am so stressed about this, but I've barely begun.


Emily Snipes said...

That so sucks! I know you're stressed. It does indeed make no sense that a complete stranger would make a such a lofty decision. Try to stay calm & rational. Especially if you get to talk in front of the stranger. You don't want to come across as the crazy mom (just kidding!!). I'd mention the "emotional abuse/neglect". Keep us posted!

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

emily - That's another reason I'm so scared to move forward...I don't want to be seen as some heartless, vengeful bitch. While it doesn't seem that way to me, or to anyone else familiar with the situation, the stuff I've read (granted this particular stuff was on a forum and not from legal experts) tried to make it out that way.

Nikki said...

I've tried to not say anything on this since I don't know you personally, but can't anymore.

I was raised by my father and my stepmom from the time I was 2. (I call her my mom, no matter if we are blood related or not).

My mother mother was very young and immature at the time that I came along. Her contact with me was sporadic at best during that time and it wasn't until I was 5 that she really made an effort to see me. Unfortunately, my parents thought very close to the way you describe here. They did everything in their power to keep me from her during my entire childhood. It amounted to me getting to see her a total of about 7 times when the court forced their hands.

The result? I hate my parents. My mother wanted to see me (even if it wasn't often, she wanted to) and they kept me from knowing her. Teresa (my step mom) was a great mother, but she is no replacement, she is her own person/role. I always felt a loss and I resented THEM for creating that loss in me. My mom (Tori) came out shining in the end, because she tried - they came out soured because THEY caused me pain. I would have rather have had my mom once a year than not at all.

The animosity that my parents had for her only further fueled my resentment. I couldn't figure out what I had done wrong to make them take her away from me.

At 19, I left my parents and it took 10 years to rebuild the relationship with them. Now, my real mother and I don't have the best relationship, but I figured that out on my own. It is what it is. But they couldn't do that for me - I had to travel that path for myself.

Now, after being a birthmother and experiencing that loss, I've really felt the loss of my mother. I understand what it's like to make mistakes and take a few years to look back realize and then try to make it right only to not have the ability.

We all make mistakes. And we don't come out knowing how to fix them perfectly. It's a learning curve that takes a lot of effort of all those involved.

Now, I'm divorced. A year ago, my boys' father could have cared less if he saw them more than once a month. It was only through my striving to keep him in their lives that now, he sees them everyday. They are better for it, but it took a lot out of me. Was it fair for me to have to do that for him, for them? No. But was it fair for them, to have him in their life, even if it took him a year to figure it out? Absolutely. They deserve as many people in their lives who love them.

I will marry again. They will have a stepfather that they call Dad. But they can never have too many loving parents.

Let me encourage you. This is a hard battle you are fighting. But remember, 3 years in comparison to an entire lifetime puts things in perspective. You and I, as mothers, are bound to make mistakes - probably grievous ones. I only hope that my children extend to me the same forgiveness and help as I extend to their father now.

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

nikki - Thank you for your input. I was certain at least someone reading this must have thought I wasn't doing the right thing.

Did your father hide the fact that your mother was out there and willing to see you? I ask because it sounds like that was what was going on. I have no intention of doing that. I want to tell them about the man that helped bring them in this world, and I want only to leave it up to them to choose to have him in their lives rather than him being an inconsistent, non-parenting presence, a presence that I cannot explain to them. I am already thinking ahead of when will likely be a good age to tell them and what I could possibly say.

Also, was the sporadic contact your mom (Tori) had with you when you were younger in-person contact? If so, then that is a big difference to me. Despite repeatedly telling me to tell the boys that he would see them soon, my ex never put forth any effort to see them. I know that there were at least two times that he had plane tickets and could have made plans to see them, but he wasted one of those going to FL to get items from the house that he had long since abandoned and another where the only person he was concerned about seeing was me. You see, he lies constantly and makes promises that he never keeps. As it stands, he still has yet to consult me about a visit, even though I told him we would discuss the issue once he was ready to make a visit.

It is wonderful that your ex has been able to become actively involved with your boys, but that will not be possible for my ex and my boys simply because we already live states apart (and will continue to do so), and he has another child that also needs his attention, one whom he could actually be involved with every day because she lives in the same state even if she doesn't still live with him, which she might.

I'm not trying to keep him from them forever; I just don't think it should be his decision any more. I think it should be a choice for my children to have once they can at least understand that parents don't always stay together even when they still love their children.

My take on your situation is that your mother was genuine. My ex has only seen fit to proclaim his objections when he feels like he isn't controlling the situation or when he's unhappy with his current situation. He only bothered to discuss reconciliation after things seemed to not be going so well with his girlfriend, after she got pregnant. He objected to our divorce only after I had given him chance after chance to put forth some effort, any effort, to reconcile and finally had to give up and file the paperwork. Only now that I have said I don't think him speaking to them on the phone is a good idea has he decided that he's going to be trying to visit. That's the condensed version of the events that got us to this point. Knowing him, knowing that his father did the exact same thing to him as a child with the lying and the unfulfilled promises all because his mother wanted to try to leave the connection open, I feel it isn't best for them to go through the same thing.

Jonathan said...

In the UK we have a thing called "The Citizens Advice Bureau" - where you can walk in and get free legal advice. It would be worth finding out if you have the equivalent thing available over there...

briliantdonkey said...

wow, tough situation all the way around to say the least. I obviously don't know all the details by a long LONGGGG stretch. However, if he WANTS to be a part of their lives I think he and they should be given that option. Give him enough rope to hang himself with. Let him make and break promises and plans to see them. In the short term certainly it will hurt your boys. In the long term though if he does so they will see him for what he is. If you block it there is always the chance of them thinking 'he didn't come see us because mom wouldn't let him'. Ultimately, the decision of how to proceed is totally up to you of course, but that is my 2 cents for what it is worth.


Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

jonathan - Thank you for reminding me that there is probably a way to get legal advice without having to research attorneys to find one to give me a consultation.

bd - Thank you for offering your 2 cents. Believe me, I am well aware that my boys may hold me responsible for not seeing their father, but the rejection they would deal with from unfulfilled promises would have a much worse effect on them...at least, that is what I read in several social studies published in various journals last night. Besides, I don't want them to hate him. Hating him could too easily lead to self-hatred, which I firmly believe is part of IFKAMH's problems.

For now, I don't think I'm going to forward with the fight. I will at least wait until NS are actually married and at the point where he would like to adopt them. As for visitation, there are no specifics for this in our current custody agreement, only that reasonable visitation will be granted, and unless IFKAMH decides to fight, then I am the sole decider as to what is reasonable. The social research apparently weighs very much in favor of my plan, in that only consistent and predictable involvement on his part could have a good impact on their well-being, anything less or anything that is a disruption to their well-adjusted life would likely breed enough conflict to be harmful instead.

Nikki said...

I could never profess to tell you you are doing the wrong thing. I am not in your situation and I am not your children's mother. Please do not take anything I have to say as such. I have the utmost respect for other moms and I believe that we all do the best we can by our children, you included.

I knew that my mother tried to contact me - my father did not try to hide that. But it was made clear to me that he had a definition, much like yours, of how a "parent" should be and that she didn't meet that expectation, so she wasn't allowed to see me.

Also, even today, my mother is famous for saying she'll do something and then not doing it. She didn't make an effort to see me until I was 5 (your boys are ahead if their dad is at least attempting at 3). Even then, it was irresponsible and not how I would treat my children.

I guess what I was trying to say is that my father didn't end up protecting me until I was ready to make the decision, he instead prevented me from building any relationship at all which damaged any possibility I had later when I was ready to decide I wanted her in my life.

Again, we all make mistakes, and sometimes it takes dire threats (like you can't talk to them) to get us to realize it. But kids forgiveness is flexible - they forgive and move on. But you can never get back what's been missed. Right now they've missed 3 years with their father, which is his own fault. I just encourage you to really think about if you are willing to be responsible for 10 years of missed memories after that.

If you allow him to hang himself and let them down on his own, it will be his name that is faulted in their minds. If you make the decision to prevent him that opportunity, it will never be known if he would have followed through and it will be your name that bears that weight.

You in your heart will and have to decide what is the right thing for your children. And this may very well be what is right for them. I just wanted you to know from the kids' point of view sometimes how that ends up looking.

I'm sure you'll do the right thing - and no matter what that is, please know that you have support out here. It's hard to be a single mom (even if you have another half) and you have a lot of courage just to be considering all of this.

Sassy Pants said...

In my experience it is better to know something for sure - even if it sucks - than to continue guessing and wondering. If you know something for sure then you can take the steps necessary to deal with that thing, as opposed to continuing to think about all the scenarios possible for every outcome and option. That constant brain churning is often worse than the actual worst case scenario you've imagined.

That being said, I give a great big middle finger to your X for you. I know how tricky situations with X's can be - not wanting to be the bitch but at the same time wanting to claw someone's eyes out - so I want you to know someone is rooting for you, no matter what you decide.

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

nikki - Thank you for answering those questions for me. The studies I read last night also made it very clear that the differences between the mother-child and father-child bonds are extreme, in that having another male playing the father role doesn't have the negative impact on a child that having another female in the role of mother. The information I came across was very interesting. While it does support his not being in contact or involved, should my ex really try (not just the proclamation on the phone, but actually speak to me to make specific arrangements) to become involved, I may consider it, but he will have to commit to consistent visits, visits that the boys would be able to expect, even if that is only one time a year on their birthday or something.

sassy - Thanks for your input as well.

Thank you all for chiming in with your opinions and experiences and for lending me your eyes, your hearts, and your support. I greatly appreciate it. I'll just be waiting to see what his next move is; right now, he hasn't made one, so I think I may have just been getting ahead of myself with worrying over all of this, but I guess that's just what mothers do;>

Dr.Jeeeol said...

How can he have rights if he hasn't consistently paid the agreed upon amount? Plus he was never consistent w/ cards or calls. Gosh- maybe you should just change your number and forget to tell him...

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

dr. jeeeol - The fact he wasn't paying what he agreed to pay while we were separated is probably the very reason the payroll deduction was a requirement for the divorce. And, my number? But, I've had it forever! I don't think I'm allowed to not tell him about a change of phone number...at least I know he has to be informed if I change addresses. The assumption for that, I presume, was that he would be contacting and visiting them;>

k8 said...

i know this post is old but just lemmee tell ya- va sux for situations like this.

the one thing i have going for me against my ex is that he has never paid child support. he has given a few bucks here and there but nothing major or official bc he cant keep a job. he calls and wants to see the kids on holidays, their birthday, fathers day etc.

i have decided to let him see them when he calls (supervised of course) bc of the reason the other person gave- when they get older they can never say i tried to keep him away from them. i have never said anything negative about him in front of them and they know him by daniel, his first name, not dad. they call my husband daddy.

the conditions of him getting to see them are: he has to let me know 2 weeks in advance, he cannot tell them to call him dad, he cannot ever take them anywhere alone.

once he started crying, like sobbing when he was getting ready to leave and that freaked them out so i had to lay down the law - if he does that again he will not see them.

its a long story but he left us when the girls were 6 months, plus he's on and off of drugs. he lives in williamsburg with his skanky hepatitis positive ex-hooker girlfriend.

sad to say i have a good friend who works in juvenile courts and she says you have to practically chop off your kids arm b4 the court keeps you from them. once here locally they let an admitted crack addict have his kid as long as he had her home before dark.

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

k8 - No post is ever too old to comment on, and thank you, thank you for the information you provided because your girls are only a year older than my boys. What you allow is what I finally realized might be a possibility, meaning visitation with conditions. What I don't want to allow, and what my ex currently seems to want to do, is for the bond my boys have formed with NS to be compromised, so he will not be allowed to make references to being their daddy, or their "real dad", as he so selfishly suggested I tell them. I've also been concerned about VA's take on these cases since it is typically a conservative, tradition-keeping state, which can be fine, but when it comes to keeping parents with their kids at any cost as long as the child won't be maimed or murdered doesn't always serve the child's best interest. I'm so glad you and your girls have found someone better for your lives;>