At long...long, long, long, long...last, we have a court date. It is soon! I am pleased to have SOME response to my husband's petitions; to know he's not being ignored by the court and that his attorney has truly filed what he said he filed. But after growing accustomed to months and months of delay, with no end in sight, now I am also full of adrenaline and anxiety about what's coming, in mere days.
Has DSS's mom accepted service of DH's petitions; or has the Court set a hearing in spite of her refusal to participate? Will she be flying into town any day now, or will it be ex parte? What kind of contact/communication will she have with DSS, if she does come? Will we simply be dealing with the issues DH has raised; or will she file a response, with petitions and allegations of her own that we'll need to address? (That's what we've expected, but now it's down to the wire. Anything she does file will come as a surprise, at this point. Experience says there's no predicting what wild things she may say, so we can't prepare for everything.) If she blows off this hearing, will the judge rule in DH's favor by default, or feel sorry for Mom - so many miles from what's going on with her kid - and hesitate to disrupt the status quo in her absence? If she loses on these petitions, will she (or whomever represents her) conclude that for her to fight for custody later would be a waste of time? Will we be spared that, after all?
So far, these questions are all unanswered...and keeping me awake.
Wish us luck.
Oh, I feel for you. At least you know there is little you can do at this point but take things one moment at a time and handle things as they arise. Soon you will have answers, and regardless of what those answers are, I've found that answers are better than limbo. Worst case, you know where you stand when you start fighting... Best case (for which I am keeping my fingers crossed!!), you get to relax for a while.
Thinking positive thoughts for you and your family.
Thank you, Aricha.
Interestingly, DSS's mom (who isn't currently represented by an atty and is writing her own pleadings, which may explain a few things) filed what she told the court was a joint (i.e. agreed) motion to indefinitely postpone any action by the court and instead mandate six months of weekly "reconciliation" counseling for DH and her, and that DSS attend counseling, by a particular provider Mom chose. She expects DSS to tell her pocket counselor that he wants to live with her.
Also interestingly, she filed this with the court last week, but was honest in her certificate of service that she did not plan to mail the required copy of her motion to DH's attorney until this week. And not knowing she filed a motion would tend to prevent him from responding to it before the judge grants it, or pointing out to the judge that it's NOT a joint motion.
Coicincidentally, I happened to be near the courthouse the day after Mom filed this motion and DH needed an extra copy of something older, so I went to pick it up for him (and wound up with a copy of Mom's motion, too).
Although my understanding is that even family court pleadings are subject to the Freedom of Information Act, the clerks are always reluctant to give copies of anything, even if it's your own case, much less if it's your husband's. Clerk: "So, are you an interested party?"
I did not say this, but...aside from raising the child that one party has not visited for a year, but still wants to take away from us, no. I am not considered an interested party in the case. I am no more relevant than a stranger on the street. I'm just the stepmother.
Thanks, Smithie and Greenemami.
Well, more frustration. I appreciate this forum so much, because I can vent without driving my DH crazy or bad-mouthing DSS's mom to people IRL who know her, or know DSS. DH and I make a conscious effort not to "isolate (DSS) in an environment that is hostile toward his noncustodial parent", like she used to do. (Although, she makes a pretty bad impression all on her own, by not visiting or getting involved at school, etc.)
DH's attorney was not quick enough, filing a response to Mom's motion to continue. So the new judge, apparently believing Mom that it was a "joint" motion, went ahead and continued the hearing (for three months) and ordered mediation. Thankfully, the judge had the sense to reject her proposal for mandatory reconciliation counseling. (Seriously?)
We are still bothered by the mediation, though:
1- In our state, you're supposed to start with mediation. DH tried that last school year. Mom refused to take her attorney's calls. Her atty quit. Then she refused to respond to DH's atty directly, or accept certified mail from him. "Atty." (allegedly?) went ahead and filed a motion for mediation without being able to prove service on Mom. The Court sat on it for months. Finally, Atty went to the court to discuss it directly and was unofficially advised that the new judge had been reviewing their super-long case, and the general consensus was that mediation couldn't possibly work, so why didn't Atty go ahead and petition for a hearing? By that time, we agreed. What can we hope to accomplish in mediation with a woman who refuses to communicate? DH requested a hearing last month. The Court set a date within a few days, although Atty didn't get around to telling us about it until this month. But then Mom requests mediation and suddenly it seems like a great idea to the judge?
2- Is the truth, possibly, that Atty never got around to filing DH's petition for mediation? He certainly never got around to giving DH a file-stamped copy of it. If that's true, then in the Court's eyes DH's first step was to be litigious and Mom is the cooperative one who wants to mediate. When in truth "cooperative" is the polar opposite of Mom.
3- The Catch-22: DH was able to get custody in part because he fired two previous attorneys who just weren't staying on top of his case...but judges don't like that. Both times, the judge took time out from hearings over Mom blatantly defying court orders, to lambast DH - on the record - for changing attorneys. As long as you're represented, you can't get your own copies of paperwork (to see what really has or hasn't been filed) and you can't file pleadings on your own that you think need to be filed, but that your atty blows off (like responding to Mom's motion for continuance). Yet, if you're not satisfied with how the guy you're paying thousands of dollars to represent you is representing you, you have to worry about making yourself look bad to the judge, if you replace him. Not to mention the fact that we really can't afford a retainer for a new attorney, anyway. I absolutely hate feeling stuck like this. I know DH does, too.
4- Mediation is meant to keep high-conflict families out of court. However, since DH has had custody, he and Mom have been out of court for 4-1/2 years. (That's major, for them. While she had custody, they were often in court monthly!) Moreover, why did the judge go ahead and schedule a hearing, after the mediation, if not that he assumes the mediation will fail? Usually, the parties request a hearing IF (after) the mediation fails. Indeed, it's evident from Mom's response to DH's pleadings (if not from her prior refusal to communicate) that she will not be reasonable in discussing the issues DH has raised. So, we're going to waste a couple thousand on mediation and wind up in court over the same issues anyway. How is that the best use of anyone's time or money?
5- One of the issues DH raised is that Mom shouldn't keep paying child support "through the cost of her visits", when she hasn't visited in a year (and only came for one weekend, in the eight months before that). We know money hasn't been the problem, because she's been lavishing money on DSS at an unprecedented rate, while using the lack of visits as a tool to manipulate him into saying he wants to live with her (because she tells him that's the only way he can see more of her). However, those details are hard to get into court, because of hearsay rules. Right now, DH could walk into court, state the simple facts about how little she has visited recently, and have a solid case. That won't be true, in January. Predictably, the same day Mom filed her motion to continue, she scheduled a visit in November. So, she can walk into mediation and the January hearing, and say, "Be compassionate. I had financial troubles and couldn't afford to visit my baby. But now I can afford it again - and have been visiting - but my cruel ex-husband doesn't want me to come and wants to take away my means to do so." Then she can walk back out, still not paying child support, and stop visiting again, to manipulate DSS. That's how she is.
6- One of DH's other issues is that, considering the absolutely ridiculous issues we've had recently (Mom - who's Jewish - agreeing to let DSS spend Christmas with us, then scheduling him to fly out to her on Christmas Eve and saying, "Whoops! I forgot what day Christmas is. But now that I've scheduled it this way, I want to have him on Christmas!"; and Mom totally rearranging when she has DSS for the summer, to try to keep him from attending his brother's wedding, etc.)...DH wants to pay for and choose DSS's flights to visit Mom. Now, that issue won't be resolved until after Christmas Break. Mom is already causing drama about that and directly involving DSS, of course.
Reading about your family makes me want to stay married. Goodness gracious. I always feel so overwhelmed when I hear what you have to deal with. Whoo. Good for you for continuing to try so hard with this kid. Most people won't.
My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.
That's funny. I was just thinking along those lines today. I feel so frustrated with the court system.
What's the point in ordering Parent A to pay half of a child's bill, if Parent B will be faulted for "litigiousness" and have to pay attorney's fees in excess of the bill, to enforce payment?
What's the point in ordering visitation for the noncustodial parent, if a police officer, looking at the order and listening to the custodial parent say, "I know it's his night. But I don't wish to comply." can do no more than tell the NCP to spend $1,000 taking her back to court?
What's the point in a bunch of judges, politicians and teachers spending years carefully crafting the wording of Parenting Time Guidelines that instruct an out-of-state NCP, when scheduling the summer visit, to be considerate of a child's commitments and activities ("such as Little League"), if a NCP can purposefully schedule a visit that keeps a kid from finishing his Little League season, yet attorneys laugh the idea that any judge would care about that?
How can the system be changed, to work better for the families that test all the boundaries?
It can't. You fix a problem for one family and you'll be creating a problem for a different one.
The only answer I can come up with is to stay married! And be more careful about who you marry. Or at least marry someone who is so attuned to children that if you break up, you know they'll care more about the kids' best interests than about screwing you. And if the average American marries before they're 30, how can you possibly make them see the importance of this? I absolutely lucked out, with my own ex. I - and plenty of other people - could easily be in as crappy a situation as my husband is, with his.
You are one of the people on MDC I look for updates on. I'm sorry this one is so mixed. I hate our court system. :(
My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.
Your story makes me glad that my XH has decided to "opt out" of being a parent. We have some issues with DSD's mother, but luckily she mostly sticks to insulting texts to DH and no court action (yet).
Like rightkindofme, I have been reading along and am really wishing the best for you and your family. You are such an eloquent writer and I admire you wanting to do what's best for DSS. Sending support your way!
I wish I had some words of advice...but I too have been following your "saga" and can only wish you lots of luck and a fair judge. So much depends on how the judge sees things in the oh so brief moment they are paying attention to your case :( From reading your posts, I just cannot imagine how the decision could go against you in the end, but I completely agree it is so unfair that you have to be the ones paying out all this money, and now waiting and still dealing with these issues for another Christmas break, etc....if it helps, I really admire you for dealing with this and always always always putting your dss ahead of your frustration and feelings towards his mother.
Thank you guys. Like I said, I'm really grateful for this forum right now.