A couple of months ago Mrs BC kindly opened up her blog for anyone who had a story to tell. A story that, for whatever reason, they didn't feel able to share in their own space.
I told my story but my story has continued to grow, change and evolve. Sadly not in a particularly positive way. I haven't re-read my post, it's pretty raw and painful but I will try to pick up where I left off.
Briefly, as a recap;
My ex husband and I are involved in a custody battle. The basic premise is that my ex accuses me of neglect and abuse. We have been separated for over two years now. During this time he has shown very little interest in our children (who are in their early teens).
He has dodged his responsibility both emotionally and financially wherever possible. There has never in all my years of parenting (which now spans 28 years) been any suggestion that I have either abused or neglected any of my 3 children.
So, what changed?
Well, In November he split up from his girlfriend who had discovered that he had been persistently unfaithful to her for their entire 18 month relationship. Suddenly he was alone and not the focus of attention. He wasn't the 'great guy' he is so fond of saying everyone thinks he is.
Let me be very clear that I truly do not believe that he wants our children to live with him. He loves the drama. He loves to be the centre of attention. He enjoys keeping all of his children (he has two others) insecure and uncertain of his affections with his casual approach to parenting. This ensures that they will cling on to every sign of affection, every indication that he does value them. Anything that makes them believe that they actually matter to him.
I understand this. It makes the unacceptable a little more palatable. It means that I can and will continue to forgive my children for every act of seemingly treacherous behaviour. In fact, it makes me more determined that they should never be allowed to be submerged into a world where deceit and manipulation is acceptable and even encouraged.
Underneath what I am so sorry to say has become a hardened shell where at times I actively dislike my own children and wonder why I continue to fight for them there is the love that I will always have for them. The need to protect them and the memories of the close relationship that seems to have been stripped from us so brutally.
It's still there, I have to believe it's still there.
A couple of weeks before we were due to go back to court the children spent a night with him. On their return I had the usual difficulties where my children looked at me as though I was a stranger. I know from the things that say and the way they behave that their time with him is spent being manipulated, almost brain washed.
They come home believing that they smell. That they aren't fed properly. That money I'm supposed to spend on them is spent on, well, to be honest, I have NO idea what they think I spend it on or what it is that they think they are lacking.
This time things got out of hand. My daughter wanted to have her hair cut and coloured, something that is supposed to be her fathers responsibility as he had her hair cut short and dyed without my permission or knowledge several months before knowing that I would never have agreed to it and that I cannot afford the upkeep of such a hair style.
He hasn't kept his promise. Her hair was growing out of the style and the roots coming through a very different colour and naturally she was unhappy. I explained that I couldn't afford it (I had paid to have it done before Christmas as he refused). I asked why she hadn't asked her father about it.
She became very angry and even violent. I restrained her. Yes, I was angry. I shouted and I held her wrists. I forced her into a sitting position on the sofa and refused to let go. She accused me of abused and said she would call childline. I gave her the number and told her she should.
Childline take every call seriously and soon I had the police knocking on my door as they had been asked to do a welfare check. I explained what had happened. They spoke to the children. They made it very clear that I was entitled to both protect myself and use reasonable restraint where necessary. They said they had no reason to believe that my children were abused or in any danger.
Following this child services visited the children at school and spoke to them. They then came to my home and spoke to me. They looked around the house and in particular the children's bedrooms. They said they were satisfied that the children were being brought up in a home that was comfortable and fit to live in. They said they had no reason to believe that my children were abused or in any danger. They also told me that my son had shown them some bruising on his arm and had said that I was responsible. They said the bruising was old and not consistent with his story.
I have NEVER caused any injury to any of my children. I was devastated at the accusation. When I asked my son why he would say this he said 'I don't know'.
So, in February we went to court. My ex has chosen (in his arrogance) to represent himself. He was clearly suggesting that both the children refuse to go to school on the day of the court hearing in order to unsettle me at a time where I was already under considerable stress in the hope that I would cause some kind of scene that would discredit me and further his cause ('see, she is mad').
I chose, on the advice of my solicitor, to allow this facade to play out. On the morning of the court case I acted as normal. When the children refused to go to school I suggested that, as the court officer or Cafcass were likely to insist that they did go to school that they at least wear their school uniforms, both refused. We walked to court together and there, outside, was my ex husband waiting for them.
I left them together and went in. When they followed they all sat together away from me. My ex and I had had initial 'interviews' with Cafcass by phone. They had been given a copy of his application for residency with his reasons listing abuse and neglect. The initial report was supposed to have been filed at least 24 hours before our court date. As it was, was received it by fax minutes before going into court.
The night before the case my ex had spoken to both the children and told them he wanted them to stay for the whole of following week, half term. I have said on many occasions that all arrangements should be made through me but this has been consistently ignored. I told the children it was something that could be discussed the following day at court.
As expected, Cafcass insisted that the children were sent to school. At which point my ex stood up in the crowded waiting room and asked very loudly why I hadn't sent the children to school, why had I brought them to court.
You have to bear in mind that he had been sitting with them for the best part of an hour and no mention had been made of them missing school. We hadn't spoken at all. He had arranged it, he had been waiting for them. His one aim was to try and discredit me.
It was agreed to put our case back for one hour to allow me to take the children home to change an return to court. Obviously the children were upset and I suggested that their father wait and spend a little time with them after school, maybe take them out for tea. He agreed which settled the children a little.
As my ex has no legal representation my solicitor is obliged to ensure that he understands court procedures and inform him of any requests that we will make. We had spoken earlier and suggested that the children split the week between us both thus ensuring that any holiday homework could be done and that they would also have time to catch up with friends at home. In addition we suggested that the children spend one week of the Easter holiday with their Father. When she made this suggestion he became very angry.
He employed his usual tactic of physical intimidation. He's a big man (in stature) and very broad. He actually squared up to my solicitor and told her he would have the children all week and he would not be dictated too (very familiar words to me).
I could have kissed her!!!
She squared right back up to him and told him that he should realise how lucky he was that I was prepared to make arrangements and be so unaccommodating and that was the offer on the table. He then said he wouldn't have them at all as he couldn't get the time off work.
Again, bear in mind that he told the children the night before he could have them all week. Nothing had apparently changed that morning and indeed, it only changed half way through his conversation with my solicitor when he was told he couldn't have what he demanded. He obviously hadn't made any arrangements for time off work and I suspect his offer was in the mistaken belief that I would refuse to let him have them at all thus ensuring that it would be my fault they didn't spend time with him.
The Cafcass initial report which was received with minutes to spare completely exonerated me.It said that both the police and Child Services had found no cause for concern. That they believed the children were heavily influenced and directed by their father. That the only evidence of abuse were the burns my son sustained in his care and that the social workers had seen the photos sent by him in response to my sending him the burn photos. That Child Services and the police need have no further involvement and were closing their files. It also said that he should be tested for drug and alcohol abuse.
On leaving court my ex went straight home refusing to stay the hour it would have taken for the children to finish school and to see them as promised. He also didn't phone them to explain why he wouldn't be having them at all the following week.
The following day my daughter was caught shoplifting with some friends. She is very lucky to have escaped with just a warning and no criminal record. Was it a result of the previous day or was it something many parents of teenagers go through? I really am hard put to tell these days. My gut reaction is to blame everything on this situation but I do acknowledge that this might not always be fair.
But hell, what's fair in ANY of this?
This is already a very long post and so, although there is more, I will finish now and maybe Mrs BC will be kind enough to allow me to write another post at some point with a continuation of this story.
As a footnote, I would like to add that, believe it or not, life isn't ALL bad. There are times when I have glimpses of my children. Where we laugh and love together just like in the before. It gives me hope and the courage to keep going. Who knows, maybe my ex will get bored as he so often does, as he did with us before.
This time I would welcome it.
Anonymous, thank you so much for updating us! I know so many people where concerned with how you where getting on..I am so happy that the courts finally understand the true nature of the situation, & I'm sure in time your children will too. Mothering teens is one of the hardest jobs in the world, even without a manipulative ex husband to cope with. You've done an excellent job so far, one day (hopefully soon!) your children will see that.
Readers, please leave Anonymous some encouragement - do you have any words of wisdom to share?