Category Archives: Custody

A Letter to Senator Glenn Grothman

Dear Senator Grothman,

How dare you?!?

How dare you insinuate that I am exposing my child to abuse and neglect? How dare you suggest that my very existence is sending my daughter down a road that will negatively impact her life forever? How dare you accuse me of becoming a single mother for the financial benefits?!?

Senate Bill 507, your bill, wants to declare me a monster to the public. Your bill wants to have the state government and the general public look at me as if I had been found guilty in a child abuse case. Your bill wants to designate me as a “contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”

What have I done to make you single me out as a public nuisance and potential criminal?

Is it because I’m a single mother?

Do you know why I’m a single mother, Senator Grothman?

I’m a single mother because my now-ex-husband and I decided to divorce 3 years (to the day) after we got married, 1 year and 3 months after our daughter was born.

So, because my ex-husband doesn’t love me the way he did the day we said “I do,” I’m automatically on the watch-list for being an abusive mother and a neglectful parent?

What have I done that is considered abusive or neglectful?

Is it the fact that my mother picks her up from school every day and keeps her in a warm, safe, friendly environment?

Is it because I let her read books 2 levels above her grade because she can and wants to??

Perhaps I shouldn’t teach her how to respect her elders by having her sit quietly in bible study classes at my church when there isn’t a babysitter available?

Maybe I shouldn’t have let her read scripture at the lectern in one Sunday morning worship because it could teach her how to be an exceptional leader and speaker?

And what financial benefits of being a single mom am I missing out on? I’ve already looked at low-income housing when my daughter and I moved into our first apartment: I make too much money (wait for it…). I looked into a Habitat for Humanity house that we could help build and move in to: I make too little money (there it is). The only “benefit” I get (if you can call it that) is a very small amount of child support from my ex-husband; it’s small because I work more hours than he does, make more per hour than he does and my annual income is 10% more than the median income in the state my husband resides. All told, the support my ex-husband has been ordered to pay is less than 1/4 of the living expenses I pay just to keep a roof our daughter’s head. According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development I am considered “lower income,” and yet nothing designated to low-income families is available to me.

My daughter goes to public school; I drive her there and my mother picks her up. My daughter is enrolled in the before-school care and buys lunches at school occasionally; I do not qualify for subsidy for either of these.

I work full-time for a Fortune 500 insurance company, pay for my medical insurance, contribute to my 401(k) and participate in the Employee Stock Purchase Plan.

I pay my taxes on time. I give regularly to my church. I donate blood. Hell, I’ve even given away a kidney!

So remind me again how I’m a tax on the community, city, county and state?

I am appalled and disgusted at your Senate Bill and at the fact that you think that I, a single mother, am adding a significant risk of abuse and neglect to my daughter.

airport

Foolish Games

pro-cras-ti-nate
-verb
1. to defer action; delay
2. to put off until another day or time

“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” – Mason Cooley

A few days before Thanksgiving “Jake” called to tell me that he didn’t want to drive down to pick up “Em” for Christmas; he was concerned about the weather. When I was pregnant with Em, Jake and I drove up to his parents’ house for Christmas. The drive up wasn’t so bad; it was the drive back down. It was raining and the wind was blowing so hard that freeway overpasses were shaking and high-profile truckers had pulled off the road to wait out the storm. It took us a day longer than expected to make it back home. So when Jake said he wanted to have Em fly to his house for Christmas, I agreed.

So less than a month before Christmas we split the cost of an unaccompanied minor plane ticket. When we divorced, Jake and I did the paperwork and processing ourselves; we didn’t have much to split up and we had agreed on my moving back to Orange County to be with my family and his visitation with Em. However, because we did it ourselves, when we made changes before filing the paperwork we forgot to make the same changes other places in the documents. So one section shows that Jake is responsible for all of Em’s travel costs to and from visitation with him, and another section says that we split the cost. However, most times I pay for her plane ticket since he has to then buy himself two round-trip tickets for his travel with her on the plane. He doesn’t work very often, so funds are limited on his end. If I didn’t pay for all of her plane tickets, she’d never get to see him. But because the cost of the one-way unaccompanied minor ticket was less than what he’d normally pay for two round-trips for himself, we split the cost.

But we never talked about how she’d get back home. I just assumed that he would drive her down since he never mentioned it.

A week before Christmas he said that he’d be buying her return-flight ticket. It would be done on Monday, December 20th. When I called that night he said he’d do it the next morning, Tuesday, December 21st. I talked to him on Christmas Eve, concerned that I hadn’t heard anything about the ticket. He said that he’d been working on ceilings for a guy and he’d just received a check and would cash it on Monday, as banks are closed on Christmas and Sundays. (My assumption as to why he’s cashing instead of depositing is because he’s behind on his support payments and if he deposits money into his account, the child support folks will send me a good portion of it, leaving him with not enough for the plane ticket. Cashing it means he can give the money to his dad who will likely be purchasing the ticket on his credit card.)

And now it’s Tuesday, December 28th and we still have no ticket for Em. I’ve left messages on his cellphone voicemail and his parents’ house message machine (where he lives). It’s no concern of mine if he pays up the nose for a short-notice flight. It is however my concern if she can’t get on a direct flight (click here for rules on unaccompanied minor travel) because they’re full because everyone else bought their tickets 6 months ago! According to the modification to visitation we did in July, she has to be returned to me no later than 6:00 PM the day before school resumes session. So finding a non-stop or no-change flight before 6:00 PM on Sunday, January 9th that is within his budget is inevitably going to be more difficult the longer he waits. And paying for a last-minute ticket for her to fly home is not within my budget. So he either has to buy the ticket soon (like yesterday) or plan on driving her down and allowing for enough time due to possibly inclement weather to do so in a timely manner.

A small part of me is concerned that he won’t bring her home. NOT that Jake has ever given me any reason to think he might violate the physical custody order we have in place, but it does happen. And Em is old enough now to know what day it is, how long she has left of her visitation with Daddy and she’ll be very upset if she doesn’t come home. And it’s not like I don’t know where he lives, or that he has any way of funding a run-and-hide scenario. But that doesn’t mean the idea doesn’t creep into my mind when he doesn’t return my phone calls. I’m sure he’ll end up buying a plane ticket or decide to drive her down. I just wish I didn’t have to wait for him to get his act together.

Then again, this is Jake I’m talking about. There’s nothing new about him keeping me in the dark about matters that concern both of us. Just because he’s a bit older doesn’t mean he’s grown up enough to stop playing these stupid games.

Livin’ on a Prayer

I don’t hate my ex-husband.

But lately, my feelings toward him have been coming very close to that thin line between toleration and hate.

Ever since our divorce, I have had sole physical custody of my daughter, and joint legal custody. We did our divorce pro se, so we didn’t think things all the way through, and we made some mistakes. Like how one portion of the parenting plan says that he has to pay for all transportation costs for her visitation with him, and another part of the custody agreement says that I pay for half of our daughter’s costs.

We didn’t think things all the way through, or think ahead. So when we decided that my ex-husband would get our daughter every-other Christmas from the Sunday before Christmas until the Sunday after, we didn’t realize that would mean that every-other year our daughter would not be able to participate in my church’s Christmas Pageant that the kids perform in. And when we said that he would have her in the summer, including the 4th of July, we forgot that would mean she would miss her one week at church camp in the summer.

Now our daughter is also in a dance class that has recitals the weekend after the 4th of July. And next year she’ll get to go to summer camp. And this year is his Christmas visitation, which means she’ll miss the pageant.

I politely (yes, I can be polite) asked my ex to work around these events so that Em can do all of these things and STILL visit with him. He not-so-politely declined. He said that I needed to find a different studio for Em to learn dance at; one that would have it’s recital before the summer. And that he wanted her at least for the 4th of July through the rest of summer. End of discussion.

Since talking about it didn’t fix anything, I decided to file a few pieces of paper with the courts; one to change our visitation schedule to be more flexible, and one that I’d been thinking about doing for a long time: one to change my legal custody of our daughter from joint to sole.

At first glance this may seem rash or unnecessary. But it seems to make sense: my daughter and I live 1000+ miles away from my ex (something agreed upon in the parenting agreement 5 years ago). Legal custody entitles someone to make everyday, medical and emergency decisions. Hard to do when you live so far away from the person you have custody of. And hard to do when you’re not present for everyday events, involved in the child’s everyday life, aware of her involvement in school and other activities.

On Wednesday I received paperwork from my ex in argument against what I had proposed. Instead, he proposes keeping the legal custody (and ensuring that I confer with him regarding extra-curricular activities) and modifying the visitation so that he has our daughter from the first day of Summer break until no earlier than 1 week before school starts, and that he has her from the first day of Winter break until January 2 (still every-other year). He also finds it unreasonable that she go to church camp each summer because it interferes with his time with her.

Where is my summer vacation with her? Why is it so easy for him to interfere with his daughter’s life, to disallow a dance recital and camp so he can spend 7-8 weeks with her? It is unfair to her to miss out on key events that are so important to her. In her own words, “I want to see my daddy, and be in my dance recital, and go to camp.” What is so hard about that arrangement?

So today I have my first appointment at the courthouse: mediation. Both my ex and myself are ordered by the court to attend. I am unsure of whether or not he will appear (or call in, if the court allows); until last Wednesday, I was unsure he had read any of the paperwork he’d been served with. I don’t know how I’ll feel if he does appear or if he doesn’t. I don’t know if his non-appearance (if that happens) will help or hurt my case.

I ask for prayers from anyone who reads this. Prayers for my nerves, prayers for my confidence, prayers for my competency (meaning I don’t let myself get railroaded as I did so many times in my marriage), prayers for my eloquence, prayers that everything goes smoothly and things don’t take a turn for the worse.


Thank you.

Update: I missed our mediation appointment. On June 15, a change in location was entered in our case. The letter I received stated, “All matters currently set for hearing … on or after July 6, 2010 will be heard by Judge … on the same date and time as previously scheduled … ” I took this to mean ALL matters, including the mediation. I was wrong. After waiting and hour after the scheduled time (first day of business can run behind schedule) I found out that the mediation location HADN’T changed. I arrived at the correct place 2 hours past the appointment time. I am now trying to reach my ex to reschedule for this afternoon per the mediation scheduler, but my ex isn’t answering or returning my calls. And I KNOW he’s available; both of his parents know he’s available. This is why I’m leaning toward hate…

Update: completed mediation. Ex phoned in. We agreed to modify the summer visitation to something we both can live with (won’t post details until they’re official), but we’ll have to hash out the Christmas visitation and legal custody issue in court next week. Very exhausted, but glad that part is over. Next stop: court on the 14th.

Update: 7/14/10: at the courthouse with my mom. Not really sure what to expect. According to my ex, he’ll be calling in instead of appearing. The list of cases in this courtroom at the same time as my appointment is daunting. Wondering if we’ll be here for hours just waiting for my turn. A bit nervous, but only because I know there’s nothing really more I can do and it’s all up to a judge now.

Update: joint legal custody remains intact, Christmas vacation changed: was Sunday before 12/25 until Sunday after 12/25 every other year; now every year after 2:00 PM on 12/25 until no later than 6:00 PM the day before school resumes. I’m exhausted, hungry and cranky, but it’s all done. At least until the phone calls and child support disappear again. Thank you EVERYONE for your love, prayers and support!!