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!!

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