Lawsuit and Child Custody Stress #BlendedFamily #Divorce #Custody #ParentalAlienation

Four years ago I published a blog on my personal page for a friend that was going through a divorce and child custody lawsuit.  Today, that single article has had over 7,500 views and continues to be accessed via Google on pretty much a daily basis from all over the world.  So, I’ve decided to share a condensed version of it here for my fellow Blended Family Hell on Earth peeps.

I’ve often heard people talk about the immediate feeling of community they experience when they meet other people who have gone through similar sufferings as they have (ex. have both lost a child, have both gone through cancer treatment, have both lost a spouse, have both been involved in a serious car wreck, have both been a victim of sexual assault, etc.). My group is with those who have gone through the literal hell of divorce involving litigation over child custody and parental alienation and the damage that causes.

Not only have Hubs and I gone through this personally, I’ve watched at least 100 other couples go through this since I worked in a litigation law firm that handled child custody lawsuits for about 15-20 years.  Family law was not my specialty per se (personal injury and wrongful death was) but any time we had families involved in highly contested family law litigation my boss did pass that case over to me to handle or at least oversee all of the emergency pleadings, motions, TRO’s, protective orders affidavits, etc. Truly, I’ve seen it all. At least it feels like I have.

That said, when friends, family or clients ask me how they can survive this season of hell, this is pretty much my response each and every time.  It’s definitely not all inclusive and sometimes things simply will not work out.  But, if you’re looking for some form of encouragement and hope, maybe this will help.

Baby Momma Drama.  Baby Daddy Drama.  That’s jokingly what we call it. The cause? A consequence of marrying the wrong person, poor choices, adultery, marrying too young, for the wrong reasons, growing apart, giving up, a natural consequence of divorce, it just comes with the territory…? Yes to any or all of those things. But regardless of HOW you found yourself at this point, if you are at that point where there is no turning back, then you need the proper tools to handle it.

I am rather used to speaking with people forced to endure this level of high anxiety and emotion. And let me tell you, very few things are as stressful and intense as warfare involving your kids. And, nothing has the ability to bring out straight ugly behavior and emotions in you that you didn’t even know you had until you are involved in family law litigation.

First, know that you are NOT alone. This level of stress could make anyone look like a psychotic lunatic (oh yes even me). But there is hope! Yaye. You are NOT a psychotic lunatic even if you feel like one. (Disclaimer: unless you are psychotic LOL)

Secondly, I’m going to be straight up honest with you. There have been times that I have participated in the hard core screaming, texting, and anger emailing while dealing with our contested family and custody issues. And you know what? That didn’t help me much. As soon as my red face calmed down and I stopped seeing red, I was still in the same boat I was in before the anger rage rant only now I had backtracked a few steps and it didn’t get me anywhere. I threw a fit and made sure I was heard but we were no closer to any type of agreement and the kids homework still wasn’t finished.  My energy was just depleted and I was too exhausted to do much of anything much less look like a warrior princess.

Please know that the process of walking through this valley of the shadow of death is two steps forward, one back, three forward, one back, four forward, one back. You will take steps back and when you do you will tend to beat yourself up. Don’t do that. It’s kind of like dieting. If you over eat at one meal, don’t use that as an excuse to over eat for the next week. Repent, seek strength, and get back on track moving forward. It may take lots of time and money and energy but it DOES COME TO AN END. Like labor pains, eventually the baby is born and you will be on the other side of this battle.

For me personally, I used prayer and scripture as my outlet. For you it may be yoga or kickboxing. We are all different. But, since mine was prayer, I’m going to share the versus that I prayed. I knew full well that the accusations against my family were false, lies, and were designed to cause pain.  And so I wrote myself these reminders on a document about the ex and the lies.

The Lord turns his face against those who do evil; he will erase their memory from the earth. The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. Calamity will surely overtake the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished. Lord, oppose those who oppose me. Fight those who fight against me. Put on your armor and take up your shield. Prepare for battle and come to my aid. Bring shame and disgrace on those trying to kill me; turn them back and humiliate those who want to harm me. I did them no wrong but they dug a pit to catch me. So let sudden ruin come upon them! Let them be caught in the trap they set for me! Let them be destroyed in the pit they dug for me… and I will be glad because He rescues me. Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about. Rescue me from these fierce attacks. Protect my life from this lion. O Lord… do not stay silent. Do not abandon me now. O Lord Wake up! Rise to my defense! Take up my case, my God and my Lord. Declare me not guilty, O Lord my God, for you give justice. Don’t let my enemies laugh about me in my troubles…. May those who rejoice at my troubles be humiliated and disgraced. May those who triumph over me be covered with shame and dishonor…Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you; give justice to those with honest hearts. Don’t let the proud trample me or the wicked push me around. Look! Those who do evil have fallen! They are thrown down, never to rise again. I will not worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. Like grass they soon fade away… I will trust in the Lord and do good. Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone. The wicked plot against the godly; they snarl at them in defiance. But the Lord just laughs, for he sees their day of judgment coming. The strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the Lord takes care of the godly. I will turn from evil and do good, and I will live in the land forever. For the Lord loves justice and will never abandon the godly. The wicked wait in ambush for the godly looking for an excuse to kill them. But the Lord will not let the wicked succeed or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial.

And don’t forget, regardless of how crooked or conspiring the other party is, be honest and trustworthy and do what is right. You do the right thing to the best of your ability and leave the results up to God. I have heard some people talk about karma (sowing and reaping). Don’t be misled – you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up…

And when your flesh man does win out (the step back), repent quickly and get right back up. Don’t lose the battle on your own by constantly beating yourself up. Stay strong. Remain the warrior that you are, the one deep in there, the one you are when you’re at your best and strongest.

Fight offensively within the legal parameters you have.  Get a GOOD lawyer.  Find the right one who cares about your situation and will NOT quit. This is where it is essential to find a LITIGATOR.  Someone who knows the Judge, the courtroom and is not scared of a trial or the other attorney.

I have referred to this difficult road as the valley of the SHADOW of death. It is important to remember that a SHADOW cannot harm you. It’s scary. It’s looming. Sometimes it’s overwhelming but it’s only a SHADOW.

Also, whether you win your hearing or not, whether you continue to return to the courtroom or not, the kids WILL know the truth. Journal. Document EVERYTHING. We have 2 large boxes full of documents that prove the truth of what we went through. Once the kids are over 18 and no longer under the court’s rule and reign, IF THEY ASK, we will show them everything we have.  It’s also been scanned in, saved to a flash drive and stored in a fireproof safe.

The parent who does NOT cooperate and works to win by using the child as a target will lose in the end even if they win temporarily in court.  Just remember that.

I hope you will find the strength and support you need during this difficult time.

Coffee cheers your way.  Keep your head up.

 

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Marriage is Hard Y’all #LysaTerKeurst #Divorce #Family #Marriage

It’s been a minute since I’ve updated this blog site but I really wanted to save this article written by Lysa TerKeurst from Proverbs 31 Ministries about the current state of her marriage and her decision to move forward with a divorce.

I believe it’s beautifully written and just an overall good reminder to those who are struggling in similar circumstances.

Hugs from Texas.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Purpose #Marriage #BlendedFamily #Life

Before Hubs and I took our annual Operation Marriage 2017 Vacation, I discussed my desire with him to really start working on writing a book.  Ok, at least trying to (given the OCD, ADHD, and continual squirrel that bounces around in my brain).  I sat up one night and just pondered … what is the POINT of the book though?  To simply share warnings, stories, make others feel less alone?  To try to prevent or discourage people from blending families (bahahaha…. not really, but hey we were just brainstorming) or to encourage reconciliation over divorce?  To encourage them to hang in there (nope, that’s not it because on any given day we are not even sure if we will actually “make it”)?

So why the book?

Then it hit me…. at about 4 am when everything does.  Squirrel – is 4 am “writers hour”?  I mean, I seriously have woken up between 3-4 am nearly every single night for over a month.  Even while on vacation I woke up in the middle of the night – wide awake – ready to start the day.  Anyway…

For me, the purpose of the book is to (1) share stories, (2) provide helpful advice if it does exist, (3) provide encouragement where possible, (4) share some of our MISTAKES because if you can learn from ours by all means please do so and (5) MOST IMPORTANTLY, be sure that during the process you take care of YOURSELF and don’t lose yourself to everything going on around you.

I used to think that “sticking it out and remaining married” meant that we had won the Blended Family battle.  But that’s simply not true.  The reality is that “winning” at this Blended Family life (or even traditional family life) means being able to be the best, healthiest, whole version of yourself despite having great difficulties in life.  Being healthy and whole is my current goal (because I’m a hot mess half of the time) and that will be reflected in the book.

P.S.  On the plane ride home Friday afternoon, the crew reminded us that in the event of an on board emergency you should always put YOUR breathing mask on first before helping others.  I believe that we often find ourselves taking care of everyone else (spouse, employer, kids, the home needs, etc) without even realizing that we are out of oxygen and energy ourselves.

Iced tea cheers to the healthiest and whole version of yourself that you can be.

Love from Texas

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mothers Day Letter to Stepmom

This was shared on social media recently and it’s so beautifully written.  

https://www.popsugar.com/moms/Letter-Stepmom-Mother-Day-43474276

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Always the Victim Syndrome (Braces Edition)

img_4019Have you ever met someone who loves to throw down the victim card? Isn’t it fun?

Recently we have been trying to obtain orthodontics care for one of my step kiddos.  Should be simple enough, right? Not so.  Have you read Blended Family Car Wreck Edition? It’s quite similar to that.

My husband has been advised by his attorney for years to document, document, document his ex’s ongoing violations of the current court order.  And he has.  For years. And the violations are numerous and well documented.  Today, it was time to address the non-payment of medical support issues as well as the ongoing medical neglect issues of the child in her care.  It is true that “what you refuse to address, you endorse”.  And my husband is nice y’all.  And very kind.  But he’s also not afraid to address issues.  Identify them, discuss them, deal with them.

So the ongoing non-payment of medical bills issues … In reply his ex sent an email to him that “I will handle the braces contract” but did not say how or when (the same thing she said about the child’s car wreck bills months ago that still havent been handled or paid.  We are still waiting on that large cash settlement y’all … bahahahaha).

So today, my husband outlined in writing to his ex her ongoing court violations along with his list of concerns regarding the children’s medical care.  AGAIN her reply was the same as it has been for 8 years. Why are you attacking me? Stop harassing me.  And again, there is no harassment and no attack.  On top of that …

REWIND: when the ex attacks us – and she does repeatedly – she says “you reap what you sow”.  She’s in bible college and is a deacon at her church and apparently has the authority from God to discipline us.  When the attacks come from her end it’s somehow justifiable, warranted, deserved and she’s going to give us a biblical lesson as to why we deserve her punishment.  Meanwhile, if my husband so much as asks why his daughter’s prescription hasn’t been filled in two months, it’s World War 3.

The problem with her theory is that you cannot be both a bully and a victim. If we told her “you reap what you sow”, she’d lose her mind, call it a threat and send it to her lawyer.  The double standard game she plays is simply unbelievable and quite frankly, unacceptable.

Dear ex wife, you are not a victim. You are in violation of a court order again. You have been for over four months. This is why a lawyer sent you a formal notice only a couple of months ago requesting you to comply.  Yet you’re still in violation.  Please stop attacking us, stop asking for prayer for us at church and using that as an excuse to lie, slander us and stir up pity and attention for yourself.  Just follow the court order and put the kids needs first like my husband does. If you’d put the kids needs first, the drama would fade away by itself.  After all, the only time my husband addresses you at all ever is when one of the kids has a need that is not being met.

7 years down.  7 years to go.  And counting.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blended Family Hell on Earth #BlendedFamily #Marriage #Divorce

2012 was a particularly difficult year for me in our blended family which marked the creation of a journal entry I made on Aug 24, 2012 entitled “Blended Family Hell on Earth”.  In hindsight, it’s hard to believe that we somehow made it through that season and wow … it’s been 5 years and here we are still pursuing progress between two imperfect people in an imperfect marriage.

The original post went something like this but has been edited due to length (but it’s still pretty long.  Sorry LOL):

DISCLAIMER – this is where I feel like a pharmaceutical commercial needing 150 disclaimers about what I am about to say including any release of liability for subsequent death or dismemberment.  But instead, I just want to say that I super love my husband and I would not trade him for any other man nor do I regret marrying him.  I would not trade any of “our” children for an alternate life or ship any of them off whether they are “mine” or “his”… most days.  Divorce is not an option and there is no “out” here (though some days my flesh wishes there was and we have been very close to divorce a time or two).

As I mentioned before, I have had worse storms than the blended family storm.  But just because the blended family storm may only rate as an F3 or F4 instead of an F5 doesn’t mean it’s not a serious storm. Being in a blended family is without a doubt single-handedly one of the most difficult processes you will ever face.  I know there are exceptions to that and some people have not had problems.  But I have found that the majority of people I know have had GREAT tribulations.  And, since I have what I term “street credit” in the blended family arena, I believe I should be allowed to share the good, bad, and ugly truth about it.

In the book “Making Children Mind without Losing Yours” by Kevin Leman, he devotes an entire chapter to this new issue in so many American homes today.  The chapter entitled Families Don’t Blend, They Collide starts by saying “parents used to have a lot of kids.  Now kids have a lot of parents.”  And he gives amazing practical advice on how to DO the stepfamily setting including “disciple your own kid at first, create a new home, compare rule books, they don’t have to love you – just respect you – and vice versa, consider the birth order blender, allow them to grieve for the lost past, deal with anger, prepare for grenades your ex will toss, build a team, and establish the strength of your marriage as the centerpiece of the family.”

So, why is the blended family so difficult and heart wrenching?  Let me illustrate just a few examples because the chapter headings above simply don’t do the topics any justice. In order to show honor and respect to our children, I have vowed not to call anyone in particular out by name in what he or she has done unless it’s positive and encourages them.  But, I’m going to give you examples from the book along with some of our own life experiences and tell you that we have experienced all of them at some point and then some.  And then some more.  And even more.  And a little bit more just in case you don’t get the idea.

They Don’t Have to Love You, Just Respect You – and Vice Versa

“There are some all-out wars that erupt between stepparents and stepchildren.  Your spouse’s children have a lot of reasons to hate you, though most of these are irrational.  They might consider you an imposter.  They might blame you for preventing their parents from getting back together.  They might resent you for ‘stealing’ their mother or father away from them. They used to get that parent’s full attention and now they share it with you….” Yep! Been there done that. And let’s remember that they also have another person they love and trust AGREEING with them about how wrong they have been done by the remarriage.  We will go there now.

Prepare for Grenades Your Ex Will Toss

“Ex-spouses have a way of making life miserable…  your ex has the ability to mess things up for you in a big way, chiefly by stirring up the children…. Your ex might … spoil them, make impossible promises to them (like Disneyland, a cell phone….), teach them bad habits, or turn them against you (she’s not your mom…ever since your dad married her…).  If you share legal custody… you have to send your kids off with this person and deal with the fallout later”.  My favorite advice in that section is “don’t poison their relationship with your ex but try to help them see reality ….and focus on your new relationship and your new family”.  I love love love this statement.   This allows us the ability to teach on honoring the position of a parent (whether we personally respect their actions or not) as well as putting our combined family needs first.  These are EXCELLENT life lessons for everyone.  But in a blended family you are forced to learn this.  Most recently, I was told “my mom hasn’t told me directly that she hates you, but I can tell that she does.”

Speaking of “since your dad married her”… The ex is a woman who used to have full reign to criticize, fight and yell at your man. But since he’s married you he’s off limits. You protect him, support him and have his back. She’s not used to this and it infuriates her.  This alone is enough to make her hate you.

Avoid Triangles of All Sorts

“It’s common for children to fight a stepparent for ‘control’ of their parent…I’ve heard about stepchildren’s efforts to sabotage the new marriage.  Say the couple plans a weekend off by themselves; a kid will fake an illness just to keep them from going.  There are regular attempts to pose the question ‘who’s more important: me or your spouse…children may make efforts to pit you against their ‘real’ mom or dad…children will continue to play matchmaker between you and your ex….”.  Yep, been there and done that one too.  Good times.

And don’t forget, you may have an ex that actually encourages the kids to engage in this sort of behavior.  For example, my husband’s ex made the following statements in the presence of the kids which only solidified the fears in their own minds: “well the kids still struggle with our divorce…. you abandoned them for another person… go enjoy your new family and leave us alone…” (though their divorce was final before we ever dated and they had been separated for 1 1/2 years) and then the kids would say things like this while they were with us: “mom cries when we aren’t with her… it feels like you’ve just abandoned us… it’s like you don’t want me anymore…”.  And then there was the time that I found one of the kids keeping a journal about every move I made (she went to the gym today, she went to a friends house, she went shopping with my sister, if you would just buy me a cell phone I could text you while I’m here …).  Hello?  Are you stalking me in my own house?  Remind me to sign that kid up for the police academy!

Due to the amount of drama that caused, my husband voluntarily allowed that child to move back in with her mom even though he had full legal custody. We simply couldn’t live that way anymore (5 years later she told us that moving out was a mistake because she is almost 17, is a junior in high school, has never had drivers ed, has zero financial support even though the mom receives child support, she still has her baby blanket from when she was 5 saying her mom won’t buy her new bedding, is having an adult tooth pulled due to dental neglect even though her dad has her on insurance, at 15 she was so infested with lice we had to cut the boys hair and spend $100 plus on home lice treatment after she came over and it took her mom over a month to get rid of it, she doesn’t have personal electronics and is not allowed to have any communication with us outside of her 48 hour court ordered visitation weekends – parental alienation on steroids – and we have documents and emails to prove this is all true. Why didn’t we do anything? We did. And the child told the Judge that she didn’t want to move because she would have to change schools and lose her friends at school and church. The Lawyer even warned us that the child was so toxic she might file false sex abuse charges so we began to make sure we were both around to protect ourselves. And then we found out she was making statements like “I just wish I was dead. I hate my life, don’t ever move in with mom” to her brother.  And we were told this was all “normal” due to the toxic nature of his ex spouse. Wow. Really?

Can you imagine this being a NORMAL part of your life?  This was a normal and common and regular occurrence in our lives for a couple of years and to this day I try to remind myself to be careful around them because who knows what they say behind my back.  I simply don’t trust the kids anymore when it comes to the ex.

Establish the Strength of Your Marriage as the Centerpiece of the Family

“Your relationship with your spouse must be a firm anchor. Your kids will test it, fight it, and resent it. If you don’t make it clear from the start that your spouse comes first, your kids might just succeed in pulling your marriage apart.”  When we first faced this test, I actually used the opportunity to instruct the kids on the proper order of the home using multiple choice options.  For example, husbands love your ____ (wife, child, dog) as Christ loved the church; husbands ought to love their ____ as their own bodies; a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his _____.

Please be aware too that the world does not respect your stepfamily.  My husband recently tried to set my biological son up for a medical visit on his own insurance plan yet they refused to talk to him until they received a copy of the Power of Attorney I signed giving him the “legal right” to make medical decisions for my child.  And at school registration, they made it very clear that stepparents were not “legally” considered parents and could not assist with the child’s educational process without a signed and notarized affidavit.   Of course, we both did sign all of those required items.  But there is nothing quite like being a primary caregiver and giving all of your time, energy, assistance, and your own finances just to be treated like the nothing and no one that you legally are from the world’s perspective.  Happy happy joy joy…if you get the idea.

Now, what I’ve shared does not even cover half of our blended family struggles.  Not even close.  And they are ongoing.  We are dealing with at least 5 kids who have felt security in a relationship in the past, but learned through divorce not to allow themselves to falsely feel secure ever again.  They have been told they were safe in a marriage when they weren’t.  So, we have to do even MORE and show even MORE love and support than a child that has never experienced the pain of divorce.   The angles to look at the situation are endless and each view shows great difficulties.

So, why am I sharing all of this?  Because I have suffered tremendously over our blended family and have learned that I am sooooooo not alone in this.  And guess what, neither are you.  There is HOPE and it DOES get better.  Then it gets worse.  Then it gets better.  Two years ago I thought for sure I had lost my mind when the winds and rain started to pick up.  But now, I would not trade our marriage for anything.  Until my flesh starts screaming again.  Then I wish we had not ever gotten married.  And then it gets better again.  It’s seasonal.

We all say things, do things, and still sometimes fall for the ‘take the bait’ trap when we shouldn’t.  I especially fail at this when the grenades start successfully hitting my house.  I’ve mastered pulling the plug out and throwing it back at record speed.  I am a paralegal after all.  You’d be amazed just how skilled I can be at combat.  Like a military trained warrior.  And I’ve even shown that our arsenal of weaponry is bigger (kind of the USA showing their big guns.)  I’ve not quite learned the art of pulling the grenade into my gut when it’s thrown at my house and letting it explode on myself as the ultimate sacrifice for the family.  But guess what, I’m working towards that.  That is the goal.  Some days I succeed.  Some days I fail.  Lately, I have failed.  Am I alone in having those days too on occasion?  And when I fail, it’s important that I don’t roll around in failure but that I get back up.  Confess.  Repent.  Move forward.  If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.

I really hope you’ve found some comfort and encouragement through this post.  And if you know anyone who is considering a divorce, please encourage them to THINK AGAIN!  If I have taught these kids anything, it has been to “get married then stayed married” (ya know, the traditional family).  This blended family gig is NOT the best family plan available.  It is a backup plan.  It’s a GREAT backup plan but still.

And if you’re struggling in your blended family, stick it out.  Get help.  Go to individual or family counseling.  Find a support group.  Hang in there. 

Coffee cheers your way guys.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WINology #BlendedFamily #Marriage #Divorce

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine was discussing her desire to get divorced.  No judgment here.  I’ve been divorced (and remarried – hence the blended family blog).  But, then she asked me HOW in the world my spouse and I have made it this far.  My answer was “when we wanted to quit, we didn’t”.  Oh yes, we both wanted to quit.  At one point we discussed getting divorced, where we would live (would we sell the house or would one of us move out), what assets would we keep and divide, etc.  Then we discussed how sad it was that the blended family gig broke us.  That we had not been strong enough to make it.  That “it won”.  That we were part of the 70% of  blended families that fail.  We spoke up about our regrets, our mistakes, extended apologies, extended forgiveness, grace and mercy.  In reality, marriage requires CONTINUAL forgiveness, grace and mercy.  It’s a living, breathing and sometimes claustrophobic entity.  Welcome to marriage haha.
I’m currently reading a book called WINology by Joel Scrivner (one of my favorite motivational speakers) and I love this statement he made: “Winners are finishers, so don’t quit the process. Resolve right now to finish strong. Don’t quit.”
This is such a good reminder in the blended family fry cooker process y’all.

Finish strong. Don’t quit.  If you don’t quit, you WIN.

P.S. DISCLAIMER: this post does not in any way condone or suggest you stay in a relationship where you are unsafe or are a doormat via adultery or abuse.  Please know when to seek legal counsel and advice.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment