The Truth About Custody

Today’s post was inspired by news of Pillar Sander’s middle son finally getting to live with her. Not sure if you remember their divorce or not, but in a nutshell Deion Sanders got primary custody of his two boys and she got shared custody of their daughter who was the youngest at the time. Here’s what his middle son just shared:

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The children are caught in the middle of a divorce. I want to share a story with you. I want you to think about something before you go to war in custody…

I have a lot of friends who have gone through a divorce and custody battle with their children. All but two have had to battle it out in the courts for custody. As sad as it is, it didn’t have to be that way.

Marriages start off great. You fall in love. You create a life. You have children. Your career changes. Life changes. You have children. You raise your children. Life goes on. Then there is a shift in your marriage. It could be mental health, infidelity, loss of love and/or communication. But, something is wrong.

You try to fix it. You try counseling. You try to make your marriage work. You didn’t get married to get divorced. Sex becomes non-existent. You don’t understand what is happening. Why can’t you get back on track?

But, you can’t.

Months pass. Sometimes years. You grow distant. You become roommates. You live separate lives. You even fake it for family in friends. You begin to lose yourself in the hell that is your marriage.

Until one day.

One of you decides that you can’t go on like this. You can’t live this fake life for everyone including your children. You want them to see two happy people than grow up with a false sense of family. You decide it would be best to split and divorce.

What happens to the children?

You believe that your children need both parents. You’ve read the stories of children that do better with both parents in their lives. You will make it work. They will have two homes with two beds, but they will have two active parents. 

Then one person changes their mind. They want to take their chances in court. Battle it out. It could be for a number of reasons, but money or vengeance are probably the top. They don’t want to share. They want the children in their homes and in their lives full-time. You can see them occasionally.

You struggle to breathe. You’ve lived with your children 365 days. You’ve woken up with them. You’ve fed them breakfast, bathed them and taken them to school. You’re a full-time parent. They are the most important people in your life.

You look up at the person that claimed to love you and see that this person doesn’t care. They don’t care about what you did or who you are to the children. They are grieving. You fight it out and go to court.

Your children may be old enough to talk to the judge, but no one is listening. Lawyers, courts and money spent becomes your life. You didn’t plan this. You can’t understand how one person is being given your children and you are being regulated to seeing your child 48 days a year with two weeks vacation in the summer.

It’s not fair. 

But, you accept it. You accept the terms you were given determined to make the best of it. You show up at every recital, baseball game and school program. You are going to be an active parent no matter the circumstances dealt.

Your ex who got the kids can’t let it go. They play games. Wreak havoc in your life. Destroy you with their lies. But, you make it a point to keep your head in the game. Live your life above water. This divorce has already cost you too much. You move on.

Then something happens. Your ex is blocking your visitation. Back and forth to court you go. The system doesn’t budge. They tell her/him to stop and they continue. They tell her/him they can’t deny your visitation and they do it anyway. The courts do nothing.

The light in your children’s eyes diminish. They miss you. You miss them. You get another lawyer. Back to court you’ll go. You request a modification to the child custody. You want a 50% shared custody schedule with a 50% schedule. 

Your lawyers try to advise you both in mediation to split up the children. You can get the boys and she can get the girls. You are both shocked. You both are adamant that the children not be split up. They are siblings. They need each other. You need them.

Your lawyer advises you separately saying that you could win custody of your sons based off your ex’s antics. You get to have them the majority of the time. No more blocked visitations. But, what about your daughter?

You agree to move forward believing something is better than nothing. You can’t be without your children anymore. They need you. Your daughter will be fine you think.

You win.

You smile. You thank God. You thank your lawyers. You’ve finally won.

But, your daughter loss.

Your children are now split between two homes. She has no brothers there to defend her. She is now alone. 

Note: This is the reality in many broken families. Going through a divorce and custody can be both brutal and painful for the children. If you’re battling it out with your former partner, think about the children. Don’t split them up. They need both of you. Let them decide who they want to live with. Listen to them. Respect their decision or let them go. Don’t separate them. Remember the story from the Bible of King Solomon who wanted to split the child in half because both women were fighting over him? The real mother said “Please don’t kill my son,” the baby’s mother screamed. “Your Majesty, I love him very much, but give him to her. Just don’t kill him.” She was willing to lose her son than see him die. Which woman are you?

 

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

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You Will Not Believe This

I told you all about how my ex and I are going back to court for custody and that when we arrived to have our custody hearing we were told that we were still married. No? You can read about it in Failure of the Court and in Divorced Again. Long story short…we were both shocked as hell.

We went to a Pendente Lite (temporary custody) hearing on May 4th only to be told that nothing can be done because the second divorce hadn’t been signed off. Yep, another day off work. Another day of time wasted. Another day of stress. The magistrate then said that we have a custody hearing in August so it would wait. What the hell? More delays. More stress. More time off work.

I was beyond frustrated and barely holding on with all this back and forth. I felt like the courts had failed me. Could no one do their job? Would I have to continue in this state of unknown until August? Yep. Apparently.

I was a wreck a few days after the hearing as you can imagine because I was mentally and physically tired. I allowed myself a couple of days to focus on other things and to get my mind right. There were still things that I had to do and Munch still needed to be taken care of. After a few days of moping around, I got up and moved on with my life.

Well, last Monday when I went to get the mail I had three notices from the courts. Not thinking it was anything other than the second divorce paper and update on the August trial, I was shocked to read:

The Scheduling Order dated April 20, 2017 and the Magistrate recommendations of April 11, 2017 and May 4, 2017 are stricken. The Judgment of Absolute Divorce dated March 17, 2016 remains in full force and effect. The parties’ respective Motions for Modification shall be scheduled for three hours on the earliest available date. Notice to be sent to the parties.

What? Was I reading this correctly? That meant that a judge had reviewed our complicated file and decided that all that extra BS we were going through was not necessary and that the original divorce stood as is. Custody remained as is. We were legally divorced back to the original date granted.

I ripped open the other two envelopes and one said to schedule the Motions for Modification hearing on June 21st and to remove the merits hearing scheduled for August. The final was the hearing confirmation from the court house calendar management division. It was real. It was happening. Sooner rather than later and I didn’t have to wait until August.

What’s the big deal? Nothing really. Time. I am tired of all the back and forth and the courts are stressing me the hell out. First we’re divorced, then we’re not divorced, then we can’t have a hearing on custody because the second divorce hadn’t been signed off and then we’re really divorced (my bad) let’s go to court next month.  It is exhausting. Heck, I’m exhausted telling you about it.

But, thankfully a judge reviewed the file in it’s entirety and upheld the original divorce and decided that we didn’t have to start all over. Again. I appreciated that. I don’t know what will happen in court next month, but I’m convinced that God’s will will be done. So, I ask that you keep us all (Munch, my ex and I) in your prayers because truthfully we need it.

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

4 Things: May 4th

It’s been a busy few weeks and I realized that there is so much that I want to tell you and so many things that I’m working on. Here are four things that I want you to know for May 4th.

  1. This morning, my ex-husband I go back to court for a temporary guardianship hearing. I have no idea what is going to happen or what the heck that even looks like, but I trust God will be in and through this situation. I serve a mighty God and he’s always looked out for Munch and I. Today will be no different. It’s also National Prayer Day so I ask that you please keep us all in your prayers.
  2. Munch’s birthday was on the 30th and I did a really small party. Small in comparison to the other birthday parties that I’ve thrown. A few children and fun at the skating rink. He loves skating and he had a blast. However, I ordered the cake from BJ’s and they messed up his cake. It was supposed to be Batman and they did Paw Patrol. He’s 9. He was hurt. The cake was free and the store manager was so apologetic. I explained to Munch that sometimes your best laid plans will fail, but the key is to wipe the tears from your eyes and keep smiling. The cake was good and that is what truly mattered.
  3. Munch’s swim class is going well and he indicated that he is interested in trying out for the swim team. I’m excited for him, but we have to work on his endurance so that he can keep up his stamina. Tryouts are in July or August, but I’m all for it. I pray that he makes it. It is expensive, but if he makes it then I will figure it out. Anything for Munch.
  4. I’m walking in the March of Dimes – March for Babies event with my sorority sisters this Saturday. This is my first time walking in an event since I did the Breast Cancer walk (not the 3 day one) over 9 years ago. Munch wasn’t even born. I’m excited to help out and I still need your help. Any amount of money you can donate will be greatly appreciated. No amount is too small. Your deduction is also tax deductible. Here’s the link:  http://www.marchforbabies.org/tikeethathomas

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

Failure of the Court

I want to thank each and every one of you who responded via a comment on my blog or on my Facebook page offering words of support, prayer and encouragement. I truly needed them and I appreciated them all. I have always tried to be transparent on many things in my life so that you could know that you are not alone in whatever situation you are going through. I go through things too.

That is why I decided to let you know about my ex and I going back to court yesterday in my post I Broke. The overwhelming support and prayers motivated me to know that yesterday would not be the end. It let me know that I am not alone. You are all amazing.

So, to update you on what happened yesterday…

We went to court yesterday. I, with my two witnesses and my ex with his 12 or 14. LOL, it was a lot. I only knew two people, but whatever. We checked in and didn’t speak and sat on different sides of the waiting room. Our court appointment was at 1:00. I checked in at 12:38 and we didn’t get called back until almost 2:00 p.m. It was so nerve wracking.

My mom and best friend tried to keep my nerves at bay by cracking jokes and trying to get me to laugh. It was very thoughtful. I just kept thinking about how God’s greatness and mercy are with me all the time and that whatever happens that I know God is in it. I had to stay focused on his promise and not this problem.

When called we all follow the bailiff to the court room. My party of 3 and my ex’s party of 15. The bailiff has us wait and then comes back and says that the magistrate only wants to see the two parents.

Okay.

That was weirdly unexpected, but whatever. It’s not a show. I get that.

We get into the courtroom and we’re told to have a seat. We explained that we didn’t know where to sit because it lists me as the plaintiff, but he had asked for a modification to the custody agreement so wouldn’t he be the plaintiff? He said “No, you’re still the plaintiff because it’s a modification to the original case and you were the plaintiff in that case.” Okay. We sat down.

Now, in Maryland they use magistrates. According to Maryland Courts “A family magistrate is an officer of the Circuit Court who is selected by the judges of that court to hear certain family law and juvenile cases.” He wasn’t a judge, but an appointment by the judge who is a lawyer. Not Joe Blow off the street.

Back to the story…

He then tells us that he’s having this conversation off record. He wasn’t recording it yet. We’re both new to this process so we were both fine with it. He asks the question about me filing for divorce and the divorce being granted last year. He asks me to tell him about that proceeding.

I told him what happened from the moment I filed for divorce to when we came to court and were divorced. He said “Okay, that’s consistent with what I read from the transcript and in your submitted paperwork.” He asked “Are either of you remarried?” I replied “I’m not.” My ex answered “No.”

The magistrate then tells us that “Okay, thank God.” He then tells us “You’re both still legally married.”

What?

How is that possible?

We sat there dumbfounded. He then tells us that there is a process in Maryland which we are required to follow before a divorce can be considered legal. Here is the process:

  1. You file for divorce with the court.
  2. Court sends you the paperwork outlining how to serve the individual.
  3. Individual is served.
  4. Person has 30 days to respond.
  5. If after 30 days no response is given, the person that filed for a divorce is supposed to submit a default based off no response given.
  6. After default is submitted a court date is given to both parties for a hearing on the matter.
  7. After attending the hearing a divorce is granted.

Now in our case, this is what happened:

  1.  I filed for a divorce.
  2.  Court sent the paperwork to me and I gave it to my best friend.
  3. My best friend sent the paperwork certified to my ex’s house.
  4. My ex never responded.
  5. I received a notice from the court for our hearing date and showed up.
  6. Went to court and we were granted a divorce.

So, steps were missed on the court’s part and the divorce wasn’t considered valid. Yep, we were as shocked as you reading this right now. How the hell could a court mess this up? How could a judge sign off on this knowing it wasn’t valid? What could have happened?

I’ll let you know in tomorrow’s post as this post is getting really long.

 

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

Closed

That chapter in my life.

My marriage was officially dissolved.

I was an ex-wife. I had an ex-husband. I kept thinking was there something I was supposed to feel? I didn’t feel different. I felt relieved. Relieved at the fact that we could come together to support our son. No more fighting over custody.

I was exhausted. I stood whispering to him in the halls that I thought it best that our son live with me primarily. Your health. His health. His needs. We have to think about him. I’ve never denied you access to our son. He’s yours. He’s mine.

Tears were in his eyes when he said, “I feel like I’m failing our son.” Grief. Anguish. All emotions that I could see written on his face. I paused and asked “How are you failing him? By allowing me to be the primary caregiver for him? I’m his mother. I know that he needs you and you need him.” Silence.

I asked, “What is best for your son? Think seriously about it. I’m not taking away your visitation. I’m allowing you to design a schedule that we both find reasonable. One that puts the needs of our little boy above our own.” I sighed.

I told him that I will give him time to design a new schedule. Let me know. Before school ends so we can get Munch used to it. I needed him to stop hating me. For his son’s sake. For his sake.

It was always about custody. Not fighting for our marriage. It was done. We both agreed. But, he believed that I would keep his son from him. I wouldn’t. I haven’t. I won’t. However, I couldn’t continue to fight this fictitious battle. It was old. I was tired.

Munch’s needs at this moment were taking a priority over this drama. I explained, “You know what your son is going through. He worries about you constantly. Part of his issue is that his dad’s health is changing and he sees it. We can’t help that. We need to help him deal. Cope. It’s a part of life.”

He sighed and uttered, “I’m going to trust you.” “Please do” I replied. We walked silently down the long hall.

We entered the courtroom. The magistrate swore us in. Asked the questions about custody, child support and said “I’m happy you two are working it out. That’s really good.” I smiled. It was good.

We were now being adults. No more personal grievances affecting our child. No more using Munch as a crutch. We were going to be better. Our son needed us to.

We waived our rights to appeal the absolute divorce and signed the papers. Finally, it was done. A chapter closed. A chapter that had left us bruised and hating each other. A chapter of debts paid and unpaid, changes in job, declines in health and death.

Closed.

“Let’s have a party” said some of my girlfriends. Talks of celebration, cake and champagne rang out. I just smiled. In two pages, my life was finalized and that part of it closed. Two pages huh?

I want to think that we can now focus on being co-parents. Loving our son. Being there in a united front with no underlining hatred of the other. Our Munch needs us and in the end does it matter beyond that? No.

We loved each other. We hurt each other. We divorced each other.

Do I feel differently? Nope. I think I was just relieved that it was over.  It was almost 3 years of back and forth bickering. Now, it’s done. A chapter closed.

What’s next?

Now, we co-parent.