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Main Forums => Father's Issues => Topic started by: Oblivious on Oct 07, 2007, 12:45:07 PM

Title: Where do I start?
Post by: Oblivious on Oct 07, 2007, 12:45:07 PM
Hi everyone, this is my first time posting here and my first time nearing a divorce and I'm all new to this.

My marriage is rapidly dying, if it's not dead already, I'm not sure anymore. We've been together four years and have two wonderful children, but my wife frequently verbally abuses my children and me, and has on rare occasions physically assaulted me and my property. All trust and respect in the relationship has been destroyed over time and it's getting to the point where I start having panic attacks the moment she enters the room or says a word to me. I can't deal with it anymore.

We are very poor, I am getting individual counseling through the state's health care program: it doesn't cover couples counseling. I cannot afford a lawyer, I can barely afford to provide a home for my family, and my wife is a constant drain on our resources.

I am at my wits end and cannot live like this anymore. If I weren't supporting my wife I could probably afford an inexpensive lawyer (if there is such a thing) but the information on this site says not to live separately while going through a divorce so I'm very lost, confused, and don't know what to do.

Meanwhile I've tried to talk to my wife about the situation. She acknowledges that she's got problems and has made an appointment to go to individual counseling, but refuses to talk about what will happen if we cannot fix our problems and need to split up. This includes discussing what we will do about custody. I suspect she feels that talking about the "what if"s of the end of things will bring that end about. I feel that ignoring the issues at hand will not fix them, and I want to be ready if or when we get there. I'm soooo frustrated. In short my wife doesn't want to talk about the end because she thinks we will fix it. I think it's already over.

I do not want to leave my children in full custody of an abusive mother. I cannot give them a stable, happy, healthy home while I live with her. The only solution I can see is true 50/50 joint custody until they start school in which case I will want them with me during the week. My wife is spiteful and vindictive and I can fully see her being the sort of woman who would push for full custody with supervised visitation only merely as an act of retaliation against me for leaving, regardless of the negative effect it would have on the kids.

In any event, this is what I need: I need to find a cheap or free lawyer in Oregon if there is such a thing. I also need to find a source of information about Oregon law regarding divorce and custody, preferably including precedent for father custody or joint custody. If anyone has any information that could help please let me know!

Title: RE: Where do I start?
Post by: mistoffolees on Oct 07, 2007, 01:23:49 PM
Start by reading all the relevant articles on this board. They will provide much more information than you'll get in a response to an open-ended question.
Title: Please post your county in Oregon
Post by: brwneyedmom on Oct 07, 2007, 03:00:45 PM
as Multnomah County has vastly different resources than any other county.
Please read and study the archived articles contained on this site.  You will benefit from learning from others' experiences.
Start getting your ducks in a row.  Document, document, document.  
If you're going to bring abusive behavior into the divorce- and that will escalate the negativity, then be prepared to prove it.  No facts= no abuse in the court's eyes.  And rethink the 50/50 custody if there's abuse.  You won't look good in the court's eye to permit children to be around an abusive person.  Give your spouse a chance to seek counseling.  Divorce is shattering to children and I would advise seeking one after you've tried everything to save your marriage.  I did, and was able to walk away with a clearer conscience.
My ex was abusive and he accused me on the stand of beating our child to the point of needing emergency care.  He completely made up an event; I kept my cool and requested proof that those events had happened.  Keeping your cool is vital through the whole process.  Count to three before you answer any questions from opposing counsel.
Don't date anyone until the divorce is final.  Keep your nose clean, even if it's not fair.  Divorce isn't fair.  It's war.
Watch where you spend your money.  My ex took my checkbook records (by supeona) and pieced together a budget for me to follow after my divorce.  If I had had checks written to say, the adult store or a liquor store, he would have pounced on it.  
Don't take what people say here too personally.  They are reacting to their own situations and giving you advice from a limited perspective of not knowing you and your situation.  Take what is said to you and see if it applies.  If someone disagrees with you, try to see their opinion.  

This is just some of the things that I learned along the way.  There's tons more from other people.  
Title: RE: Please post your county in Oregon
Post by: Oblivious on Oct 07, 2007, 03:37:09 PM
Thank you, both of you, for the advice. I searched through the site some more and found some great resources for oregon law, and numbers to call for low income legal assistance.

I live in Multnomah county but am considering moving to Deschutes county county because it's cheaper there and I work from home. I might need to wait to move until we get thing sorted though.

The abuse on the kids side is almost entirely verbal. A lot of put downs and yelling that is entirely unnecessary. Other forms of neglect are also present in a lot of little ways that add up. She only feeds the kids instant foods, rarely gives them full or nutritious meals, for example. I am the one who gets up with them in the mornings, I am the ones that cooks almost all of their meals, cleans their clothes, keeps the apartment clean, provides an income, etc.

She has hit me in anger, she has destroyed my property and my work, though only on rare occasions that I didn't document at the time because I wanted to "make things work". Mostly it's verbal; put-downs and constant negativity in all verbal communication.

While I am fully supportive of her going to counseling whether we remain together or separate, I fear that I will not last much longer. Every day all I want is to get out as fast as possible while the kids are still very young and can adapt easier, and before my wife and I ruin our lives to the point where the kids grow up as miserable as we are.

We don't have joint accounts anymore. My wife is a compulsive spender and she got us into debt a couple years ago so we closed those accounts and I made a new one that's just for me. She has her own account too but doesn't use it much. I don't drink, smoke, or buy adult products, all of my money goes to the kids and I keep nothing for myself or my wife. I make very little right now and there's nothing left once the kids are provided for, that's one of the main points of contention between my wife and me.

Yes I understand that divorce is hard on kids, but it's come to the point where I have to wonder what's worse: staying in a home where both parents are miserable / angry / frustrated all day every day, where there is no authority, no stability, and very little emotional support because my wife and I spend all day avoiding eachother. :(

We'll get it worked out one way or another, I just want to be prepared if the worst comes.
Title: I think that you would have more resources staying
Post by: brwneyedmom on Oct 07, 2007, 04:39:21 PM
where you are for now.  In my county on the coast, there's virtually no  help for low-income legal assistance; it might be the same in Deschutes County.
I left my marriage when my son was five.  He had a rocky time of it, but he saw a counselor as needed.  I hired her to be independent of both parents so that our son could have a neutral party to talk with.  It paid extra dividends when my ex physically abused our son (and got caught) and the counselor came to court to testify, but that wasn't why I hired her initially.  
One thing that you'll need to consider is differences in parenting styles.  While your wife feeds your children less than healthy choices, she IS feeding them.  You won't win any legal points with this tack.  There is a minimum standard of parenting in Oregon- that's why homeless parents get to keep their children.  It's not the way you or I may parent, but the state says that there's no real harm being done.  That's the way it is and judges won't deviate from it very much, as a rule.  CPS (or whatever they call themselves these days) won't get involved in what you describe.  
Keep educating yourself while you wait.  It's a valuable way to spend your time and will help preserve your sanity in the meantime.  I wish that I had had resources such as this one while I was divorcing.  I wouldn't have kept focusing on the wrong stuff and would have saved myself so much grief.
Title: RE: I think that you would have more resources staying
Post by: Oblivious on Oct 07, 2007, 07:39:28 PM
Thanks for your feedback! Yeah that's what I've been thinking since I started getting feedback here: There's a lot more social services where there are more people. I guess moving to a smaller town will have to wait.

I'm not sure how my children will adjust at the moment. My 3yr old will most likely have more trouble than the baby but I think he's still young enough that he can adapt to most changes. I'm not thinking about removing them from her completely. I have faith in her ability to change with counseling, I just can't justify continuing to live with her for the probable years it will take her to make those changes. I don't even know if divorce is really what I want; what I want is to be able to make a separate home that is completely stable, safe, and happy, that my boys can see as a better example of how to live than the chaos we're in right now. I don't think I can do that while I live with her.

I don't want to air a laundry list of complaints here, I could fill an entire forum with them for months on end. :D

I guess my new question after finding all the answers to my original post is: how do you track verbal abuse and lack of contribution to the family (she sits in front of the TV or computer all day every day, never cleans, rarely cooks, almost never plays with the kids, rarely talks to them except to yell at them, etc), and do judges even care about this stuff? As you suggested they do not put a qualifier on parenting style, what DOES make a difference?

Maybe I should focus on what's best for the kids, being equal access to both parents, since neither of us physically abuses them or neglects them to the point where the state would get involved. She's not really a bad person, or even a terrible parent by the state's criteria I suppose, she's just a poor parent and not a very responsible or loving person.

To make this less open ended, here are some specific questions:

1: I've looked up the state's requirements for what can get a parent's custody taken away, and neither of us fit into any of them. I guess neither of us fall into the state's perception of what a bad parent is. What happens when both parents are "equally" qualified in the state's eyes? Is the father automaticly screwed?

Hmmmm I thought I had more questions but that's the only one I can really think of. I think I'll call some of the low income legal assistance resources tomorrow and talk to my counsellor at my appointment this week. Continued feedback would still be greatly appreciated. I'd love to hear of any one else's similar situations and how they turned out. You can never have too much info in my opinion. :)
Title: RE: I think that you would have more resources staying
Post by: mistoffolees on Oct 07, 2007, 08:35:58 PM
>I guess my new question after finding all the answers to my
>original post is: how do you track verbal abuse and lack of
>contribution to the family (she sits in front of the TV or
>computer all day every day, never cleans, rarely cooks, almost
>never plays with the kids, rarely talks to them except to yell
>at them, etc), and do judges even care about this stuff? As
>you suggested they do not put a qualifier on parenting style,
>what DOES make a difference?

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but that's going to be EXTREMELY hard to prove at a level that would change custody. First, how do you establish what an appropriate level of TV-watching is? Second, how do you prove that someone watched TV for more than a certain amount of time?

One of the most difficult things about the process is that there's no law against being a bad parent. It's almost impossible to change custody simply because you're a better parent than the other person.

It seems to me that you're going to have a better chance with one of two options:

1. A custody evaluation might show that she's not providing a healthy environment for the kids.  (Of course, if she's smart, she'll clean up her act for the time it takes for an evaluation). The evaluation won't be cheap (mine was actually fairly reasonable at $2,500), but if it works, it could greatly reduce the final legal expense if it keeps you out of a court battle.

2. Showing the impact on the kids. If the kids are showing signs of stress from their treatment, a good counselor might be able to pick it up and attribute it to the responsible parent. I suspect that the odds of this are much smaller with very young children, but I don't know for sure.

Good luck.
Title: RE: I think that you would have more resources staying
Post by: Oblivious on Oct 07, 2007, 09:24:00 PM
Yeah the more I research this the more I'm realizing two things...

1: I will never have the money for a proper defense in court. It's just not going to happen. I'm not even making $2500 in a month right now, let alone having that kind of money in savings to spend.

2: The court is never going to care about the kinds of issues that exist in my marriage. What physical abuse there has been (only two major occurrences during the entire four years) was undocumented and I have no way of proving it.

What this means for my kids and me, is that my best bet is going to be to work it out with her entirely outside of court, and mutually submit our terms of the dissolution of our marriage to the court without a court battle.

Chances of that may be even more slim than the rest though, we'll see. :D
Title: Oregon give you one thing in your favor
Post by: brwneyedmom on Oct 07, 2007, 10:01:20 PM
and that is required mediation whenever a parent files a motion that will involve parenting time, custody, or anything to do with their children.

You will be granted about 8 hours of mediation.  DO NOT WASTE IT.  If you are close to reaching an agreement at the end of 8 hours, the mediator can request additional mediation for free.  All of this costs nothing and the advantage is that the parents make the parenting decisions (with the mediator's help) instead of the judge.  The mediator then submits the document for the judge to sign.

I can't stress enough how wonderful this service was for me.  Even though my ex refused to meet with me and the mediator and we had to have separate sessions (which cut into our mediaton time immensly), we finally hammered out a win-win document.

Instead of documenting what your wife "isn't doing", document what YOU are doing.  Did you wake up the kids and get them dressed?  Feed them breakfast?  Take them to pre-school or a playground?  How long were you there?  Take 'em to the doctor?  Read to them, give them a bath, etc. etc.You get my drift.  
By doing your documenting this way, you are changing your focus off what she isn't doing and focusing on what YOU are doing as a parent.  The court/mediator will be able to see at a glance how much parenting that you are providing and you don't have to say a thing to show that she isn't so involved.  It's a more positive way to document too.  And if your wife finds it, she won't automatically think it's a record to use against her.
Title: RE: Oregon give you one thing in your favor
Post by: Oblivious on Oct 07, 2007, 10:46:42 PM
Wow, that's one of the best ideas I've seen in a long time. Thank you so much for suggesting that, it's so positive compared to the gripe list that's been slowly growing in my head all these years.

I really don't want to think about an "if my wife finds it" scenario. While I do not like being married to her at the moment we are still married and I need to be completely open and honest with her. More likely if she saw such a list she'd feel more inclined to spend time with the kids herself. Most likely I'd share that list with her as it grows from day to day so she can see what her current idleness is costing her. I'd rather my kids have a mother who shows she cares about them than take them away from one who doesn't.

EDIT: thanks for the mediation suggestion too, I didn't know that it was free. :)