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Author Topic: Non-Custodial Mother in VA  (Read 2811 times)


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Non-Custodial Mother in VA
« on: Nov 24, 2003, 05:49:44 PM »
I lived with an emotionally abusive husband for a little more than 6 years before he forced me to sign a marital separation "agreement" which gives us both joint legal custody while the children (even my daughter from a previous relationship that he never adopted) are supposed to live with him for the greater part of the year. This "agreement" is also supposed to give me "maternal access" to health/education records and child care facilities (like his mother's home) and "liberal visitation" (but it doesn't specify "with reasonable notice" although I give it). On my 31st birthday, I wrote in my journal that I thought was private, about how I was planning to fend off a nervous breakdown until my son was out of the house. That was a year before my husband made me sign this paper, to extort his "peaceful" exit from my home. At the time that I wrote that entry in my journal, my son was 1 year and 2-1/2 weeks old. So, a year and three months later, my husband gave me a choice between him leaving with my kids (with the promise that he would get counseling and limit his behavior towards me...of course not included in the agreement) and him staying until the emotional abuse progressed to something not just uglier but deadly. I chose not to have my children continue to suffer, watching Daddy "get mad at Mommy" in front of them and I thought that by cooperating with my husband, he would show me some kindness for the sake of our children. However, I deluded myself into forgetting how much gratification he gets from being in control and wielding it to punish me for not complying with EVERYTHING that he wants.

After he moved out, he (along with his mother) began a campaign of undermining my relationship with my two youngest children while brainwashing them to call my mother-in-law "Mommy". Over the summer, my husband's escapades resulted in my 3-yr old playing a "game" where my husband's girlfriends were my son's girlfriends...to such an extent that my son told me that he had to break up with one of the women at the insistence of the other.

Before this foolishness unfolded, my husband locked me out of his apt. building so that I couldn't take my two youngest children to a psychologist appt after my FIVE year old daughter declared repeatedly, "I deserve to die or be killed" because my mother-in-law programmed her to believe that she was "a bad girl" and/or "a selfish girl" for months. My husband said that his lawyer advised him that taking my daughter to the appt. would "muddy the waters" for our initial hearing date in July 2003. Without examining the separation agreement or considering my husband's denial of medical access for my daughter, the judge told me, "I'm not going to give you these children in 5 minutes when they've been with him for 16 months". However, that response was based on the fact that my husband told the judge that he had sole custody of my children...even though he moved out of his mother's two-bedroom apartment...and left my children with her instead of letting them move back with me. Then my husband's lawyer asked the judge for a final hearing set for Dec 10, telling the judge that "disturbing facts surrounding this case require a guardian ad litem..." and a home study and I agreed to both points and added that my husband's refusal to allow my daughter and son to see the psychologist in light of my daughter's statement did indeed merit the protection of a guardian ad litem and home study. The judge responded, "I see this isn't going to mediation", but the separation "agreement" states that my husband and I were supposed to go to mediation BEFORE filing petitions in court.

This is just a mess. If I had known my rights sooner, I could have avoided much of it. Now, I have to represent myself, because my mother-in-law posed a question to LegalAid about her custody rights regarding MY children and listed me as the adverse party, because my husband listed her as the parentis locus at the time he filed the petition.

I have several questions:

How could he claim in court that he had sole custody of our children while listing his mother as the parentis locus?

Will the judge allow me to offer my separation agreement as evidence that the children's initial placement with my husband and mother-in-law was coerced...and will it matter since the children and I have lived apart (but maintained contact) for almost two years now?

Now that my daughter is in school in my husband's neighborhood, will the judge think that moving to my neighborhood will be enough of a disruption to warrant her continued residence with my husband (and sometimes his mother)?

Can I successfully object to a continuance for the final hearing, now that my husband's lawyer (who scheduled this for Dec 10) claims that he has a conflict?

Will it matter that I can use financial records to demonstrate that my husband forced me to give up my children so that he could avoid child support payments (the "agreement" says neither of us gets money for the children, but VA law says that I am liable since I am the NCP)? I am sure that he doesn't pay his mother any child support because he began a shopping spree 2 or 3 months after we separated, buying things that we "couldn't" afford when we lived together and combined our incomes; so I subpoenaed his financial records...and my mother-in-law's as well.

I don't just want my children back...they need me. My oldest daughter kept some things secret because my husband still had ties with her as the only father she's ever known. However, he broke that bond by excluding her from his visitation with the other children (and my daughter thinks it's because "Daddy" didn't want her to meet the out-of-town girlfriend and her son three weeks after he introduced her to the local girlfriend at a bar where they worked together). Since "Daddy" stopped acting like her father, my daughter has stopped keeping his confidences...and those of my mother-in-law. My oldest daughter is now telling me about some behaviors that support my 5-year old daughter's complaints about my mother-in-law, but I can't have my 12-year old daughter testify.

What can I do?

My 5-year old is now having involuntary leg and arm movements that looked like seizures and my husband was going to refuse to let her go to the neurologist appt BECAUSE I didn't consult him about his work schedule (which he himself said changes from week to week) before making the appt. TWO WEEKS after the date that I called for the appt.

Last week, he requested an emergency hearing to discontinue the children's sessions with a psychologist, stating in his motion for the hearing that I was subjecting them to confusion and harm by insisting upon "psychiatric treatments" without his knowledge or consent. As I told a friend of mine, my husband is an intelligent man; so, I believe that he intended to misrepresent the children's therapy and me because he feared that documentation of the children's problems would contradict the "happy and stable environment" that he has been trying to portray throughout this ordeal. He doesn't understand (and neither does the psychologist for some reason) that I want my children to continue therapy whether she can produce an evaluation to support my case or not. I didn't believe that she could after 1 visit, but my husband even tried to put a negative spin on the timing of the first session. If I was REALLY trying to get this psychologist's opinion for evidence, I would have started the therapy in August, but that's another story.

Virginia treats noncustodial parents the same, regardless of gender. The judges seem to assume that since you're the NCP you didn't want the children and automatically treat you like you abandoned them. My husband, while we lived together, convinced me that I WASN'T giving up my then-2 yr old daughter to my mother-in-law when we signed a custody agreement that designated my mother-in-law's address as my daughter's legal address since we were agreeing to share legal custody between my mother-in-law, my husband, and me. This was ostensibly so that my mother-in-law could add my daughter to her health insurance, since we were on AFDC at the time, but I kept thinking...why aren't we doing that for our 7-yr old and 1-yr old? I found out through observation that my mother-in-law wasn't ready to "take care of" my other children like she had done so for my 2nd child, until she offered to take my other two children from me, so that I could concentrate on taking care of my 4th child. I refused her offer of assistance the second time around, but when my husband moved out of my mother-in-law's home and wouldn't give me back my children, he set up my mother-in-law to think that she had an equal claim to my two youngest children.

The bottom line is I need help to get my children back so that they can begin to get therapy and live a normal existence where sibling rivalry is the extent of family discontent.

I filed for modification of custody for my now 2nd daughter after last Friday's so-called emergency hearing about my 3rd daughter and my son; again, things are coming to light that haven't been addressed by the husband and his mother...for months...and still aren't being addressed (various excuses have popped up resulting in me not seeing my 2nd daughter for 3 or 4 weeks at a time and sometimes months when my husband and I lived together).


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