Thanks for writing... we have a new winner for longest-ever post to me. You further specified in a subsequent email (not posted) details that your husband has a past filled with crime and addiction issues (but not since you've known him).
I mainly asked you to give me further information so I could get a better sense of whether you're a nut or not, given the situation you're describing. I also wanted to see if you'd take any ownership for your situation, which people with mental health issues may have trouble doing.
So, my reaction is that you seem
pretty rational, regardless of any questionable choices you may have made along the way that has led you to your current horrible situation.
You may fit into a category of parents who experience "the perfect storm" of conditions to lead to where you are currently:
- You left the marital home, which put you at a disadvantage.
- You never reported any spousal abuse during the marriage, which you now recognize may have hindered you.
- It sounds like your attorney really sucked during the divorce.
- You immediately got involved with a man who looks pretty bad to be around kids, at least when seeing his rap sheet.
- You felt very guilty about the whole thing since you left the marriage (i.e., as you wrote in your other email).
- You didn't aggressively protect your position for five years.
- And finally, it sounds like your ex is a real piece of work.
For some reason, evaluators didn't buy your story. The court didn't buy your story. This is either because you are wrong, or because you weren't convincing enough. If you weren't convincing enough, you need to educate yourself on how to present a convincing case via sound arguments supported by strong evidence.
You already have a date on calendar, so there's not much I can do to help you build your case. I agree that the kid failing in school is a huge concern, and probably your biggest argument. But you need to demonstrate that it's because of DAD, and that YOU can be the savior. Given the past rulings against you, I think you're really fighting an uphill battle. It may be the right battle, but I'm just saying it's an extremely tough one.
I suggest that you get three books, if you haven't already. All three are on my Recommended Books
The first is "Win Your Child Custody War" by Hardwick. It will help you with big-picture tactics, as well as many details.
The second is "Child Custody A to Z" by White, which will help you build your case through evidence that will be convincing to the judge and any future evaluators, if any.
The third is solely about your relationship with the kids, "Divorce Poison" by Warshak. This provides excellent proactive tactics that can combat lasting effects of alienation attempts. It will help you really understand the dynamics at work here and potentially have greater compassion for the pressures the kids are feelings.
I think the best news of all is that the kids still want to have a relationship with you after seven years of programming against you. No matter what happens in court, no matter how hard their dad tries, the kids are still attached and bonded to you.
Regarding what they tell a judge or evaluator, they may say whatever they have to say, just to survive. But it's not sinking in to the degree that they're hating you. Children who are successfully alienated from a parent will want nothing to do with that parent. So, at least be at peace that the kids love you and if you keep doing what you're doing, that will probably remain.
Finally, you've only got a few more years before the kids are 18. At that point, your nightmare is all over, and you may find that once they truly have a choice in the matter (i.e., outside of both parents' homes), they may get closer and closer to you.
All you can do is your best. Part of doing your best is educating yourself on how to be most effective in family law. Beyond that, you've done all you can, and chances are that your kids will one day know.