After five years, my husband's ex-wife - let's call her
D. -- continues to keep his 8-year-son from him. She ran
away with him in 2003 for a month, then returned to court
to say she was "terrified" for her safety because my
husband was stalking her! Yes, we followed her trail while
she was missing because we wanted to find our son! Walked
out of that courtroom with visitation every other weekend
and every Wednesday night for dinner. Could see him at
school anytime, which we did -joined him and classmates
for lunch, got to know teacher, read to class, etc.
After concerns were raised about Georgie's homelife by
school counselors and DFCS showed up at D's home, (Georgie
missed significant amounts of school, tested far below his
classmates and could not read; never had breakfast and
only got lunch because my husband made sure the school had
money to feed him breakfast and lunch) D. told my husband
he could no longer see Georgie. We filed a contempt motion
against her. In the meantime, she went to the police with
a charge of child molestation (of her 15-year-old
daughter) against my husband and began calling
him "Pervert" in front of Georgie. She also told the school
not to allow us inside. A deputy investigated, my husband
cooperated thoroughly and the case was closed for lack of
evidence. However, D. showed up at the courthouse with a
posse of people, including her daughter, her boyfriend (a
police officer), a priest, a counselor and a lie detector
administrator. Her daughter had passed a lie detector
test, they all said and they believed her. Now, this
charge was not based on any recent contact -- we had not
seen this girl in two years -- but on a "recovered" memory
of when she was 9.
Our attorney convinced us that the judge would believe
her, particularly since the deputy who closed the case was
unavailable to come to court, and we had to settle for
supervised visitation one evening per week, no overnights,
no holidays, just regular phone calls and lunch ONLY in
the cafeteria - we were not allowed in any other area of
the school or to interact with teachers and students.
That was bad enough, but we struggled through it. My
husband took his own lie detector test, but it was
inconclusive because of the regular antidepressents he
takes regularly since this all began five years ago.
However, earlier this year, after school officials began
asking questions about an injury Georgie came to school with
and had no explanation for, D. up and moved to NC with no
notice to the school or us. She just called my husband and
said she was gone.
Now we've not seen Georgie in almost five months. My husband
is supposed to be able to talk to his son by phone every
night at 7 pm. Every time he calls, there is so much noise
(tv, radio, people talking) that they cannot hear each
other. D. listens to the calls and refuses to let Georgie
take the phone away from the noise. If I try to say Hi to
hi, D. says "no way" and hangs up the phone immediately.
She wouldn't even let us come up to see him at Christmas.
When my husband reminded her that she was in contempt, she
laughed and told him to "just try it. You don't want to
know what else I'll come up with."
In the meantime, Georgie continues to cry for his father. D.
says he's being homeschooled, but we have no evidence of
that. My husband has lost work, gone into thousands of
dollars of legal debt and our marriage has suffered
tremendously through all of this.
We have talked about simply leaving the situation as it
is, but we are afraid that Georgie will believe we abandoned
him. We're also concerned about his education, his health
and his emotional stability.
We're at our wit's end and have no more money to battle
her in court.
Thanks for writing, and sorry for your troubles.
Please note that I changed the name of the child in your post.
The first thing to do is buy a copy of Elusive Innocence
by Dean Tong. I describe it on my Recommended Books
page. Twelve bucks... you can afford it, right?
Okay, on to your story. Quite a story.
I'm not typically a shoulda woulda coulda sort of guy, but I think it's important for others to learn from mistakes-- if it can help alleviate or avoid their own suffering.
So, I'll say I think you got very bad advice to settle for the supervised visitation five months ago. Nothing worse would have come from a judge, and perhaps something better may have come out of it.
In child custody, I have never heard of a case where a person has been served well by deciding NOT to FIGHT FALSE ALLEGATIONS. In short, the lesson is to NEVER SETTLE FOR ANYTHING SUGGESTING GUILT IF ONE IS INNOCENT. Sure, hearings may not go one's way, but at least it goes all the way to a judge. Agreeing to anything less, when facing false allegations, is not apt to produce a good outcome.
When your husband settled for one evening of supervised visitation weekly, he set everything else in motion. I'm stating this for the sake of other readers-- you've already learned it. I can understand completely that you took your attorney's advice in the middle of a very emotional and insane situation, and you now know how bad it was.
Okay, so moving to the present day.
I don't know at what point a parent walks away from a child due to the enormity of emotional stress and pain involved. It's probably different for all people. It's an unfathomable thing to do, but yet everyone must face it, if conditions get too painful. So, on that, I really don't have any help for you. Maybe try to discover faith and prayer, if you haven't already. That may help the suffering become more bearable.
I think it's a valid concern not to want the son to think his dad abandoned him. But you may not have any control over that. If everything you say about the mother is true, then she's probably already telling the child stuff like that. Perhaps at worst, your husband can do his best to keep tabs on where the child is, and when he goes to college, get in touch with him to reconnect. That's my "at worst" advice.
At best, continue to document everything. Get the book Child Custody A to Z
by Guy White. It's also on my Recommended Books page. Fifteen bucks for invaluable guidance (much better and much cheaper than that attorney who misguided you)... you can afford it, right?
The mother you describe is a complete screw-up, and I would guess that there will be future opportunities for her to lose custody. If your husband does decide to keep going for custody, he can build his case the RIGHT way (using the aforementioned book). He can take it to court. He can take another polygraph about the molestation stuff-- and if he can't pass it within one or two more tries, then he's a liar... got that? (note: I took a polygraph, and it's nerve-racking even for innocent people. My heart was beating hard during the whole thing, I was sweating, I started second-guessing myself on some questions... and I still passed on all counts, on the first attempt).
Check into audio recording laws in North Carolina. If it's a one-party recording state, then you can purchase a little device from Radio Shack that records the phone calls. If the mother ever brags that she concocted stuff once and she'll do it again... that will be gold to introduce in a courtroom.
It may be six months to a year before your husband is all ready to file, and there's no promise of any good outcome. If he walks away, there's probably 0% chance that he'll see his child again within 10 years. If he continues to fight, his odds are much better than 0%.
What if it takes 2 years of heartache and suffering before he gains joint or sole custody? That's a very very long time. But, then again, it also gives him 8 years with his son before the child is 18.
It's a very tough decision, and I don't know if there is a RIGHT answer. All you and your husband can do is what you think is best. No one envies that decision, but plenty of people can support you either way.