Mediation….

The day came for us to go to mediation. We’d been in contact to try to come up with an agreement before we went to sit with the mediator. As it turns out, he did not really want to make any agreements, he wanted to control the situation and he wanted me to agree to his terms. He would not compromise at all. He wanted me to agree to signing over the house so that he can have it, getting my children every other weekend, and paying him between $300 and $400 in child support a month. I wanted 50/50 times-haring with my children and I wanted him to either buy me out of the house or let me have it. As far as the child support goes, I didn’t think it was fair for me to pay anything at all because he was making a lot more than me. Of course, the extra money he earned was for the side work he did so it was undocumented income. The only issue with the court was they didn’t request his undocumented income. He was making some of his money on the side or under the table and I couldn’t prove that to the courts. At the end of it all, I was okay with it because it was better than me paying the $1,060 a month. I only was okay with it because I was tired of going back and forth about it. He wasn’t going to budge with what he wanted. He even said that if I didn’t agree with what he wanted, he would refuse the divorce and drag it out as long as possible and it would cost me more money. I was once again at his mercy and he knew it. He then tried to use it to his advantage and proposition me again. He said that he would agree to what I wanted if I would give him oral sex. I declined. I could’t go back to doing that and I didn’t.

The day came for our mediation meeting. before the meeting, he texted me and tried to tell me that I had to agree to 70/30 time-sharing with me having the children 30 percent of the time. He went as far as to say that no judge would agree to me having the children more than that. As if I all of a suudden was a horrible mother because I left him. He was pretty confident in his efforts and I almost went for it but I simply responded by telling him we will find out. Finally, we get to mediation. He was there with his attorney and I was there by myself. I was not intimidated at all. I was excited and ready to get it done and over with. The mediator came in, she had already reviewed our case. As I was talking to her I can tell she was bothered by our situation. She tried to tell me that I should not give up the house in return of nothing. When I tried to ask her what she meant, she politely told me that she could not give me any legal advice. I knew deep within myself that he’d manipulated the situation but I figured that I would eventually be able to purchase another home so I wasn’t too concerned about it. My main focus was getting the divorce finalized so that I could move forward with my life and take the next steps in getting the children back with me without any interference from him or his attorney.

The mediator began to ask if we had discussed or made any agreements and we told her we did. The time came where we had to talk about time-sharing and child support. The mediator knew I was being taken advantage of, she told us that we had to adjust our agreement for the time-sharing. As it turns out, my ex didn’t know anything about time-sharing and my rights as a parent. We automatically knew that I would have them every other weekend because I was off every other weekend. We had to discuss how things would work during the week. I told the mediator that I would get them 2 days a week. When she did the calculations, it would turn out we would have them 50/50 and he would have to pay me child support. Once he heard that, he immediately disagreed and said that we will figure it out in court. He knew I didn’t want to draw out the divorce but he didn’t care. I was still paying him the $1,060 and I really needed the divorce to be finalized. The mediator told me that if I took one day back it would be 53/47. I agreed and with that agreement my child support went down from $1,060 to $147 a month and as each child turned 18 the payment would drop. I was over the whole process and ready to move on. With both of our agreements, we signed the documents. Mediation was over and the next step was to go before to judge and get the divorce finalized.

Paused….

Things were moving forward with the divorce process. I had an attorney who kept up things with and kept me in the know of what was happening with the divorce. After a few months of going back and forth with the paperwork the time had come where I could not continue to utilize the services that were being provided by my attorney. Luckily, she had submitted all of the paperwork and the documents needed to the courts. Once I let go of the attorney my case came to a sudden halt and I was running out of money to support myself as well as my children. Even though I was paying him child support, I wanted to be able to support and care for my children when they were with me. I still had the support of my friend that lived in England, however, that was becoming somewhat burdensome and I knew that I could not depend on him financially for much longer. I needed to do something and I needed to do it quick.

Now my soon to be ex knew how much of a bind I was in. It was him actually that put me in the bind. I would say it was my decision to leave, so I was to blame for the position I was in as well. From time to time I would ask him to give me some of the money I was paying him in order to continue to support myself. Of course he refused to give me anything. Since he knew I was having difficulties financially, he began to proposition me. The last time that I asked him to give me the money from child support he flat out asked, “What are you gonna do for it?”. I knew exactly what this question meant because during our time together, he would ask me the same question. He wanted to pay me in return of sexual favors. He was going to use the child support money that I was paying him to get it too. That was like a slap in the face to me however, it didn’t surprise me. At first, I said no but after thinking about it and looking at my children I knew I didn’t have many options. I was working and doing overtime here and there but with all of the court fees and the bills, I was in over my head and he knew it. It upset me that he would take advantage of me in that way, but what could I do. He asked me about it again and this time I accepted. The only good thing was that I didn’t have sex with him. That was the one thing I was unwilling to do, also, he could not touch me. That was the agreement we had. I was to only give him oral for 35-45 seconds in exchange for $50 to $150 dollars each time I did it. It was like I was a prostitute and when I told him that his response was that I would do it for another man for free. I guess that was his way of reasoning his wrong behavior.

Looking back, I am embarrassed at what I did. After I would leave him, I would often cry and feel disgusted with myself. I convinced myself that I had to do what I had to do and in a way I did. I started to hate myself. I didn’t even look at myself in the mirror. This is the moment where I had lost all faith in men. I didn’t want to be involved with another man again in my life. I hated them all. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing because I didn’t want to be judged.

Our transactions lasted for about a month or two. I eventually knew that I had to get my divorce finalized and I had to do it fast if I wanted to save myself. Since I no longer had an attorney, I knew I had to figure out what the next steps would be. After looking online, I learned that I could file a motion to request for mediation. I went do to the local self help facility and filed some papers. I later found that I filed the wrong papers and had to go back. He still had his attorney-who was someone I considered a sister from church- and she filed a response to what I filed. I went back and this time I filed to right papers. Because my ex was successful at using the child support to get oral sex, he would continue to ask me to do it for him. I began to tell him no and when I said no he would offer me more money. I didn’t budge I stood my ground. I knew I was better than that.

After about two weeks I got a court date in the mail for mediation and so did he. He was bothered by it so when he called me he asked why did I file for the mediation, his lawyer told him that I filed it to move forward with the divorce. I told him it was time to move forward. The next stop was mediation.

Being Served

I was still going in the process with the case from my arrest and the domestic violence charges the state brought up against me, the child support case and now, I was starting the process of divorce. As many would say, I had a lot going on and I have to admit, at the time I did. Everything was happening fast and at times it felt as though I would lose my mind completely. As a matter of fact, I was so overwhelmed with everything that I really didn’t care if I lived or not. Not saying that I wanted to die but I had lost my will to continue. Sometimes the only thing that kept me grounded were my children. I knew I had something to live for and I was determined to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It took about two weeks before he received the divorce papers. I found out he received them because he called me and told me he had them. He was not happy about it at all. It’s as though he felt like he could handle me however he wanted and I was supposed to sit back and allow it. I’ll admit, this was the first time that I had actually stood up to and challenged him and I know it was a huge blow to his ego. My intent was to never cause him any hurt or pain despite all of his efforts to destroy me and take away livelihood. I only wanted to be free from the marriage and the toxicity that was therein. He took it as a way of me getting back at him for putting me on child support and although me being put on child support gave me the push I needed to file the papers, it was never a way of getting back at him. I am not nor have I ever been a vindictive person. I was just tired of being mistreated and taken advantage of. I would say that I am pretty passive and I hate conflict. This however, was one fight I was willing to engage in.

The most hurtful thing that happened during this time was when he found counsel with someone in whom I considered a sister. His attorney was a woman that I danced and fellow-shipped with in ministry. Her and I danced many years together and when she accepted his proposal to represent him I was devastated. In spite of that I knew I had to proceed. I had my attorney talk to her attorney and things were beginning to move forward. It took months for me to reach this place and I’ll admit, for a moment I reconsidered the divorce all together. I decided to give us another try but that wasn’t a good idea at all, especially since he started dating someone else and I found myself in a far worse condition than I had been when I left.

The Filing Process

When I started the process of filing for my divorce, I had no idea of the complexities that accompanied it. There were lots of papers that needed to be submitted and honestly, I didn’t know where to start from. That was the moment I decided to hire a lawyer. Thankfully, my job offered lawyer services for a small monthly fee. The issue with the lawyer services was the fact that I had to wait thirty days before I would be able to utilize the services. I had to wait. Of course, I was not happy about the delay but nonetheless, I had to do it. I was on timed schedule and my wages were being garnished.

Once the thirty days were up, I went ahead with my plans to file for the divorce. I sought after and found a family lawyer but there were some obstacles that I faced. The first issue was the child support case and the other issue was filing for divorce. There were two cases that I needed to pursue but I only had enough hours from the legal services to cover one. I was advised by my lawyer to focus on the divorce and during mediation I would be able to revisit the child support case at a later date. That was not what I wanted to hear but that is what needed to be done. I paid the filing fee and my lawyer submitted the paperwork. I didn’t know how long this process would take but I was happy to have taken the necessary steps in order to be divorced and move on with my life.

Time to pay up…..

Once I returned to my regular schedule at work things, were beginning to look up. I no longer needed to report to my supervisor or submit the times that I worked. While work was going well, in the back of my mind, I often thought about the child support order. Although there was a judgment in place for me to pay child support- which was equal to half of my monthly salary- the deductions were not happening at that time.

I remember one night, while I was working overtime, I checked my pay stub. There it was. The child support deductions were in full effect. I wasn’t shocked because I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. I was more upset that we had come to this. There was no reason for me to be placed on child support especially since my children were a priority, in spite of how my ex felt about me. My decision to leave was a decision I made for me. It was no longer about making him happy nor the people who were around me. It was time for me to be happy so I did what I had to do for me and he couldn’t understand that. He took my leaving him and looked at as in I was leaving my children. That was never the case. As a matter of fact, I had the opportunity to move to London and start a new life, and although I did consider it, I could not leave my children behind. I could have ran away because I knew that my life was not about to get any easier but I stayed and I decided I was going to fight back in spite of how I feel.

With the child support payments being deducted from me, my ex felt as though he had sole custody of the children and with the injunction in place he felt like he had all the power. The injunction stated that I had to stay away from him but it did not say that I could not have any contact with my children. Once I was released from jail, he also went to court and tried to file a restraining order on me and made some bogus allegations. One of the allegations were, that he was in fear for his life and he felt as though I would kidnap MY children. The court date arrived and he did not show up causing the judge to throw the case out. After that, most times when I went to pick up my children or when they wanted to spend the night with me, he would tell them things like, “If you go with your mom she will go back to jail”. My children would come and say things like they don’t want to get in trouble with their dad or they didn’t want me to go to jail so they wouldn’t come. I tried to pick my kids up with the police and I was told that as long as my kids are with their father, they couldn’t make him release theme to me. I was taking hit after hit. The thing that hurt me the most was looking at my children knowing there wasn’t a thing that I could do. I honestly felt like I had failed as a mother and for a brief moment I almost regretted leaving. Not because I wanted to be with my ex but because I wanted to be with my children. Those moments of doubts showed me that I could not give in but I had to fight even harder. I knew God was a fair God and it was only a matter of time before the sun would shine on me again. I knew that it was a process that I was going through and I knew that I would make it. I knew that my children and I would be together. It was at that moment that I decided to push forward with the divorce.

Free Yet Bound…..

But you said you loved me. That must have been a lie…..

Paulie

My court day came and left. I officially accepted the program offer and all that came with it. That included going to a parenting class, going to a domestic violence class, and paying fees. I also had to check in once a week with the pretrial release program and report my progress. That too came with a fee. I was paying all these fees because I was arrested for defending myself against a bully who was making it nearly impossible to be with my children. I remember there was a day when one of my daughters wanted to come with me but because it was a church night he would not allow her to come even though she was in tears because she wasn’t feeling well. It wasn’t really about her going to church opposed to him wanting that control in saying what she was allowed to do and what she was not allowed to do. I did what any mother would do. My sisters and myself went to the church and picked my daughter up and took her to where I was living at. This did upset him because it made him look bad in front of his peers. I did not go to the church to start a fight. I respected the leaders of the ministry. I went there to pick my daughter up and that is exactly what I did.

There was also an injunction put in place where I could have no contact with my ex directly or indirectly or go within 500 feet of his property. That small piece of paper was all he needed to keep me in compliance and he would use that as another form of ammunition against myself and my children. The injunction also stated that I could not be around any weapons, therefore, I was put on light duty at my job and I was assigned to work in the mail room. I was of course grateful to still have my job, but because my regular shift was twelve hour shifts, I was losing time because working in the mail room was an eight hour position. I asked around and I learned that I could ask the judge to modify the injunction so that I could go back to working my regular shift. Once my court date came around I did as I was told and even though the prosecutors tried to fight it, the judge granted my request and I was able to work my regular shift. That was a small victory for me.

As I got back on shift I was happy to be working with my co-workers again but I was still in a dark place because the parenting class took place on nights that I worked, I needed to be adjusted so that I was able to keep my same hours and I wouldn’t have it count against me. I am grateful to say the my supervisor at the time was very understanding and he granted my those days as long as I had the proper paperwork. The work aspect of my life was in order but my home life was about to take a turn for the worse.

Walking the straight and narrow

The next morning I was released from jail. Since I had never been to jail, a program was offered to me that would allow me to be released from jail without posting a bond. At the time I really didn’t understand what committing to this program meant, however, all I knew was that I was ready to leave and face the consequences of my poor decision. I went before the judge and I was told that I was going to be released on pretrial. Pretrial was a program that offered individuals, such as myself, to be released on bond that is covered by the program in exchange for me agreeing to following the requirements that was offered. In other words, I had to agreed to check in weekly, go to a domestic violence class, and also attend a parenting class since I had minor children and upon completion of the program the charges would be dropped and I could have the record of arrest removed from my background report. Not to mention I had to pay a fee each time I went to the classes. At the time it seemed like a good idea so I agreed to the terms that was offered to me by pretrial. Later on down the line I learned that I didn’t need to take that route.

That afternoon when I was actually able to leave the county jail I was given a change of clothes that included a pair of shorts that was far too big for me and a white t-shirt with some shower slides. I was also given a bus pass as a means to get around since I didn’t have my cell phone or any money. I was so scared because I really didn’t know where I was of how I was going to get to the other jail to retrieve my belongings. That’s when I came across an angel in disguise. There was a girl that too was in jail. She knew her way around and she showed me how to get to where we both needed to go. So I followed her lead. I was completely embarrassed to take the bus in the clothes that were given to me, mostly because everyone who has been to jail knew that I was just released from there. Once we got off the bus we had to walk for what seemed like forever to the jail where our belongings were and when we arrived there, to my surprise, my mom was waiting there to pick me up. I was completely relieved to have seen her. I retrieved my items and was on my way home. The girl who was with me went her way as I went mine.

Immediately after I got my cell phone I called my children to let them know that I was out of jail. The second call I made was to my employer. I was told to go in and bring all of the papers with me that I received from the court hearing. I was really nervous because I heard that the Chief was a mean person who didn’t really care for his staff. However, I knew that it needed to be done and I didn’t want to prolong the process. The next day I went in with all of the documents and I gave it to him and after he looked over it he told me that because I was arrested a month after the police report was made and based on the police report saying that there was no injuries, he told me that I could continue to work but because there was a new restraining order in place that I could only work in a light duty position until the restraining order was cleared. His words almost brought tears to my eyes because things were becoming really hard for me. I just moved into my apartment and a few months after that, the judge had granted my ex husband child support that would have me at paying him nearly half of my monthly salary. I didn’t know how I was gonna survive. I was grateful when the guy from England told me that he would help me out financially until I gotten everything settled and worked out with my ex husband.

I had a brief moment of relief after being let out of jail but that only lasted for about a week. I had to check in with the program that I agreed to take part in upon my release. This was going to be another situation that I was not prepared for. Especially after learning about all of the requirements that I needed to follow in order to remain in the program……