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Advice to Men

In Memory of Allen Wells

This set of web pages for Allen Wells has been recreated from web pages archived at http://web.archive.org

Key page for Allen Wells

The Pain of Custody Battles

Article 2622 of soc.men: From: allenwe@microsoft.UUCP (Allen WELLS) Subject: The Pain of Custody Battles Message-ID: <54747@microsoft.UUCP> Date: 19 May 90 02:10:51 GMT

I just started reading soc.men, but I've seen a lot of threads that strike a chord with me. I thought that some of you might be interested in what I have been going through, and the impressions it has given me of 'the system'.

Some background. I was married about 6 years ago. Within three months I was being regularily beaten. (Side note to those of you who are skeptical - this is, unfortunately, not particularily uncommon. I've seen some studies which estimate that the frequency of husband beating is almost as high as that of wife beating. I will also strongly contest the assertion that husband beating is somehow not as bad. I've been attacked with a knife. I long ago lost count of how many times I was beaten while I was driving. Even when I didn't feel like my life was threatened, the degradation, humiliation, and helplessness of the situation is terrible. But I digress.) After six months of marriage, I called a divorce lawyer and made an appointment. I never hid anything from my wife, and I immediately told her what I had done and showed her the listing so she could contact someone else. Later that day, she made a tearful, apparently sincere apology where she listed everything she had been doing, acknowledged it, promised improvement, and asked me for another chance. I gave it to her. She convinced me to give sex another try (it had been about four months) - saying that if we were trying to be close ... it's hard to disagree with an argument like that. We had sex once. She lied about birth control and got pregnant. After that, things rapidly went to hell.

I probably should have just filed for divorce then, but I couldn't leave my (unborn) child behind. I'm not particularily religious, but committments and responsibilities mean a lot to me. The thought of leaving my child to grow up without a father ...

To make a long story short, I stuck things out for another 3.5 years. The abuse never stopped. She was a terrible parent, and I tried to make up for it when she would let me. Eventually, I burned out. I finally decided to file for divorce when I realized that I would kill myself if I didn't get out.

So I decided to file for divorce. That was almost two years ago. I still don't even have a trial date.

Part of the delay, of course, is that I am contesting custody. At first, I felt that it was a token effort - but I wanted it on record so when she started moving from verbally to physically abusing my son I would have an established record of wanting custody. Recently I've begun to think that I might actually have a chance of getting custody.

As to any semblance of fairness in the system ... there seem to be two basic biases in the syste - the bias toward the mother, and the bias toward system abusers.

The bias toward the mother is pretty obvious. I couldn't even file for divorce without leaving the house first. She was automatically awarded temporary custody. I've been paying over 2 times the child support guidelines for one child as 'temporary' support to make sure there is no 'hardship' on her or my child and they are maintained in the state they are accustomed to until the divorce (and in NH, the support amounts add one child to the federal guidelines - so one child 'costs' as much as two in most states). This allows her to work less than 10 hours per week for 'spending money' (despite having my son in 40 hour/week daycare ...). When I had to change jobs (I took a job which paid well, but the project they hired me for never started) I ended up having to take a large salary cut. The court refused to adjust my support payments because the cut was 'voluntary' (word to the wise here - make sure you wait and get fired first if you are in a similar situation - even if that means a suspension of insurance and a period of unemployment, the courts are much more receptive). As a result, I am now going into debt farther every month just to pay for basic necessities - even before things like lawyer fees.

And when you get to the custody issues ... it gets even worse. I have been obligated to pay 100% of the costs of the Guardian ad Leitum. It has taken me nine months to convince him things were serious enough to require a psych evaluation of both parties. (One conversation: "Do you believe that she regularily beat me?" "Yes" "Do you realize that people who beat spouses also abuse children?" "Yes, but I don't think she will ever put him in the hospital, so I don't see that being a problem") Now that she is court- ordered to have her evaluation - I am obligated to pay 100% of the cost of it, of course.

As to my claim about system abusers being favored, this may actually only be female system abusers. I don't know. I do know that the court is willing to tolerate almost any sort of behaviour out of her. She has physically assaulted me when I arrived for a visitation. She has regularily and unilaterally cancelled visitations with no notice. She has regularily lied on statements submitted to the court - even about easily verifiable things (like the number of bedrooms in the house). She has flaunted every deadline and order she has been given. Every request for contempt I have made has been turned down. Of course, the one time I delayed support payment (because she was denying visitation, among other things) I was hit with a contempt order.

As it turns out, the system seems to finally be losign patience with her. She played the 'I have too many expenses and I can't pay my bills' hand a little too strong, and the court just ordered the house to be sold - which, if my support is lowered, ought to get things to the point where I can start paying my bills. Of course, she has refused to return any calls from brokers or let them into the house. She has finally been ordered to have the psych evaluation (I think she finally went into one of her rages at the Guardian, otherwise nothing would have happened). Of course, she refuses to set up an appointment. So, here I go to court again. Perhaps I can get them to do something in a few months. Then again, maybe not.

And what happens when all this goes to trial? Probably she just gets custody. Technically, New Hampshire has a law that says either parent has an equal right to custody. In reality, the only really good chances of getting custody are if the mother has abandoned the child, committed a felony, is a drug abuser (alcoholic probably doesn't help), has put the child in the hospital, or has recently been committed to a mental institution. The perceived emotional trauma of removing a child from the mother (as opposed to the negligable trauma of removing a child from the father :( ) outweighs almost any charges of verbal abuse or simple bad parenting you can demonstrate.

The likely net result will be that I end up around 20K$ in debt and have 'nothing' to show for it. This, of course, assuming that the court doesn't decide to give me the privalege of paying for her legal bills. After all, paying them would be a 'financial hardship' for her ...

So, why am I doing this? I couldn't not do it. Abandoning my son by leaving was bad enough, abandoning him to go through the same hell I went through is something I can't do. I have to give him every chance I can. But if you don't feel that strongly about it, don't even think about it.

Next article by Allen Wells: Divorce Post-Mortem (long)

Posted 2006 09 04