A custody battle can often feel exactly like a scene from Kramer vs. Kramer (Photo via IMDB.com)
Custody battle. Is there an uglier term in the divorce world? When relationships fall apart, individuals tend to fight over the house, the furnishings, the money and the savings — but does the house really care who lives in it? Do the furnishings care who sit on it? Does the money care who spends it? No. But during the custody battle the people in the middle of it absolutely care what happens. And this is where things get messy. Being a single parent does not often happen arbitrarily — there are individuals who choose to become a single parent by donations of egg or sperm (why didn't someone tell me?!). There are those individuals who may choose to give up all rights to the child, thereby leaving one parent as sole guardian. However, often a single parent occurs because of a relationship breakup and I would venture a guess that the majority of these breakups are not amicable. When this occurs it can become very difficult to put your child's needs above your own pain.
There are many theories on what the courts do and do not favour. Believe it or not, there are still some who think that the courts favour the woman, but don't even attempt to push this theory on me because you will not succeed. There are other theories that believe that courts favour 50/50 parenting agreements, regardless of the situation. Then there are those of us that have no clue and truly hope that whichever judge is assigned our case will look only to what is best for all children involved. (In case you didn't notice, this is my hope.) My "custody battle" potentially ends the day you are reading this — Friday — with a full day in court of viva voce evidence. I have learned this means "live testimony." What this apparently means to the opposing side is "call in anyone willing to slander the child's parent". Yay.
During this custody battle, both sides get to "tell their story." I wish I could say this means they talk about what is best for their child(ren) but, alas, this actually means "tell all secrets told to each other when you were in love and sworn to secrecy." This also means: use everything in your power to discredit an otherwise upstanding citizen with your perception of "reality." I wasn't immune to this. When I received a 15-page diatribe on why I was so terrible, I was seized with the unimaginable desire to defend myself. To this day I wish I had submitted a two line affidavit. Instead, I rambled on and on for another 15 pages on what my perception of reality was — and the poor judge that has to read all that. *shakes head*
However, in this day and age, anything that has been submitted to the court can be found and read by the public. Do I care what the public thinks about my past or present? No. But I do care what my son thinks. If this information is so readily available now, imagine what it will be like in 10 years when he is casually searching the Internet for information on himself? Can I be proud of what I submitted in my affidavit? No. This doesn't mean that what I wrote wasn't true, it just means it is not something a child should have to read about his parents.
As I lay awake four nights before I head into a courtroom, praying for a positive outcome, I find myself thinking about all of you about to take the single parent leap. Although we all know it is difficult with trials and hardships, do we give enough thought to how we get there? Are you thinking about what is best for your child(ren) or are you mired in the pain of betrayal, neglect and lack of forgiveness? I advise every new single parent to first obtain legal advice to ensure you don't misstep, but my second question is always, "Is the relationship salvageable?" if not, my advice is: Do your very best to see past yourself and work together, work with a mediator, take separation and parenting classes before you ever make the decision to enter a custody battle.
The devastation and destruction that can ensue is often irreparable.
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