Many nasty child custody disputes involve money issues, either because one parent wants to save money or because one parent uses his greater resources to “win” in court. No one wins, least of all the children. And, all too often, the courts exacerbate the trauma by letting legal procedures cloud their every action. King Solomon would be appalled.
My children’s father has three children from his first marriage, living in New York. Because of a forensic psychological report in the New York court, he is denied the right to see his children unless they want to see him. They have refused to see him for over four years. His 21-year-old daughter has written to me telling me to watch out for my children because of his abuse to her mother and the children. So far, no judge on my case has cared to hear any of this.
Though he made no public claim to them until he left our home, he is now attempting to gain custody. Since we were not married, I was always a single mother. His constant comment to me when discussing his role with my children was, “They’re your children. I’ve already got mine,” referring to the three children he had with his first wife.
Because of my naiveté over the 18 years of our relationship, I gave the father whatever money he wanted to “invest in our future.” When he left my home, I got none of it back. We were also partners in business. He took the books; when he left, so did my income. He now has the funds to buy whatever he needs.
My children and I moved from Virginia to Florida almost four years ago with the knowledge and consent of the father and the Virginia court, under Judge S. Last year I attempted to gain Florida jurisdiction over the children. A legal tug-of-war has ensued.
On May 30, 2003, the father filed a motion in the Virginia court to get full custody of my children. I was never served with papers and was not aware of this until days later. The father’s Virginia attorney had direct communication with Judge S., without my knowledge. A court date was set for a status hearing, again without notification to me, for September 4th.
At my July 16th hearing, a Florida judge announced she would not hear any arguments; she would simply discuss the matter with Judge S. Judge S. said he was not ready to give up jurisdiction without several hours of testimony in his court. The Florida judge did not stand on her previous assertion that she had jurisdiction; she simply denied my petition. It was noted that I would be able to file a change of jurisdiction in Virginia.
I did file a new petition to change jurisdiction in the Virginia court, to be heard on September 4th. At the hearing, the judge denied my petition stating it had already been litigated in Florida. There were no arguments on the merits of my children living in Florida for almost four years, all of their medical and school records being in Florida, all witnesses to anything relevant to the well-being of my children being in Florida.
The Florida judge went back on her own word and Judge S. had no interest in being fair to me or my children. My children have told the father they want to live with me in Florida. They do not want to go back to Virginia to his house, however, he continues his attempt to take them. Both courts’ lack of concern for my children makes me fear that he might succeed.