Can’t he just die in a car accident on the drive home today? I sat rocking my baby in the glider and let the thought entertain in my mind and play out for a bit. I knew it would be so much easier than divorcing him. I was afraid to leave him and divorce him, his family had much more money than mine, I wasn’t sure I could afford a lawyer, and I knew I would need one. My husband and his father had expressed their comfort with the court system and suing family members for possible future disagreements. The words of my father in law from the first time I had left floated around in my mind almost constantly. I have worked for the county, and for the city, I know all the judges and all the judges dirty laundry, if you ever leave my son again you will not gain custody of yours. I knew that blood meant more to them than anything else, and they would fight for one of their own tooth and nail, and once I left my husband, I would no longer be a part of that family, though my son always would.
I remember when I was pregnant with my son, my husband’s family treated me more kindly and differently than they ever had, making sure my every need was met. When I was in labor, his family converged on me in the hospital, I only got to call my mom after my husband had left the room, and I begged his sister to give me the phone. After my son was born, when we were at family gatherings, my husband would control who got to hold my son and spend time with him, my turn only coming when he needed to be nursed, if my family were present, their turn never came.
And still, I loved my husband, and his family, all of them. I have a big heart, and can see the good and possibility that exists in all people. I did not want to lose his family either, as I knew I surely would when the divorce process began, lose them and have to fight against them. I knew if I divorced my husband, my son would have to go back and forth between two completely different homes, I knew I did not want that for my son. If my husband were to die in an accident, it would be different, I would be able to keep a relationship with his family and raise my son the way I chose. I even went so far as to think of what I would do with the life insurance money, paying for the funeral costs and paying off debts.
My mind flitted back to reality. Death was not an option, not physical death of my husband, and not emotional or spiritual death of myself. I knew I would have to face the court system. Divorce it was.
Sigh, the court process. There is so much that goes into the court process and it can be an exhausting and difficult road. I have come to learn along the way, things are what you make of it, if you expect to have a difficult and hard process though court, you will, if you expect to have it flow easily and seamlessly, it will, even if the exact same circumstances surround you going to court, you’re feelings of the matter, will make a significant difference.
My first contact with court came while I was staying in the shelter. It was such a relief to allow someone else to take me under their wing. I had to wait for the day after Christmas before anything could be done in court, my biggest concern of course being retaining custody of my son. There was a woman who’s entire purpose was to help me begin the court process. She had the paperwork to file for divorce and gain temporary custody of my son, I filled them out in the shelter with her direction, we left my son in the childcare there, and headed to the court house a few blocks away.
I remember the cold, dim, wintry gray day reflecting off every surface in that building. It was like the entire world was gray and cold. As we began filing the paperwork, we found my ex had already been there and filed paperwork for divorce that morning. The bonus? I didn’t have to pay the filing fee. We filed the temporary custody papers and left.
A few days later a police officer contacted me, he wanted to serve me with papers. I was terrified the officer would come, serve me the papers, and take my son away from me. Thankfully I was able to get back in contact with the woman who had helped me file my paperwork, I don’t even remember her name. I told her of my fears and worries. She calmed me, assured me, and agreed to meet the officer with me outside the shelter and created a plan. She would tell the officer I had agreed to meet them at the shelter, not admitting I was actually staying there, giving me peace in not admitting to my ex where I was yet. We met the officer outside the shelter as agreed, I had even left early in my car, to drive around for a bit, and then show up in the shelter parking lot to give the officer the impression I had come from where ever I was staying, my son buckled up in the backseat. The officer had me sign for the paperwork and handed it over, then left. It was simple and easy, my son still in my custody.
I opened up the packet to find my ex had filled a protective order on behalf of our sin against me, claiming I was abusive to our son, the only facts he had to rely on were the thoughts I had expressed to him when our son was first born.
Shortly after bringing my son home from the hospital, I became hyper aware of all ways he could possibly get hurt. What if I dropped him down the wooden flight of stairs? What about the fireplace; all we had was a suddenly flimsy seeming fireplace screen. There were so many things that could harm my new baby and I thought I had already baby proofed our home. I shared those thoughts with my husband and those were the things he wrote about in the protective order.
In Utah when a protective order on behalf of a child is filled, the person filling out the paper work just has to go along the list of questions prompting for information and check anything they think applies. My husband had checked several options including me turning custody, the car seat, and diaper bag over to him, not harming or threatening to harm my son in any way, restraining me from owing a gun, and restraining me from drinking alcohol while I had my son. I could not believe the lengths he would go to to try to gain custody of our son, he knew I do not drink, and did not own any firearms. I felt he lied and marked anything he could to win. Thankfully the only piece the judge signed off on was me not harming or threatening to harm my son in any way. That was easy, nothing would change. And this began our long 3 1/3 year divorce process.
So what do you do? Where do you go? How do you begin? I suggest getting a lawyer if at all possible. It makes a big difference, I saw no way for me to afford a lawyer, and I knew it was the only way I would be guaranteed I would end up with custody of my son. I made it work, and I am so grateful I ended up with the lawyer I had, I truly believe God placed her in my life with divine intervention.
A great place to start looking for options is womenslaw.org Keep in mind: What are you willing to give up? What are you willing to lose? I walked away from my home, and most of my possessions. I could have fought him for those things, however the most important thing to me was custody of my son, because I knew I did not want my son growing up thinking the way his father treated me was the way my so. should treat women. I wanted my son to be safe. I wanted to give him a better life.