I Am My Mother’s Child

There is nothing that brings you to the reality of your life like a court ordered social study. If you read March 5, 2014 then you know that the ex husband decided to have me served. Somewhere along the way he decided he wanted 50/50 custody of the kids.

He remarried about three years ago. He moved into her house with her and her two children. No big deal right? Her house is 23 miles away from my house. The same house I intentionally selected because it was less than 7 miles from his door to my door. My goals in selecting a house were a good school district, a sense of community and not far from their dad. I never wanted him to feel like his children were to far away. But then he moved. Our youngest were attending a charter school that was in another city  about five miles from my house. I made the decision to move them to the zoned school in our district. He was not happy about my choice and he said I was moving them further from him so he hired an attorney and I was served.

Back to the social study. After several months of court dates, attorney’s fees and tension between us the judge ordered a social study as requested by the ex.

A social study is conducted by a social worker. They have you fill out pages and pages of documents listing everything that has happened in your life. It’s your autobiography. This document is scrutinized and judged by the social worker. They come to your house and interview everybody who lives there. They walk through your home taking notes on everything from the items on your refrigerator, safety of the neighborhood and overall opinion of your home. The social worker also interviews friend, doctors, teachers and family members.

The document… Geez… The document. It took me several days to fill out the document. For me, it was the equivalent of standing naked in front of strangers who had magnifying glasses and were intent on viewing every flaw. It was hard. As I said it was an autobiography of my life. The questions were invasive and at times difficult for me to answer. You see, I am like many of you, I have tucked the disappointments and heartaches of my childhood away in a place that I don’t like to visit. But here in this document I was asked about things I don’t like to discuss with close friends let alone a stranger.  But I answered honestly.

After a few weeks I received the results of the social study. This was the document she would present to the judge. The judge would use this document to assist with his final ruling. As I read her report I cried. I cried because here was a stranger summarizing my life in a 15-20 page document.

My life  started out as a potentially tragic story. I was born the youngest of three. My mother was about 21 when I was born and had birthed a total of three children in less than four years. She was the true definition of a single mom. My father was around but he wasn’t present. My mother worked very hard to provide for us but she wasn’t home with us. I was molested as a child. I started drinking as a teenager and drugs, although I did not partake, were readily available.

I continued to cry as I read the document. My ex husband’s life looks wonderful on paper. He grew up in a two parent household. He has one brother and they had a dog. His mom stayed home for the most part and his father was an engineer. He was raised in a Christian home. He and his new wife both had stellar up bringing. They are the ideal American family when you read about them. As I continued to read and cry, I was sure I had lost. How and why would anybody in their right mind select me over them? As I reached the last couple of pages I realized I had been holding my breathe. There were about ten numbered items. These were the things the judge wanted to know. This was her final assessment. This would affect the decision of the court

Why is this article titled as it is? Because after reading her summary of my life I went back and rewrote my life story. I needed to add in the side notes and I needed to understand my life from the view point of a young twenty something raising three kids on her own. I needed perspective. I needed to understand that the social worker’s summary was not the final say on my life. Through tears and fears I read my life story to three friends of mine. I felt the need to say the words out loud. In front of people who love me. We are often judged by our past. We judge others based upon their past. But I realized that I’m more than my childhood. Like my mother, I am an overcomer. Our stories don’t read the same but the common thread is do the best you can and overcome obstacles.

The social worker’s assessment was in my favor. My children are still with me the majority of the time and I changed their schools. I don’t hold a grudge with the ex.

Write your own story. Statistics and opinions do not have the final say. Write your own story and release  hope. I rewrote mine and am confidant when I say I’m an overcomer and my mother’s child.

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Until You Do Right By Me

Have you ever cursed somebody? I’m not talking about calling them names and using profane language. I am talking about cursing the ground they walk on or wishing they would grow a third eye or hoping their children are born with flat feet or something along those line. I have wished a many of things on people over the years. Some of you may say, “I would never curse anyone!” Well, maybe you give underhanded blessings. I sure hope the Lord blesses you with a child who acts just like you or God will surely give them what they deserve.

One of my favorite movies is The Color Purple. If you have ever seen it then you know the scene where Ms. Celie curses Mister. She told him, “Until you do right by me everything you think about is gonna crumble!” That’s deep. If you want to see the clip, play the video below.

If I were to curse somebody today I would say something like, may you end up spending years in family court with an attorney who has questionable ethics never files anything on time charges you exorbitant fees per hour and insists on making unnecessary calls charging in 15 minute increments even if they only called some random person and left them a 30 second voicemail and wastes valuable meeting time drawing a court room on the whiteboard and telling you about their jazz band while charging those excessive fees then recommends an expensive and unnecessary expert to testify at your hearing then charges you for trips to the court-house including travel and those ridiculous fees even though they could file paperwork online and only charge you for 15 minutes instead of 3 hours!

Our legal system makes me weary. Everything in America is regulated and has a ridiculous amount of over site except for the legal system. They graduate from law school, take the bar exam, get some CEUs under their belt,  start a practice then charge $250 and up PER HOUR. But they are kind enough to charge you in 15 minute increments. Oohhhh they also require a down payment for their services. They don’t call it a down payment but it is. I know, I know they are in law school for several years studying torts and whatnot so they’ve earned the right to charge hundreds of dollars in fees.

In my quest to find an attorney in ten days to provide a response to the legal notice I was served, I asked several friends for references. One friend of a friend offered me their discounted rate of $650 per hour. What?!? I went with a firm that had been labeled the Cadillac of law firms. Well, I wanted someone really good. I didn’t want to make the mistake I had made with my divorce attorney who made lots of mistakes and could be credited with my current situation for leaving out important verbiage in my divorce decree. I ended up with a Geo Metro pretending to be a Cadillac. The office was swanky, I met one of the partners who was impressive as well as knowledgable and very polished. They said I would be represented by the firm not just one person. They failed to mention the charge I would incur if any of them so much as looked at my file. The person they assigned to me and I parted ways three months and several thousand dollars later after I questioned excessive billing and did some minor research to see he charged me for a trip to the court-house when he was there for another case. What he did for me could have been handled by a phone call. Let the online records search at your local county court-house be your friend. You are able to search records by party or attorney. (You’re welcome)

The whole process is a waste of time, money and effort. Why clear the court’s dockets of cases that could be handled in mediation? I mean why would we want to use the courts’ resources to process criminal cases faster when you can take up valuable time with family law cases? The way my county works is if you can’t successfully negotiate between the attorney you go to mediation then the case comes before the judge when you’ve exhausted those options. But you spend months attending hearings and waiting on the attorney to discuss your demands or wants or points of contention. Remember they are charging you $250+ for these conversations between you, the other attorney, court clerks, paralegals and whoever else they can add to the monthly billing. Unless you are able to locate someone who charges a set fee to handle your case you could rack up thousands and thousands of dollars in fees. I don’t know about you but I don’t have thousands and thousands of dollars to spare.

You wanna hear my suggestions? Go to mediation first. Skip all the other nonsense and use a reputable mediator to help resolve the issue. The drawback? The attorneys don’t line their pockets at your expense and they might be able to help more people cause they aren’t spending a year or three on one case.

One year, two attorneys, a social study, mediation and I don’t know how many court dates later, it’s still not officially over. But we are close. I hope.

March 5, 2014

It had been a regular day. I woke up early. Prepared breakfast for the kids. I got everybody off to school and I put in my time at work. I don’t remember anything exciting occurring. Like I said, it had been a regular day. 

I was preparing dinner. The Fan4 were completing homework. That’s when I heard the knock on the door. I looked out the window beside the door and saw a short unassuming man. I thought he was another salesman attempting to get me to change electric companies. I remember thinking it’s a little late in the evening for door to door sales. 

I spoke to him through the screen door. “How may I help you?” He told me I needed to sign for something. I asked, “what is it?” By this time the Fan4, who are always excited when someone knocks on the door, were behind me watching and listening. 

Let me take you back a few months to December 2013  kids and I were talking about some of the things we wanted to do for 2014. I want to play soccer, I want to attend a basketball camp. Can I go to a summer camp? I told them I wanted to take a trip to Virginia. Due to the cost, we would not have birthday parties in 2014. What can I say? We live on a budget. Everybody agreed on the trip. 

I opened the front door to sign the papers. The gentleman told me I had ten days to respond and needed to get an attorney as soon as possible. I had been served. My heart was racing and so was my mind. What! Who? I walked through the crowd of people, four kids does feel like a throng of people at times. As I stood in my kitchen I opened the packet and realized my ex was taking me to court. 

I don’t know what I did next or who I called first. 

I picked up my cell phone at some point and walked into my room closing the door behind me. I walked into my closet and closed that door as well. My closet is my inner sanctuary at times. It’s where I go to have private conversations and get a couple of minutes alone. It’s the only place I can go in the house without a Fan following. 

I remember the shock. I remember the heartbreak. I also remember being overwhelmed and afraid. I knew that a court battle could obliterate my finances. I also knew that depending on the outcome our lives would change forever.