A few years ago, after the mortar from my divorce proceedings had settled, and my life was approaching something that vaguely resembled normalcy, I decided that if my ex-husband, Prince Machiavelli, ever sued me for full custody of our two children, I would just hand them over.
Not because I didn’t love my children, because I do, desperately. And not because I had a crystal meth lab in my basement or I cavorted with male escorts, or I disciplined my kids by locking them in a closet for the weekend.
I’m the kind of mother who, theoretically, would never lose custody: a nice girl who graduated Cum Laude from a fancy-pants East Coast University, went on to get a Masters degree, and is now…well, I can’t tell you what I do since I need to protect my identity, but trust me, it’s something respectable. I also pay my taxes on time, obey the speed limit, volunteer at my kids’ schools, and take in stray cats.
However, I had good reasons for believing I should relinquish my kids to Prince Machiavelli without putting up a fight. Here they are:
- Prince is rich. Really rich. As in yacht-loads of money. Which means he could fund endless litigation while effortlessly owning two homes, jetting via private plane to resorts around the globe, and not actually having to work for a living.
- I am so not rich. So very not rich, in fact, that there have been times during single-motherhood when I’ve had to take all my change to one of those turn-your-coins-into-cash machines at the supermarket to make it till my next paycheck. I couldn’t even eke out an attorney’s retainer, much less the $100 grand into which the average custody battle mushrooms.
- Prince loves to fight. He’s fabulous at it. It invigorates him the way, say, Ashtanga Yoga energizes other people. Remember Robert Duvall’s character in Apocalypse Now, when he’s standing on the shore with bombs exploding all around him, proclaiming, “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning?” That’s my ex-husband.
- I do not like to fight. I suck at it. It depletes me, keeps me up at night, and makes my skin break out. Remember the story of Ferdinand the Bull, who had sort of bovine ADD? The bullfight flunk-out who just wants to sit under the cork tree and smell the flowers? That’s me.
- I was afraid that the conflict caused by a custody battle would do my children, Luca and Francesca, more harm than good. I did not want either of my kids to suffer nervous breakdowns, ever, but especially not before they hit puberty.
- I was afraid that the conflict caused by a custody battle would wreak havoc in the home I had created post-divorce. My son, Luca, had long been co-opted by his dad’s vengefulness. I knew that Prince’s desire to smush me in a custody evaluation would just turbo-charge Luca’s rages and turn my house into an all-out war zone.
- I wanted to get on with my life. Spending every free nanosecond writing declarations and cataloguing notebooks of Prince’s vitriolic e-mails would only keep me tethered to him. Custody battles keep exes married, not divorced.
- I didn’t want to spend a year or more of my life at the mercy of the mercurial Family Court gods. I could spend money I didn’t have and end up in a worse place. I could be bankrupt, my kids could be psychologically demolished, and I could lose them anyway.
So I resolved that if Prince ever petitioned for full custody, I would deliver my children to him without a fight. I would write my son and daughter letters explaining that giving them to their dad, thereby ending the conflict, was in their best interest. I would assure them that they could visit me any time and when they were 18, they would be free to choose whether they wanted a relationship with me. I would promise them that, no matter what, I would always love them, that a day would never go by when I didn’t think of them, and that I would always be their mother.
Well, guess what? I am now where I vowed I’d never be: lawyered up, stipulating to a 730 evaluator, and preparing for a custody battle.
This blog will detail how I got here, why I decided this was a fight worth fighting, and where I came up with the money. It will also record the stages of my #&*%?! custody evaluation as well as the outcome.
Wouldn’t it be more prudent to keep these sensitive matters, no matter how well-disguised, under wraps? Sure. But prudent didn’t stop the conflict. It didn’t help my son, or my ex, get over being angry. Despite years of Gandhi-channeling and compulsive capitulating in the name of keeping the peace, peace didn’t happen–unmanageability did.
Besides being a means of keeping my sanity, this blog is dedicated to all those who are fighting for the right to remain their children’s parents–and to children everywhere who deserve a relationship with both.