Saturday, January 29, 2005

A little update

Ah, I understand a little better now. Got a copy of the motion my wife filed. She is trying to get an order before judgement giving her child support, alimony and payment of household expenses. I'm still wondering if she has been told anything about the Guardian Ad Litem.

I found an interesting bit of information on the web tonight concerning false allegations of domestic abuse:

Domestic Violence, Female Style

"Reputation ruining" via false accusations of abuse


Thomas Kiernan, author of Citizen Murdoch (as well as 25 other books), reported in the New Jersey Law Journal his experience attending four different seminars for wives contemplating divorce. He reported that in all four cases, a female lawyer conducted the seminar and "recommended, with knowing winks and smirks, the 'advantages' of 'establishing' or 'creating' a 'record' of spousal violence, whether true or not, prior to the filing of a divorce complaint." 84

What upset Kiernan was that a law designed to prevent domestic violence (the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act) was openly being used to falsely accuse men of spouse abuse. But the devastation to a man's reputation and career is the less important consequence. The false accusation allows the woman to obtain the children because the father is a suspected abuser. The false accusation also justifies a woman being able to obtain an emergency restraining order to kick a man out of his home prior to the commencement of divorce proceedings, thereby also increasing her likelihood of obtaining the children because they are "living with the mother now and stability dictates their remaining with the mother."

But this is what most astonished Kiernan:

"the number of women attending the seminars who smugly — indeed boastfully — announced that they had already sworn out false or grossly exaggerated domestic-violence complaints against their hapless husbands, and that the device worked! To add amazement to my astonishment, the lawyer-lecturers invariably congratulated the self-confessed miscreants."

Unsubstantiated and false accusations of spouse abuse or child abuse ruin a man's reputation even if he is ultimately found to be innocent.

Why are men so damaged by "reputation ruining"? Men's ability to earn leads to their ability to gain love. Destroying earning potential means destroying love potential. Observe how frequently a man will die from a heart attack or cancer — or just commit suicide — shortly after his reputation is ruined. Yet these deaths are recorded as heart attacks, not husband abuse. And not murder.

84. Thomas Kiernan in the "Voice of the Bar," the letter-to-the-editor section of the New Jersey Law Journal, April 21, 1988, p. 6. Kiernan said "these events were advertised under such titles as 'Women's Strategies For Divorce' and 'Women: Know Your Rights In Divorce.'"

Sometimes I have to wonder...

What goes through her head. The latest is that my wife has had her attorney refile a request for child support, alimony and visitation. I'm not sure I have that right, and I don't have a good idea what it means, but my attorney says it's not a big deal. Our response was to file for mediation, in which a couple of attorneys mediate between the two parties. I don't think she's going to like that process at all. Especially when we request a Guardian ad Litem (sp?) for my son. You see, in this state a Guardian ad Litem (GL from now on) has access to all marriage and personal counseling and therapy records. I thought this was great news because part of my wife's fictional story was that my "anger management" problems were the main subject in our marriage counseling. It will be interesting to see what happens when the GL reads her police report and then gets into the marriage counseling records and reads about her suicide threats and her violence against me. I have no idea what is in her personal counselor's records, but I have a feeling the GL will find it interesting.

I'm sure she has no idea the implications of going into mediation are - my attorney is very positive about it because I've been very responsible in my support and haven't done anything stupid. She says the division of assets will go much smoother because they will be fair and if my wife starts demanding more than she's entitled to it won't get her anywhere.

My attorney described my wife's idea of how the division should go, and it didn't take long. "She wants all the assets, including all equity in your home and she wants you to take over all her debt." I know, I know - I don't know what I was thinking, I should have jumped all over that offer!

My son is doing great - he is such a happy boy. Give him a matchbox car and he'll carry it around all day, showing it to people and playing with it wherever he goes. He'll smile at random women, wave and say "Hi!" It never fails to get a huge smile in return. One time his shoe was untied and I sat him on my knee to tie it. As I was busy tying, he waved and said hi to a woman going by several times. She went into a store, and when I lifted him off my knee and set him down he immediately took off running after her. He ran right into the store (with me right behind him) and found her. He ran right in front of her, stopped and just stood there, looking up at her and smiling. Then he said "hi" again. You could tell her heart was melting. She went on about how cute he was and he just kept on flirting. I finally had to pick up little Don Juan and keep moving - I think he could have followed her all night.

The best thing for me right now is that I'm starting to feel like myself again. I think that long talk with my attorney helped a lot. It relieved a lot of the pressure and dispelled some of the misconceptions I had as well as answering a lot of questions. Life is still chaotic, but it's getting better every day.

See you next time!

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Great news!

Well, over the last few days there have been immense changes, almost all of them good for me. I’ll give a basic sketch of the rest of the narrative to get to this point so that things won’t seem too confusing.

I was lucky to have a couple of friends I could stay with after I was forced out. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise, though I would have found something. I stayed there several weeks until I found a place to live and had the money to actually move. I took the Liaison’s advice and found a place that was a little over an hour away.

When I moved to the new place (it is a furnished, very small apartment) my wife went ballistic. She sent me a strange email, making accusations of me moving in with a woman and some kind of strange accusation regarding having two phones (I have a cell phone and had arranged to hook up a home phone). She seemed to not understand that I could not stay with friends forever, but that I had to find a place to live.

Over the course of the next few months we had little communication regarding the divorce, it was mainly on my visits with my son, such as when I’d be picking him up etc. One of the most satisfying things I’ve ever seen was my attorney tear apart her attorney in the hallway of the courthouse. We were trying to work out a visitation schedule for my son and my wife was trying to minimize the amount of time and put restrictions on it. I guess at some point somebody told her that her abuse allegations were not being believed, so she switched tactics and now said she felt I was a danger to my son. She wanted all of the time I spent with my son to be supervised. Whenever we asked for more information, she would just say that “she was afraid”. She wouldn’t elaborate. My attorney finally had enough and took her attorney off to the side for a “private” conference. This private conference was held in the hallway outside the courtroom, where about 200 people were sitting and standing, waiting for their turn. It started out quietly, but then got louder, and my attorney made some things very clear to him because he obviously didn’t know what he was talking about. You see, for some reason, still unknown, the first firm my wife hired to represent her was a business firm, not a family law firm, and they had never been involved with a divorce. To this day I have no idea why she hired them, and my attorney just shakes her head. Anyway, her attorney had no idea what the rules and laws really were, and my attorney gave him a bit of an education in front of a large crowd of other people. My wife hired a real divorce attorney the next week. It ended up that I got much more time than my wife wanted me to have, and it was unsupervised. We wanted more, but my wife was looking for something to fight over and we decided we’d gotten enough for the time being.

One of my biggest worries through all of this is the possibility that my son is not my biological son. There is strong evidence that my wife had an affair. I explained this to my attorney and told her that it was a possibility, but that I did not want to lose him – as far as I’m concerned he is my son. I’ve been assured that even if it is true and my wife decides she wants to try to have my parental rights terminated the chances of her succeeding are extremely remote.

So, for the last several months I’ve been giving my wife half my pay as support and living on my own. One thing I heard early on from several mutual friends was that she was under the impression that she was going to get a lot of money in alimony, which is ridiculous if for no other reason than our marriage was not that long. She has struggled to find a job for the last five months or so, and I am very empathetic. I can imagine what it must be like to keep getting turned down time after time.

As I mentioned earlier, things have taken a turn for the better. First, my attorney and I had a long discussion one day and she explained my position, which is very good. First, she went over the results of the false claims my wife made regarding me to get me out of the house. She looked at all the paperwork and said it was clear that nobody believed my wife, so nothing of significance would come out of it. She had spoken to my wife’s new attorney and found that he had straightened out her ideas of what she was going to be getting out of this financially. From what my attorney said, my wife now realizes how generous I’ve been, which is nice to hear. One thing I found particularly funny was during their meeting, her attorney said that my wife was suspicious of why I hadn’t tried to expand my visitation schedule with my son. As you recall, she fought visitation at all and lost. My attorney explained to him that I had been very careful not to cause any problems because I was afraid that she would make up more stories and try to have me arrested again. She went on to tell him that we had tried for more time, but that my wife had fought it. Apparently, my wife never told him this. In trying to improve her financial position, she told her attorney some things which are easily proved false, and in at least one case, was impossible. I think they are going to have to have a long talk about some of the “facts” that she’s been providing him.

The results of this meeting were very positive for me. I’m soon to have expanded visitation with my son, which to me is the best news. Also, within the next week or so my payments to my wife will be seriously reduced. Both attorneys agreed that I had been very generous and done far more than I needed to and it was time to go to more realistic arrangements. She’ll also have to explain to her attorney why she cleaned out the bank accounts the day she had me served (a violation of the rules set down by the court), and also explain why she took a large amount of extra money out of the bank account in the time it took to get the direct deposit changed. She had told her attorney that I had cleaned out the bank accounts, but it’s easily proved who made the withdrawl. She had never told him about taking the extra money, so he has to ask her about that. I also found out that my wife has finally found a job.

As it stands now, it looks likely that I’ll have pay child support and half of the daycare expenses – no alimony. I sometimes wonder about what the interactions between my wife and the women’s group that convinced her to do all of this must be like. It’s certainly not turning out as she thought it would originally.

That’s a lot of writing – time to post this

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A learning experience...

For a little over a week I lived with what I could grab in those few minutes I was given. Basically that was little more than a change of clothes, two pairs of underwear, my shave kit and a suit for work. Since she had taken all the money in the checking and savings accounts I had no access to any money, just my credit cards. I finally got to speak with an attorney and she arranged with my wife’s attorney for me to be able to pick up some of the belongings that I’d need right away, such as clothes, some things for work etc. My attorney told me to go to the police department and have them escort me over to the condo, and to make sure that I was in his sight at all times so that my wife could make no further claims. We arrived and I started getting a few things, but then I heard my wife talking to the officer. He came up to me and asked me who told me I could come and get things from the condo. I told him that my attorney had arranged for it with her attorney. As I was telling him this she was standing behind him, arms crossed, smiling a not-so-nice smile. The officer explained that the restraining order that had been issued did not allow me to come and get any personal belongings, there is a box that must be checked – if it’s checked it basically allows the defendant to come in the presence of the police to gather belongings. I told him that I would leave and that I didn’t want to cause any problems, but he said that since we’re here he was going to allow me to get my things anyway. When he said this the smile dropped from my wife’s face and she turned around and rushed upstairs. She was not happy about that. When she came back down she was carrying garbage bags that she had filled with my clothes. Over the next few minutes she brought down 8 or 9 of them. She insisted on searching every box and bag I had taken before I put it in my car for some reason, I decided that since I wasn’t hiding anything I’d just let her do it. I got to say goodbye to my son, who I hadn’t seen in over a week. I just hugged him to me and cried.

It took me several weeks to get a handle on what was going on. I learned a lot about the laws and divorce in general from my attorney. First, it didn't matter that I never did anything, the way the laws are set up all it takes is a claim, no evidence beyond that is required. She told me that there was a "quiet" movement of attorneys who believe that the way the laws are set up is unconstitutional, but that didn't help me right now. She gave me a lot of advice on what to expect if an arrest warrant was issued. Keep in mind that at this point I had seen no police report, had no idea what I might be charged with or even what my wife had accused me of. In this time I kept getting calls from my wife, which I wouldn’t answer. She’d leave messages for me telling me that it was ok for me to call her and talk to her on the phone. I had been advised by several people that I should not talk to her directly on the phone because she could claim anything was said and there would be no way to prove otherwise. When I told my attorney that she was calling me she was surprised, she told me not to answer the calls and definitely not to call her because it could be considered harassment under the restraining order.

I was in contact with many of our mutual friends during this time and was amazed at what they were being told by my wife. There were stories about me having handguns (I don’t own any) and knives, about my wife’s suspicions of possible crimes she thought I might had committed in the past. One friend had had several conversations with her and told me that she had been told by my wife that I had given her no choice but to do this because I would not move out of the condo on my own. My wife confided in her that she felt very guilty for what she did and that she would take it back, but then she could be charged with making a false report to the police. The strange thing is that my wife kept talking to this friend as if we were going to get back together again and that I’d have to change my ways. Another thing that kept coming up was that my wife kept asking all of our mutual friends if I had a girlfriend. This didn’t really surprise me. One of the things my wife was very paranoid about was other women. She was convinced that I was having multiple affairs. She would accuse me of having affairs with neighbors, coworkers, and even one of her relatives. A woman in a car once pulled up next to us and asked directions as we were walking in town. I gave her the directions and she drove off. My wife was furious – she was convinced that I was having an affair with the driver and that we’d somehow arranged to meet there. She would constantly scan my cell phone bills and question me about the calls I made to coworkers and to friends. If a phone number was unfamiliar sometimes she’d call it to see if it was a woman. It was all very aggravating, especially since most of my coworkers who I’d have almost daily communication were women.

I found that a keystroke logger had been installed on my home computer. I found it only because I was upgrading to a new anti-virus edition and went through all my settings before I installed it. I found that the keystroke logger had been added to the list as an approved program in my current anti-virus. I removed it and did a scan – it was found and reported as an unwanted program, so I removed it. The fact that it had been added told me that it had been done manually. I changed my password for getting into XP and changed my other passwords as well. I said nothing, and my suspicions were confirmed a couple of days later. My wife wanted the password to get onto my computer so she could install something. I asked her what it was and she would not tell me, she would just say vaguely “a game”. I told her that I’d been having problems and that she should install the game on her computer. She wasn’t very happy with that.

A couple of weeks later a warrant was issued, and I went in to the station for the first time. To my surprise I was not being charged with abusing my wife. I was being charged with disorderly conduct and risk of injury to a minor. I was also told that the risk of injury charge was a felony because I was also being charged with the disorderly conduct. My attorney told me to expect to post a bail of $1000, but we had never considered this situation. Knowing this, I was extremely surprised when they told me they were releasing me on a non-surety bond of $500 (which means I don't put up any money unless I don't show up in court) and that I had to show up in court in a couple of hours. I left and called my attorney. She was shocked. She said that the fact that they didn't charge me with anything concerning my wife meant that they didn't believe what she had told them. She was also surprised that even though I was being charged with a felony that I was released on a non-surety bond. Apparently that is not normal, the non-surety bond is usually reserved for minor misdemeanors.

I arrived at court a few hours later, and went to the Family Services Liaison. One of the first things she asked me was what I had to say about my wife’s accusations. I told her that I didn’t know what she had accused me of, and that I didn’t even know what I’d been charged with until I’d gotten to the police station. This confused her, but she went on. She then said that as this had been going on for a couple of years and asked me who our case worker was. I had no idea what she was talking about. This also confused her. She had me read the complaint my wife had made to the police – that was quite an experience. It started out talking about the type of mortgage that was on our condo and problems that existed with a door inside. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me. She then went on to describe abuse that never happened. She said that the reason she had never come to the police was that she did not know what I would do since I had been in the military, implying that military service alone made people violent. She claimed that I had yelled at her like a drill sergeant and most recently had grabbed her by the neck. She claimed to be in fear for her life and that she was also fearful that I was a danger to our son.

I was again in shock. I looked at the liaison and told her that I didn’t know what to say, but that none of what she was claiming was true. She looked at me and told me to wait there for a few minutes and that she’d be back. When she came back several minutes later she sat down and said “Ok, I think I know what’s happening here”. She explained that she was going to offer to let me join what’s called the Family Violence Education Program (FEP). My attorney told me that if I was offered this I should take it. After finding out that I was being charged with a felony, however, it didn’t seem likely that it would be offered. Part of me wanted to fight everything, since I hadn’t done anything, but my attorney had told me that there was virtually no way for me to win in this type of case. This is also what another attorney had told me, so I felt I had no real choice. What the liaison said next surprised me. She told me that I should be extremely careful, and that I should do nothing that would anger my wife or even annoy her. She made it very clear that I should only meet my wife in public places and should not step inside the condo under any circumstances, even if invited. She seemed to feel sorry for me, and offered me a lot of advice – she even mentioned that it would be a good idea to put some geographic distance between my wife and I for my protection.