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.