Garrett Harris 6 p.m., April 20
- Community Blog
- MOM INTERRUPTED
"Kidnapped in California"
Maybe some read “Mom Interrupted” over a year ago, maybe some did not. This is just an update of the ongoing nightmare that I have experienced; along with my husband, family, and a truly supportive group of friends. This story is about a child upducted and alienated in the most unusual way, but yet I have come to find out that it happens all too much.
Our nightmare started almost two years ago. I raised my son as a single mother for almost seven years before my son’s father was released from prison. I made a poor choice (and yes, I have been critized up and down from family, friends, stranger’s, and most importantly the family court of California) of letting my precious son go and spend time with his father. It was never to be permeant, you see. We made an old fashioned hand-shake kind of deal…my soon to be husband and I was to be leaving California when he retired from the navy, and my son’s father wanted to have time with his son. Seeing that his dad “appeared” to be clean, sober, and responsible, I made the decision to let our son stay with him temporarily. Hold your thoughts there for one second…because I know what everyone is already thinking. It’s not like it is the first or the millionth time someone has asked me why.
Why-why would I? Well, here we go…the truth. And yes, I made the choice based solely on my own childhood. My experience of living with parents (whom, I should state, I truly believe loved me and my brother’s and sister’s) made our childhood almost unbearable with their fights to gain custody of us. I am not shifting blame here or expecting any pity. But, it was my life and I chose to use my experience’s to make sure that my son would not go through the same kinds of things. My mother new that she was going to be losing custody of us children, so one night she packed a moving truck and took us children far away from our father. Long story short, we lived in a small torn up trailer down south (our father lived in New York) and kept us there for almost five years. One day, strange people came to our school and said that they were there to take us back to our dad, whom has been looking for us for many years. Those strange people were the FBI. Without having a chance to say good bye to our mother, we were put on a plane and sent back to New York. We were put in a situation where we were stranger’s to our own family that have missed us for so many years. We tried so hard to deal with the rift but eventually, all the years separated took its toll. The reason my mother (whom I still talk with to this day) decided to do something so drastic was in her own words because “she did not want to lose us kids”. My parent’s both spent years fighting for us children, when really they should have been working on helping us children.
So there, I am open to criticism, but until you walk a day in my life or one of my brother’s or sister’s, I feel nobody has the right to tell me that I did the wrong thing. But, then again, there are always better choices that could have been made. While my husband and I were on our honeymoon, my son’s father became irate that (and I am purely guessing here) I am now married. Which, my son’s father and I were never married. It’s the only logical explanation to what comes next. He went and did an emergency hearing and said that I was planning on “kidnapping” our son and that I had been abusing him for many years. He told the judge that he gave me notice about the court hearing and he didn’t know why I had not shown up. And yes, the judge gave him “temporary” custody and ordered that I not apply for a passport, birth certificate, social security card, take my son to any doctor appointments, or obtain any legal documents concerning our son. I was serviced with a declaration stating all the allegations that were being made against me, but never not once was I told about any court proceedings. And, as soon as I was served with these papers, I obtained an attorney right away. With this attorney, we went to the next court hearing (and yes, my son’s father was supposed to notify me of it but he never did) to try to tell the judge that he had a criminal history as long as the walkway it took us to get up in front of the judge. (And mind you, I did not know about most of his criminal history until a few days before that court hearing). And my attorney told the judge that the father never had given me notice, that he has multiple felonies, including a felony perjury. Did the judge look over my declaration? Did the judge seem to care about what we were telling him about my son’s father? Did this judge seem to care that I had to work 60+ hours a week for several years working at a blood bank and a private research hospital to take care of my son on my own? Did the judge even care that the father only paid me $46.23 in child support since 2002? Did he care that everything he was told was a complete lie? Did he care that my husband was in Special Forces with the military since 1996 and was about to retire after 20 years of honorable service to his county? NO…No to all of it! Shocking right? Well, he was not the first judge to admit that he “didn’t have time” to read any of our declarations. We are now on our third judge and fourth attorney.
This journey of getting my son back in our custody has taken almost two years, over thirty thousand dollars, and a lot of tears and regret. We have done the mediation, four times. We paid for the 7-30 evaluation, that my son’s father post poned his last part for almost six months. Which, postponed court hearings. And not to mention, my son’s father has been representing himself since the day this all started. While my husband and I have spent our life savings.
I have only been able to see my son since February of 2011, 5 times. It is court ordered that I am able to talk with my son every Sunday and Wednesday evening, and I barley hear from him. I leave voicemails, tex messages, I’ve called his grandmother, and other family member’s looking for him. I’ve been yelled at, called horrible names, and harassed to the point that I had to get a restraining order again my son’s father. I didn’t hear from my son on Easter and many other holidays. I recently looked my son’s cell phone that I got him, and all the phone calls, tex messages, and voicemails that I left for him were all deleted. When I am able to talk with him, he sounds distant and “bothered” that I called. But, then when is alone with me, he is clingy and expresses to me that he wants to stay with me. He sleeps in my bed and asks me to sing “Amazing Grace” and “On Top of Spaghetti” while I scratch his back. We talk about stories of when he was younger. He say’s how much he misses his step-dad (whom is in Iraq doing contract work to get back what we have lost over the past two years and so that he can give his family a great life). When he is away from his dad, he is his old self, but when he is with his dad, he is clearly afraid or intimidated?
There are certain details missing from this story, but nothing that makes this right. I have no criminal history. I do not drink excessively (hardly at all), I never beat my child, and I always put him first. I have read, talked, and heard so many stories similar to mine. And, it IS the courts fault for failing me and so many others. But, at the end of the day, the ones that they are really failing are the children. I did not put my son in the “middle”. The courts did with more poor decision making and rulings than my one poor decision that I made to let my son get to know his father. My son is now becoming numb to the fight, like I once did. He is getting used to being with someone that does not have his best interest at heart, because if his father did, he would not be alienating him from his mother.
If anything good came from this, it is that I have learned not to base my life on my child’s. I have become a broken woman, but stronger when put back together. I have learned that my family and my wonderful husband and great friends are always going to be there for me when I feel that I cannot take any more. Most importaly, I have learned not to trust and depend on the family court system to do their jobs. But, for myself to make the right choices from here out.