(We should scrap the whole damn legal system, because it sucks.)
The following was written by my good friend Jennifer as an editorial to the Florida Today newspaper on March 24, 1998 - the day she learned that she had lost legal custody of two of her three children. I am very close to the kids in question, and this whole sad episode upsets me greatly. It is reprinted here in the hopes that in some small way it might help bring about some change, someplace, and maybe keep somebody else from experiencing what Jen and all of her many loved ones now have to go through because of this travesty.
"Possession is 9/10ths of the law". This saying really hit home for me this past week when I lost custody of my two beautiful children. Why? Because my husband took them out of state when he had me served divorce papers over a year ago, and when he came back in town he moved into his parent's home with the children. Due to the wonderful "justice system" in this county [Brevard county, Florida - MSW], it took almost a year to get a trial date. During this time, I was forced to only see my children every other weekend and two week nights every other week, as if my husband already had custody. There were many times when I didn't get to see my children when he conveniently "forgot" to tell me he was taking them away on the weekend. I didn't even get to see both children on Mother's Day. My husband was working two jobs, and then working at least twenty hours of overtime a week. Did he ask me if I could take care of the children while he was at work? No. He was content to let his mother raise our children instead of me.
I thought my experience with getting wrongfully sued and losing because the other side paid a process server to lie was pretty bad. But this one truly takes the cake... I can deal with owing some money wrongly, that will someday be over with and life goes on. But keeping two beautiful children away from their mother and keeping them with a father who is very selfish, immature, not willing to let their mother see them half the time just as a way to hurt her, and who passes off most responsibility for raising them to his mother? The judge must have rocks in his head!! Jennifer is a perfectly fit mother who has made a lot of big sacrifices in her life for the sake of her children's well-being, while her ex-husband Chris has been quite selfish about what he wants for himself and has often used the children as a tool to try to get it. I have known both of them for many years, and Jen is not the one I am worried about.
I, as well as the other people who know what is going on, are hoping and praying that this situation will be reversed soon. We are all numb from shock - how could such an obviously unjust decision be issued from a court that is charged with looking out for the best interest of the children?? In effect, this particular Brevard County Circuit Court judge has sent the message that the ends justifies the means, despite the fact that the children are living with someone that has demonstrated a distinct lack of maturity and a willingness to use the children as pawns in a childish game to prove he's always right. Jen has never wanted, nor threatened, Chris with not having access to his children. She has never even said (nor does she believe) that he does not love his children or that he should be denied the right to see them often. She has made every attempt to be reasonable and work something out, but Chris has been unwilling to listen at every turn. He has often denied Jen access to her own children, and what's worse it that it was almost always simply to hurt her and "show her who's boss", which certainly is not a sign of being responsible or looking out for the best interests of the children.
This is doubly hard for me because I was Chris's best friend since high school. I was even the best man in his wedding. Now I have about as much respect for him as for your typical deer tick, because every single thing he's done since the divorce has been based on his own obsession with hurting Jen and gloating over his ability to use custody of the kids as a weapon to hurt their mother - and he is blind to the effects it has had on the children themselves. In fact, Chris's lawyer tried to settle the case out of court just minutes before the trial because with all that he has done, it must have seemed extremely likely that they were going to lose. And yet, somehow, this decision comes down from the bench despite all evidence to the contrary! I hope and pray that justice, in the legal sense, will somehow prevail in the end. Unfortunately, I can't be too hopeful, from all that I have seen so far. At least I know that God is watching and everyone involved will be held responsible for their actions in the end... I just pray that Chris sees the light and stops this pointless battle with no true winners, before any more damage is done to his children.
Mike Whaley, March 25, 1998.
Latest Update - October 1998