My own private Guantanamo
July 20, 2006 4:40 PM   Subscribe

What recourse do fathers who receive Massachusetts 209A restraining ? From what I can gather, a woman can say absolutely anything and get a restraining order imposed. I got one yesterday taking custody away from me for alleged threat of violence I made. At the time I was over 200 miles away. I didn't think I was that powerful.

It looks like all I can do is wait for the hearing in about a week. I haven't even received a copy of the affadavit saying what I am supposed to have done.

I sent an email to my children this morning trying to tell them that everything would be okay and was rewarded with a call from the local police saying that I was going to be arrested.

Luckily, I have a good attorney who told me to lay low and stay away from the town so I didn't have to spend any time in the local accommodations. (Sandwhich, Massachusetts)

My lawyer says we have a very good chance of getting the whole thing overturned in a week, but in the meanwhile, I can't talk with my children to tell them what is happening or respond to the as yet non-existent charge.

What can I do? I am not looking for "Sit down and set a spell" responses. It galls me that I have to wait one minute to go to the court to have this nonsense overturned.

What is even more galling is that my attorney tells me that even if the judge finds that the accusation was made in bad faith and is a total fabrication, they won't go after the accuser.

What a country!
posted by notmtwain to Human Relations (54 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I did find this: Defending against a Chapter 209A Restraining Order
posted by notmtwain at 4:42 PM on July 20, 2006

Response by poster: PS I have a clean record. I was never ever physically abusive during the marriage. (The law requires a threat of serious physical violence. Mental cruelty doesn't cut it.) I never made any threats.

And I do respect the need for actual victims of abuse to have some quick recourse. This law, however, seems to leave room open for false accusations to be made.
posted by notmtwain at 4:44 PM on July 20, 2006

maybe i'm spiteful, but one its overturned, i might go after her for personal damages, ect. ect. then i'd fight to get full custody of my children. she's already filed a complaint in bad faith, so she's already proved herself to be a moral danger to the children. thats stretching it i know, but...
posted by Davaal at 4:49 PM on July 20, 2006

FWIW, it's exactly the same in England too. I used to be a family lawyer, and acted for dozens of people in your position.

Do as your lawyer says. I know it'll be a difficult few days, but please resist the temptation to try to contact your children as this will add fuel to the fire from the perception of the other party.

And above all, don't, I repeat DO NOT get your children involved in this by giving them any information about it. One thing family court judges really, really dislike is a parent who tells the children about the ongoing court proceedings. Plus the kids always think it's they're fault and it'll fuck 'em up in later years.
posted by essexjan at 4:51 PM on July 20, 2006

Listen to your lawyer. Trying to "do anything" will most likely work against you. I know that your angry and upset, but let the lawyer deal with it. Good luck.
posted by bim at 4:53 PM on July 20, 2006

As far as what you can do, you should take your attorney's advice. Yes, it is galling to be falsely accused, but you should resist your impulses to try and clear your name outside the system at this point -- it'll just get you in more trouble.

Perhaps, after -- well after -- this has all blown over and your situation has been straightened out, you could consider doing something to raise awareness about the unfairness of the system that doesn't punish perjurers. Your attorney may have advice on that front; and there are probably support group organizations in your area for non-custodial dads you could contact (it's certain the same thing has happened with plenty of other people).

If you're really fired up about it, you could even contact your local news stations and see if they'd pick it up as a local interest story on a slow news day ("Ex-husband falsely accused, no penalty for mom who lied," or something). But any kind of public fuss you make about this would drag your kids into it, and I'm sure you don't want that. In any case, wait until the current mess is well and truly sorted out and you are exonerated before you do anything like that. One thing at a time, man.
posted by Gator at 4:56 PM on July 20, 2006

The "system" is probably weighted to granting restraining orders, as the consequences of prosecutors and judges failing to do so in borderline cases can be beatings or death, and women statistically make up the majority of the "victims" of "domestic violence," although an arms length statistical relationship between court actions and results has never been scientifically demonstrated. That's just 21st century American family law. The syndicated radio show His Side with Glenn Sacks discusses the issue, along with other men's and father's rights, and you might get some strategies by perusing his Web site linked above.

Dwelling on the unfairness doesn't help. Taking the high road, focusing on your children's welfare, and otherwise cutting all contact with the plaintiff behind this are far and away your best moves. I hope you'll get this overturned, but frankly, that's usually something lawyers tell their clients in these situations, so that the clients will cool off for a week, retain the lawyer, and show up for court. They then have about a 95% conversion rate turning those clients for divorce business. YMMV.

But whatever you do, whatever seems fair and right, no matter what, don't screw up the rest of your life, and those of your kids. Any vestigial satisfaction you might somehow get from the plaintiff is never worth it. Freedom is.
posted by paulsc at 5:10 PM on July 20, 2006

Just remember that while a woman can say anything and get one of these issued, thereby causing you a week of grief, if you're exonerated it will almost ALWAYS come out later on as a very negative bullet during any future custody disputes.

i.e.: "Your honor, the mother of these children has attempted to unfairly manipulate the court and judicial system to keep rightful custody of my client's children from him. Her personality is far too unstable and manipulative to provide a decent upbringing and a good life example for these children, and the father should have increased custody and decreased support payments."

Wouldn't that be nice?

Get yourself cleared and use it as a tool later. Be cool and collected about it, handle it like a man and a good, patient father should, and give your kids a hug when it's all over.
posted by SpecialK at 6:07 PM on July 20, 2006

Look, the court will have seen it all -- false accusations, true accusations, abusive fathers, saintly fathers. They for sure don't get it wrong as often as aggrieved abusive parents would have us think.

Your children have had their whole lifetimes to learn that you love them. A week (or even longer) won't change things.

There are only one group of sure winners from the system -- the lawyers. Watch that they don't escalate things unnecessarily.

Taking any form of revenge on their mother is unlikely to be in the kids' best interest. Trying to figure out her motivation may be.
posted by Idcoytco at 6:10 PM on July 20, 2006

Can you have your lawyer deliver a letter to the kids saying you love them and will be able to talk to them personally in a week? Have your lawyer give it to her lawyer.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:45 PM on July 20, 2006

It seems like it also might be wise to stop posting about this on your blog, at least for a while.
posted by advil at 6:55 PM on July 20, 2006

I can only imagine how angry this must make you. I wouldn't advise "sitting a spell," because that would infantilize you and ignore the massive sense of injustice which you rightly feel. Just remember that the wheels of justice turn slowly sometimes and that right now is not a good time for you to do anything, first, because you're angry, and second, because your case hasn't been heard yet. You seem to be suffering from an abuse of a law designed to protect real victims. It sucks godzilla balls to have to wait it out until your hearing next week, and clearly the law is poorly designed to handle your case. It was a low blow and is going to cost you a week of anger and frustration. But don't take the bait and do anything you'll regret. Wait a week, clear your name, and then move deliberately and directly toward what you want long-term: a relationship with your kids. You have a lot to lose in these next few days.
posted by scarabic at 6:58 PM on July 20, 2006

It might help to consider that everyone who's ever been wrongly accused of a crime probably feels your same outrage. And many of them spend weeks, months in jail or under bond waiting for their trial to end and exonerate them. It totally sucks, but how else would you design a justice system? I guess I'm trying to make you feel better by pointing out that what you're going through isn't a huge flaw in the justice system, and that's probably not going to help. Perhaps it does help to point out that it's not just something that women can do to men in Massachussets under this one particular law.
posted by scarabic at 7:01 PM on July 20, 2006

I have been waiting for many years for the balance-of-power pendulum in MA to swing back to a position less punitive towards fathers. No signs of that happening, unfortunately.

Your best approach is to always take the high road - do nothing that can be used as evidence that you're trying to circumvent a court order, or involve the children in the dispute, or get back at the mother. Doing any of those things will hurt your position in court. Not doing any of those things will make you look good, and the mother's transgressions will look worse in contrast.

Best of luck.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:03 PM on July 20, 2006

Your fury can only hurt you. Going outside the system will get you good and properly fucked, and there is a reason you are paying your lawyer a lot of money: he is there to advocate for your best interests. Sit tight. Don't fuck up.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:06 PM on July 20, 2006

Can you have your lawyer deliver a letter to the kids saying you love them and will be able to talk to them personally in a week? Have your lawyer give it to her lawyer.

No. Don't do that. That's violating the spirit, if not the letter of the restraining order. Do. Not. Take. That. Advice.
posted by SpecialK at 7:18 PM on July 20, 2006

Oh, and yeah, remove all external stuff about a court case. Just don't talk about it in your name (especially on your blog) until it's resolved.
posted by SpecialK at 7:19 PM on July 20, 2006

The best advice you're going to receive will come from your lawyer. Disregard anything you read on the Internet, in this forum or elsewhere, if it conflicts with your lawyer's advice.

But let me say this...
From what I can gather, a woman can say absolutely anything and get a restraining order imposed.
That's about it, yeah. Basically she has to meet the legal requirement of saying "please," and any judge will grant a temporary restraining order. Obviously the logic is, "Better safe than sorry." This is a particularly poorly-constructed tuna net that catches lots of dolphins, so maybe it will alleviate your frustration somewhat to know this: This is not your own special circumstance. This exact situation has happened to lots of fathers before you, and it's happening to lots of other fathers right now. It's an unfortunately common circumstance in our legal system — the only silver lining of which is the fact that the judge you draw will know this.
posted by cribcage at 7:21 PM on July 20, 2006

Keep in contact with your lawyer, and ask your lawyer these questions. If you want to try to get a communication to your kids, talk to your lawyer about the best way to do it.
I'm assuming this woman got the 209A by going to court without you - that's why you have to go back next week. It's my (non-lawyer) understanding that the current ban is temporary and the real RO gets put into place next week, which means you have to devote your efforts in the meantime to being the innocent and wronged good father.

Try to stay constructively-focused on how to make the best of your relationship with your kids, instead of how to get back at this woman. Talk to your lawyer about what he/she thinks will impress the judge the most, and then take your lawyer's advice.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 7:32 PM on July 20, 2006

Yeah, that letter from Jerry you posted on your blog? That sounded fairly sensible to me. Obviously it didn't sound sensible to you. Are you bipolar? Have you been acting in ways that others, especially your ex, might interpret as erratic or threatening? Has your divorce perhaps left you more bitter and misogynist than you might otherwise be? (Hint: men can get restraining orders too, unless a 209A restraining order is somehow limited to women, and I don't see anything to indicate that it is.)

Being 200 miles away has absolutely no bearing on whether you can make someone feel threatened or not. If you called her up and said something like "I don't know what I'm going to have to do to you in order to get to see my kids", I think she'd be entirely justified in feeling like you were threatening physical violence.

And, dude, you violated a restraining order when you emailed your kids. Did you not understand what the restraining order meant? Or did you think that since you don't believe you made a threat, you shouldn't have to comply with the terms of the order? You're not showing good judgment here, and it makes me wonder how good your judgment is about what is and is not threatening.

If you haven't given your ex reason to believe that you might hurt her or the kids, then no, it's not fair that you have to wait for the wheels of justice to grind away before you can get this thing overturned. But your lawyer will already have told you that. So what are you hoping we'll tell you? That it's ok to ignore a restraining order that you don't believe is fair?
posted by hades at 7:39 PM on July 20, 2006 [2 favorites]

In addition to letting your lawyer take care of things, stop and think about why this restraining order may have been issued. Don't do anything--especially anything that could be construed as violating the terms and conditions of the restraining order--but really stop and think. While I'm sure that it's possible that some women just make stuff up (and others may blow things out of proportion) to have a restraining order issued, there's generally some kind of valid reason. This is where stopping to think about your actions as well as how your actions affect your children comes in. Be honest with yourself, even if you don't tell anyone else - if you can identify flaws in your behaviour, you can fix them and save yourself a lot of heartache and drama in the future.

In the meantime, don't violate the restraining order! Let your lawyer take care of it and if you're able to identify things you probably shouldn't have done (which may or may not be the case), don't do them again. Show yourself to be an exemplary father concerned about the welfare of his children rather than a man who is upset at the actions of his expartner. Act in good faith and take the high road so that once this order is overturned, it won't be reinstated!
posted by lumiere at 7:47 PM on July 20, 2006

Granted I am not in MA, but I find it kind of curious those of you who seem to think restraining orders are passed out like candy. Yes, they are easy for real victims to get. However, out of the literally hundreds of hearings I have watched, probably 30% or more are dismissed because the judge determines that the petitioner is not actually afraid, or that nothing happened, etc.

As for this situation, I'm sorry you have to deal with this. A lot of women use restraining orders as leverage going into a divorce or custody proceeding, and it really makes me sick what with all of the serious abuse victims that legitimately need them. What you have to do is stop contacting her and the kids - doing so makes you look like an unstable person who can't follow a court order. Not good when you are trying to show the court that you are credible. Also, why the hell do you want to try to talk about this case with your children? That is a fantastic way to get custody taken away, whether in this case of a future custody modification. Any attempts to turn your children against the other parent will reflect terribly on you.

And as for the law leaving holes for false accusations, well, that is what the final hearing is for. Stop jeopardizing your own case so that the judge can actually believe what you say, otherwise he just may believe your ex.
posted by gatorae at 7:48 PM on July 20, 2006

whether in this case or a future custody modification.
posted by gatorae at 7:50 PM on July 20, 2006 others suggested I think I'd yank that blog down until all this is all settled. You don't want to give your ex's lawyer anything at all to use against you. That yahoo letter thingie has got to go, IMHO. Oy.
posted by bim at 7:55 PM on July 20, 2006

Look, I went to your blog and read the letter.

I myself am bipolar just so you know. I know you think that everyone is wrong and you are right here-but the problem is that people like us can be very wrong when the chemicals in our brains are lying to us.

For the sake of your kids, and your own sake-seek treatment. Yes, it requires you swallowing your pride (and it is harder for bp guys, I know) but if you are proactive it will be to your benefit.

I have been on both sides of this, having a husband who was diagnosed bp as well, and at times he was very unreasonable while having absolutely no insight. I myself have had that happen to me too. But apparently you have people more than willing to work with you and that is an incredible gift.

I wish you well, this has to be horribly painful for you.
posted by konolia at 8:09 PM on July 20, 2006

My parents went through a horrifically messy divorce and then spent nearly 10 years in the courts fighting for custody and visitation rights to my brother and I. It permanently and irreperably damaged our relationships with our parents. My brother will not speak to our father and has not done so for nearly a decade.

I have no idea who Jerry Chambers is, or what his relationship to you and your ex-wife is, though my guess is that he's the new husband. I'll ask you though, doesn't the desperate tone in his email trigger alarm bells somewhere inside you? Dismissing him as a "yahoo" seems a little too easy; you don't have to listen to his advice, but you can you at least read it as a plea for you to stop a minute and take stock of things; if not for him, for the sake of other who care about you (like your kids)?

Getting a lawyer and having this restraining order overturned will be for nothing if you are unwilling to address the bigger picture; this is not just about you. Furthermore, this is not just about your wife and it is not just about her new husband. Your children are not ammunition in the battle to see who has the last word on a failed relationship, no matter how far down the line you guys have now moved.

Ultimately, you should ask yourself this; when all this has played out and your kids are no longer minors, do you want them to call you and visit you because they feel obliged to contact you, or because they need to see you?
posted by davehat at 12:57 AM on July 21, 2006

I'm a lawyer. I can't give you advice on what to do, because there is nothing legal or physical to do right now that your lawyer won't be telling you. What you are suffering from is the anxiety that goes along with cases and you want an answer to take away that anxiety by doing something. You can't. I always tell my clients to get a mental health professional to talk to, because you are just going to run up your bill with the lawyer calling him all of the time or screw things up by doing something dumb.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:39 AM on July 21, 2006

i'm going to give you something i haven't seen here yet: hope. i was in exactly the same situation almost ten years ago. my ex wife attempted to have me completely removed from my son's life--starting with a false accusation of abuse.

the upshot was i won--by doing a lot of things people have suggested here. don't do anything you aren't supposed to--like try to contact the kids. don't bad mouth the mother when you see them, and try like hell to keep them out of the fight.

this is only the first step in a custody battle. your ex is probably trying to do other things against you--if you find out what they are, then tell yr lawyer.

and when you are acquitted of charges, take the next step to get the records expunged quickly.
posted by lester at 8:34 AM on July 21, 2006

Um, I read your blog. I think there may be a reason why that restraining order was put into place. And I think there's a reason why it may be upheld in court. Seek professional help.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:34 AM on July 21, 2006

There are a number of things in this post and on your blog that concern me, as someone who used to work at a domestic violence crisis center. My primary responsibility was to help people get restraining orders, so I am very familiar with the burden of proof involved and the review process.

1. You repeatedly imply that everyone (your ex, the courts, Jerry, etc) is wrong except you. Does that sound reasonable? Judges see dozens of these cases a day, year after year and know which are legitimate and which aren't. They don't hand out restraining orders to everyone who asks; if they did, I wouldn't have had a job.

2. Nowhere on your blog or on this post did you show any concern whatsoever for your wife's feelings. In fact, you mocked them.

3. Your belief that everyone who doesn't agree with you is wrong is so strong that you don't even recognize a sincere and kind letter from someone who cares about you. You called someone who wants to help a "yahoo."

4. You showed a lack of respect for the law by emailing your children after the order was in place. Based on my experience, I'd bet money that you said something unkind about their mother in that email, which is incredibly hurtful to the children and a serious violation of the order.

Taken together, these things paint a picture of someone who shows no conern for the people around him and does not have a rational understanding of the effect of his own actions. ***This kind of warped perspective makes you dangerous.***

Everything I have listed above is *textbook abuser behavior.* You might say, "But I'm not violent. I know I'd never hurt anyone." Well, first of all, I doubt that, and second, the restraining order isn't there to protect you. It's there for the people around you who are concerned by your actions.

Please, please, please go talk to a therapist. I have seen these kinds of conflicts drag on for years. As a professional, I think your wife's restraining order has a good chance of being renewed, meaning that this is just the first skirmish in what will turn out to be a protracted battle that will have terrible consequences for your kids.

So get the help that will allow you to reach a compromise with your wife. Yeah, it's hard to admit that someone else might have a good point-- especially when you're angry at that person-- and it's hard to admit that you might not be who you thought you were. But parents who love their children do hard things for their children. That's what being a mature, responsible parent is all about.
posted by chickletworks at 10:29 AM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

chickletworks said:

***This kind of warped perspective makes you dangerous.***

Everything I have listed above is *textbook abuser behavior.* You might say, "But I'm not violent. I know I'd never hurt anyone." Well, first of all, I doubt that...

In all fairness to notmtwain, I think that these statements are going WAY overboard. He is upset and angry and maybe he does have some things to work out with a therapist, but this is going too far IMHO.

I used to work with someone who had some major issues with his ex. And he belonged to a Father's Rights group here in NY. And yes, he would get all worked up when the subject of divorce laws came up -- to the point where we'd all finally just roll our eyes and let him ramble on. And yes, he and the folks speaking on behalf of that group often sounded a bit nutty. But...and its a big but, I don't believe for a minute that my friend would have ever hurt anyone. Period. He just felt like he was being royally screwed by the system. And he wasn't one to suffer in silence. I'm not good at that either.

So let's give notmtwain the benefit of the doubt, eh?
posted by bim at 4:25 PM on July 21, 2006

Response by poster: So last night I came home at about 11PM and wanted to take a shower. Within fifteen minutes of my arrival, the police were here. I was in the shower as the heard the telltale "beep-beep" that means that someone has opened a door. I got out of the shower, put on some swim trunks and the shirt I had been wearing earlier, and headed downstairs to aks "Who's there?'

The police were nice enough about it, but I had to spend the night in jail in Mattapoisett. In the morning, I was eventually transported to court (I'll spare you most of the gory details but leg schackles and hand cuffs were employed.) When I finally saw a judge at about 12:30PM, by myself, I was released in about five minutes. The judge said,"I'm not going to hold him because of an email."

The rest of the afternoon was spend walking into Hyannis to rent a car and talking with friends on the phone. I got home about a half an hour ago.

I feel very good that we can pursue perjury charges against my ex.

posted by notmtwain at 5:06 PM on July 21, 2006

Response by poster: and anyone else who has been making false accusations about me.

I am looking forward to seeing my children after the hearing next week. I feel confident that this will all work out and am optimistic that this whole thing will redound in my favor.

It's a funny thing. Some people have been leaving nasty comments on my blog and don't seem to realize that IP addresses can be identified....
posted by notmtwain at 5:13 PM on July 21, 2006

Response by poster: Oh and Chickletworks, I have been to a therapist and to a psychiatrist and they think I am fine.

I am concerned for the feelings of my ex but I'm having a hard time feeling much sympathy for her right now because I just got out of jail. "Words like classic signs of an abuser" are so helpful! You obviously are willing to make judgements first and ask questions later-- if it doesn't interfere with your tennis game.

My ex brought this whole thing on herself and I hope that she enjoys her turn in the wringer.
posted by notmtwain at 5:17 PM on July 21, 2006

Response by poster: And chickletworks, the writer of that letter is a yahoo and I will particularly enjoy pursuing a discussion of his theories of mania in front of a judge. He said that he can tell when I am manic because I wear my glasses when I am manic and I wear contacts when I am normal.

And his so called research is non-existent. The research I did said that mothers and step-fathers are much more likely to kill their kids than fathers. If you want, I will send you a link to it. (I will post it here once I have some dinner and a few beers.)

I know you were trying to be helpful but sympathizing with a man who thinks all manics are capable of infanticide is ludicrous.

And I am not manic. My doctor (MD) said so. Again. Even after my father had talked with him and told him the things about me that he was concerned about. So I didn't "fool him" as the yahoo suggested.

But thanks for your concern.
posted by notmtwain at 5:25 PM on July 21, 2006

I know people basically said it upthread, need to calm down and stop posting about this anywhere on the internet again, no matter how riled you are. And you need a way to not be riled by comments like those in this thread.

It's really pretty easy to find this thread if someone knows your blog's name.
posted by advil at 5:53 PM on July 21, 2006

Glad you're out of jail, dude. Take advil's advice though. Protect yourself by keeping your cards close to your chest. I wouldn't be discussing my dating escapades online either.

Best wishes for your upcoming hearing.
posted by bim at 6:00 PM on July 21, 2006

Bim and OP:
When I speak of "signs of abuse," I am not necessarily talking about physical abuse. There are a lot of ways to hurt someone or make someone's life unpleasant without lifting a finger.

I can give you an example taken directly from this post.
OP wrote It's a funny thing. Some people have been leaving nasty comments on my blog and don't seem to realize that IP addresses can be identified....
Can be identified and... what? No, there is explicit threat of retaliation or violence here, but there is an insinuation that 1.) OP is angry and 2.) OP has the resources he needs to strike back. If I were one of the people who had left a comment on the blog, this kind of statement would scare me. And if these are the kinds of statements you've been making to your wife, then she absolutely deserves her restraining order. OP, if you do not understand that, then you need help. Period.

This thread makes me incredibly sad. I feel terrible: most of all for your children, and of course for your wife, but I also feel sorry for you. I wish that, instead of having to spend hundreds of dollars on legal fees, you could have respectful, rational conversations with the people around you. You're obviously very unhappy but you don't understand the cause of your unhappiness and, subsequently can't begin to change it. I truly do wish you the best, but I am also aware that your situation is not going to change until you do some deep introsepction.

I hope you get better. I hope your family is okay. I really do.
posted by chickletworks at 9:27 PM on July 21, 2006

Oy, MTwain. This is a hell of a thread.

Obviously, I don't know you or any more about your situation than you have told here and on your blog, but I do have a story for you.

One my closest friends from my late teens-early twenties was the first in our group to get married. We as his friends watched with concern as wife turned out to be a psychotic harpy from Hell. After cheating on him and trashing his credit got old, she divorced him. Her mom was a divorce lawyer. He was screwed in every possible way. She filed a restraining order against him also, and I would bet my hand he never did and never would behave violently. He loved his daughter, but couldn't see her at all for months at a time, and was constantly in court.

(Lest my expressions sound too strong, I am not a misogynist, I am a woman, and no, I never had any romantic interest in this guy whatever.)

So what happened? In despair, he started drinking. This did not improve his situation. Drama upon drama for ten years. Then -- he stopped fighting (he found Jesus, actually, but YMMV). He decided to forgive his mondo-ultra-superbitch of an ex-wife, and just wait for the day when his daughter could see for herself who he really was, and how much he loved her. He was a new man. Mothra had been taking up so much of his energy for the past ten years, his friends almost didn't recognize the happy, productive guy he became.

And damn if he didn't get primary custody that same year. Apparently his ex-wife never could let go of her own bitterness, and when his daughter asked to live with him, all that counted against the ex-wife -- whereas he was the guy who turned his life around, the model of maturity.

Your ex-wife may be a terrible person, but you can rise above. Don't get so mired in reacting to her that you let her write your story.
posted by Methylviolet at 10:14 PM on July 21, 2006

Chicklet -- If you define "abuse" so broadly that even a stern look qualifies, the concept becomes meaningless.

People get angry. People argue. People try to screw each other over to get their own way. That's just human nature. It's not the end of civilization as we know it.

As much as we'd all love omnipresent peace and love, it just isn't going to happen. We have to recognize that there will always be some turmoil in human interactions. That's not the same as violence though.

Now let me be clear. I'm a woman. I'm a feminist. I'm down with "the program." Sisterhood is powerful and all that. Take back the night and a million other things. And yes, many women are victims of abuse at the hands of men. No doubt about it.

But I also try to be fair. And if women cry wolf over every teeny weeny little slight, it does more harm than good in the long run.

As I said earlier, I don't think that anyone is in imminent danger. That's just my opinion sitting here. Folks are just duking it out in a nasty child custody situation. That's all.
posted by bim at 10:26 PM on July 21, 2006

I've just re-read all of this. chickletworks is a little OTT, but bear in mind that s/he worked in a domestic violence centre, so his/her viewpoint is somewhat skewed towards a subset of people in these situations.

From the evidence of your latest posts here, your currently having rather a raw time of it, to say the least. However, you appear to be overlooking your children's feelings yet again. Your kids probably don't care who's right or wrong over this. What they see is two people they love threatening one another like cold war adversaries bickering over strategic resources. Step by step, the ante is upped till the only option is thermonuclear war and absolute devastation on both sides.

Who's going to press that button?

I feel very good that we can pursue perjury charges against my ex.

My ex brought this whole thing on herself and I hope that she enjoys her turn in the wringer.

Will it be you?
posted by davehat at 2:59 AM on July 22, 2006

From the letter:
"You are so irrational and your intimidation of the women in your life including ambiguous threats, such as "I don't know what I have to do to you to get to see the kids" are physically threatening and your inability to adhere to a court order is even more scary

From your post above:
"Some people have been leaving nasty comments on my blog and don't seem to realize that IP addresses can be identified...."

I don't have an axe to grind here, nor do the other posters. From this thread, and your blog, I am getting a distinct impression that you are having trouble making sense of things, and that you have a penchant for making ambiguous threats. Seriously, for you and your children's good, I would take that blog down, perhaps ask the admins here to yank this post (I don't know if they do that), and stop posting at all. Find a good therapist to talk this all over with.

Best of luck
posted by Manjusri at 3:39 AM on July 22, 2006

I agree with Davehat that, to untrained eye, OP's actions seem ambiguous and perhaps not beyond the pale. But I vehemently disagree with anyone who says that punches have to be thrown or someone has to end up in the emergency room before it "counts" as abuse. Abuse isn't about violence, it's about power and control. What differentiates an abuser from a "normal" person is that abusers are willing to use much more extreme measures-- including threats and violence-- to gain power and control over the people in their lives. Abuse is about a certain kind of motivation which may or may not manifest itself in violence, but is always harmful to the person at whom it is directed, whether physically or emotionally. Let me try to explain:

Abusers aren't simply people who are mean or violent by nature. Abusers aren't people with "anger management problems." In fact, abusers are people who are extremely efficient at managing their anger and using it to gain power and control of people in their lives.

If abusive behavior were a matter of anger management, we would expect to see abusers lashing out at people every time they became upset. But they don't. Abusers don't hit their bosses, they don't hit their friends, they don't hit random passersby on the street. They only lash out at specific people in their lives-- unfortunately, their families-- and they use these outbursts to gain power and control over their family members.

It is abundantly clear that OP wishes to have the "upper hand" against his wife. And Bim is correct in noting that this is, to some extent, human nature and a normal part of interpersonal conflict. What is not normal are the tactics OP is willing to use to secure the upper hand: threats, intimidation, and manipulation. It is both the end and the means that I find troubling here.

I should note that I do not see abuse as a purely feminist issue. Men are abused by women and by other men much more frequently than people realize, and I worked with many male clients at the crisis center. In fact, I have worked on quite a few cases where an abusive woman used a restraining order as a way to gain control over her male partner. If I thought that that was the case here, I would gladly share with the OP everything I know about defeating a restraining order. However, what I see here is not someone who is being "pushed around." What I see here -- based on years of training and work with victims *and* abusers-- is conclusive evidence of controlling, abusive behavior. It is not a charge I level lightly and I only make it because I have seen OP's behaviors exhibited by abusers over and over and over.

I encourage everyone to rethink their assumptions about abuse and healthy relationships and to not see abuse as a black and white issue. Abuse is about more than ending up in the hospital; it's about relationships that are based on fear and domination, in whatever form that may take.
posted by chickletworks at 10:52 AM on July 22, 2006

NotMTwain, your tone is pretty angry, you're riled up, itchin' for a fight.

Yes, pretty much anybody can get a Temporary restraining order, and very often, it will be made into a (2 year or so) restraining order, with very little to back it up. A judge reading your blog and postings here would probably grant the order. They are often very conservative, and subject to a great deal of political pressure. It's often unfair, and often abused by assholes of either gender. Someone close to me was recently screwed this way.

Does the order say that you may not contact your children? That would be odd. They have a right to be in touch with you. They need you. And they really, really need you to calm down and change your focus from her (and her boyfriend?) to them, and how you will be a great dad through separation and divorce. They need you to listen to them, and to ignore her when you're with them, in person, on the phone, or in email. You don't lobby them to like you better, you don't trash talk her or the guy.

You teach them to be the sort of people you think they should be. That means showing respect for both parents, all grandparents, and the potential stepparent. Keep your feelings and anger about their mom very far away from them, even if she is a horrible, evil whatever. You have an opportunity to be a hero to your kids. You may end up being an unsung hero, but it's still worth it. They will be damaged much more by this than you or her.
posted by theora55 at 4:12 PM on July 22, 2006

Response by poster: Chickletworks, sorry to dissappoint you, but I have been trying to negotiate and my ex wouldn't return my calls. Furthermore, I'm angry but not bitter about having had to spend the night in jail. I think that the system worked. Some of the other people I met in jail were a lot more scared. They were facing years and years and some of them seemed quite nice.

But I don't know how to deal with your theories: so I am not physically violent but I am still abusive because I like to see my kids and I get upset when my ex tells me I can't.

I don't quite understand your theory. What would you recommend?

And to the rest of you-- thanks for your concern, but I haven't done anything, so I'm not worried about people finding my blog. So far I have about 5 of my friends who have offered to show up at the hearing to tell the judge, if he or she will listen, that I am not violent.
posted by notmtwain at 9:03 PM on July 23, 2006

Chickletworks, sorry to dissappoint you, but I have been trying to negotiate and my ex wouldn't return my calls.

Am I reading this wrong or are you still calling your wife after she got a restraining order?

notmtwain to chickletworks: I don't quite understand your theory. What would you recommend?

notmtwain to everyone else: And to the rest of you-- thanks for your concern, but I haven't done anything, so I'm not worried about people finding my blog.

So let me get this straight, you are dismissing the majority of the advice given here, and soliciting further advice from one person (chickletworks) who's viewpoint you clearly do not agree with. It looks like you are spoiling for an arguement. Surely you are just re-enforcing chickletworks view of you in doing so. Do you not see this?
posted by davehat at 12:17 AM on July 24, 2006

chickletworks: i'm sure your very dedicated, and right most of the time .. yet someone in your position believed my ex wife and her story of abuse. the end result is that, thanks to someone in your postion, my custody battle was extended by about two years. please remember that each situation is different, and there is often two sides to a story.
posted by lester at 2:34 PM on July 24, 2006

Man, I thought it before, and I am sure of it now.

Bipolar. With a capital B.

You need meds before you really screw your life up totally.

(And again, I'm on meds myself. Go do a search on Bunnyfire on this very site -Metafilter-and you'll see how out of control I got whilst thinking everyone else was full of crap. This was back in 2002.)
posted by konolia at 7:32 PM on July 24, 2006

Response by poster: davehat, those are rhetorical questions, meant to prod her to use that thing in her head between her ears. (Most everyone has one but sometimes it seems like people are reluctant to try them out.)

and yes I am currently under care and my doctor does feel I need any prescriptions right now. He has had me stop taking Adderall and I stopped the antidepressants a month ago.

and konolio, I don't think that everyone is full of crap. My friends are with me. My sisters and brothers are with me. My doctors are with me. My lawyers is with me (yes, he has to be but I have a new lawyer as of today and it felt very good to replace the asshat who yelled at me for speaking up in court to the questions "So no one knows the facts here?" from the judge to the DA or assistant DA.

And even, dare I say it, God, is on my side. I have felt his sustaining power in many startling ways and much more strongly than I ever have before.

The only people full of crap are my ex, her husband, and my girlfriend's mother. Oh and my dad and mom are ailing because they swallowed a lot of crap. But they are getting better slowly and I expect a full recovery.

Three people, working together, can cause an awful lot of trouble.
posted by notmtwain at 9:59 PM on July 24, 2006

When I did this work (and gee does this thread make me remember why I no longer do this work!) I hated being taken advantage of by false stories of abuse and always tried to be conscious of the possibility that the people I sought to help weren't always playing fair. In Notmtwain's case, though, my conclusions were not drawn from any statements-- true or otherwise-- made by the "victim" but from this guy's own behavior. Still, your comment is well taken as you offer an important reminder. I really do regret your experience.

My, my, my.

God is on your side, huh? Wow. Well, I certainly know better than to get in the way of *that*!
posted by chickletworks at 12:16 AM on July 25, 2006

ya know, notmtwain, you are demonstrating some of the same traits as my ex wife ... and remember, she lost. if this 'yahoo' that you got the letter from on your blog is your ex's husband, then you need to seriously reevaluate what is going on. the only way to resolve this is to compromise. it's what's best for the kids, your ex, her husband and you. if you work things out, then you have the greatest chance at having a great relationship with your kids, and your ex.

and don't think that's a bad thing. my ex still refuses to talk to me. despite the pain she has caused me in the past, i wish she would.

back to you: this thread and so forth is big enough that someone may have already emailed your 'yahoo' with a link. if your lawyers find out about it, they will tell you the same thing. get yr fuckin' blog down now.

you have already lost the order of protection battle. willfully violating it demonstrated to the court that you cannot control your actions. be extremely careful, and do not violate any other court orders. your email will cost you $1000. in legal fees. hope it was worth it.

you had to change lawyers? not good. you are paying them a lot of money for their advice. they know more then you. keep your mouth shut in court, and do what you are told. answer questions simply and don't volunteer anything. let your lawyer do all the talking. this also cost you another $1500. in legal fees.

above all: shut the fuck up. stop talking about it with strangers. concentrate on the one thing: getting back into your kid's lives. the fastest way to do so is to work closely with your ex, and her husband, resolve those issues, and set up something that is mutually acceptable. it will be cheaper, less painful and immensely more rewarding. you should be willing to go through additional thearapy, supervised visits, etc. for a while ... because that is the key to resolving this issue. you are now more caught up in the fight then the goal.

for the record, my ex talked in court, violated court orders, and demanded sole custody with supervised visits. i never violated court orders, behaved well in court, and asked for joint custody. i also went through three psych evaluations, including one that was highly unfavorable to me.

oh, i don't know about you, but i found that adderall gave me the worst case of depression i had ever felt. i only took it for a week, and it took me two months to recover.
posted by lester at 8:51 AM on July 25, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks lester for your comments. I didn't have to pay the first asshat a dime. I asked and he said that we are good. He also badmouthed my new attorney to my father, telling my father that this new guy was a public defender, and real estate attorney and that I was making a big mistake. When this is all done, my new attorney may have reason to go after the asshat. For now, I will only tell you that the asshat is a former DA in the town where he works (Barnstable) and that there must be some reason he is the former DA.

I have a rock solid legal agreement with my ex. The court initially gave me joint custody. The agreement will allow me to get my kids back quickly. The other charges against my ex can probably wait a bit-- but that is up to the DA.
posted by notmtwain at 10:21 AM on July 25, 2006

You'd have been better off to switch doctors than lawyers.

Some forms of bipolar are hard to diagnose-even my excellent doc took a year, and that only because the antidepressant he had prescribed turned out to be making me worse. The wrong meds can really mess you up if you have this. And if you are being seen by a general practitioner instead of a psychiatrist (whose sole function is to properly prescribe meds) then you are NOT getting proper treatment. No generalist has the training to handle this without at least input from a specialist.

You can ignore everything in this thread and assume you are right, and maybe you are right but would you rather be right, or would you rather be able to see your children?
posted by konolia at 1:31 PM on July 25, 2006

Response by poster: konolia, I did switch doctors. My doctor is a Psychiatrist (MD) and I have also seen a psychologist (Phd). I have followed their suggestions. The psychologist and I ran out of things to talk about (until this happened.)

And just because you were seriously depressed and it took the doctor a long time to figure it out, don't believe that everyone is that hard to diagnose. Ya know, when I tell the Phd about the 80 floating pink elephants and bark like a seal, he gives me a quizzical look.

I never said I was always right. I realized that I was wrong in this situation because neither my ex-wife nor my girlfriend could handle their side of an argument. And that yahoo thing is just venting. He's actually a really nice guy when you're buying him a beer. I would feel more charitable towards him if I hadn't spent two nights in jail because of the bullshit that came sprouting from his mouth.
posted by notmtwain at 3:00 PM on July 27, 2006

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