One day many years ago, C.R. met a handsome and charming man. That’s right – her nightmare began, as they often do, as a dream.
You know the story: They were young and beautiful and he swept her off her feet with fireworks and dizzying chemistry. He lavished her with romance until C.R. felt loved like never before, and thought he was perfect, and believed that their relationship was meant to be.
Of course they got married because they couldn’t possibly imagine life without each other. Together they brought two adorable children into the world. An idyllic family, they were living the American Dream.
Well, it sure seemed that way . . . for a while.
Then came the night that C.R.’s adoring husband grabbed her and dragged her by her hair into their children’s play room and proceeded to beat her until he broke her bones.
After, C.R. knew she needed medical attention, so she went to a doctor who took x-rays of C.R.’s broken bones.
While on the mend physically, C.R. secretly began saving as much money as possible so she could rescue herself and her children from the dangerous abuse.
C.R. was diligent and focused. Only a few months after the assault and battery in the play room, C.R. had saved enough money to regain control over her life. She took herself and her children to a safe and peaceful place. C.R. was filled with hope as she began the arduous task of rebuilding their lives.
Of course, there was the matter of the divorce and child custody proceedings to go through, but C.R. was not afraid. She certainly didn’t expect the litigation to be pleasant, but she had an attorney and documented proof of the physical abuse (the x-rays), so she was confident that the judge would make decisions that would protect C.R. and her children from their abuser, and would allow C.R. to raise her children in a loving and violence-free environment.
But, abusers don’t stop being abusive just because their targets manage to escape.
Once C.R. left him, Mr. Handsome-and-Charming started using the court system to abuse her:
Time to resolve the litigation: 13 years
Number of different judges presiding over the case: 8
Number of docket entries: 824 (60 pages)
Number of trials for child custody: 2
Amount of money C.R. paid to her attorneys: $60,000
When C.R. could no longer afford to pay an attorney to represent her, she was forced to begin representing herself. Former hubby, of course, had no such difficulties.
Once C.R. was on her own, her former husband decided to stop paying his child support obligations. Then he deliberately violated an established custody order when he failed and refused to return the children to her following his normal visitation.
Eventually, as happens frequently when these types of abuse tactics are at play, C.R.’s children were turned against her and became as abusive to her as their father had been. Reluctantly, C.R. ended the second custody trial by relinquishing custody.
The former husband then announced he was in need of child support, so the judge awarded him child support back-dated to the time the former husband had stolen the children a year earlier, and added compounded interest instead of the simple interest mandated by law.
For some unknown reason the former husband’s child support debt to C.R. was cleared from the records without being paid or credited to her, and no interest had ever been added to his debt.
Less than a year after this child support hearing, the former husband went through a divorce from his second wife, which again included charges against him of domestic violence. The former husband boasted during this second divorce that he made a much larger income and owned many more valuable assets than he had testified to in the second child support proceeding with C.R.
Despite having the same judge for both cases, and after bringing this disparate sworn testimony to the judge’s attention, C.R. still was required to pay more than half her income in child support to the man who had almost killed her. C.R. even ended up paying too much child support by paying for the older son until he was almost 20 years old. Although the judge admitted he had neglected several amounts that the former husband had owed to C.R., the judge entered no orders correcting his mistakes.
The end results were that C.R. lost the love of her children, her home went into foreclosure, and she lived with friends until she could get back on her feet.
Three years after the last court hearing, C.R.’s former husband was driving while screaming at a client on his cell phone, and had a stroke. He died from the stroke two months later at age 51. C.R. was finally free from the legal abuse for the first time in 13 years.
C.R.’s children have remained hostile and have told people they are orphans. C.R. has abandoned all hope for a life with her children, and has finally resolved her depression. C.R. is now living a full life and helps other victims of legal abuse, which, she says, allows domestic violence survivors to be tortured via the court system, and ruins the lives of innocent children.
C.R.’s story is far from unique. For some good insight, read Mapping Gender: Shedding Empirical Light on Family Courts’ Treatment of Cases Involving Abuse and Alienation, published in the Law & Inequality Journal of the University of Minnesota Law School.
LawYou and its nonprofit arm, Pursuing Justice Foundation, Inc., actively work to solve this problem by educating litigants, engaging in advocacy efforts, and helping pay the expenses of litigation.
Copyright (c) 2015, 2020 by Sherri L. Renner, JD and LawYou America, LLC