I decided to fight for custody through the legal system. Will has wanted to do a Consent Order in which he and I sit down together and hash out the details of our separation. Whereas this may be possible concerning our financial matters, I am not willing to do it for custody issues.
I am, at this point, very unskilled at negotiation when it comes to my spouse. I give up something I want in hope of creating a mutually satisfying agreement. I see now that I’ve been wrong to do that. He says that he gives me an inch and I take a mile…in hindsight, I do not see how that comes even close to the truth. There was a time when I would second guess myself on that point, causing me to give up even more of what I wanted or needed or thought was right.
So, when I imagine sitting down at a table with him to reach a “fair settlement” via a consent order, I smell bullshit. And I sense that I would give up things that I don’t legally have to give up – at least, not yet.
A few nights ago, Will and I were on the phone talking about our court date on March 17th. It was initiated by my attorney and was a custody hearing. Because Will and I planned to pursue a Consent Order, he did not want to go to court for custody issues, and on that night we spoke, I didn’t see the point in it either.
That was, I didn’t see the point in it until he told me what he wanted. He wanted primary custody of both our boys and for them to live in our house together. He explained that he should be the one to manage their day to day lives and make the final decisions on issues regarding them. I said that I wanted joint custody. He said that was an interesting idea, one he hadn’t heard of, and would be willing to negotiate it.
I smelled bullshit. He knows about primary custody but “hasn’t heard” about joint custody?!
At this point, I have two options: I could negotiate a consent order concerning custody with Will. OR I could go through the legal system and let a judge decide.
I know that I am not yet capable of negotiating a fair agreement with my spouse.
In prior conversations, Will has indicated that I should explain to the boys that when the time comes, they are choosing a residence, not a parent. I initially thought that the boys would be choosing a lifestyle, not a parent. I see now that both Will and I are wrong. In the eyes of a child, any such choice boils down to choosing a parent, one over the other, for some reason.
In Will’s version of a Consent Order, the children would be forced to choose. Not now, but definitely later.
I considered both Marc and Eddie’s positions. Marc has already chosen. He wants to live with his father. Eddie told me that he doesn’t want to “choose a residence” and that he doesn’t want to “choose” at all.
I cannot do anything about Marc. Even if a judge assigns primary custody of Marc to me, Marc cannot be forced to live with me because of his age. When he ran away, the law in this state would not even bring him home if they find him! They would call and tell me where he was, and it would be my prerogative to retrieve him – IF he agreed to come home. It’s screwed up, that law, and I wish someone would do something about it, but that someone isn’t going to be me so I have to live with it.
Therefore, because Marc has already chosen, I have only Eddie to tend to in this decision. By going through the court, it will force both the boys to talk to a judge. The judge will then make a decision in their best interests. Eddie will not be forced to “choose” because the judge will do the choosing for him.
I am fully aware that I may “lose” custody of both of my boys during this proceeding. I am distressed about it, I am worried about it; I am horrified at the thought of losing any of my legal rights as a parent. I know that my spouse (and probably Marc) will say everything possible to convince the judge that I am an unfit mother, a horrible mom, and that I am mentally ill and emotionally unstable. But I am willing to take that risk in order to save the heart of my youngest son. Choosing would absolutely hurt Eddie. But talking to a judge, nervous as he is about that, will not force him to choose anyone or anything over the other.
Eddie asked if the judge would ask him who he wanted to live with and I told him that I didn’t know what the judge would ask. I told him that I’ve never been in his position, but I will do everything in my power to get him in touch with someone who can explain the procedure to him – maybe a kid who’s been through it or an adult in “the system”. I also told Eddie that if a judge point-blank asked him that question, then he could answer, “I don’t want to answer that question.” In fact, he could say that in response to any question asked by anyone at any time (including me).
If I can save Eddie from “choosing” then I will have done the best thing I can do. Now all I have to do is stay the course and prepare my own heart for the worst as I pray for the best.