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Risking death to stand up to threats

Lovefraud.com recently heard from a woman in Illinois, who we’ll call Mary. Mary is trying to protect herself and her eight-year-old daughter from her ex-boyfriend, the daughter’s father, who has guns and has threatened to use them. Not only is Mary fighting the ex, but she’s fighting lawyers—both hers and his—and an unresponsive family court.

Mary left the ex for good in 2001, when their daughter was three. The guy has an alcohol problem and a 20-year arrest record. He has five arrests for DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) and 14 DWLR arrests (driving while license revoked). He has two arrests for domestic battery. Two different women have sought protection orders against him, including Mary.

In July, 2004, after three years of seeing his daughter sporadically at best, the ex decides he wants to be an involved parent. Coming from a wealthy family, he can afford to initiate a lawsuit and hauls Mary into court to get visitation rights. Mary works full time, but as a single mom, struggles to support her child. She can’t afford the best lawyers money can buy, and she doesn’t qualify for public assistance.

Arrest and conviction

Now, prior to filing his petition for parental rights, the ex was arrested for DUI and DWLR in February, 2004. He gets arrested two more times, in July and November, 2004, for DWLR. So on November 15, 2004, family court awards him supervised visitation rights. Eight days later the ex beats up his current girlfriend. She gets a protection order against him. Then in December he goes to jail for the DUI conviction. He serves 90 days of an 18-month sentence and is released on parole.

All of this happens while he is petitioning the court for his parental rights. The court appoints a clinical psychologist to evaluate both parents and the child. After 20 hours of interviews and evaluation over four months, the psychologist reports that the ex has a history of alcohol abuse and is vulnerable to relapses. He recommends that visitation continue to be supervised, and that the father complete an intensive substance abuse treatment program before overnight visitation is allowed.

Mary’s days in court

On November 15, 2005, Mary is back in court with the ex. Her legal counsel is less than stellar. Mary’s lawyer refuses to subpoena the woman who filed a protection order against the father. Mary talks the woman into showing up in court anyway, but Mary’s lawyer never calls her as a witness. And, Mary’s lawyer never asks the psychologist any questions related to the ex’s violence.

After a six-day trial, the judge rules. In giving his decisions, the judge notes that the ex’s alcohol dependency has not been resolved, and that the man’s mother and stepfather both believe he still has an alcohol problem. The judge notes that the ex has a tendency to disobey court orders. Yet he says the psychologist’s recommendation of no unsupervised visits until after the father completes a chemical dependency treatment program is an unwarranted restriction of his right to visitation. The judge rules that there is no risk to the child, apart from the alcohol issue, and awards the ex unsupervised visitation. He orders the father not to drink alcohol during visitation or for 24 hours before visitation.

Threats of violence

Two days later, the ex calls Mary and tells her he still has his handgun and that he would be a better parent if Mary were no longer around. Mary interprets this as a threat on her life, and asks her lawyer to get an order of protection against the ex. Her lawyer refuses.

The ex continues his threatening and abusive behavior. By February 8, 2006, Mary has had enough. With the help of a family advocate, she gets a protection order on her own. A different judge hears her case.

In the meantime, the ex’s lawyers file a petition to reconsider the parental rights decisions. They want the ex to have unsupervised overnight visitation immediately upon completing a substance abuse program, without an additional court hearing. And, they want his support payments to be reduced, arguing that he really doesn’t get any income from his two trust funds.

On February 16, five days after being served with the order of protection, the ex follows Mary as she drives home from work. Mary photographs him in his car with her cell phone camera and calls the police. The ex is arrested again for DWLR and charged with a criminal felony.

Mary is nervous about testifying against her ex in the felony case. Here’s what the police officer says to Mary: “I have his record in front of me and I can tell you from experience that he is capable of killing you whether you are a witness to this case or not. You need to make a choice to stand up for yourself or let him keep coming after you.”

Back in court

The ex’s lawyers ask the court to combine the protection order hearing with the parental rights case. So on March 1, Mary is back before the family court judge about the protection order. She no longer has a lawyer, so she tries to represent herself. Her ex has two legal teams, who claim that the man has never harassed her. The judge refuses to admit any of Mary’s evidence and vacates the emergency order of protection. The judge further orders that Mary and her ex communicate in a non-abusive and non-harassing manner, and that the father is entitled to telephone visitation daily with his daughter from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

Mary begs the judge to allow her to communicate with her ex only by e-mail. The judge refuses, stating that all communication must be by telephone.

Last week the ex harasses Mary over the phone again. She gets another order of protection.

The next day Mary is back in court in response to her ex’s motion to reconsider the rulings on his parental rights. Although she contacted 43 attorneys, none will take her case, so she is there alone. The judge postpones the hearing, but tells her that if she doesn’t have an attorney on the next trial date, Mary will have to represent herself.

On March 23, 2006, the ex’s home is searched by his parole officer and a representative of the sheriff’s department. They find guns and drugs. He is thrown in jail again.

Can you help?

“It took a long time for me to really understand that he is as dangerous as he is,” Mary says. “I have always been someone who believed all people had some good. I don’t believe that anymore. No matter what I do (try to help him or speak out against him—I have done both), his only goal was to manipulate me and keep me from achieving success of any kind in any aspect of my life. If he does kill me I am not taking his secrets with me.”

Now that’s courage.

Mary still needs to respond to her ex’s demands for visitation rights. Her goal is to keep her daughter safe. If you know an Illinois attorney who can win her case, please contact Lovefraud.


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64 Comments on "Risking death to stand up to threats"

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Dear Kathy, dear all. I am sorry but the longer I think about the employment the more panicky I get. It was all so fine just until friday. Now this nagging feeling of “being tested” and “not being good enough” so that he has to “find out whether we match” although HE has asked me and HE set up the initial plan.

It is so weird I can understand him and me the same time, and I also have the example of my sister who went head over heel into partnership with a fellow lawyer and they had an awful split up after a year or so, and it cost my sister a lot of money. She is now on her own and fine. It was all complicated by my parents (father S, mother N, at that time both in full bloom) who worked both in the same premises and who were constantly nagging and critisising everything my sister and this bloke did. The poor man left completely the field of lawyers, switched sides and he is now a judge or prosecutor or the like.

I will definitively have to talk with my sister, and then with the colleague, that I will have to have the opportunity to put in some cash at least.
My mom whom I told yesterday about it (and she found it initially a great idea!), called me this evening and asked if I was not disappointed, and I said yea a bit, and she said I should go for my dreams and she is now willing to cash out money without interest (kind of pre-heritage-money). That would be great! My sister and my brother had benefitted their whole life on these cash-reliefs, they went to private school, both studied much longer and my brother had a costly divorce my parents payed for! Not to mention the services my parents deliver to them without being payed for. (Chauffeur, nanny after midnight, announced at 10 p.m. , always getting the brother’s children by train, 5 hours one way and paying for all, food delivery on Christmas without being invited and teh like) Just awful! But the parents like it to “be in charge”, have control and feel important.
My mother always told me that “it is written down” so I will get even with them when it comes to the last will, but I hope they will still live a LONG time (and the chances are there)

Thanks for letting me vent, I feel much better now! Have you all a relaxing QUIET evening!

one/joy_step_at_a_time

BANANA – funny that u mentioned the why of your screen name the other day – i kept typing ‘aba’ to start your name.

no, not a new place 🙁 but my old place was horrid in terms of smoke, noise and snotty entitled miscreant university students.

thing is, i love this place i am in now – it’s just toxic.! lol I was thinking about this last night in terms of the spath. loved her. she was toxic. DON’T COMPARTMENTALIZE ONE STEP!

I can’t afford to move yet.

libelle, just a thought. If what you found when you got there is not what you expected, maybe you need to discuss these discrepancies with your partner. Just “this is what I expected, and this is what I found, and now I’m feeling a little concerned that I understand what we planning.”

You said you feel like he is a good person, and the evidence of his family life also looks good to you. So your first impressions are positive, and you also liked what you believed the original deal to be.

So now, knowing that you have your mother’s potential backing, you can go back to talking with him. Just chatting about how things will work and how you both feel most comfortable.

There is no absolute right answer here. But the one thing that is necessary is that you two understand each other, feel comfortable about what you’ve agreed upon, and have a plan that you both can live with. Once you both get active in making this plan a reality, all kinds of problems will arise. That’s just life. But if you have a clear sense of what you’re doing together, and how your relationship works, you’ll have a much better chance of navigating it with fewer bumps.

Maybe you two don’t need to talk more, and maybe the path is already clear, and all you needed was the money. In that case, ignore me.

But what I said earlier about “starting as you mean to go on,” is a good rule to live by. If you don’t feel entirely comfortable with his plans or what he’s offering you, or how it’s shaping up in general, remember that this is a partnership, not just you solving all the problems on your own. Tell him what’s on your mind, and ask him what he thinks, so you can agree on solutions. If this partnership works, you two are going to be discussing a lot of things over the years. That’s the nature of a good relationship.

We talk a lot about trust here. And I’m always talking about conditional trust, letting people prove they’re trustworthy. Well, part of this is starting with conditional trust. Assuming that people are trustworthy until they show they aren’t. And if something happens that makes you wonder, not waiting to address it, while you worry and stew.

The same goes for something that makes you feel uncomfortable. This is just taking care of yourself. But it’s also giving the other person good information, so that you can work things out. (Or if you can’t work things out, you know you tried, and you know for sure that they didn’t work out for a good reason.)

I’m really glad that your mother has decided to give you that money. It’s certainly the right time for it. You’re restarting your life, and making decisions about the right steps to take. The money gives you breathing room and time to think about your choices.

Take a deep breath. Try not to jump into action before you’re ready. This is a big moment in your life. Take the time you need to gather information, think about it, and make decisions that you feel comfortable with.

I was reading about panic yesterday. It was defined as the feeling that comes from not getting what we need from the people we depend on. I don’t think you have to panic here. I sounds like you’re getting support. Now all you have to do is talk, listen, discuss, and think about what works for you.

Affectionately —

Kathy

Dear Kathy, thank you so much!

Yes, I will talk with him tomorrow, not with anybody else. And tell him about the money from mum. You know I was first really glad about his offer on friday, and the more I talked to other people and everyone said it is great. It felt so cozy, so risk-less. And he really cared for me and my financial future!

But today the doubt kicked in, my gut spoke and told me that it will be like before, my old role as corporate wife number two and merely tolerated I was about to leave with a BIG smile (like the larvae becoming the real libelle; libelle means dragonfly in German).

And the trigger of not tolerating anymore of “being looked after” and “Don’t worry, I mean it well with you and I know what you need right now” grew stronger and stronger, and I know now that that this is not what I want. Period. In writing these posts and thinking and editing I sorted out my thoughts.

You were all my therapists. Thanks!

It will not be the last discussion. I always tell my patients that the first button of the jacket has to be right, and the rest will follow. I hope we will not screw up the first button.
Kathy, thank you so much for being the perfect teacher and comforter! Have a nice evening! Hugs

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