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Feb 5, 1999 update

I am going through the toughest time in my life, I am a 25 year old father who is  fighting for my rights to be a father to my 3 year old son.

I went into my relationship with my ex without thinking, I was infatuated with her and I didn't see past her perfection.  As I grew to know her, I realized she had a very large anger management problem that I was unable to help her with.  She had two children, both from different fathers and she was desperate to find someone to take care of them all. I new that I couldn't rescue her, she made the same promises over and over again, breaking them continuously.  We broke up and made up many times, I always had hope that she would keep her promises to go to counseling and get help but she never followed through.  Near the end of our relationship she knew that I was distant and she was worried that I would leave her.  She asked me what I would do if she got pregnant and I said that I would do the right thing and marry her.  I should have gave her a different answer because she purposely got pregnant and later I found her pills in a drawer, she had stopped taking them. We were together on and off until my son was about 6 months, I couldn't take her anger any longer and finally left for the last time.   Since that time I have been walking on eggshells.  Many times she has denied me access and has given me little or no access.  When I met someone new the problems worsened and she became very unreasonable. It didn't matter what I did or said she was very jealous and if I didn't do things her way she would deny me access and a lot of the time that she denied me access she would give no reason for it.  She would play the "call your lawyer" game so finally two years later I called her bluff and got a lawyer and started legal proceedings for full custody.  She got really mad and asked why we couldn't keep the legalities out of it and I told her that if we could agree on access without going on her mood at the time then we could have.  It has been a year now since I started my custody battle with her.  We go to trial in January and I have a very good chance of winning because of over-whelming evidence against her.

I was feeling that I wouldn't stand a chance of winning custody but my girlfriend kept at me, pushing me, I was getting angry and frustrated at her but I kept going.  We started having weekly meetings about the trial, we both had chores to do in regards to the trial.  She did most of the typing and I did most of the field work, things still didn't look good and again I was losing faith.  We decided to give it one more go and do some investigating that we hadn't tried before and we found out something that changed the attitudes we had from negative to positive. Through our persistence and hope we finally have found enough evidence that may prove positive for my custody war.

This letter is to show fathers who are having this kind of problem with their ex-wives that there is hope.  First thing they have to do is start calling their ex-wives bluffs, be firm on access and if there is a problem with access then get a lawyer and get serious.  If they go for full custody then don't sit there expecting the lawyer to do everything, get out there and do everything you can to find evidence, go to schools, hospitals, doctors offices, places where she may shop, old neighbors, old landlords, old friends of hers, anywhere she has been or anyone she may have encounter through the years that would give you information about her and that would help you.  You don't want to go to court unprepared because you will surely lose.  You need to back up all your stories or allegations with evidence or affidavits so make sure you have that ready.   Most importantly if you feel you have the more stable home for your child then request for a court counselor, he/she is the eyes and ears of the court, they interview each parent and watch the parent interact with the child also interview any personal references that you give. After their investigation is done they put in their report stating which environment the child would be most secure and stable in.  Never go into that court room unprepared because you will lose and you never want to say to yourself  "I could have, I should have, I would have".   Later when the child gets older they are going to ask questions and the most valuable question on their mind is "didn't you love me enough to fight for me"?  You never want to hear those words so remember  as long as you did everything you possibly could to get custody of those children, even if you lose, they will know you did everything in your power to get them and they will know you love them.

Sincerely,
David Clausen
daver@cow-net.com or tdefrane@island.net

Update Feb 5, 1999

I thought you may be interested in reading in more detail what we did to gain interim custody of my son Kristopher.  I wrote you earlier to explain that we just had 3 days of trial and another coming up in June but I was granted interim custody until that time.  I really want to help other fathers like myself and these hints I believe will be useful for others that are in my position. 

Helpful Hints

The most important thing to remember is; what is in the best interest of the child? Most angered parents forget about the child and focus on the animosity between them by being vindictive and revengeful.  Unfortunately it is the children that are used in the spiteful games and are caught in the middle.

Some tips for single fathers!

1)  Keep all evidence but replace what you take.

*If your child is sent in clothing which is very inappropriate, like too small or very worn out, or very dirty, keep it, don't wash it and replace it with new clothing. It will be used as evidence in court.  Keep it in a zip lock bag and date it with a quick note of why you kept it.
*If your child is sent in soiled underwear, don't wash it, again, put it in a zip lock bag and date it with a quick note, if it is bad and the child reeks of urine and feces then take them to the emergency. All legal documentation is best.
*Take pictures of the state your child is in on their arrival. Take pictures of all bruises, scratches, sores which are unusual, even in the private areas. DON'T MAKE YOUR CHILD FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE OR ON DISPLAY! Do it in the most comfortable way for the child. Take them to the emergency room right away whenever you get them in that state because if it is bad enough you may get your child without having to go to court. Do not report it to social services, if it is bad enough then take them to emergency and get the doctor to report it to social services. The reason is because the other parent can say you are harassing them because trial is coming up and you just want to make her look bad and in fact she can make you look bad.
*Take pictures if your child doesn't get regular hair cuts. Ask the other parent to get the child's hair cut if they don't have it done by next visitation then you get it done professionally. Make sure you take before and after pictures.

2) Keep a daily diary.

*Keep a daily diary of everything. Things that you should note in a daily diary are:
a) Sleep habits, do they have nightmares? how often do they wake in the night? do they have problems falling asleep? Where do they sleep? how you got them asleep?
b)What they eat in a day. Are they fussy eaters? how do you get them to eat healthy foods? What foods to they eat? The diary may show a pattern of eating habits which will reflect on the other parent.
c)How the child reacts to others. Do they play nicely with other children? Do they have reoccurring habits of hitting, biting, slapping, kicking, spiting, calling names or swearing? Are they aggressive at play? Are they sensitive at play, feel out of place, picked on, scared or pouting a lot? Has the child done something which is really questionable, as in unusual sexual behavior? Is he/she focused on body parts?   Do they like to go under the covers to play with another child? Do they like to play with closed doors? (Never allow children to play behind closed doors) Do they like to tattle a lot? This may show they get their way with the other parent which indicates favoring which believe it or not, is unhealthy for the child in the courts eyes because it promotes spoiled children and problems later in life.
d)  Take careful note of what they child says which is upsetting or unusual. If the child talks a lot of their other parent or siblings or step-parent which is cause for concern then write it down right away. Be careful not to lead the child into conversation of the other parent because this is not looked at favorably in court. Spontaneous talk from a child is best for notes especially if they repeat something over and over like "Mommy spanks me with a wooden spoon."
e) Take note of the child's washroom habits.  Do they go often? Do how often do they have a bowel movement? What is their stool like? If the child is constipated it can be cause for concern. If the child is afraid to have a bowel movement what happens is the stool sits in their bowel and the body absorbs the moisture out of it and it becomes hard and round. The child then has problems having a movement and it usually will tear or rip their anus. If they complain about bowel movements or bladder problems take them to the doctor right away.
f) Take note of your daily routines and activities, state how the child reacts with your interaction with them and in what way do they express their happiness with you.
g) Always take notes of every pick up and drop off whether it was good or bad. Take note whether the child is happy or unhappy to see you or the other parent. It is a good idea to have a hand held recorder with you to record every pick up and drop off without them knowing. Remember you can not edit any of the tapes and if there is a pick up or drop off missed there could be an accusation from the other party that you edited the tapes and they could be thrown out of court. Taping is very important and you need to be careful. Always have transcripts ready for the court. Remember that anything you say in your own tapes can also be used against you so remember to be on your best behavior. Another hint let the other parent finish fully what they are saying, make sure you don't cut them off because in their anger or discussion they may say something which will be very useful for you and if you interrupt them you may lose that very important information which could have been the little piece of evidence which could have gotten you the win.
h) Take notes of phone conversations with the other parent. A tape recording of the phone calls is best also.

3) Do not take your child to a psychologist unless it is requested by the courts or by your lawyer.

*The reason is because you may add more stress to your child because you don't have the child enough to keep up regular visits and therapy will only confuse the child more. Wait until after you get custody or shared custody.

4) If you feel you have the better home for the child then you may want to request a Custody and Access Report be done by the court counsellor.

*The courts will appoint a counsellor to visit your home and the home of the other parent. What the court counsellor does is interview you and your spouse at your home then watch you interact with your child. You should build a good relationship with the counsellor and allow them ample time to view your home. It is important to give the counsellor your list of witnesses which will verify you are a stable person with a good home. You can also supply them with a list of witnesses that know the other parent and will verify your accusations against them. It is important to keep the court counsellor informed of any new evidence or short comings with the other parent. Keep in touch on a regular basis with the court counsellor. They cannot side with either parent but you can keep them informed of all that goes on which will be beneficial for you. Do not try to bash the other parent, only tell facts not your opinion or you will look like the fool.

5) Keep a photo diary of your family.

*Take pictures of family outings, family at play, interaction between children, your home, your child's bedroom and anything which will show your child interacts with you and their other family members well. Take pictures of their surroundings to show they live in a nice home environment.

6) Do your own investigating.

*Do up a history of your relationship with the other parent from the day you met to the present date. Try to remember anything that will help you with your trial. 
-Was she always arguing with neighbors?
-Was she always arguing with friends, or family?
-Was she angry with children a lot?
-How was her temper?
-Was she verbally abusive, emotionally abusive, or physically abusive?
-Was she violent or aggressive?
-Did she do drugs, alcohol or smoke?
-Did she party a lot?
-Was she yelling or swearing at the children?
-Did she lock the children in their rooms?
-Did she hit the children?  Where? With what?
-How is her cleanliness?
-How is her hygiene? The kids?
-What are her habits?
-etc...

*Try to remember anyone that she crossed

-friends
-neighbors
-landlords
-family
-co workers

*Landlords are the most important because you may find a pattern of living which may be cause of concern. How often does she move, what are the condition of the places after she moved? Did she leave any unpaid rent? Did she skip out of the last month rent?

*Were there any friends that she crossed? Why?

*Try to remember old neighbors and talk to her current neighbors. Did they have any complaints about her?

*Was she fired from any jobs? Did she get along with co-workers?

*Always be careful of what you tell people about your case just incase they are still on good terms with the other parent. Just tell them who you are. Most Importantly get their name and phone number and mailing address first!! Tell them what you are wanting from them and if you can get your lawyer to call them. REMEMBER even though it may seem as though a person
may not have any important information, get your lawyer to talk to them anyway because for some reason people will all of a sudden remember something or just poor everything out. Lawyers have ways to gather information and they should be the one determining whether that person is a good witness for you or not. If you find someone who has a lot to say in but they are afraid or unwilling to help you, take down their house address and name and subpoena them, they will be angry but they always pull through for you when on the line of fire.  If you are soft and understanding and don't want to get the person mad at you and you feel sorry for them then you are not going to go anywhere in your fight because once you have experience you will discover that every witness will tell you they don't want to get involved for various reason but you have to remember it is for your child's sake and don't give them an option to make you feel bad for them, you have to make them feel guilty for turning their back against a helpless child. You can't be soft hearted, be assertive, not aggressive and if they are unwilling then you will have no choice but to subpoena them.

*Take a picture around of your child and ask in stores and places where you may think she will go on a regular basis and ask if they have ever seen your child in the store and give a description of the mother. You may be surprised as I was to find that someone has had a run in with her and will be happy to help and lead you to a string of leads. We felt silly at first and embarrassed but we kept it up and we found our biggest lead by doing that.

*Do Not tape record witnesses unless you have their approval.

7) Communication with the other parent is important but if it is proven that the other parent is unable to communicate without some course of argument then it is best to avoid all conversation especially when children are present. If you can't communicate in person then try phone calls, if that is unsuccessful then try giving letters (always let your lawyer view it first because you may say something which looks very bad for you) keep a copy always. Keep all her letters or notes for court. If letters are unsuccessful then get your lawyer to communicate with her lawyer or to her directly. If there is still no response then all as you can do is wait for court and say everything there.

8) If she denies you access then always go to the police and report it. Make sure in your access court order that you have the current paragraph which states that the police are to get involved if denial of access. Also it is very important to cover every possible loop hole in the court order because if there is a way a vindictive mother can find to withhold access she will. She may say there isn't a date stated or a time stated in the order so she doesn't have to give you access. She may say that the court order doesn't state exactly where or who is to pick up or drop off the child so she can deny you access. REPORT every one and don't try to fix it yourself. If she denies you access then if you can't get your child legally at that moment then leave it be and take her to court for denial of access. I know it will hurt but it is better than hurting yourself and your child in the long run. You don't want to make a scene in front of your child. REMEMBER you will miss them more than they will miss you and
when you fight in front of the child you are only reminding that child of the pain and hurt that the two of his/her parents have already caused by the separation. Don't sit by and let her threaten you with denial of access if you don't do what she says. If she says to call your lawyer if you don't like her demands then do it and call her bluff. She will get angry and try to threaten you more but stick to your guns and get tough and get everything legal!!! The games will finally stop once she sees you are not her puppet anymore and that you are serious. Women know how to pull on those heart strings and the best defense she has is denying you access to your children. Don't let her pull on those strings any more.  You are strong don't let her weaken you. Get to a lawyer right away.

Thanks again,
David Clausen

 

UPDATE: May 15, 2000

I just wanted to give an update on the latest (and hopefully final) chapter in our custody battle. After a grueling 9 day (spread over a year) custody trial I am pleased to announce that we have gained full custody and full guardianship of my son. The judge also reduced her access to only 4 hours every second weekend. If she fails to shelf her emotions, the Judge made it clear that she could lose all access. He was 3 years old when the trial began and is now 4 1/2. We won because we did our homework, kept our temper, put my sons best interest in front of my own and most of all did everything by the book. I had to shelf my animosity towards his mother and she failed to shelf hers. This, in the long run, helped us gain custody. There was no physical abuse evident and she is not a drug addict. We won solely on her emotionally abusive ways. Though we have custody we still have his best interests in mind and we will not put him through what his mother put him through and will continue to try and have good relations with her. It is important never to slander the other parent even after custody is settled.

The judge had my son's best interest in mind and ruled on what was the most stable environment for him to grow up in. A lot of lawyers told me I had no chance because she wasn't a drug addict or wasn't physically abusive and I kept searching until I found somebody that believed in me. If you know without a doubt that you are able to provide a more stable home, don't give up.

Updated on:30/06/00 09:39 PM

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