Monday, January 28, 2013

Norfolk Probate Court

Traveling east on a secondary road in Dedham, Massachusetts, one is treated to a tree lined street framing beautiful old Victorian homes.  Even at the traffic lights, a sign of a entering a commercial area, the appearance of a court house on the left is majestic.  The probate court house of Norfolk County, architecturally magnificent, stands as a symbol of justice.  Many believe that the building serves as a haven, a sanctuary for those seeking protection from abuse, and end to an unhappy marriage.  Walking into hallowed halls, high ceilings, and marble floors almost demands whispers, voices softly encouraging and comforting those enduring an emotional life transition.  But in contrast, the echoes in these halls are an agonizing amplification of the injustices in the court rooms.  Equally picturesque, the dark wooded courtrooms, with intricate detail, are the mask of what is actually a torture chamber, with judges freely stamping their gavel on decisions with the intensity to crush families. 

The well utilized basement area of the courthouse looks more like a prison holding area, where everyone waits for their cell assignment.  It’s dark and crowded with limited seating.  It’s an agonizing wait as couples are called into the small rooms with the hopes of coming to an agreement to bring in front of a judge and expedite the process.  The first time I stood there, I heard conversation around me.  Once woman was stating she had been coming to that courthouse for 17 years.  I couldn’t imagine the reason.  In my mind, you go to court, arrange the common visitation schedule – every other weekend, one weeknight – and an amount for child support.  Simple, easy and quick.  My naïveté was due to my idealistic belief that people respect what the court stands for; truth and justice.  Lying in court, or perjury, is only committed by seasoned criminals.  Sadly, I was mistaken. 

Prior to going to court, my abusive ex told me he was warned by his family that I was going to accuse him of sexually abusing the children.  To me, that was not only shocking, but ridiculous.  You don’t lie in court.  You don’t make fraudulent accusations.  What I had to relate about my ex’s vile behavior was enough – I didn’t need to fabricate anything.  But he did…..and the court allowed it. 

One court worker was enamored, finding my ex so compelling, she loudly related her empathy to his latest fabricate complaint to another court worker. When I boldly interrupted her, she merely replied, “Well, that’s what he said.”  And I retorted, “Considering the source, you should know it’s a lie.”  There are many positions which demand discretion.  Information is respected privacy and should remain out of earshot to non-staff.  Therefore, how can a court allow their workers to discuss cases, and vocalize their own misguided opinions where anyone can listen?    

Norfolk probate court judges made decisions without hearing the facts from both sides.  How can a Jewish judge believe testimony that children had to go to Hebrew school seven days a week?  How can a judge make a decision on the tearstained photograph of a woman with fingerprints on her neck be anything other than proof of being choked?  How can a judge remove custody from a parent after the same motion was already denied twice?  How can a judge sleep peacefully at night, after destroying the lives of innocent children?

The only thing missing from the pictures of the Norfolk probate courthouse, are the mothers who gathered outside, sobbing after a judge removed her children from her care, merely because her abusive ex displayed the calm demeanor often seen in a sociopath, while she showed emotion at the thought she was going to lose what she loved most.  And the court, offering the same lack of empathy as the narcissistic sociopath, with unconscionable ruling, did as she feared most.

The probate court has since moved to an industrial area in an antiseptic brick building.  Have the demons that once lived in the imposing structure followed along?  Well, that’s not my story to write.  By the time I had to utilize the services there, I was much more savvy in the ways of the court.  I did not need an attorney, because I could represent myself.  I was no longer intimidated by the unethical attorney I faced, and found ways to get around her objections; by testifying to evidence she was afraid to allow me to submit, for it proved the trail of injustices allowed in my case.  I was finally able to stand up and tell the judge I refused anymore abuse by my ex, his attorney and the Norfolk Probate court. And after years of battle, my case was closed, and I felt as if I had won.  I did not win the deserved custody, as my children were almost grown, but I won the freedom from my abusive ex, and the freedom of facing false accusations in that court. 

But in attaining freedom, and access to children gave my ex carte blanche to do whatever he desired; to manipulate, to degrade and to destroy, and control his children – their thoughts and deeds, in the way he wanted.  And that’s what he desired most….his own freedom to continue his abuse away from the eyes of those who judge….because someday he knew, they may not be judging in his favor.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Uncanny Resemblance

When I became a mother, my diligence to my son’s daily care was just as significant as the extras I provided.  My innate awareness grew from my intense love which meant putting his needs before my own.  From my first days of motherhood, I thought of making each day special and began with daily walks in the fresh air.  As years went by, I incorporated activities for my three children by daily outings of visits to parks and playgrounds or playing in the leaves and or snow in our yard.  I was a mom who happily endured the cold to create snowmen even if the children opted to gleefully watch from the warmth of the house.  Their happiness was my happiness.   

During my separation from their father, I maintained our lifestyle.  My children barely reacted as they were used to his lengthy absences.  However, my routine had changed and sometimes I utilized the help of a babysitter, for a job interview or work, and occasional socializing, which I intended to keep from my children.  But sometimes when you least expect it….    

…To digress to a summer dinner at my house with several friends, and an unexpected addition of someone new, young and very cute. Undeniable mutual attraction, including my older son captivated by this kind and gentle man enthusiastically playing catch  in the yard, something never experienced with his own father. The next month, I reconciled with my ex, and informed my son his father was moving home.  With tears in his eyes, he expressed his preference for this new man instead of his father, apparently favoring a willing and doting “father figure” rather than his own, sensing his indifference and infrequent appearances in the family home. 

But, a divorce was inevitable, and I steadfastly maintained propriety, keeping my social life away from my home.  It was important for my children to be excluded from this, yet it served as an important process in my own healing as I began to discover men who did not believe the world centered around them. 

But, my ex rushed the children to his girlfriend’s house, calling her fiancé and her teenaged daughters “stepsisters”.  Although he had been dating her during our marriage, she was a stranger to my children; yet they were forced to sleep at her house, and share a bedroom with a stranger.    

Never addressed was how these young teenagers reacted to the abrupt intrusion in their lives.  After all, without preparation or introduction, the day after their father moved out, their mother brought an outsider into her home and bed.   Recently I learned that this event stayed with these girls for years, as they expressed their disdain with a comment, “(Mom) never told us about moving (him) into the house.”  I was appalled.     

In 1996, the guardian ad litem suggested my children live with this woman without investigation.  She relied solely on what my ex told her, and never sought to substantiate the information by anyone else, signing her name on a report advising my children live with a woman who clearly thought only of herself, and acted in a way that was anything but motherly. 

Who takes the blame for this?  The charismatic sociopath who masterminded everything, much in the way Charles Manson choreographed the most horrific murders in history?  Or do we punish the puppets?  The ones who obeyed either in stupidity and selfishness as the girlfriend; or with blindness, ignoring the authority they were given yet overlooked their responsibility?  And a huge question still stands of why would someone disregard the job they were paid to do when the lives of three innocent children were at stake? 

The lost children of the Manson family were troubled individuals, looking for acceptance, much in the way of my ex’s girlfriend.  Believing they found someone so special, they would do his bidding without thinking of the legal or moral ramifications.  But one would trust that an educated woman would not routinely allow herself to be charmed enough to ignore the standards of a GAL.  Perhaps her husband, the former judge, isn’t keeping up his end of the bargain and she is seeking a replacement albeit in fantasy?  Still working for the courts, she is guided by that same demon methodically destroying other children, the same way she devastated the lives of my three beautiful children.  

Imagine how many lives would have been saved if the Manson family members refused to do his bidding.  Imagine what it would have been like if the GAL laughed at the allegations of a narcissistic sociopath and did her job correctly.  Her hands would have been clean.  The girlfriend would have been abandoned, as she no longer served her purpose, but her daughters would have been spared of the knowledge that their mother was uncaring and promiscuous. 

Still, I fear my children would not have been reprieved.  Like Charlie, my ex had many resources to accomplish his deed which has been proved over the years.  I fear the fate of my oldest children was tragically sealed on the day I recited my marriage vows. 

Monday, January 21, 2013


I admit it – I am a paper hoarder.  I keep papers forever.  I have piles of papers around the house that drive my husband crazy.  But, I can’t throw anything away as I feel I may need them for future reference.  Among these papers are obviously my bills, as well as all the conditions that may apply – even though I know I will never read them.  Then I have papers from my daughter’s school and activities; some of these are for current events and some are in the near or far future.  Then I have all my writing papers - copies of articles, reference materials, and ideas for future writing, i.e. addendum material for my book, for my blog, for speaking gigs, or anything else that may occur.  I always want to be prepared, regardless of the fact I was never a boy scout.  However, with all these papers, which I must admit, are in every room in my house, I am anal when it comes to my filing system.  Even my CD collection is carefully alphabetized and arranged by genre.  By my desk, I have three filing drawers and my files are neat, pristine and alphabetized.  I can pull out my birth certificate, or my daughter’s pediatrician forms in a second.  But the piles surrounding my desk are random, scattered and stacked in no specific order.  I know that all I have to do is place them in my carefully arranged files.  But once put away, it’s as if they are gone.  What if something I’ve filed is a potentially great idea or meaningful reference piece?  What if my penchant for “what ifs” is the crux of my problem.?

Knowing that it’s better to get in the habit of periodically pulling files, and perusing my materials instead of searching like a squirrel foraging for something appetizing, I decided to try to organize the chaos.  After all, I will soon be gathering my tax information and I don’t want to miss some possible deductions that I know are floating amongst the heaps.  I grab half reams of papers and shuffle through them, delighted that some of the piles are old documents and forms and no longer needed.  Nothing feels as good as throwing away unneeded papers. Already I see a difference.  I can open my file drawers easily without having to move anything out of the way.  

I have to congratulate my motivation as my diligence to this task has resulted in a pretty good start.  Of course, I have come across bits of information that will make great future blogs, or inspiring facebook postings.  And that becomes new, albeit smaller piles to deal with….perhaps at a later date.