Friday, December 27, 2013

Enter the New Husband

After living with my parents for five years, I started dating my current husband. He had recently divorced and our relationship started out as friends commiserating. It slowly developed into more than that. We married about a year and a half later.

My parents were not happy with the decision. I stood and listened to them telling me why it would be a mistake to marry him. Their arguments consisted of the fact that he was divorced, had three kids and a hefty child support payment and an unpleasant ex wife. I understood all of these things. They were valid points and complications I knew I would be taking on. I tried to reassure them and heard out all of their arguments. I understood that my parents had scars from my divorce. They didn't want to see me get hurt again.

After weighing everything for a very long time, I made my decision. My parents attended the wedding but made their disapproval clear. I had hoped that they would come around in time, that they would come to see what I saw in him. My parents disliked my sister's husband at first. After a couple of years, they came around.

For the first time in six years, I was very happy. I had fallen in love, moved into a house of my own and was moving on with my life.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Temporary Orders for Grandparent Visitation

Before we even had a chance to respond to my parents' first petition for visitation, they filed a second request: temporary grandparent visitation. Basically, they were asking for a visitation schedule while the judge decided if a permanent schedule should be set up or not. Temporaray visitation can be seen as a foothold. Especially when judges are considering "best interest of the child." If a case comes before a judge regarding visitation that is already taking place, the judge is most likely to rule that the visitation continue because it's what the child is used to (unless the person is on drugs or is abusive or is in prision or something extreme like that).

My parents proposed the following schedule:

Once a month Friday evening until Saturday evening, one telephone call per week for at least 10 minutes (keep in mind my son was only six at the time), and the ability to provide any gift they'd like to their grandson.

The whole thing sickened me. The idea that the court could possibly rule in their favor and tell me what I had to do with my son infuriated me.

Would the court rule in their favor?

Monday, December 2, 2013

The First Time in Court with my Parents

The first time I stepped foot in a courtroom with my parents, we were allies, not enemies.

My divorce was uncontested and completed over the internet. At first my ex didn't have any interest in our son. I agreed to refuse child support while he quietly slipped away from our lives. A few months later, he summoned me to court to establish visitation.

This began a two year sporadic legal battle between me and my ex over visitation. Through this stressful time, my parents supported me financially and emotionally. And in the end, I suppose we "won." More accurately, my ex got remarried and lost interest.

I wonder if this first experience somehow laid the groundwork for the legal action my parents took against me later. They learned about a weapon. They watched my fear and anxiety as I stood before commissioners, mediators, judges, undergoing depositions and becoming helpless as those in authority determined my and my son's fate.

It was a dark time for me. While my parents comforted and supported me, they were also learning about how to hurt me most . . . Should they need it in the future.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Petition For Grandparent Visitation

Shortly after we got our lawyer, we received the official petition for grandparent visitation. My parents claimed that during the six years after my divorce, they had established a "substantial emotional relationship" with my son. They also claimed that after I married, their "access" to my son had been unreasonably limited. So, they requested court-ordered grandparent visitation. Oh, and they wanted us to pay thier attorney's fees.

They then attached exhibit A, a lengthy document, a timeline, their proof for the needed court ordered visitation. It recapped about 9 years of our relationship and drama. They put their spin on everything and tried to make the events somehow accusatory. They made some unfavorable accusations about me and my husband. It was all hard to read.

I went through the grief cycle every time we got more court papers from them. First denial, "I can't believe they are really doing this. Are they really going to continue?" Sadness, "How can they say things like this about me and my husband and shove it under the nose of some judge? Why would they want to hurt me like this?" Then the rage, "I will counter every single one of their ridiculous arguments. I'll fight them every step of the way and they will lose. They will lose everything."

I'm not sure I ever really made it to acceptance early on. I just rode the merry-go-round of emotion and denial. I still couldn't believe that my parents would really do this.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How Did I End Up Here?

How did I end up engaged in a court battle with my parents? It was a long road. I don't know that I can pinpoint an exact date when the conflict began. But before it started, the stage had to be set. I guess the scene, props and characters began populating the stage around the time my son was born.

I was first married in January of 1999. The marriage was rocky and my husband struggled with a sexual addiction that largely contributed to the dissolution of our marriage. But before the marriage ended, I gave birth to my son in the summer of 2001. I left my husband that fall after he claimed that he no longer wanted to fight his addiction, that he was doing things to make me leave, and his unwillingness to get a job. I had already quit my job and had a six-week-old baby. I was emotional and at a very low point in my life. So I turned to my parents for help.

They very generously opened their doors to me. While I so appreciated having some place to go, it was a little demoralizing returning to the same bedroom where I'd spent all of my elementary, junior and high school days. I was grateful. They were willing to support me and my son financially until he was a little older and I could work and support myself.

So that's how it all began--a loving gesture of parents helping their daughter.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Looking Back: My Childhood

I can't say that my parents were rotten. They never beat me or neglected me. They fed and clothed and loved me. They were pretty involved and we were a pretty tight-knit family. I was the oldest, and had one younger sister.

We took camping trips when we were young and played card games when we were older. We talked and laughed together a lot. They supported both my sister and me in our pursuits.

They weren't perfect and made mistakes, what parent doesn't? But there really wasn't a precedence set for their future court action against me, which I think that was one of the reasons the whole thing shocked and hurt me so deeply.

Lawyer Up

The next step in this dark journey was to shop around for attorneys. It was never a question of weather or not to fight back. I wasn't about to let my parents intimidate me and dictate how and when they would see my son. We needed to stand up to them and fight this.

My husband did most of the footwork. I'm a school teacher and can't really make phone calls and head out for appointments that easily. My husband has a night job and goes to school during the day, so he was able to take some time out of his homework time to meet and talk with them. Many attorneys didn't even know how to advise us because cases like this are rare. Ultimately we found one that we felt would be ready to fight for us and wouldn't bankrupt us with his fees.

Once we secured an attorney, we prepared our counter attack, or in the legal world, our "response".

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Litigation Used as a Threat

I received the court summons on a Saturday. It left me and my husband two days of worry without the ability to seek any sort of legal counsel. We knew we had to get a lawyer and fight this. But we also had so many questions. Could people actually sue for grandparent visitation rights? Could they actually win? How far would this go? And how much was this going to cost us?

It was a dark weekend and it reminded me of an earlier time in my life when I had made appearances in court during my divorce. My parents had been on my side that time. When we were fighting my ex husband, my parents were confident that we would win because they had so much more money than my ex. They would drive him into the ground financially if they had to.

Now they were saying that about me. Their money, their threats, their intimidation alone would drive me into the ground. They would win.

As evidence to their way of thinking, I received a letter in the mail from them the following Monday after they had served me. It refers to seeing a counselor because our relationship had been deteriorating over the prior three years.

The majority of the letter follows:

I received your email and partly agree with your statement, "I think it may be a good idea to get a third party involved--a counselor." I remember talking to you in the past about seeing a counselor and you responded that you'd be willing to participate but that you thought such a counselor would make no difference on our situation.

Mom and I agree with the need to get a third party involved AND that a counselor would not make any difference resolving our situation.

Mom and I have chosen a third party we think can successfully bring this conflict to conclusion. I would like very much for both parties to avoid the emotional and financial expense associated with a lengthy legal proceeding.

I suggest that we meet with a mediator and come up with a permanent visitation schedule both parties can agree upon and then bind us to that schedule legally. Our lawyer is prepared to assist documentation of any such permanent agreement and obtain a court confirmation of such. I would hope that we could do this before any further legal proceedings take place. We have this option available to us.

I love your Brittany and it saddens me greatly that we have been pushed to take such legal action to try and resolve such a severe impasse.

Love, Dad

This letter was another blow, but beside the shock and sadness, I also felt a great deal of anger. Aren't your parents supposed to know you better than anyone else? Had they forgotten about my steel stubborn strength? Did they really think I would cower at this? Had they forgotten how important my son was to me, that I had resented the courts dictating what was best for my child during my divorce eight years ago?

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Some moments stay vividly etched into our brains no matter how much time passes. I will never forget the day my parents served me court papers.

It was close to Halloween, the Saturday morning before. My son, who was 9 at the time, and I were trying to make it to the neighborhood Trunk-or-Treat. My son loves Halloween. He pulled on his costume, I gathered the big bags of candy and a few decorations for the trunk and a camp chair for me to sit in. My husband elected not to attend because of his ever present mountain of homework. We were cutting it close on the time. If we got there too late, they may not let us in because they didn't want little costumed kids walking around parking lots with moving cars.

I sent my son out to the car ahead of me, while I carried my load out to the car. My son hopped into the car and I opened the garage door to find a man standing in my drive way. He asked if I was Brittany Maloy. When I said yes, he told me that he had a document for me that I needed to sign for. I could see right away that it was a court summons and my stomach twisted into a knot. Who in the world could be taking me to court?

By this time, my husband had come out into the garage to make sure I got off alright. I looked at the papers to find my parent's name for the petitioners. I felt stunned. It felt like I'd been punched in the stomach or that I had hit the ground so hard that I couldn't take a breath.

The guy who delivered the summons seemed to feel bad and left pretty quick. I marched back into the house and dissolved into tears while my husband read through the papers.

My parents were suing for visitation rights. They wanted to have my son every other weekend, similar to what a noncustodial parent would have. They couldn't actually get that, could they? My husband and I didn't think so at the time. But this day began a long two year battle that cost us in more ways than one.

I was a wreck. The Trunk-or-Treat had long started. And I had to pull myself together to break the news to my son that we would not be going to the Trunk-or-Treat without giving him a good reason. There was no way I was going to tell him about the law suit.

He took the news pretty well.