(picking up where I left off yesterday…. )
So we had a billion questions to ask the lawyer, but that would require more money, and we were just feeling lost and overwhelmed. So we took some time to think (and stress) about about all the different roads we could take and where they may or may not lead us. We thought about what we really needed to ask, and my mum re-drafted potential orders.
Rather than going back to the incredibly expensive lawyer we decided to try a free service that provides legal advice to women. So yesterday afternoon, we got there early with all our paperwork and questions ready, all the reception staff were really lovely and there was even cake (that someone donated) in the waiting room. We first saw a support worker, who asked us questions and then summarised our situation and the advice we wanted into some notes to give the lawyer. (This is supposed to speed up the process as the lawyers have limited time with each client.)
Then we saw the lawyer. This part is a bit blurry in my memory as I got embarrassingly emotional. She asked what had been happening so far in terms of the father’s contact with the children. I said that he comes to visit them, usually at my house. Then she said, ‘but isn’t that really uncomfortable for you?,’ as if allowing him to visit at my house was a really sick and twisted way to go about doing things. She very bluntly asked me why I was letting him come to my house. I said that it was just easier, and although it’s not ideal, and hasn’t really been satisfactory (which is why I told him last week that he is not to visit my house any more unless I have my mum or someone there with me- I don’t think I said this to the lawyer at this point) at least if they are at my house I know where they are, and that they are being properly cared for. And then she said, ‘but why are you facilitating him to spend time with them?’ This question was asked multiple times throughout the session. As well as, ‘but why do you think its in the children’s best interests to spend time with their father? Feeling somewhat like I was being attacked and accused of being some sicko allowing an abusive man to spend time with my children, tears started falling and I never really regained composure.
From the session we learnt the following:
- Police are not obliged to help locate and retrieve children even when you do have a consent order saying that they live with you. It is a Family Law matter and is still generally dealt with through the court system.
- If I tick the box that says the children are at risk of family violence (or being exposed to it) the court will not allow the father any unsupervised access to the children. (Why the lawyer we paid lots of money to did not tell us that, I do not know)
- Given the above two points, there is no point in continuing trying to continue getting consent orders. For one thing, they don’t actually give the security that I thought they did. And basically our only options are to lie about the presence of family violence, or take it to court, provide evidence of abuse, and get a consent order that only allows him supervised access.
- According to this lawyer the orders we were proposing (even if they were to pass) would be giving up more rights than I was gaining.
I feel very confused about the whole ‘family violence’ thing now. Am I exaggerating by saying that there is family violence? The question I keep getting asked is, “Do you feel scared?” Its a difficult question to answer. I’m not really scared. He calls to see if he can visit the kids, and if we’re home, I say yes. I’m not scared of him visiting. I am not scared that I will be physically hurt. I’m worried and distressed by the whole situation. I worry that if I upset him too much he will be really angry and make me feel lousy. And I worry that if I protect myself by making him take the kids out, rather than hanging around my place, he will simply make our son his next victim of torment, and I will not be able to stop it or even be aware that it is happening. I even worry about the potential for sexual abuse of my daughter when she is a little older. Now this could be a completely off target fear, but in my experience my ex has high sex drive, little self control, and a strong sense of entitlement. This is not a good combination if he happens to be desperate and lonely while he is looking after my daughter for the weekend. But is this the same fear that people are talking about when they ask me if I am scared of him? Or is this just the over protective fears of a paranoid and bitter mother?
But he does do things that are, if not abusive, highly inappropriate. Since separation, he has threatened to ‘bash me up’ and on another occasion ‘break my neck.’ I did not for a moment think that he would actually follow through with these threats, so I wasn’t scared. Does that mean that these threats do not classify as ‘family violence.’ He has raised his hand to hit me multiple times. He has restrained me by grabbing my wrists. He has cornered while he gives me very stern instructions. He is frequently trying to put his arm around me. He asks in front of the children, why we can’t just get back together. He questions me accusingly about where I am and who I have been seeing. He insists that ‘I just want to fuck another man’. I keep setting up boundaries, and he keeps slowly, slowly pushing them into non-existence.
Am I facilitating abuse? Should I be allowing him to spend time with the kids? On his own or at my house (with mum there)? The lawyer I spoke to last night seemed to be saying that I don’t have to let him see the kids. I could just not get the orders, and then not let him see them. (Then presumably it’s up to him to take that to court if he wants to change things). But the thing is, IF I were to do that, the remote possibility of him running off with the kids and not bringing them back would become highly probably- which is where we started. That is what we are trying to get protection against.
Essentially, I’m trying not to rock the boat out of fear that if I do abuse (or more abuse) will occur. I’m still trying to figure out if this is the right thing to do, or if there is a better way… I welcome any advice from you, my non-existent readers.