Like one quarter of American women, I was in an abusive relationship. I had two children with my abuser. When I realized he was abusing my kids I left, and raised my children myself for 13 years.
My divorce took 7 years because my ex used the “Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Relief Act” to his advantage. He refused a standard parenting plan, insisting on ZERO visitation for himself. The judge said she doesn’t do zero visitation, but at his insistence she granted it. Years later, the same judge claimed I “failed to facilitate a relationship” and was causing “irreparable harm”
Fast forward a few years, and my ex was paying child support for another child. He filed for a child support reduction, wasn’t granted it, and then hired an attorney to file for “change of circumstances” and pursue custody of my boys. Judge Stella Hargrove, Maury County, Tennessee, gave my ex husband and his new wife full temporary custody of my sons, only visiting with them twice.
Before those visits they were strangers. But on Saturday 12/07/13, my ex took them to an unknown address in Texas. I didn’t know he had filed emergency exparte orders until the police knocked on the door to take them away..
The judge denied me all visitation, stating I could “potentially convince the children to want to live with [me]”. Judge Hargrove granted me a minimum of 2 phone calls per week, and she told my ex to monitor and record the calls. My ex strictly enforces ONLY twice a week with just 15 minutes to talk, and they must stop mid-sentence when time is up.
My sons were never neglected nor abused by me, so how is this ok?
I haven’t been allowed me to see my sons AT ALL for nearly 26 months now. Judge Hargrove told an attorney she “has no intention of ever giving those children back” to me. I never got to talk at the hearing, nor did any of my 20+ witnesses that showed up for an incomplete hearing. But my ex and his supporters were heard. This judge also wiped out over $7,000 in child support arrears. Our appointed therapist had over 13 years of employment with my ex’s law firm. This is a huge conflict of interest no one will address. The GAL didn’t do her job. Even my attorney agrees with that.
How is this affecting my sons? Well 15 minutes isn’t enough time to find much out, but I can tell you they’re surely suffering “irreparable harm” now!
This same judge threatened me in open court to have my sons immediately placed “in foster care if I don’t like” her rulings. What’s the difference? Either way they were going with strangers, and one being their father who had abandoned them for 13 years!
I hired yet another attorney, and in May 2015, was heard on motions in Lampassas county, Texas. I flew from North Carolina. We hadn’t had a final court date scheduled in over a year. My ex hired a Texas attorney to keep the case in Tennessee. The Texas judge said he’d need to talk with the Tennessee judge. They conferenced in July, where Judge Hargrove promised the Texas judge a hearing for me in August. I don’t know what happened, but we were not given a final hearing.
That summer I drove from Fort Bragg, NC to Lometa, Texas. My boys were in a rodeo that was open to the public. My sons ran to hug me when they saw me. We spent a little time together before their father found out and got violent.
The violence was recorded. Police reports were filed. But the DA refused to file charges, saying it was “a mess”. Yes. Mr. DA, it is. But this 6″ grown man snatched up a 15- year- old child and shoved him hard, making him to fall backwards forcefully. took my phone from him. He was angry my friend’s son was recording video of the ordeal. He drew back to hit him, then shoved him backward, hard. Once I got between the two of them, yelling “stop”. In the video, you can hear everyone yelling for him to stop, and you see the video being snatched. I didn’t fight back, although legally I could have. My ex then hit me in the stomach, saying “take your phone and never come back” with his finger in my face, My sons saw this from the back seat of his car.
My friend called 911. While she was speaking to them, my ex’s new wife snatched the phone off her ear. This was “interference with an emergency call”, but no charges were made.
The deputy who responded told me to stop recording my ex. Legally, you can record or photograph anyone in a public place at any time. I said “I will not stop recording, but I will not point the camera at him”, which he reluctantly accepted. He was concerned I was recording him while he threatened to arrest me. I insisted politely that Texas declined jurisdiction of this case, so my orders are not relevant there. There is no order of protection, so I have no cause to be jailed. After everyone left the rodeo, he allowed my friend and I to leave, but insisted my friend drive. He thought I was too upset.
We had court 12/28/15, to hear my motions for a final hearing date, physical visitation, and reunification therapy via Skype with a therapist who specializes in “high conflict” families. We were told judge Hargrove would only have 1 hour for this hearing. She stated it was, “futile”, since she didn’t agree I should have visitation. She couldn’t deny me a hearing. When we arrived for court, the entire day’s docket was miraculously clear. We went on for 3 hours, and at the end she denied all of my visitation motions, including Skype. The judge said she believes I would continue to alienate my children from their father if given the opportunity. In other words, she feels I should have no contact with my sons based on something I’ve never done in the past, but may hypothetically do in the future.
I was questioned about attending the Rodeo by my ex-husbands attorney, and why I spoke to my sons knowing my ex has temporary full custody. I said “I am not going to tell my children to go away if they approach me, I can’t do that.”
Our final hearing on these “temporary orders” is on May 9th & 10th 2016. Meanwhile, My ex posted a photo of his face covered in blood, with sunglasses on. It seems he’s sending me a message. It isn’t the first time he’s sent threatening or intimidating images of himself after a court date.
By Beth Suiter