I'd Go to Jail For My Kids
The system takes over
After a year the social worker withdrew from the case, citing budget cuts, and we wound up in court again. I'd learned that Rob wanted to take the kids wherever he pleased and, representing myself, I argued against that.
Without a county agency to turn to, the judge appointed a freelance visitation-time expeditor named Pam to help us hash out the issues. These expeditors are independent contractors, often psychologists or lawyers, who are chosen from a list of professionals known as "neutrals" and are supposed to work with both parties to resolve visitation issues. Given the number of cases and the level of conflict, family-court judges have to rely on objective third parties to, literally, expedite the cases. Of course, some expeditors aren't necessarily neutral or objective and stand to make a great deal of money the longer a case goes on.
Upon Pam's appointment, she asked for a $750 retainer and presented me with a contract that made it clear I'd have to pay hourly fees in addition to this. I wasn't receiving child support, and Jack, with a fresh college degree, was starting a second career as a teacher. When I said that I didn't have the money and wouldn't sign the agreement, she said that without payment in full, she would not allow my input into the process.
Rob could afford to pay Pam, and they discussed his case for hours; she had his payment and his side of the story. My not having any input meant that my attempts to discuss conditions of the visits -- such as who would be supervising and where they might go -- were ignored.
Pam scheduled nine visits between my kids and Rob, on dates Rob chose. I was to deliver them to his house, then pick them up four hours later. The first two visits were scheduled on days that Shawn and Claire had birthday parties and scouting activities. When Rob refused to discuss rescheduling, I skipped the visits, even though I knew that could get me in trouble. When I delivered the children for the third visit, Rob wasn't home. Then I received a letter from Pam saying that everything was off until the judge could consider contempt charges against me.
Instead of a contempt charge, the judge decided that Pam would oversee mediation between Rob and me. As angry as I was, I thought I should make peace for the sake of the children. During mediation, Rob and Pam ignored my concerns about how Shawn and Claire were reacting to the visits. I suggested that they take place at our house, which would create a more normal family atmosphere. Rob refused because, he said, he was perceived as being difficult there. After two hours, we agreed on nothing.