I couldn’t stop shaking. I knew that every word coming out of my mouth would likely not make any sense. This was the last time I would testify in an attempt to save my son’s life. As I walked to the stand, I felt as if my legs would buckle beneath me. Judge Algeo watched me closely and I knew this was going to have to be the show of my life. Sadly, no matter how much I tried to “keep my emotions in check” as I had been coached many times by my attorneys – this was my son I was fighting for and I couldn’t shut off my maternal instincts. I hadn’t eaten in a week, hadn’t slept in days, and probably should have been on some sort of anti-depressant medication (if, in fact, there are meds that can help a mother not feel as terrified as I felt in that moment).
My testimony went by in a blur. Everything I had planned to say didn’t come out right. I begged Judge Algeo to wait until Prince was old enough to speak before he would consider unsupervised visits. As I sat there terrified and shaking, Luc sat back and smirked. He knew he had checked all of the boxes (or at least lied his way through the court’s tests) and he appeared to enjoy my very visible pain. Prudence Upton, Luc’s very aggressive attorney, seemed to also enjoy my suffering. She spent a considerable amount of time chastising me for not making plans for Luc to spend time with Prince at chuck -e- cheese on his first birthday. I remember thinking to myself, ‘seriously woman? You are worried about chuck-e-cheese and I am worried about my son living to see his second birthday.’
Unfortunately it appeared as though Chuck-e-cheese was a bigger deal than I thought it was. Judge Algeo and Prudence seemed to expect that it was my job that week to make sure that Luc didn’t have to lift a finger in order to spend time with his son. I was supposed to contact the supervisor and request more time, plan for a party that Luc would enjoy, and make sure everything was rolled out on a red carpet. Luc never lifted a finger nor requested extra time outside of court. That day, however, Luc was the calm and collected father who could shed a controlled tear on the stand and I was the mother who had been painted as a basket case – a scorned woman – and over dramatic.
A reflection of myself:
A couple of nights ago, I received a frantic phone call from a mother who is going through a terrifying custody case with an abusive (soon to be ex) husband. She has a two year old son whom she is fighting for. As I spoke to her on the phone, I thought to myself, ‘this woman sounds like a basket case.’ After our conversation was over, however, I realized that I may as well have just been speaking to myself about seven months ago. This woman had a right to be frantic – act crazy – be terrified – or whatever emotion her body allowed her to have. She was in the fight of her life struggling through a thankless and helpless system that fully intended on harming her son for the sake of “parental rights”.
To give you some background, the father in this case had assaulted this two year old boy and this abuse was documented by Child Protective Services. In fact, the CPS worker came into court to testify in the hearing when this mother tried to get a protective order against the father for her son. After hearing the testimony of the abuse, the judge denied the protective order calling the bruises found on the boy “merely negligence” vice abuse. The judge admitted that he called it “negligence” because he did not want to end all visitation. This judge chose to protect the father over this two year old little boy.
Upon hearing that the protective order for her son was denied, and visits with the abusive father would begin, this mother broke down crying in the courtroom. The judge reportedly called her out publicly and told her to “put on [her] game face.” He continued to tell her that he was watching her every move and that this sort of “behavior” would be used against her in his future rulings.
Ever since I have gone through my own Custody War, I have learned many tough lessons. One of the toughest lessons that I have learned is that the courts have turned into a war zone. In this war zone, women are expected to stop being mothers who worry about their children. In fact, showing fear in the courtroom could be one of the very things that will label you as a “parental alienator”. We are supposed to forget about having been abused, turn our children over to men we know have abused and will abuse again, and we are supposed to do all of this enthusiastically and with a smile on our faces.
To expect a woman who has lived through the chaos created by a psychopath to “remain calm” in family court as the abuse continues, and while she is trying to protect her innocent child, is asking her to leave her humanity at the door. Any woman who could walk into family court when the stakes are that high and remain calm – I would question her mental state. I have heard that the family court used to be slanted toward women. I sure wish I had been going through the system at that time. When I went through, I experienced what seemed like a war on motherhood. I was told I wasn’t allowed to be a mother to my son, but that I was required to make sure that Luc could be his father despite what he had done that proved he was not capable of being a real father.
As absurd as it sounds, I am still waiting for the day when I get a call from my family attorneys telling me that Judge Algeo has requested that I provide Luc with some time to visit Prince’s grave. I can also imagine that in this same phone call I would be asked to provide Luc with a car, since he doesn’t have one, and a packed lunch for the long trip. Some of you might be thinking that sounds absurd, but not as absurd as the moment when I stood over my son’s dying body listening to nurses discuss how they wanted to create a hospital “visitation schedule” for the man who had just murdered my son.
While nurses were discussing allowing this man to visit, I was told that if I said a word to Luc that I would be taken to a psychiatric ward and kept away from my son in his final hours. That – ladies and gentlemen – is the state of our society.