Tuesday, July 14, 2009

1-0 for the good guys

I haven't written anything for so long, because my life was focused on the legal battle. That's all I wanted to write about, and of course I couldn't.

Now that it's over (well, not quite, but largely), I can finally write. And guess what?

The good guys won! That is, F1-1 won. Because really, it wasn't between me and his father. I wasn't trying to accomplish what was best for me, I was trying to accomplish what was best for him. Both parties suggested parenting plans to the court, and the judge turned both down. My attorney and I tried to put together a proposal that would give ample time for F1-1 to spend with his father, and the judge ruled that it was too much, that it would require too much travel for F1-1, and therefor be too stressful. In the end the judge ruled exclusively from F1-1's point of view, and not the parents, which was what I didn't dare hope for.

F1-1's father is leaving. Going to another country. Permanently. He had his tickets purchased, his bags packed, and he was going to leave regardless of the court's order. Then he filed a petition with the court less than 2 months before his planned departure, asking the court to change which parent F1-1 lives with, and to take F1-1 with him. No one had any clue ahead of time that this was coming.

It was a painful process. We met in front of the judge. It became clear that I was at an extreme disadvantage without an attorney. It took some doing, but just before we were scheduled to appear before the judge again, I found an attorney willing to take the little bit of cash we had as a retainer. The parties were then referred to mediation. This is where both parties meet with their attorney's (if they have any) and a court-approved mediator to try and sort out the issues. They can reach a partial agreement on some issues, and take the remainder to the court to rule on.

At first it looked like an agreement could be reached if we went on a little longer. But after 8 hours of mediation, things fell apart, and we ended in an impasse. Even the few issues we had sort of reached agreement on in the meantime were at risk.

We gave the opposing party another week to come to some kind of agreement, but it didn't work out, and we had to go to court. It's involved, but it took two days of sitting in court, with witnesses, testimony, cross-examination, and re-direct. It was pure torture. Especially considering the fact that opposing party has the dementor-effect on me, I don't know how I lived to tell this tale.

The court gave a ruling with less than 48 hours to spare. Opposing party was leaving the country with or without F1-1, and was simply waiting for the court's answer. When it came, it was better than I could have hoped for. Apparently, my attempts to be conciliatory were not appreciated, and the court found that I was giving away what wasn't mine to give. That I was allowing F1-1's summer activities to be in jeopardy so he could spend more time with his father, that I was scheduling too much travel for him to be with his father.

The court ruled that no matter what else, F1-1 gets to stay here, were he has lived the vast majority of his life, that he get to participate fully in his favorite sports activities, and that he gets to travel with his friends every summer, and that visitation with his father takes a second seat to that.

It is not entirely over yet. Both parties have been ordered to attend another mediation session in person to decide remaining issues of visitation (keeping in mind the items mentioned above). Opposing party may have to travel back here to attend one of those, because he left as planned, and didn't even postpone his trip. That was a bit of a surprise to me, because if he had, we might have been able to come to some arrangement to allow F1-1 to spend the rest of the summer with him, and he would have been able to do as the court ordered. But he didn't. He left. Very interesting decision on his part. But I'm not complaining.

I can't really provide any more detail, especially since there's still things pending, but I can't begin to express how happy I am. We've won all the major issues, and then some. I was bracing for much, much worse, but it's all good.

Now back to your regular blogging schedule.