I go to court several times a year. You'd think I would be used to it by now. I think that my first visit to divorce court, now over four years ago, spoiled me. I had been separated for over seven months. My husband had closed all of our bank accounts and left me with no money. Fortunately, I had credit cards and overdraft on my newly opened account, so I did have some way of taking care of myself and our children, but my credit was about to run out. Strangely, I went to court with an incredible amount of optimism. I remember wearing a gold sweater and thinking to myself, "I am golden." Yeah, that's crazy, I know, but I just felt this sense of calm as I sat there awaiting my fate. I sat next to people in the waiting area and marveled at the emotional chaos around me. People were angry and bitter. I sat in my golden bubble and offered them empathy and kindness. Ahhh, innocence. But here's the thing, I walked out of court with a pendente lite support order that provided enough for me to take care of my children, at least temporarily. Pendente lite: that's Latin for "pending the litigation" or "the temporary order that your husband will ignore."
So I went back to court every few months to get my husband to comply with the order. This went on for 2 ½ years. Finally, in the spring of 2011, we went through binding arbitration and got a final decision and order and I retreated back to my golden bubble and thought the fight was finally over. Ahhh, innocence.
Yeah, yeah, you're thinking, "So, where's the crazy part?"
My husband refused to accept the binding arbitration decision. Once again, he stopped paying all support. So after three months of anxiety and waiting for a court date, my lawyer and I returned to court. Maybe I should have worn my gold sweater, but it was August. Maybe the heat had already gotten to me, but for some reason, I had brought pictures: 8×10 glossies of my beautiful children. Through this whole process, I had been trying to tell the court that this was all about the children. That all I cared about was my children. So maybe I could not make my husband be the father they deserved. Maybe I could not make him love them the way all children should be loved. I just wanted someone to see them. I wanted the judge to look at my children and see that they were not just names in pile upon pile of legal papers. They were beautiful, innocent, loving, and vulnerable children who needed this judge to protect them. I'm not sure how it happened, but we walked out of the courtroom with nothing more than another court date. I walked out with exactly what I walked in with, and I never said a word. Never said a word until I walked out of the courtroom.
I suppose if you're going to go crazy, it's better to do it outside of the courtroom. As soon as I walked out of the courtroom, I lost it. I started to cry, loudly, holding up the photos of my children, approaching people in the waiting area, saying, "Wouldn't you love these children? Wouldn't you take care of them if they were yours?"
Gosh, I wasn't holding out a gun or anything, but I remember being encircled by men in uniform, men with guns. That's weird, right? So I held those photos up to the policemen surrounding me and asked them if they would love my children. Asked them how my children's father could abandon them. I remember soothing words from the policemen and my lawyer, who managed to ferry me to the elevator and back down to the main floor of the courthouse, where we were met and again encircled by a few more men in uniform. This is the part that makes me giggle. I imagine them getting the heads up that a crazy, distraught woman was coming downstairs and that they should be prepared. OK, I know bad things can happen in courthouses, but imagine the call coming on their walkie-talkies, "There's a woman coming downstairs. Watch out, she's got photos."
And maybe that's why I was so dangerous. I was asking people to look beyond the words printed on stacks of paper. I was asking them to look beyond the lawyers and the husband and wife at war. I was asking them to look at the truth. And the truth was that I had three children who didn't ask for any of this, who deserved a childhood, as all children deserve, a childhood free from strife and chaos, and full of joy and love and peace.
I went back to court this week. I had told my lawyer that I would want to speak, but when I had my chance, I didn't have the words. Or maybe I was afraid the words would not matter. Because what's really crazy is that I'm sitting here weeping as I write this. I'm weeping because I am still wishing that my children's father would love them the way children should be loved by their father. I guess there's no court in the world that can make that happen. And it's crazy that I thought, even for a moment, that my words would make a difference.
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