I feel like what should be happening now is some kind of splashy graphic or a pithy quote announcing the END OF ALL THINGS LEGAL. Instead, let’s have some Titian. I always liked that guy.
I feel a little insensible in both senses of the word–cuckoo and numb. But I really feel like I owe you the end of the story, and I say that ungrudgingly.
Where were we? Previously on Legal Beat, SeaFed got slapped with court fees, which may have actually had some effect on him. He spent a week or so flailing around attempting to settle. My lawyer reminded him that he was in violation of a couple of court orders, and that we would request more fees if we walked in to trial, and was he ready for that jelly? It was true and also helpful, I think. We re-presented our final proposed plan, which is actually very simple so as not to cause any confusion. Differing interpretations is something that we’ve struggled with for many years. We got into it during the temporary plan, at some point last summer, over the wording of when he got her for alternate 5th weekends of the month when they occurred. In a nutshell, I think he is too stupid to understand complex sentences and he thinks I am evil. This affirmed the idea that the plan had to be simple, airtight, and not offer anything like that. First and third weekends is it. Years ago I floated the idea of Wednesday night dinners, but he was pretty dedicated to the idea that we would transport to him as much as possible.
Anyway: settling. This involved many emails from him, requesting such changes as replacing the word “by” with “at” in the context of pick up times. I made a last-minute change to the parenting plan involving making the times fussy and slightly inconvenient, so he would feel like he had something to change and nitpick, which he did, as I predicted. I think him feeling like he had a small “win” made it run through more easily, which is consistent with my past experience with him.
On Wednesday or so he declared we would not be going to court, and settling was eminent. He made a last-ditch attempt to get me to “take back” the fees I’d been awarded, if I wanted my lawyer to be paid in a timely fashion, since as he said (times infinity) “I have no munny.” I told my lawyer she could tell him that not only was she not awaiting payment, but that I had a legal fund set up to prevent future shenanigans such as attempts to completely rejigger her residential schedule as he did in late 2011. I concluded with, “Should this legal fund not be necessary, I will use it to buy a donkey and name it SeaFed and kick it when I’m cross.” I never waste my lawyer’s time (or my money) with asides like this, but I knew the light was at the end of the tunnel, and that the email had conveyed all the other information it needed to.
She translated this into Non-Fried-with-This-Shit Person, which is part of her job. He waited until the eleventh hour to sign the paperwork on Friday night, which, I kid you not, I believe was an attempt to get out of picking her up on his Friday night. I tell you, by that point we were mentally so finished with the temporary plan that required a drive through Friday night rush hour traffic in Seattle, and a water crossing. He could pick her up. Naturally, he was not having that. He texted me to have her call him, which was a real mistake on my part, since he gave her an earful of agita about me and how inappropriate I am. (This, of course, is the man who demanded in his last brief that I have COURT SUPERVISION because one single time I absolutely could not make the drive due to moving house last summer, in spite of the fact I gave him a few days’ notice of that one-time pickle.)
So what I did on Friday night, which is basically say “ok, I am throwing the temp plan into the Fuck It Bucket because we are settled and he’s signed and we are not going to trial” was pretty much a war crime. Additionally there was some jazz in one of his emails to my lawyer about being out on business until late or something so I didn’t know where he would be and what he was doing and I chose not to communicate with him about it. I hit a wall, I admit.
There’s this history with us…well, there’s a lot of history with us. But the relevant aspect of this is his extreme, almost childlike notion of “fairness” and what constitutes fairness to him. As an example, before he moved away we went, voluntarily, to mediation in 2007 to talk about what a new schedule would look like. He brought a calendar and a calculator to the appointment because he thought he could math his way out of this problem. We were on the dreadful 50/50 schedule with her then, and he wanted to make every attempt to keep her on that. What that would look like would be he would have her every weekend, all summer, and every holiday. That way, the calendar days would be about even. I could have her on school days, and I would be allowed to keep paying for her school myself. Sounds fair, right? WHEEEEE
Don’t get me wrong, here. I see exactly what happened and I knew what I was doing. The paperwork had not yet been filed, in spite of the fact that he had signed and agreed and the papers were in my lawyer’s possession. And so the settlement and new parenting plan was not yet Official. So here we were on the temp plan for one more Friday night. The peasants were revolting, however. Or I was, at least. (“You said it. They stink on ice!”)
So after he started texting me about where is the kid, have her call me, I was very sad to get the phone back from Franny and to see the look on her face. Because when you tangle with the Scissorhanded Jizz Beast of Porkchopia, do you complain when you end up ass pregnant, unkosher, and with a bowl haircut? You should not. I, in a state of exhaustion that took off at least 30 IQ points, thought he was going to make arrangements to pick her up that night or the next day. I should have known better.
“He wants to talk to you,” she said, tears in her eyes.
She had accidentally pressed the “mute” button in handing it over, which led to several seconds of “Hello hello–honey I think he hung up…wait it’s still going. Hmm. Hello?” before he actually got me. That part was funny but remember: I played it straight. Imagine him, an angry little turtle flipped over on the highway, impotently kicking its feet one last time before the tractor-trailer comes along.
“I think there’s been a little miscommunication,” he said.
“Is that what’s happening?” I asked.
“SJ, did you sign the parenting plan?”
“Not yet. Do you have a reason to think I won’t?”
“It’s not filed yet, then.” Bingo. Rules lawyering to the very end. He went on: “I know we’re not going to be friends.” There was scolding, too: “I think it’s very inappropriate the way you use her as a pawn.”
“I’ll take that under advisement,” I said. “Did you want to pick her up in the morning, or…?”
I heard the click–he hung up on me. Left Before Signing hung up on me, can you imagine?
I can’t really defend myself with regards to Friday night. If that’s how he feels, then that’s how he feels. I suspect we were both too exhausted to do some basic communication. It wasn’t helping that Franny did not want to go over there. Is that an excuse? No, it’s not either. I do get tired when he makes these matoor mouthwords at me and then his every action reflects the opposite of what he says.
It’s a tough road to navigate, being split up with someone who has a philosophy that diametrically opposes your own. Historically speaking, I feel I’ve been in a position where he expects me to say “yes” to anything he asks regarding where/how/when to drop her off, to pay for everything, to deal with her healthcare and her schooling. I’ve accepted this, and I don’t feel resentful about it anymore and haven’t for several years once the initial shock of the reality of being divorced from him faded. Not to mention that I’ve been in the position of primary parent for several years, and now am receiving child support and the title “custodial parent,” I am just owning it. Sure, I’ll take care of everything and smile about it. If I felt like there was any niblet of parity or empathy there I would be more open to working with him in these rare situations, but it goes straight to rules lawyering on his part and “Oh god I am so tired I will just go fetal here for a minute or 30” on my part.
So, in very long-winded closing remarks, I don’t know how you deal with someone like this, except to do what I’m doing, which was to go to court and create the most airtight parenting plan that I could. When is it appropriate to make yourself a shield from someone? How big and wide can it go when you have a kid with them? When do you pull the kid under it, and when do you leave them outside of it? This is something I’ve asked myself. My hope is that this will let us all get on with our lives–I can parent her without the aggro of having to appear in court or try to negotiate terms with him or wait and wait while he decides if he will pay for things like a GAL or comply with court orders. He can spend time with her without having to wait for the caprices of Seattle Friday night traffic to deliver her. I am now scheduled to actually see him three times a year, and I imagine his wife will be delivering her on those times since it’s during the workday.
The next little challenge-that-isn’t really is Franny’s appearance in the school musical next week. She mentioned that her stepmother is telling her that I’m going to “attack” them since we’ll be there on the same night. Who’s pawning who? Shit, I don’t care. Just shut your fucking talkhole with that shit.
It is a fault of mine that my relationship and history is so bad with him that it’s better to both write this particular parenting plan and minimize my contact with him as much as humanly possible, and that is a shortcoming I hope she will be able to forgive me for. I have forgiven myself for having her with him. I could not have foreseen all this at 22, that’s for sure.
My lawyer presented the signed paperwork with the message: “Looks like you will have money left over for that donkey after all.”
(NOT OF BLOG THOUGH, SORRY)