On one unexceptional Monday evening, in September 2016, I found myself standing frozen in my hallway, holding the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage I’d just been served. A single loose sheet of paper lay on top of the stack. My father found it hidden within the thick packet of the divorce petition. On that page, in bold, was printed;
Notice of Expedited Hearing for Petitioner’s
Ex Parte Motion for Temporary Custody
Apparently, my husband attempted to schedule a custody hearing Ex Parte. Meaning, ‘without ME’. I fought the urge to totally flip out. It appeared as though he did not succeed in getting that hearing (Thank you, God!), seeing as how I received notice that it would be taking place… in just two days.
I had a mere 34 hours to prepare myself for a legal battle.
Unlike my husband, I couldn’t afford a morally flexible (or, perhaps, just easily duped) lawyer. I had to defend myself. So, I spent those next 34 hours researching the rules of procedure, the rules for presenting evidence, how to object (and on what grounds), and so on.
I went through the long list of allegations my husband made against me, one by one. I dug up material evidence that would prove each and every one false. I decided to call the Department of Children and Families to speak with the investigator who had just recently been ordered to do a child safety/welfare inspection, after my husband attempted (and failed) to get an injunction against me.
I asked Ms. Investigator if there was any way to get some form of documentation stating that my case was closed, and that all previous allegations (from the injunction) were false and unfounded.
The DCF child welfare investigator turns out to be my new best friend
I read this most recent list of allegations to the investigator. Having met me in person, and having done an extensive investigation of me/my home/my children, she was almost as disgusted as I was.
She happened to mention that my husband still had an open case in the county he lived in. Furthermore, the investigator assigned to my husband had been unable to get in touch with him. That meant that he had yet to comply with a home inspection, or the drug test.
A major stroke of luck!
Being the helpful sort of person that I am, I told her that my husband would be present at the hearing, should he need to be found. She was very appreciative of the tip. She then asked me exactly when the hearing would take place. She checked her calendar and confirmed she was free on that particular afternoon.
Then, the best news of all. Ms. Investigator told me that she would do me one better than a printed report about my case being closed. She would accompany me to the hearing, herself, and testify on my behalf. And, as long as she was there, she could give my husband that drug test he’d managed to avoid in his home county. I couldn’t believe it!
Ms. Investigator had been in my home (on three surprise occasions), met & interviewed everyone living with me and everyone who was visiting. She interviewed my children, conducted a thorough search of my home and, administered three random drug tests to me. She knew my husband’s allegations were nothing more than malicious bullshit.
Luckily, I’d been documenting everything for a long time…
It was not too difficult to gather the rest of the evidence I needed, after that. I’d been documenting everything about my husband for over a year, by that point. I’d saved every email, text, and letter. I’d recorded every phone call, or in-person conversation (with his knowledge and permission). I also had his call logs (and etc.), from the last time he had tried to convince me not to leave him.
See, as “proof” of his trustworthiness, he had agreed to sync our phones. You know, so I’d know he had nothing to hide. He went back on that agreement soon thereafter but, never bothered to un-sync the phones. As a result, I had quite a few text messages of his to drug dealers, calls to hookers, and conflicting messages to various “friends” (narcissist’s don’t actually have real friends), his mom, and his brothers, that caught him in lie, after lie.
All of that, plus some records from the kids’ physician, and the school board… I was as ready as I’d ever be. All that was left was for me to study the rules of the courtroom. Of course, there were only a million, or so, of them to learn.
The day of the hearing arrived…
I was so nervous. I refused to eat, for fear I might throw it all up. It was the first time I’d seen my husband since the hearing for the injunction he tried to get. He was looking smug in his cheap prom-rental suit. His attorney confident in an easy win.
I walked into the courtroom fighting the urge to turn right around and run out. The sight of Ms. Investigator, sitting at my table waiting for me, instantly calmed my nerves. And, seeing the specimen cup, for the surprise drug test she planned to give my husband, was enough to actually make me smile.
Before the hearing officially began, Ms. Investigator asked to speak. She introduced herself, and asked the judge’s permission to administer the drug test, directly after the hearing. The judge asked my husband if there was any impediment to that plan, and he (of course) said he’d be more than happy to oblige. Then, the hearing began, in earnest.
My husband’s lawyer assumed this would be an easy win…
Being the Petitioner, my husband’s lawyer spoke first. He ran down the list of allegations, asking my husband questions about his knowledge of each one. My husband lied, and lied. Then, lied some more.
Not once, did they present a single shred of evidence to back up any of the heinous allegations. Of course, how could they? They were all bogus accusations. Still, after questioning his one, and only, witness, my husband’s lawyer sat down- satisfied he’d made a slam dunk.
I stood up and began to state my opposition to the idea of my husband having custody of our children. All the while, I’m pulling a two-inches-thick, 3-ring binder from my briefcase, along with several file folders stuffed with papers. As I produce the articles, I explained to the judge that the papers were a collection of evidence, I’d collected over the past year and a half. It was evidence of my husband’s true character, his immorality, and his pathologically abusive, manipulative, and criminal behavior. Of course, it also contained evidence that my husband’s allegations were not only categorically untrue but, also malicious.
Imagine that lawyer’s surprise….
The documents also contained evidence of my husband’s abusive treatment of me, and proof that the hearing was “abuse of process”, and “malicious litigation”; it was just another of my husband’s control tactics. I produced several months’ worth of unanswered emails I wrote to my husband, begging him to call, or come see, our children. I showed the judge a letter I wrote to my husband, explaining how, (a) I had reunited with my family, (b) that I was happy to finally have a support system, and (c) that I wanted to take the kids on a two-week vacation to meet my family. Basically, I was telling him I was moving on with my life.
After that, he suddenly (after 5 months of almost-total absence) wanted to see the kids everyday. He wanted “unfettered access” to them. He wanted 50/50 custody.
I produced emails from my husband containing barely-veiled, and some outright, threats. I laid out a stack of police reports I’d filed. Then, Ms. Investigator testified to fact that I was a good mom, and that the children were happy and healthy. She stated that my home was lovely, and safe, and that she saw absolutely nothing that gave her cause to be concerned for the safety, or well-being, of the children.
Then, the judge asked me about work
I explained that I authored a website about narcissistic abuse, and that I helped women to deal with/heal from its traumatic effects. She asked if I had a degree in psychology. I explained that I was a lay-expert, based on years of research, and 10 years of personal experience in my marriage. Throughout my time speaking, my husband’s lawyer continuously tried to object, without much success. At that, my husband’s lawyer became visibly agitated. He interjected with an off-the-wall comment maintaining that, perhaps, I knew so much about NPD because, in fact, I was the narcissist.
The judge didn’t even bother to respond.
In closing, I stated that, while I believed it was in the children’s best interest to maintain a relationship with their father, being in his custody, unsupervised, would pose a very real threat to their safety and well-being.
The final judgment…
In the end, the judge denied my husband’s petition, and every request within it. Instead, she ordered my husband to have supervised visitation, pending the results of his drug test and, the closing of his DCF case in the county where he lived. We were also ordered to go to mediation, to come to an agreement on a schedule for visitation and such.
Court was adjourned, and I started packing up my files. Ms. Investigator made a bee-line for my husband and they walked off together, in the direction of the men’s room. A male sheriff accompanied them, to “supervise”.
My husband’s lawyer approached me, and asked if he could look at my big binder-o-evidence. I handed it to him. Then, I watched, for about five minutes as he seemed to slowly deflate with the turning of each page. He muttered a thanks as he set down the files. Then, turned to go find his client.
The icing on the cake…
About 20 minutes after the hearing ended, I finally exited the courtroom. As I walked down the hall, I noticed Ms. Investigator still waiting outside the men’s room. I asked if her subject had become bladder-shy. She said she didn’t know what was going on but, my husband had been in the bathroom- with his lawyer now- for the past 15 minutes.
(Not surprisingly, I would later learn that the result of that drug test was “inconclusive”, as my husband “accidentally” got toilet water in the test cup.) I could only laugh, as I made my way down the stairs and out into the parking lot.
The moral of this story is:
You don’t need to stoop to a narcissist’s level in order to defend/protect yourself, or your children. Just document everything, react to nothing, and be patient. The truth will always out…and given even just an inch of rope, narcissists will always hang themselves, eventually.