Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Custody Hearing

It's hard to describe what I feel right now, an odd mixture of relief and euphoria. The show cause hearing was today for my custody case. I've hardly been able to think of anything else these past few weeks as today drew nearer and nearer. At times I felt very confident while other times I felt like I didn't stand a chance. I've been listless and distracted much of the time, barely able to concentrate on work or homework. My mom asked me yesterday if I felt optimistic about the case. "No, I don't," I said. "But I don't feel pessimistic either. I just feel...like I'm drowning." It seems an eternity has passed since I first began this process, but it has only been about six months. I had to keep telling myself that as stressful (I hate how that word has become overused, but I think I'm justified this time) as this has been for me, this is much harder for Erica and Shaena. I also had to bear in mind that as bad as this is going to be for them, it is for a better end. Keep your eye on the prize and all that.

Today it paid off. My ex-wife did not even show up for the hearing. Oh, she knew about it and no doubt she has an answer for why she did not that makes sense to her. I'll go ahead and thank her for making my job easier. The girls' counselor testified first and then I did. Probably the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done in my life. I'd rather jump out of a plane. Then the judge made her decision.

She ruled in my favor for the most part. In the interim I will be the primary custodial parent. Provided my ex-wife gets a day job so that she can be with the girls in the evening, attends counseling with them, allows them to participate in extr-curricular activities, and makes sure that they get to the (public!) school I will be enrolling them in during the time they are with her, she can file for a 50/50 custody arrangement. I have a hard time seeing her do this especially counseling.

I am so excited. This has been a weight on me for so long now. Before I took actual concrete steps this summer to make this happen, I had been contemplating it for years. Erica and Shaena have been in such a negative, abusive environment and it pained me to see it. Now, though, perhaps some healing can begin.

None of this would have been possible without some very generous people. The St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation and my co-worker and friend, Brenda Nagel. They donated a very generous sum of money which allowed me to obtain a lawyer. My lawyer, Brooke Baracker, at Elk River Law did a wonderful job guiding me through this and helping me make the best case I could. And, of course, all of my friends and family who have offered moral support through this ordeal. To those who came to court today - Mom, Dad, Jean, Sharie, Shawna, Brenda, and Jeromy - you don't know how much that meant to me. You couldn't be in the courtroom (privacy issues because of the minors involved), but just knowing you were waiting right outside made it that much more bearable inside.

Finally, of course, I have to say thank you to the two smartest, most talented, most compassionate, and most beautiful girls in the world. Erica and Shaena, you have come through so much and, unfortunately, the journey is not over, yet. There will be many more obstacles and pitfalls along the way. I am only human and though I try to be the best father I can, I know I have made mistakes. I will make more of them. Thank you for putting up with me and my follies. Thank you for staying with me through all of this.

Thank you for continuing to say, "Dad, I love you." Erica and Shaena, my sweet angels, I love you, too.