July 16, 2019, Chris and I begrudgingly attended Bailey’s custody hearing at our local courthouse. I must admit that I have never been more nervous and scared in my entire life. Whatever the outcome of the situation (that Bailey’s mother and grandfather had created) was to be, it was obvious that our family and Bailey’s life could change forever. For months, the ex and her father had emotionally manipulated Bailey to believe and to say that she wasn’t happy at home with us. There aim was to have SOLE custody, yet Bailey had not lived outside of her home or away from her father at all in her young twelve years.
We arrived that morning, wearing matching outfits. I don’t know why I felt that we had to match. Chris’ polo shirt matched the hint of turquoise in my dress. I longed to CONTROL something albeit just our attire. We were the only hearing scheduled that day, so when I walked in, the left side of the room was filled with the ex’s extended family members. I hurried to the left side, drawing an invisible line in the sand that remains to this day. On our right side of the room, there simply sat: our family friend, my mama, my grandmother, our aunt, and two witness. However, on her side, sat Chris’ grandmother and grandfather. I cannot fathom how it felt to have the woman who raised you decide to have herself subpoenaed in order to testify against you.
This woman who I had respected and known my entire life sat on the wrong side, and she, to this day, does not support our family or Chris’ custody of his daughter. As soon as we entered the room, the NASTY chatter from the opposite side began. I hear the word WITCH and LOWLIFE. I see these people, who I have never even met much less have talked with before, mouth obscenities and spit HATEFUL words at us. Had this coparenting situation really come to this? OH YES, IT HAD.
Chris and I reached the lawyer’s study and meet with our lawyer who informs us that the ex’s lawyer subpoenaed Bailey at 8 pm the previous evening. I hopped up to get her from my aunt who volunteered to keep Bailey and Liam, our eighteen month old son, for the day. I brought Bailey a dress and shoes to change into. She looked frightened and shaky. We sang songs and drove to court without much to say. Ever since we were served with the custody papers, we made a point to not discuss the situation in front of the children. I took that same approach with our ride to Cochran that morning, and she stared ahead with a blank stare on her face.
Bailey and I finally reached the steps of the building and climbed the stairs to the courtroom law library. I hugged her and asked if she needed anything, and I walked away from the little girl who has become the love of my life. What would happen to her? What would happen to us? I returned to the lawyer’s study, and I noticed tears swelling in my husband’s eyes. We would know what she said to the judge soon because he was speaking to her privately. I waited for news while shaking my foot and gnawing the side of my hot, parched lips.
Both lawyers went into the judge’s chambers to hear what Bailey had to say as well as be informed of his decision. Our valiant lawyer returned and said, “Jennifer, she said exactly what you said she would! She said she loves all of her family which includes her brother, sisters, and stepmother. The judge has dismissed the case and awarded Chris child support.”
Soon the realization and the relief flooded my mind. I turned and said to Chris: “it’s over.” Yet, I was wrong. The ex renegotiated and gave up two of her weekends to Chris in order to keep from paying child support. We convened inside the courtroom where Chris and she were sworn under oath, they agreed to the terms, and the hearing ended. Unfortunately, the turmoil and manipulations from the ex wife and her father will never end.
That same evening that we took Bailey home to continue with the new agreement, and she text me wanting to speak to Bailey. She texted three more times; I ignored them. The next day her father texted my husband and threatened him.
The order read that our weekend started immediately, and our lawyer assured us that we were correct to keep Bailey. Her father texted seven more times that evening. The harassment will not seem to stop. On Tuesday of this week, the court reporter who transcribed the hearing found Bailey’s grandfather plundering through her mail at her home. He stated he would not leave until he had the transcript. He had to be escorted from her property. That next morning he called her stating he had to have the transcript this week because “Chris is holding Bailey hostage.”
Bailey was sick Monday, and her mother wanted us to take her to Chris’ grandmother’s house for the night and next day although we have custody of Bailey. Chris said “No,” and surprisingly her father was found trespassing and rifling through a mailbox that very next day. Will this ever end? Will I ever have a good night sleep again? Will I ever forget the horrible words his ex wife’s family members said to Chris and I on their way out of courtroom? They alleged we had stolen Bailey from her mother. One of her aunts informed Chris he could never again patron her business. The hatred was palpable. The harassment endless. Chris says to not be afraid of him because that’s what he wants, but when you are the mother of four children, how are you to be carefree?