I had applied to spend more time with Daughter Number Two. In the seven months leading up to the court date I had moved twice, once interstate. My access to Internet and other resources has been sketchy. The months between Daughter Number One’s birthday and the anniversary of her death have always been an uphill battle for me and this year her father’s suicide the day after the anniversary completely crippled me. For these reasons and others I was unprepared for a hearing. No subpoenas issued or documents filed on my behalf. No evidence to rely on at hearing. I had been asking Baby Daddy for an adjournment for a good two months at least. Each request was met with silence.
For perspective; there have been no other adjournments and nothing would change the situation for Daughter Number Two as it stood in the interim. But he did not even respond to my requests because, I guess, he didn’t have to. Baby Daddy has had a fully funded Legal Aid solicitor for the entire proceedings. I was funded, two weeks before the hearing, for a solicitor to negotiate and for a mediation. I had also been seeking a mediation for months. One had been agreed to at a community agency but the appointment was after the hearing date. The one funded by Legal Aid did not even get to the date setting stage.
The solicitor representing me had asked at the mention preceding the hearing for an adjournment and was told that the issue would have to be argued on the hearing date. On the day of the hearing I turned up to find Baby Daddy nestled between his Legal Aid funded solicitor and HIS LEGAL AID FUNDED BARRISTER. The matter went in for mention. The solicitor representing me asked the magistrate to stand it down to allow negotiations to continue and said I would be seeking an adjournment if negotiations were unsuccessful. The Barrister representing Baby Daddy said that they were vehemently opposed to an adjournment and the magistrate concurred. The ‘negotiations’ involved my solicitor being told that if I didn’t concede to all Baby Daddy’s terms the Barrister would put me in the witness box and tear me apart. Baby Daddy’s terms were less than the recommendations of the family report writer but this was the same reporter who wrote that although there was no evidence to support the father’s claims, in the interest of minimising parental conflict we should just go along with him. That was my favourite part. Baby Daddy has spent twelve months attacking and issuing subpoenas against me but not only me; also my former partner, his minor children and my two sons, one of whom is sixteen years old. He has been relentless. No one but me seemed to wonder at the omission of Daughter Number Two’s school and health records, which, if they actually supported his lofty claims would have seemed an obvious inclusion.
The solicitor representing me was very clear about the fact that if we returned to the court room and she asked for an adjournment and it was formally denied from that point I would be on my own. The hearing would proceed from that moment with me representing myself, no documents to rely on, against a Barrister who was going to put me in the witness box and tear me apart. If there was a choice then I didn’t see it. How I felt was coerced, railroaded and hopeless. After years of psychological and emotional abuse from Baby Daddy there was a report writer saying I should ‘go along with him’ despite the lack of evidence to support what he was saying, to keep him sweet. And a legal system further validating him. There was no focus on fairness, due process or even what the whole farce was meant to be about; Daughter Number Two’s best interests. Having spent time in many courts – Criminal as a juror, Supreme when my mother was contesting her father’s will against her five children, Children’s as a carer, Coroner’s as a mother, Family Court when my Daughter’s murderer’s mother who had had sexually assaulted him by having intercourse with him when he was thirteen was seeking contact with my sons; yep, I’ve seen them all – I can tell you for certain that the legal system is not about fairness. It is not about justice. It is mostly about who has the most cash to flash at legal practitioners. And possession is nine tenths of it. I know, I know, most of you are sitting there thinking that what I’m saying can’t be right. That’s because IT ISN’T. It’s so many shades of WRONG. But that is the way it happened.
For the first four and a half years of Daughter Number Two’s life I cared for her on a daily basis while dealing with my own issues and looking after my sons who had issues of their own, my eldest with fairly high needs including seizures uncontrolled by medication. My marriage to Baby Daddy lasted eight months into Daughter Number Two’s life. When we were together he slept all day and watched DVD’s all night and I did everything else. In the latter years after separation he saw her three times a week, so long as I delivered her to him like a pizza and had packed her a fully stocked bag. And, you know, it wasn’t raining or anything. He did not have her overnight at all until two months before she went to live with him. For the first few years after separation his contact with Daughter Number Two entailed coming to my home, eating my food, watching my television and sleeping on my sofa all the time telling me how crap I was. During the course of our relationship he took tens of thousands of dollars from me, both prior to our marriage and after separation.
At the time I relocated Baby Daddy would not give me permission to take Daughter Number Two with me, I was desperately unhappy and could not continue as I had been. At the time I did, as I continue to do, the very best I could. And if I had my time over I would make the same decision again for that very reason. It was the very best I could do for all of my children at that moment.
Fast forward to the last weekend. Daughter Number Two spent it with us. She is angry about the level of contact she now has with us. I understand that, I am angry too. She told me three separate times to ‘man up’ and fix it; tell Daddy that it needed to be more. She hit me three times also. Punching me in the chest as hard as she could. She does not understand.
Neither do I.