The Draconian Sub-Society of Family Court. Part I — The Guardian ad Litem

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Rita was a vile, unhappy woman who earned extra money influencing custody cases in a Western Washington county. Though she was highly qualified at being hateful and hyper-opinionated, she was not the slightest bit capable of being a guardian ad litem. She didn’t care that she wasn’t capable, however, because she didn’t care about the well-being of children.

She was a social worker, technically qualifying her to be a GAL, but her cold, hard heart was enough to make her dangerous. I’m not sure why she chose to get into social work, but I suspect its avenue into the personal lives of others helped satisfy her appetite for tormenting people she disliked.

Her goal as a GAL was to collect money while doing as little actual work as possible and get some personal satisfaction shaming parents who rubbed her the wrong way. She was a lonely, plump, aging divorcee and, unlike contented women of her age, found inadequate joy in hobbies, family, and other life treats.  Though she spent her personal time parading around at hippy festivals, smoking weed, and playing the part of social activist, she needed the GAL gig to quench her corrupt ego. She was a has-been who never was, and she blamed an assortment of people, groups, and belief systems. Fortunately for her, she was in a position to punish many of them and get paid for it. It was – and is – a miserable bitch’s dream job . Little work, lots of wicked fun, and zero accountability.

She savored her stranglehold on frazzled, terrified parents — an all too common trait of family court vendors. When someone has a child’s safety in their hands, they are in the position of oppressor if they so choose. Even tough, strong-willed people, if their child’s safety is threatened, will cower like beaten dogs. Having an unethical or sociopathic guardian ad litem assigned to them is like having their own personal Kim Jung Un because there is no bigger threat to loving parents than the possibility of their children being put in danger. Parents in such situations are often already weakened, emotionally and financially, when they find themselves at the mercy of someone much like the exes they left.

When speaking on the phone to arrange our first meeting, Rita was friendly, but with detectable effort. A few nights later, we met face to face in an empty office building after business hours. She put her paperwork and laptop on the board room table and spent ten minutes or so feigning professionalism. After that, all I saw were fangs.

She hum hawed around at first and used little time or energy discussing important things or asking pertinent questions. I could see that something was eating at her. Less than twenty minutes into our debut encounter, she pounced.  “Pennsylvania is a very conservative state. You do realize that, don’t you?” Clearly, it was an admonishment. She might as well have said that Pennsylvania was full of satanists and everyone there ate live puppies for breakfast.

I immediately realized my ex or one of his cohorts had used Rita’s passion for liberalism as a weapon against me. “Actually, it’s a blue state,” I politely replied.

She refused to acknowledge her ignorance, opting to spout off spontaneously made-up nonsense. “Well . . . only recently!”  She yelled, in the tone of a snotty twelve-year-old.  “But still, it is actually very conservative.”

“The county I live in is conservative, yes, but most of the state is not,” I explained. I kept my tone as upbeat as possible and forwent explaining that Pennsylvania was historically liberal, not recently so. My daughter’s safety and future was, tragically, now in Rita’s hands, so no matter how badly I wanted to tell her where she could shove her cheap, unprofessional comments, I tried to keep wearing a friendly attitude.

She used a covert eye-roll from her arsenal of implied insults and tried to scorn me by bringing up the state where I was born and raised. “Missouri is very conservative too. You can’t deny that!”

“Yes. It is,” I agreed.

Rita sure had some mental problems, and I had become her newest target. She went silent for several seconds while viewing her laptop screen and, without looking up, announced, “Missouri has a really big meth problem.” In other words, You’re as dirty and disgusting as a meth head because…. GEOGRAPHY!

In my mind, I was screaming a gunnery sergeant’s famous line from a popular war movie, which likely led to my tit for tat response. “This area is known for its drug problems.”

“Oh, it is not!” she shouted. “That just isn’t true! We don’t have any drug problems here!”

I shit you not. She really said that, which meant she was either a complete dumbass in denial or a lying liar telling lies through her lying lie-hole. In the Western Washington county where our bizarre meeting was being held, meth had become a heavy burden. Heroin as well. The drug problem there caused significant and frequent property crime and led to a huge increase in homelessness. Public bathrooms were locked up more often than not, and some even had sharps containers in them. Nearly everyone who hadn’t experienced a purse-snatching, car theft, or burglary, first-hand, knew someone who had. They absolutely had a regional drug problem. Everyone there knew it and was forced to deal with it, and Rita damn well knew it too.

Someday, by the way, I will indeed let her know that the best part of her ran down the crack of her mama’s ass and ended up a brown stain on the mattress. Mark my words.

After she finished insinuating that I was an evil Republican who was somehow geographically connected to a meth problem, she retrieved some documents from a folder and attacked my personal character with a barrage of puzzling, angry questions. Still, nothing made sense, and her disgusting bias became more and more obvious throughout the mind-boggling ordeal. Each question was as baffling as the next.

She looked up from the pile of documents. “Why did you move back to Washington in 2010?”

“What? I didn’t.” By that point, I had already denied a slew of odd, furious accusations as well as long, silent glares.

She jabbed a finger at one of the documents. “You said so right here!”

That only added to my confusion. “What? No. Where are you getting this stuff?”

“Here!” she shouted, slamming her finger back at the document. “You wrote it!”

I looked at the document and realized why I had been accused of unexplainable and self-incriminating statements. “Oh….You’re using Frank’s papers. He wrote those things. And it’s all untrue.” In addition to my ex’s incoherent, contradictory lies in all of his statements, motions, and GAL forms, he hadn’t even tried to get dates or years right most of the time.

Boldly dismissive of her screw-up, she persisted. “But why did you move back in 2010?”

“I didn’t, and if you want to ask me questions about the truth, then please use my statements. My papers,” I said. “It makes no sense for you to use Frank’s words as your guide or ask me to explain why non-events happened.”

Rita ceased eye contact for a couple minutes, as she always did after making an ass of herself. She rifled through the papers, sighing a time or two, until retrieving the lengthy document I had carefully filled out at her request a couple weeks earlier. My detailed, written statements and timeline, however, quelled her enthusiasm for the interrogation, as they contained undeniable and proven facts. Fact-finding was not on her persecution agenda, so she shucked them aside within a few minutes and opted for some damaging ammo — the sworn statements of Frank’s accomplices.

Family court perjury is rarely prosecuted. By rarely, I mean it’s almost unheard of, so lying in custody-related sworn statements is commonplace. Whether or not someone decides to lie in their sworn statements depends on what their goal is and what type of person they are. If their goal is to help protect a child, they tell the truth. If their goal is to destroy one of the parents out of spite, they make up anything that comes to mind or simply agree to write whatever is requested of them.

Some of Rita’s insults were presented calmly and others in anger. She had a difficult time maintaining an air of maturity, so her childish bitterness cut through repeatedly. Often, she dramatically paused to give me the extended stink eye while pondering her next attack. Why the hell had they put this inept, crazy woman in charge of my daughter’s future? She shouldn’t be trusted with the fate of a goldfish, let alone concoct opinions regarding a child’s safety.

By the time we finished our meeting, I had endured four torturous hours with my very own Almira Gulch, but she wasn’t using her position of power to separate me from my Cairn Terrier.  She was after my daughter. I left with swollen eyes and more fear than ever. On top of being sleep deprived from my cross-country flight, I was chronically withered from constant worry and hopelessness, so when Rita ditched the custody-related line of questioning and lit into me about politics, I assumed I was still napping on the plane. It was absolutely unreal. Up to that point, I had survived several years of bullying by a power-hungry ex, as well as five years of family court dumbassery that spanned three states and required twice as many attorneys. Now I would have to survive Rita.

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