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Author Topic: Threats to abandon the child(ren)  (Read 225 times)
worriedStepmom
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« on: August 13, 2019, 02:11:48 PM »

SD12's mom clarified that she is in the hospital because she "almost accidentally overdosed" after she was served with the custody modification paperwork.  She gets out at the end of this week.  She says that she was not suicidal; I do not believe that.

They've stabilized her enough that we've reached the climax of the meltdown cycle, where mom threatens to give up all parental rights and - in just the right combination of heroic tearfulness - asks H to come to her house and collect all of SD12's things. 

H played his part and assured her that he didn't want to take all parental rights away from her, and that SD needs her mom.  He even suggested and continued to encourage mom to call SD tonight. 

I suggested after that fact that next time, he skip the "soothing" step.  He became quite irritated.  He says he isn't soothing, he's trying to make sure that SD doesn't hear that her mom is giving up.   

My perspective is that
a) if H believes that mom is so mentally ill that she needs to be talked into parenting and/or not traumatizing her child, then H needs to ask for supervised visitation

because
b) SD has heard this threat of abandonment over and over (which is a large part of the problem)
and
c) SD will hear about this particular incident just as soon as she's alone with mom again, no matter what H says or doesn't say
or
d) grandmother will tell SD - since mom went into the hospital, grandmother has turned into a flying monkey.  H told her to stop, and while she obeyed yesterday, I don't see that continuing.

and
e) SD was traumatized by her last phone call with her mom.  The problem with supervised phone calls is mom still has an opportunity to say at least one awful thing before we hang up on her.

I truly believe that mom should have supervised visitation.  H isn't there yet - primarily because SD doesn't want supervised visitation.

How do y'all handle these kinds of threats to abandon?   Or how do I open H's eyes?
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livednlearned
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« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2019, 02:49:26 PM »

I would want to know why SD isn't comfortable with supervised visitation. Is it because she knows it would feel phony and mom would be agitated the whole time, so what's the point?

Or is it that mom can be regulated long enough at times, so SD is hopeful that things will work out when they are by themselves.

When n/BPDx had a psychotic episode, both lawyers agreed it was best for there to be a break. I can't remember how long it was -- we filed an emergency petition to suspend visitation. I think it worked out to be 4 to 5 months, maybe longer.

Ex didn't fight it. He seemed to recognize he was boxed in a corner.

Court eventually granted very short visitation twice daily during the week.

I do think it's a fine line between supervised and unsupervised when there is at least some semblance of stability.

SD is probably too young to be saying what she wants, so H would have to lead on this. What kind of influence do you have with him on this topic? I suspect it's roughly the same as mine with H over SD22's mental health 

If it were happening in my relationship, I would H to at least get behind a break in visitation so SD can sort through what's real and what's not real.

I'm in the same situation with SD22's mental health. It's like there's this razor-thin area where people say they take SI seriously but then their actions undermines them and we're expected to muddle forward as though nothing bad might happen.

There's also the courts. My ex experienced psychosis, and abused alcohol and prescription drugs, acted erractically in court despite being an attorney himself, and that wasn't enough. I don't know how our judge would tell the story, but from my experience things didn't fully turn around until my ex began accusing the judge of lying about back surgery. To his face. In court.

So I don't know what it takes.

It would be a lot easier if mom agreed it was time to take a break and focus on getting better. It sounds like she is barely hanging on.



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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2019, 03:36:00 PM »

She consistently speaks to DR about inappropriate topics that have a direct negative effect on DR -- suicide and abandonment of parental rights. You cannot trust Ex to avoid these topics and upsets when alone with SD.

Why would you not insist on supervised visitation?
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worriedStepmom
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« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2019, 03:46:11 PM »

My influence is very limited until the occasional moment when something I say or do resonates and H shifts perspective by a large amount.  

SD said that if visitation was supervised then "there's no hope I'll ever have a mom".  She also said that having visitation in an agency with a stranger observing would be uncomfortable and unnatural.  [We would not allow one of mom's family members to supervise because they are now actively participating in the emotional abuse.]  

Last week, SD told me she never wants to see her mom again. When mom calms down again, SD will change her mind and want to spend time with her.  

H is afraid SD will be mad at him if he asks for supervised, and that it would be giving validation to mom's conspiracy theory that we are trying to steal SD.  He is also deathly afraid mom will commit suicide, possibly by accident, and SD will blame him for it.

H and I also have a bunch of FOO crap weighing us down.  H's bio-dad effectively abandoned him when he was SD's age.  He says this was not overly traumatic because he had a great stepdad. I'm skeptical, but he shuts down if I go there, or if I suggest that with that logic SD will be fine because she has me.

I've admitted to H that this situation triggers me a great deal.  I grew up with a verbally abusive parent (although I think that SD's mom is far worse).  My mom tried but was ineffective at protecting us.  I want to protect SD, and in times like today it feels as if I am fighting H as well as her mom to do that, and I don't know if my upset with H is reasonable or if part of it is projection from my childhood.  

So I come to y'all for a sanity check and tips on dealing with the pd-type of abuser.
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« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2019, 02:09:45 AM »

Sounds like H needs the authority to grant or deny visits based on mother's state of mind that day.  If she's in one of her 'normal' days, okay.  If she's not then a visit doesn't happen.  A flexible order empowering him to determine a Go or No-Go, probably too with SD's comfort level factored in, ought to work long enough to demonstrate whether it can succeed long term.  Also, visits may have to be shorter than before, perhaps avoiding most overnights.

If dad doesn't have that level of authority to handle visitation, then a too-rigid schedule - which courts typically prefer - would also fail.
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worriedStepmom
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« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2019, 07:13:57 AM »

Sounds like H needs the authority to grant or deny visits based on mother's state of mind that day.  If she's in one of her 'normal' days, okay.  If she's not then a visit doesn't happen.  A flexible order empowering him to determine a Go or No-Go, probably too with SD's comfort level factored in, ought to work long enough to demonstrate whether it can succeed long term.  Also, visits may have to be shorter than before, perhaps avoiding most overnights.

I don't have any personal experience of a schedule where one parent has the authority to decide if the visitation proceeds.  I know prof was able to do that successfully, but they live really far away from each other.  I wonder how well that would work for us.
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« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2019, 07:20:26 AM »

I was very passive aggressive last night and managed to avoid a phone call between SD and her mom.  After she went to bed, H and I had a come-to-Jesus talk.  It was not pretty.  By the end, I think he had finally *started* to understand that SD is being abused.  He still does not fully grasp how damaging the last few months have been for her.

He's now seriously considering the idea of supervised visitation, but he's more comfortable with the idea of a step-up plan than a blanket supervision order.  I don't know what a step-up plan ought to look like in our case, and I'm not sure how long to insist that the supervision continues so that we make sure she isn't just faking it.  Maybe 9 months?  12?

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« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2019, 08:28:24 AM »

It seems like one thing hobbling your ability to move forward in sunlight is that mom's mental illness has not been diagnosed.

Or am I mixing this up with someone else?

If she hasn't been properly diagnosed, one thing you could do in the custody modification is ask for a forensic psychologist to conduct the MMPI-2 (or the personality disorder one...can't remember the acronyms). Have there be supervised visitation until mom completes the eval.

Let her be responsible for earning back unsupervised visitation.

The comment that SD made about "I'm never going to have a mom again" if there is supervised visitation is interesting. Because it isn't the supervision that makes it so she won't have a mom again, it's the untreated illness.
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« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2019, 09:43:01 AM »

worriedStepmom: this threads is so close to what I'm experiencing.  If you were closer I'd say let's go have a beer and chat!

SD will likely see the light of supervised visitations.  She likely fears her mom, but fears even more the reaction that the mom will have when she sees that visits are supervised. 

My 10yo has also said "I don't think that mom will ever be back to normal again. but I hope she gets better". It hurts.  But both him and his 14yo brother fear the mom since she had her latest "psychotic" episode.  I told them they wouldn't be alone with her next time, that someone would be there to supervise. They aren't keen on that (would be "weird" to have someone else) but at the same time they realise that it will mean that they will be safe.

2 months ago I wanted supervised visits but her sob stories made me change my mind, she was getting better, she was sorry, her friends couldn't supervise... she got into me and I caved.  It was fine for a month then the psychotic episode happened with them in the car.  I regretted caving in.  Now, you can be sure that I won't cave. She will have to earn our trust. It sucks, but the kids don't deserve to be scared of their mom. 

And yes, like you, they aren't keen on going for the next visit. They don't even want to talk to her or respond to her messages.  They are fed up of the "I'll go see my lawyer and sign paper so you just stay with your dad", followed by stuff like "we need to find a time for me to bring back your games and all the souvenirs".  And 2-3 days later it's "I'm thinking about you! I love you".  Rinse and repeat, it's difficult on the kids.

 Maybe your H is naive like I was over at the beginning.  But now I realise how damaging it has been on the kids.  And the gloves are now off. 
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« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2019, 11:05:50 AM »

The comment that SD made about "I'm never going to have a mom again" if there is supervised visitation is interesting.  Because it isn't the supervision that makes it so she won't have a mom again, it's the untreated illness.

With some guidance and validation, SD should get a better perspective, how she views things.  Sure, she will have up and down times just like everyone else but overall her being informed and educated will help her balance her view of it all.  Her counselor can reinforce that too.
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« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2019, 11:24:41 AM »

No, she hasn't been diagnosed - unless the inpatient hospital has diagnosed her and she hasn't shared that with us.

I think H was in the same fog as SD, that if we ask for supervised it's a permanent thing.  But it doesn't have to be, if mom can somehow become stable again.  They are also both very concerned about a feedback loop - that if we take an action her reaction is so extreme that we are forced to take more actions that cause more extreme reactions. That's mental illness...and I don't want to walk on eggshells anymore.

mart55, your story has really helped me to realized the disconnect between what I recommended to others and the choices we made at home.  It's so much more clear when it is someone else's family!!!

One of the problems we are facing is that mom is pretty close to destitute and is so low-functioning right now that she can't keep a job.  My husband  is hesitant to ask for anything that requires her to spend money - he doesn't want her to lose access because she is poor. I personally think if she's too mentally ill to work, she's too mentally ill to parent.  She has a master's degree, she lives with her parents, and she doesn't pay child support....she should be able to figure this out.

My goal is to hand H a really long list of potential requirements for her to move from supervised to unsupervised with no overnights and let him narrow it down. 

Ideas:
  • get a forensic psychological evaluation [lnl]
  • if diagnosed with a personality disorder, X months of attendance at weekly DBT therapy
  • 90% success rate in exercising supervised visitation and supervised phone calls for 6 months in a row (scheduling a supervisor, showing up, and not being verbally or emotionally abusive at the visit/phone call)
  • no incidents of calling the police or state agencies on us, SD's therapist, herself, or any family members of H or me in a 6-month span
  • parenting classes?
  • No threats to abandon SD/give SD up in the preceding 90 days?  6 months?
  • No inpatient psychiatric stays - or doctor recommendations for inpatient psychiatric stays - for 6 months
  • No intensive outpatient psychiatric stays - or doctor recommendations for that - for 90 days
  • No derogatory phone calls/texts/email made to SD's therapist or and no derogatory comments about SD's therapist made to us or SD for 6 months?  4 months?
  • No attempts to contact SD outside of agreement [not through someone else's number, no trying to give her a second phone, no calling randomly just to see if SD will pick up] for last 6 months
  • No suicide attempts or accidental overdoses in last 6 months

What other choices can I offer H?
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« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2019, 12:13:31 PM »

Ideas:
  • get a forensic psychological evaluation [lnl]
  • if diagnosed with a personality disorder, X months of attendance at weekly DBT therapy
  • 90% success rate in exercising supervised visitation and supervised phone calls for 6 months in a row (scheduling a supervisor, showing up, and not being verbally or emotionally abusive at the visit/phone call)
  • no incidents of calling the police or state agencies on us, SD's therapist, herself, or any family members of H or me in a 6-month span
  • parenting classes?
  • No threats to abandon SD/give SD up in the preceding 90 days?  6 months?
  • No inpatient psychiatric stays - or doctor recommendations for inpatient psychiatric stays - for 6 months
  • No intensive outpatient psychiatric stays - or doctor recommendations for that - for 90 days
  • No derogatory phone calls/texts/email made to SD's therapist or and no derogatory comments about SD's therapist made to us or SD for 6 months?  4 months?
  • No attempts to contact SD outside of agreement [not through someone else's number, no trying to give her a second phone, no calling randomly just to see if SD will pick up] for last 6 months
  • No suicide attempts or accidental overdoses in last 6 months


I don't agree with this.   I fear that she will simply hide her bad behavior because she doesn't want to risk losing the kids.  Why not keep it open ended and revisit in 6 months?  Even if mom follows all these but the daughter doesn't, will you force the daughter to go back?  What if supervised visits work, will you risk going to unsupervised?  What if magically she is good in 3 months and SD wants to go have dinner with her, unsupervised in a public location? that's not covered.

Focus on the present. Is her behavior a risk? yes.  Then visits are supervised.  And you revisit in a few months. 
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« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2019, 12:21:28 PM »

Focus on the present. Is her behavior a risk? yes.  Then visits are supervised.  And you revisit in a few months. 

The problem is how to write this into a court order.  We could potentially just have a temporary order now for supervised and the final hearing in 6 months.  I don't know of any cases in my jurisdiction where one parent has so much freedom to decide without there being some kind of step-up plan in writing.  (Granted most of my knowledge is from families where there isn't mental illness of this magnitude.)

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« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2019, 12:24:43 PM »

The problem is how to write this into a court order.  We could potentially just have a temporary order now for supervised and the final hearing in 6 months.  I don't know of any cases in my jurisdiction where one parent has so much freedom to decide without there being some kind of step-up plan in writing.  (Granted most of my knowledge is from families where there isn't mental illness of this magnitude.)

Fair enough.  I understand the complication and I will be in the same boat in a few months.  This illness is totally unpredictable so flexibility is required, however the court system doesn't.  Is there a clause that can be added in there about "the best interest of the child" or something like that where she could say no to the visit if she seems that something is off?   You know that even if visits are fine for 6 months it doesn't mean that there won't be a serious relapse in 9 months. 
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« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2019, 12:45:20 PM »

If you don't have a diagnosis, you may want to get that -- and recommended treatment , built into the court order at a minimum.
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« Reply #15 on: August 14, 2019, 01:08:57 PM »

the disconnect between what I recommended to others and the choices we made at home.  It's so much more clear when it is someone else's family!!!

amen sister. 

The different perspectives between you and your H is similar to how my H and I see SD22 and her issues.

H was privy to the same conversation with SD22's T as I was, except he heard "SD22 is strong, she's working hard." Whereas I heard "SD22 is chronically suicidal and calls the suicide prevention hotline regularly. She calls me regularly, and I can't be her primary crisis responder."

Both statements are true.

I get the sense that you and H are sort of in the same place. He wants to walk that fine line between fingers crossed, looking for positive signs that things are manageable, whereas you are thinking, What's happening now is already untenable.

Is that kinda accurate?

If so, that might have to be factored into whatever proposal you make, so you guys can come somewhere to the middle together.

Your list will likely overwhelm him, if he's anything like my H.

A couple of questions:

You have a custody modification on the table. Can you remind us what's in it and what's supposed to happen next?

The new thing since it was filed is that mom checked herself into inpatient treatment? It's not known whether she had a suicide attempt, gesture, or if she did it because it's how she deals with stress?

Do you plan to use the episode as leverage for getting supervised visitation?

Since there hasn't been a reported suicide attempt, it might be hard to argue that SD needs supervised visitation. It's a good question for your L.

You could possibly ask mom to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and commit to DBT/parenting classes as a condition of unsupervised care. Meaning, as long as she's moving forward with those things, status quo. I know it's not ideal from your perspective ... it might also help H move forward, knowing that there is at least the proposal for things to remain the same (unsupervised) with this added addition of therapy/eval.

If mom is anything like my ex, she will struggle to make things happen for herself.

How is SD doing right now? Is she in contact with mom?
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« Reply #16 on: August 14, 2019, 01:10:10 PM »

If you don't have a diagnosis, you may want to get that -- and recommended treatment , built into the court order at a minimum.
Diagnosis: likely BPD.  Treatment: likely DBT.
The problem is that it's not really a treatment, it's something you can do to possibly reduce some symptoms..  with an average success rate.   Would you have unsupervised visits even if she completed DBT?  Maybe, maybe not.  

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« Reply #17 on: August 14, 2019, 02:33:20 PM »

This all makes my head hurt.  Yes, lnl, there are way too many similarities between us.

Timeline -
H filed for a custody modification with a change of venue to the county where we live.  This means initial paperwork will get thrown out and we'll have to refile, so it just asked for "a schedule that protects minor child's mental and emotional wellbeing, up to and including no access".  It may be a few weeks until we can get a temporary orders hearing.

Mom got served last Wednesday, came very close to overdosing on her anti-anxiety pills, ended up in inpatient psych hospital that night (unclear if this was her choice or not; her statements are conflicting).  SD talked to her mom on Thursday - which is how we knew she was in the psych ward.  I don't want SD talking to her again until mom has been released, as mom is in "I'm giving up all custody forever" mode.

The L thought we likely had enough evidence to get supervised visitation before this hospitalization, because of the helpful way that mom has documented all of her emotional abuse of SD plus mom's general instability.  

H's initial plan was to ask for a restricted unsupervised schedule - 10 am - 6 pm on every other Sunday and some additional days during school holidays, for a total of ~60 days/year, plus one supervised phone call per week. [SD likes this plan]
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« Reply #18 on: August 16, 2019, 09:15:21 PM »

Sounds like H needs the authority to grant or deny visits based on mother's state of mind that day...  A flexible order empowering him to determine a Go or No-Go, probably too with SD's comfort level factored in, ought to work long enough to demonstrate whether it can succeed long term...  If dad doesn't have that level of authority to handle visitation, then a too-rigid schedule - which courts typically prefer - would also fail.

The reason I wrote the above is that courts typically look for steps that were successful and then the restrictions end.  However, with most of us experiencing long term acting-out PD behaviors, the risk is that once the goals are met, the limits are ended, then sooner or later the same issues arise again.  It's so difficult emotionally and financially to return to court and do it all over again.

That's why you would do better to get some level on ongoing monitoring so you can return to court for a reset back to earlier steps rather than start all over again, which is what would happen with a typical order framework.  My court cases generally took about 17 months from start to finish.  That's why it took me nearly 8 years to get an order that finally worked.  Below are my cases.  I generally had to allow time after the order changed to give the new order a chance to succeed or fail.

  • 5 months - separated (I had alternate weekends)
  • 23.5 months - divorce process (ended with equal time)
  • 17 months - seeking custody & majority time (got custody)
  • 17 months - seeking majority time (got majority time during the school year)
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« Reply #19 on: August 17, 2019, 07:57:37 AM »

The L thought we likely had enough evidence to get supervised visitation before this hospitalization

It really seems like you guys are in a similar place psychologically, as a family, to where my blended family is. The circumstances are different, but it's the same kind of gamble. Do you err on the side of total safety, which is psychologically a big adjustment for people? Or do you gamble that a micro adjustment high on appeasement will be enough?

I feel like there are a thousand solutions when everyone is on the same page. If we could all agree that emotional safety was the priority, we could solve for anything.

It seems like the same thing in your case.

If your H believed that SD's emotional safety (versus emotional comfort) was the most important, then there are so many ways to figure out a step-up plan that gets more and more permissive each time mom demonstrates she can put SD first.

After H had his psychotic episode, he got 2 hours a week unsupervised. He blamed what happened on pain meds and ambien but it was obvious (from his own documented behaviors) that he was psychotic or delusional and most likely intoxicated.

I understand your H's position. Even so, I can't emphasize enough how painful it is when your kid is older and says "I wish you protected me sooner." The thing that doesn't get factored into that comment is all the stuff we do to try and make them feel ok because we love them and want them to be happy. What comes out at the end of the day is, "Did you protect me or not." No, but I tried to make you happy.

Ugh. I feel for you. It's hard to be (relatively certain) you know how this will play out, and yet your influence is tempered. You can only do so much.  Frustrated/Unfortunate (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #20 on: August 17, 2019, 07:57:18 PM »

H's initial plan was to ask for a restricted unsupervised schedule - 10 am - 6 pm on every other Sunday and some additional days during school holidays, for a total of ~60 days/year, plus one supervised phone call per week. [SD likes this plan]

8 hours is a long time when the parent isn't doing good. Just think of how stressful it can be on a kid.  My kids preferred the much shorter 4 hours long visits and always said they did not want them longer for now.  Even some of them were too long.  What worked ok for a while was the 4-8pm after school however hell broke loose and the visits will be supervised from now on, except that she cannot find anyone to supervise.  As the kids say, it gives them a break.  They haven't seen her in a month.
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« Reply #21 on: August 18, 2019, 03:56:09 PM »

Even so, I can't emphasize enough how painful it is when your kid is older and says "I wish you protected me sooner." The thing that doesn't get factored into that comment is all the stuff we do to try and make them feel ok because we love them and want them to be happy. What comes out at the end of the day is, "Did you protect me or not." No, but I tried to make you happy.

Yes.  Yes yes yes yes yes.
My verbally abusive dad moved out when I was 17.   My mother wanted to save the marriage and have an intact family for us kids.  Even decades later, I'm pretty sure she has no idea how much I interfered after that to make sure their divorce went through.  My goal was to keep him out of the house; even though I was soon to go away to college, my little sister was stuck and I wanted to protect her. 

SD's mom is out of the hospital but headed to intensive outpatient (5-6 hrs/day, 5x/week).  Her posts on the parenting app show her to be a in a much clearer frame of mind , but still martyr mode.  She claims she won't exercise her visitation time until she's done with therapy, because she "knows [she] was abusive"...but her definition of how she was abusive is laughably wrong (she only admits to trying to get SD to pass messages to H, and says it is H's fault she had to do that).   

mom filed a letter with the court stating she would give up all visitation rights if H had the ability to decide when she could see SD because "that would destroy SD".  (We hadn't actually asked for this so I'm not sure where she got that.)    I cannot imagine a judge seeing that letter - a full page of epic waifness, although without tearstains - and thinking this woman should spend time around a child.

I'm so tired of this.

H was supposed to email his lawyer last week, so I will ask tonight how that went.
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