Last year, I got a custody dispute as a wedding present from my ex. It went on for 14 months, though he never stated any specific concerns except his conviction that I’m selfish and make poor choices. He lost his motions in every particular. Nevertheless, the dispute went on month after month, and cost me $9000.00 in legal spectacle. Family court is like legalized harassment. I learned in court documents, for instance, that my ex has been stalking my social networks. One of the many benefits to living in the open is that I have nothing to hide, but that doesn’t mitigate the fact that obsession is creepy and destructive.
Why do we tolerate a system where vindictiveness — costly and purposeless — is not only acceptable, but encouraged? Family court is a playground for bullies. A theater for Royal Tenenbaum’s worrisome philosophy: “I’m talking about putting a brick through the other guy’s windshield. I’m talking about taking it out and chopping it up.”
So what did I get for my $9000?
I got to hear a judge, white-faced with anger, lecture my ex in open court. The judge actually told him, on the record, “I can’t imagine what it’s like to work with a personality like yours.” It was awful. Embarrassing and awful. And it wasn’t worth a penny, let alone 9 grand.
I didn’t win. That’s important to remember. He lost, but no one won. The court system is just an opportunity to set fire to time, money, and good relations. But I have to say, I don’t regret anything. I spent the money, and protected my relationship with my kid. I spent the money, and never threw a dirty punch. I never responded to the personal attacks, the petty meanness. I spent the money because I had no choice. My son is worth everything I have.
And here’s what I learned: You can’t do anything about your formers. You can’t make them different people. You can’t give yourself a different relationship. You can’t change the way anyone behaved. Not yourself. Not others. You cannot salvage a charred town when somebody keeps guard with fuel and a lighted match. And that is how you know that you are new. You’re the guy who watches the town burn and is just grateful you don’t live there anymore. You watch it burn, dispassionately. I got out. I got away from the kind of person who thinks it’s acceptable to fight like this. My $9000 is a reminder of my freedom. Proof that I don’t inhabit miserable places anymore. And my fucking god, I’ll never regret a cent.