Again, this is not legal advice. Follow ONLY your own attorney’s advice.
I am so sorry for your situation. You have acted with dignity and honor in this. Continue to do so.
I hate to say congratulations on a court victory like this. First, I hate to say it because these are temporary orders, and you’re probably a long ways off the final orders. Second, I hate to say this because it does not feel like a victory. It’s just sad you’re here and have to do this.
Often times when things like this happen – infidelity and subsequent divorce – people tend to get in proxy fights to have the court system declare them the victor in the breakup. “I won the dining room table so the judge saw that I was the better person.” This is to be expected in normal divorces.
By far, the worst situation, but a very common one, is that people fight over the children to “prove” that the other person is the “bad” person. They want that feeling of winning and the societal approval that comes with a judge seeing the other person as a “bad” parent. It’s a way of winning in society’s eyes that alleviates the guilt for the relationship breakdown.
A lot of the time, this fight over the kids is unwarranted and damaging. Courts are guided by the “best interests of the child” standard. So, if two parents are being jerks to each other and can’t work together for the best interests of the kids, the Court has to choose one parent until the other gets on board with the plan. This is what leads to these protracted fights over child custody (that, and child support and finances).
Your case is different, but not uncommon. Your STBXWW is, from what you say, objectively not well. She is engaging in extremely destructive behavior. This behavior is impacting your children. If what you have said is empirically true, then the situation is beyond dangerous for your kids and their futures.
In these situations, the best interests of your children is served by you being the primary parent until your STBXWW either cleans up, or she gives up. This is on her now. Courts, for the most part, want to see children with a relationship with both parents as that is, normally, what is in their best interests. With the situation you describe, the children’s best interest is to not be exposed to whatever she is doing.
What I said months ago goes doubly true now that a judge has ordered you have full custody on a temporary basis.
1.) DO NOT HAVE ONE-ON-ONE contact with your STBXWW. Have witnesses and recordings if you are in the same area. Do not talk on the phone – talk on email or text or a parental communication ap. Stay as far away from her as you can. As I’ve said before, she is dangerous and now she is desperate.
2.) FOLLOW THE JUDGE’S ORDER AND YOUR LAWYER’S ADVICE EXACTLY. DOCUMENT IT. KEEP THE RECORDS.
3.) Get your kids to therapy. You might have it covered under your health plan through work. It might be ordered by the Court already. But, Monday morning, you should be making them a therapy appointment if not sooner. This is important.
4.) Be there for your kids. This includes just being present. Listen to them. Let them talk to you about anything and everything. They have seen the destruction of their family, and had to hear their mom get beaten by a felon. Imagine those scars. I know, you may want to relax or play on your phone or whatever, but you need to be present for your children. Talk more with your kids than your GF.
5.) Get a calendar. Take notes on it of whatever happens during your day with the kids and anything of interest. Start doing this now. Trust me. I know it sounds like homework, but you need to be keeping a chronological thing for your lawyer to use if it comes up in court later.
6.) AGAIN, FOLLOW THE COURT ORDERS AND FOLLOW YOUR LAWYER’S ADVICE. (I can’t say this enough)
Here’s my prediction for what happens next. It could go two ways, but I think one way is more likely.
If your STBXWW is using drugs (my guess is yes, and it’s been going on longer than you would think) then she may get into them harder and harder going forward. If she has a substance abuse issue then she is going to go down the rabbit hole for a long time before she gets better. There will be strings of terrible men in her life. She’s seeking something that feels good, because she just lost her kids, her husband, her house and everything. I don’t doubt that she will become a weed dealer or cam girl and go even more off the deep end. This is one of those situations where the destruction she is engaging in will ramp up, not stop, to my mind.
After a period of self destructive time, she may try to get better. This is a long process, but it can also be a fake process. I know a lot of people that went to “rehab” and just continued everything after they walked out. The stats on this is that it takes a few times. If she is surrounded by drug addicts and hard core criminals then my guess is that any attempt at righting her life will be short lived. She could also start living a church lifestyle and become addicted to the redemption she feels there. That would be better, but weird to see.
She may also feel the need to make you the villain in this. DO NOT ENGAGE WITH HER AT ALL BEYOND CHILD STUFF THAT YOU ARE COURT ORDERED TO DO. False abuse allegations, rape allegations… I’ve seen it. Her need to be the “good one” and blame her life circumstances on you will override everything within her even while she is being self destructive. At least, that’s my guess. That’s why it’s so important to protect yourself. You need to do that to protect your kids.
After this kind of an order she will feel desperate to explain herself to the world – how she’s the victim in this story. It’s laughable but human. She can’t say “I started having sex with a sexual criminal, got into drugs, blew up my family, and then invited another abusive ex-con to beat me in front of my children, and then defended him above my children.” She will feel the intense desire to blame this on someone else, and you’re the most likely someone.
You will still have a shred of caring for her – that will be there for the mother of your kids. No matter what she has done. But DO NOT get drawn into this situation because the overriding thought on her end will be explaining her behavior by blaming it on you. It’s hard to see someone you used to love, someone who you probably still care for, and someone that is very important in your children’s lives do this to themselves. You want to help. But you can’t. She will pull you under with her. Courts need a sane party for the kids and, at the moment, it’s either you or the state foster care system.
I know this is expensive. I know this is a hassle. I know you didn’t sign on to be full time dad, full time worker, and full time boyfriend. Your priorities go in that order. You’re a dad first. You’re a worker second. You’re a boyfriend third. Your kid’s need that right now.
This is a temporary order, not permanent. Your STBXWW may pull some stuff before the final orders are issued. And, this may be a longer process. In the end, you need to follow the court orders first and do what is best for your kids by staying as far away from this train wreck as possible.
Do what the judge says, to a T. Do what your lawyer says, to a T. Do what your kids need, to a T.
This will be an exhausting few years, but, at the end, you will be proud of what you accomplished and proud of yourself as a dad.
Maybe your STBXWW cleans up, and can be a mom again. You should WANT this for your kid’s sake, but it’s on her to get there. Maybe she will get better for the kids. I hope so, but, right now, she is dangerous.
Again, sorry you’re here.