a NIGHTMARE before Christmas

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  I write this with a heavy burden for my children.  I pray that it reaches:  first,  your hearts for prayer and consideration,second your head full of knowledge, and lastly your position of leadership and power to support this change.  

  I am a single mother of 6 children.  I have been a nurse since 2005.  I started out as an LPN.  I worked my way to RN, ASN in 2014 and then again RN,BSN in 2017.  I have had two jobs since 2005.  The second of which I have been on for about 7-8 years.  I purchased my own home in 2016. I have never been arrested.  I do not do drugs or smoke.  I have never abandoned my children.  I do not go out to bars.  My time is best spent doing things with my kids. It always has been.  We go to church, play board games, swim, go to the movies, etc. My children are ages 17, 15, 12, 10, 3, and 8 months. I have been charged to love, protect, support, and teach these children.  This is not a position I take lightly.   I would move any mountain to protect their hearts.  Which is why I am here. 

  My two youngest children need your help!  Their voices are too small to be heard above the bigger noises of judges, parent guidelines, and courtroom testimonies.  Let me explain further. Any item discussed wherein is supported with documentation or physical witness to the facts. 

 My three year old was born in 2014. Her "other parent" left only days before finding out I was pregnant with her.  He left a second time within a few months of her birth and was in another state for months.  He left a number of times after this.  He would simply write a letter and vanish for a time. He got an apartment on two separate occasions.  On one of these occasions the "other parent" decided he wanted a legal separation.  During this time I was working weekend option and so the "other parent" was awarded to follow a pattern of a 4 week routine of wed, fri, sat care and on the fifth week he could have wed and fri overnight until 8pm on Saturdays.  For the next two years he maintain another household and did not every exercise this right. Over the course of these two years I honored my christian faith despite the verbal and physical abuses (all of which I have documented.) I know that God is a big God and I prayed that God would work in our marriage.  I am not saying that the Christian faith requires a person to stay in an abusive situation. Perhaps I tolerated this too long.  However, I do know that the nightmare I am in now is exactly why women stay! The other parent would come over to my home every Sunday and Thursday.  As we attempted to work things out this was a time we could spend together.  During these times the "other parent" would come in and play on his phone, watch netflix, or go out to eat with us. (which I always had to pay for).  He did not give medicine, he did not bathe or dress the children, he did not play with them.  My four older children were told by the "other parent" to take the child.  When our 3 year old would not go to the "other parent" he called her a little bitch."  The other parent made comments about our 3 year old's weight saying that she would be a "two ton tessie" or saying "its okay theirs someone out there that will love a big girl."  The other parent did not believe me when I said that the spots on our 3 year old were not harmful and our pediatrician did not feel a need to burn them off.  He never participated in doctors visits for either of the two little ones but this particular time he did.  He demanded they be taken off.  Our pediatrician again said it was more cosmetic and prescribed a cream instead.  When my 12 year old would come down in shorts the "other parent (step)" would say to 12 "your shorts are to short you are going to be hitting the pole by the time you are 18."  When the "other parent (step)" felt 12 was not behaving he would threaten in front of company to "punch her in the mouth."  He would tell 15 an 17 "Your mom has been married and dated so many men that her vagina is like a revolving door."  He would constantly tell me that he was disappointed in me and that he thought I was disgusting.  He would withhold expressions of love if he was unhappy with me.  The "other parent" told me to get 17 when asking for his help with new baby.  We would fight over this because my other kids had school the next day.  If I was busy he would not help. In fact after a birthday party for 3, knowing that we both had homework to do and house and kids to take care of, the "other parent" leaves as soon as his friends leave. The show was over.  My family stayed like always to help clean and help with kids while I could finish my homework on my unpaid maternity leave.  I could go on and on.  Today my older kids will remember things and just sigh.  Yesterday they reminded me "Hey mom do you remember that time you and "other parent" were fighting because "step son A" wanted a second glass of milk?"  I said yes.  They went on to say "yeah you and "other parent" were fighting and said why cant "step son A" have another glass of milk and "other parent" said we cant afford it and mom said if we can afford your smokes he can have a second glass of milk!"

  This past April our second child was born.  By June it was my time to return to work off of unpaid maternity leave.  It would be the first weekend "other parent" had to be responsible for all the children.  He asked my mother to watch the kids on Saturday.  I would have to work Friday night and breastfeed and try to sleep Saturday during the day to prepare for work Saturday night.  The "other parent" wanted to go boating with friends.  He stated that one of the ladies I had never met had cancer and it was not that she was dying but that it would be the only time he thought she might have her boat out.  I attempted to compromise with "other parent" asking to have this woman over to my home or we could go their to spend time with her or just he could but I requested any other day except my first weekend back to work.  He refused.  I gave an ultimatum.  He chose the boating with friends instead of caring for me and our new baby.  He decided at that point to move our legal separation to a full on divorce.  In August he decided he wanted to exercise some parenting time but would miss visits never making it to the full 4 week routine with our 3 year old."  The judge was asked to modify the provisional agreement in August and he refused.  I went to a day shift position on the same unit where I have worked for years.  I wanted, at the least every other weekend.  For 6 months now I have been denied this.  On December 1 we spent all day in court.  His friends testified to that my home was clean any time they were here, my children well behaved, and the only negative comment his witnesses could make of me was one lady saying that I emailed her asking her to stop asking her husband out so much that he needed to be at home with his wife and kids.  His own therapist testified that "other parent" needed anger management classes and an assessment for possible medication.  It was also made known that "other parent" lied about paying any child support for children from previous marriage on the actual witness stand.  The "other parent" admitted to the validity of a whole book of text messages that prove he has been verbally abusive claiming that my soul is black, that I am a kunt, filthy, disgusting, etc.  It was made known through interrogatories that "other parent" had claimed a winning of 6 grand on a tax return that he filed HOH on when no kids ever actually lived with him.  Keep in mind that I was never financially supported by "other parent."  When mediation was attempted he did, however raise his child support a whopping 10 bucks to support our 8 month old until a judge can legally change it that is all he was willing to do.  

  So, we had our first hearing Dec 1.  His side went and our divorce was finalized.  Before court ended the judge just said to follow provisional orders until we have the next hearing to decided custody, child support matters.  "Other parent" said he had no more personal days so he could not come until April 20.  Now, keep in mind the provisional order was from over two years ago and I had already been waiting for at least every other weekend and there are no rules for parenting time for our youngest child. 

  On Dec 1 we met for exchange of girls for a visit and be mindful that "other parent" had not even made it to a 4 week consistent pattern to have overnights.  He did not communicate to me that he was keeping 3 overnight.  He just never showed up for her pickup time.  When attempting to reach him to even say good night he did not let me do this.  Friends attempted to take over her medication, blankie, and her "pinky pie" she made for when this transition time would come.  (I had tried to be proactive and positive knowing that some overnights were coming.  I took 3 to build a bear and she picked out pinky pie stuffed it and picked my little ponies theme song for one foot to play and i recorded my voice singing Jesus loves me and said Jesus loves you and so does mommy see you soon muah to play in the other foot.  She stuffed it and put a heart inside.  She was so proud of it.)  He refused to take things for her.  I called the next day to check in with 3 and he said no she was fine.  I asked him what medicines he gave 3 last night and he would not tell me.  It ended up showing in the messages that he did not in fact know that 3 had a low iron level at one point and for a person who claims to have take an active role in 3's care dont you think he would have known her nightly medicines?  After finding this out I did not criticize but sent pictures of our bottles and explained why she needed what she needed.  I also provided a doctor note and 3 continues to tell me that "daddy doesnt have vitamins at his house."  

  Every weekend since this has been a battle.  In fact a large majority of exchanges have not went well since August.  I sent a letter to the courts pleading with the judge to make exchanges at the police station instead of Hucks.  He did not acknowledge my request.  My older children have witnessed "other parent" flipping me off, calling me names, forcefully putting 3 in her seat while stating"your mommy is so mean", etc.  I continue to call and document his refusal to have 3 talk to me on the phone.  He has only allowed me to talk to her one time and he had her on speakerphone so he could monitor the conversation.  I explained that it is hard for someone with a hearing impairment like myself to hear phone calls let alone those on speaker.  I also made "other parent" aware of Indiana guidelines that state I should be able to talk to 3 during a reasonable hour for a reasonable duration. This is like I said, an ongoing problem.  He continues to deny phone calls and deny 3 use of her personal belongings.  My thought is that this is new for her and confusing.  She needs something that can be consistent for her.  She packs her own backpack of things she is proud of.  He specifically says dont send it but we do anyway.  She tells me that "daddy wont let her have it."  

  Another issue I attempted to address was another thing in the guidelines on the fact that if the girls are sick in his care he should notify me.  He will not agree to this.  He also texted about using a free benefit from his work that is calling a doctor on the phone that isnt even their pediatrician (which is reachable 24/7) to describe symptoms if needed and get something "called in."  I made me feelings about this known and told "other parent" they need to be cared for my their pediatrician who has availability at any time.  The guidelines say I am allowed to know when they are sick.

  The provisional order states "Holiday parenting time."  for 3 it appears to be confusing to understand.  My lawyer sent and email to "other parent's lawyer" to address this issue.  I did not feel it appropriate for 3 to spend an entire week with thing being so new.  It also gave reference to a parent having at least 9 months of consistent involvement before extended parenting time would be warranted and again be mindful he has only started not missing visits  since Dec 1.  His lawyer never responded to my lawyer.  Instead there was a telephonic conference and the judge apparently ordered holiday parenting time to start Thursday December 21 to Thursday December 28th.  Apparently "other parent" had plans and wanted 3 a day earlier than what Indiana parenting time guidelines even states.  I didn't get to tell the judge my plans!  "Other parent" also acknowledged 3 had been sick and the only thing I needed to send was a digital thermometer and her clothing.   He had planned to take sick 3 to school where he works for "festivities" and I was told that I ruined the day by keeping her.  I received no official order on paper of a Thursday change.  I received the news from my lawyer only hours before this apparent change was to be in effect.   I was working at the time and had I stayed I wouldn't have even been able to say goodbye to 3.  I left work early and attempted to set some basic care guidelines.  I ask for phone calls to 3 during her stay.  I asked for her to be allowed access to her personal belongings.  I asked for her medications to be given nightly.  I asked to be notified 3 became ill in his care enough to where if he felt she needed treatment that I would be notified immediately.  He would not agree to anything so I kept her.  I offered the visit if he would agree to these basic items. I pleaded from 4:40 until 8pm offering to meet him if he would only work with me on these issues.  He refused.  I talked to my attorney yesterday Dec 22.  I was informed of what had actually happened the prior day as all I had heard was a voicemail message from my attorney the previous day and then he was in court and not reachable.  My attorney informed me that he even tried to ask the judge to modify the provisional to at least give me every other weekend and he said the judge would not do it.  It became abundantly clear after a ruling for a Thursday Christmas break to start when Christmas break did not even start until 6 pm the next day, who this judge is working for.  Judge is also aware of the refusals on "other parents" part as a letter was filed with him  before this.  

  Here is what I know as a fact.  Through other parent's involvement in his previous employment he has a relationship with the legal system in our small town. He has testified on behalf of clients in his previous work role.  He has also conducted luncheons where  the judges , probation officers and school officials gather to talk about youth services in the community.  I myself, witnessed "other parent" laughing and talking with the other judge in the courthouse waiting area.  Three of the people on "other parents" witness list consisted of 2 older adult children of the previous mayor, and one that works as the judges own casa worker.  I also have an email from "other parent" stating that he has access to enough money" to do what he needs to do.  He at one point threatened that he has "had lunch with the judge and knows how he will rule."  My attorney asked his attorney about this at the start of the case but of course "other parent denied this."  However, it is my belief that such open meetings facilitated at our local Shoney's would be able to be verified through "other parent's" previous employment. I can not just go an excuse here.  However one thing that I am pleading with you to do is a few things here for the sake of not only my girls but the children caught in the nasty crossfire of divorce and custody case.  I am asking you to consider changing a few things...

1.When a parent involved in a case has outside prior involvement with the courts through their employment that you help establish rules to ensure that those cases are not heard in the same courthouse as this is a disadvantage to the other party.  

2.  Working in nursing I know that you have to be NPO before surgery.  This is a safety for our patients. Therefore, it is typical to schedule younger patients before older ones.  They do not need to sit all day without eating if it can be prevented.  In the same sense I believe that to protect the child's emotional and physical well being you help establish rules that would make it a law for judges to hear cases that involve children before cases that involve adults. Often their voices are small and they count on adults like us to advocate for their rights too.  Just because they are little does not mean they do not matter.  They are our future here. We need to put a stronger focus on protecting children of divorce.

3.  You have the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines.  Who made these?  Just as bedside nurses are the most influential people to monitor the effectiveness of interventions put into place for better patient outcomes- wouldn't it only make sense to speak to parents who are divorced to collectively adopted parenting time guidelines that are less confusing and actually workable?  I would not ask a car mechanic to diagnosis my patient.  In the same respect, I would not ask someone who does not have any "experience" in divorce to be the "sole" authorities on such important matters.  I propose that special meetings be allowed to offer "expert" advice on what is working and what is not working.

4.  How do you enforce those guidelines?  They are in fact for a child's best interest but is there a more efficient way we can be monitoring and assisting the little ones to get their basic care rights met?  Why does it have to be a lengthy process to involve the courts?  You have a hotline that makes no sense.  They cant give you advice.  All they can do is tell you what we can read ourselves.  How about taking the time for someone to have a compliance hotline instead.  So, 3 doesn't sit for a week over Christmas break thinking that its been too long since she has heard from Mommy!

I appreciate your time in reading all of this. I appreciate your prayers.  I appreciate your work in supporting our Hoosier Children!

Jennifer Sherohman



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