Last day of waitingSunday, June17th, 2011 – Still waiting. Tomorrow we need to go to an investigation at the court. This will have a great impact on the results of the hearing on Tuesday, and from there it could have a dramatic impact on both of our life. So the wait is not easy and we had to do something with the time. My attorney told me that there is a county fair close by, and that might be fun. As much as I hate crowds and since we had nothing else better to do – we decided we will give it a shot.
Orange County, CA is one of the most crowded areas I know. City after city after city all the way to Los Angeles. From my observation in the past and at present – people here are very materialistic and either very rich or live way above their means. You never see so many luxury cars for example in any other place. I am talking Bentley, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Cadillac, Infinity, Jaguars… They dress in nothing but brand names and act as is they own the world – you included. Granted, not all of them, but generally speaking – that is the feeling in SoCal.
Anyways – back to the fair – we got there around noon, parked our cheap rental car among all the luxury ones and stepped in. It was funny, as the theme was western, with a twist to adapt the local culture. For example – most of the eateries were Texas style this, or southern style that, and you could sit on hay bails that were meticulously cut square and it looks like they were dusted every 2- minutes. A plastic real life size horse and a cowboy gave you the feeling – hey bud, you are in the wild… It was interesting to watch the people around and compare it to other county fairs I have seen in the mid west, south and other more rural areas of our country. We took a cable car ride above the fair grounds to get a good view, and walked around the booths. We even played couple of those games were you need to shoot or throw a ring over a bottle and get a stuffed animal if you win. (And I did win one, and gave it to a little girl in the park)
We returned to the room late afternoon, played for a while, and went to bed early. Tomorrow at 8:30 we need to be at the court.
The wheels of Justice
Being InvestigatedMonday, June 18th, 2011 – Very important day today, but still we are not going to know anything until tomorrow. We woke up early, I took a fast shower and had a cup of coffee and we drove to the court. We were there by 8:00am. It was only 10 minutes drive, but with the morning traffic I did not want to take chances, better early than late.
I had to admit my son the the “children chamber” at the court while waiting to my investigation. I was the first one in the waiting room, waiting for my investigator to arrive. One by one all the people around me went in (they call your name) and I was again alone the last one. For whatever reason my investigator did not start until 9:30. Finally got in. My investigator was an older seasoned professor, and it look like she has seen it all. On a regular basis she deals with child abuse, and severe cases of neglect, so I am sure it was a mild case for her, at least on the surface. To protect my child privacy and other people involved, I can not get into the details of what was said, but what I can say is that after a short while she made a phone call to another professional involved in the case and her attitude turned 180 degrees. As of a sudden she became supportive and understood that what I was telling her was not only true, but also just the tip of the iceberg.
When I was done, I had to go and get my son from the children place. He sat with the investigator for a while as well. I waited outside, and in the meantime my ex-wife and my daughter arrived too. It was a tensed and uncomfortable situation but they tried to avoid me, and I did not resist. It is better this way, at least today. It was even more tensed when my son came out and we had to pass by them, not even saying a word. The brief eye contact was more than enough.
From the court we drove directly to eat something. We stopped at a restaurant that looked interesting but it turned out to be a vegan restaurant. Never tried one before so I thought I will give it a shot. I ordered some Moroccan plate and my son ordered some veggie burger. After couple bites we looked at each other and I said – let’s go look for some real food… We left the plates almost untouched and stopped at a Greek restaurant. At least the food is real here!
The rest of the day we relaxed and watched the lord of the rings movie on the computer at the hotel room. We tried to speculate what will happen tomorrow. I was exhausted as I could not sleep one minute last night, so I tried to stay awake until bedtime, so I will be able to get some rest.
The day that changed our lifeTuesday, July 19th, 2011 – This is not a cliché. I mean maybe it is, but in this case – it is true. For my son – it is a huge change. It is a complete different parenting style, life style, food, weather, culture, friends, religion – you name it. Not only for my son it is a very big change. but for Patti and I – it is a huge change too. From being free to do whatever we want, back to parenting. That implies stability at least for the next 4 years. maybe more. It affects our lifestyle, our activities, our finances – so it is a big day today.
OK – so again we woke up early. by 7:30am we were on the way to court and 15 minutes later we had coffee and fast breakfast in the court cafeteria. just after 8:00am we went to the waiting area by the court room, where I met my attorney – and at this time I would like to say that she is amazing! – young ambitious down to earth lawyer. I think did a great choice. If you ever need an attorney in the area – call Gilbert and Marlowe office in Santa Ana, and ask for Priya. She is the one!! Anyways – she briefed me on her plan for the hearing, got me the papers I needed in order to get my son admitted to the children chamber and after dropping m son at the children waiting area we stepped in. The court session did not start until 9:15am and the judge called the cases one by one. He started with those cases that are fast and after 20 minutes or so we were one of the last two cases left. The case before us was a couple with a case similar to ours. He is from AZ, she is from CA. They have a son that is in his teens who wants to stay with dad. They could not get into agreement and asked the court to decide for them. The judge made it clear that he does not like to take the child away from his friends, and the familiar environment he grew up in, and eventually ordered the couple to go to mediation in the court regarding visitation arrangements.
This is the same judge that is going to deal with my case in 5 minutes. What if he won’t let my son go away from his familiar views of his childhood, the place he grew up? Will not want him to separate from his sister? I was very nervous at this point. And then they called our name.
I could actually hear my heart. I stepped into the chair in front of the judge beside my lawyer. On the other side there was my ex wife without a lawyer (representing herself, or Pro Per as they call it here).
The judge called the investigator to the witness stand, and started asking her questions. First he verified that this was an ‘Emergency investigation’, and ask the investigator to explain the difference. Emergency investigation, as the investigator explained, is a fast, single-day process that was designed to address immediate danger for the children. It should only recommend a safety plan until a full investigation is conducted. This is a bad start, I thought. That means that I will get only temporary orders, and the process will not end here.
Then, the investigator continued. She said that based on her findings, and on the other expert findings – she recommends to have my son move in with me. Period. That is great, I thought, but will the court make a decision like that just based on this fast urgent investigation?
Next, the judge let my ex wife speak. She started to tell the story of her life. She talked about her marriage with me and all that happened since our divorce in the last 10 years.She lied in her story some very bold and bad lies. She said for example that I was physically abusive – I never raised a hand on a any person in my whole life! I see an ant and I step aside not to kill it. nonsense! Anyways – after maybe 45 minutes, my attorney finally said – objection your honor, this is too way back and irrelevant. It seemed like the judge was just waiting for that, as if she has released him from a bad dream. Sustained, he immediately replied. My ex tried to start another subject, but none was relevant. She wanted to show the court some pictures, but the judge glanced and said – these are family pictures – keep them in your album we have no interest in those pictures here. That was the end of her story.
The judge was ready to tell us his decision, so my attorney just asked me some questions about the house in Washington and the school, and after couple minutes we all looked at the judge waiting to hear his decision.
“Although I usually do not like to separate families” he started… that was enough for me. YAY I thought – I got my son!!
The bottom line is – it is not temporary – it is final! my son moves in with me! and a new chapter of life begun!
Coming back homeI called Patti and told her about the decision, it was around noon when I called, and 20 minutes later we had two airline tickets for 6:00pm tonight. Patti is amazing with her ability to help – just took the hassle out from me, and I really needed that help.
I told my son to call his mother and tell her he will come over to say proper good byes to her and his sister. She wouldn’t answer the phone. We tried several tines with no luck, Can’t blame her – she is going through hard time right now, I am sure, but I would not want my son to stop his relations with his mom and sister, now that he is with me.
We decided to drive by the house, and if they are not there – go grab a bite and try again. They were there. My son jumped in and stayed in his mom’s house for a while (it’s not his house anymore…) and stepped out with his sister She decided to say good bye to me. I was happy, since I didn’t think she will talk to me for a while.We have our differences, we agreed, but we will try to work them out. I promised her to bring her over sometime this summer.
From there we went to Chili’s and ate some nice dinner. This restaurant was the very first restaurant we went together earlier this year when I got to CA. Closing circles…
Drove to the airport, returned the car and waited for our flight. Excited, looking forward to a brighter future together. We had a layover in Salt Lake City, and finally landed at 11:30pm in Seattle. Took the shuttle to the closest stop from home where Patti was already waiting for us and took us home. Patti baked a special welcome cake for my son – in his favorite lemon flavor. That was real nice of her, and it touched my son, I could see how happy he was when he saw that. A cake just for him!
His room is still empty, except for an air mattress Patti bought yesterday, but it is clean and it is his own room. After a long 10 days of waiting, and after a long day that started in court, my son is finally home, in his own bedroom, starting a new chapter in his life.