Tag Archives: custody

Why I know I am stronger


I recently met a woman who reminds me of myself 2.5 years ago.  She is in the beginning stages of her divorce and she has the same look I used to have– the scared, caged animal look.  The constant fear— always looking over your shoulder.  Never knowing where the next “assault” was going to come from– email, text, phone or in person.  Never knowing if “he” was going to be lurking in my neighborhood or peering through my window.  It’s not a fun way to live and my heart goes out to all of the beautiful woman who have recently taken their first steps on this journey.

I don’t have the answers but I wish that I could explain to these women what I do know:  You will look back on this one day and feel strong.  I wouldn’t have believed it at the time but I know it as truth. 

Today, I feel strong. (Yes, that warranted a “BOLD” command)

I opened my email this morning and there was an email from “him”.

Not too long ago, I would have cringed at the sight of his name in my inbox.  My heart would have started pounding as I skimmed the email for anything important.  I would have started shaking as I read the series of assaults– attacking my looks, my weight, my significant other, my family, my job, my lack of a college degree, etc….on…and….on.  I would have forwarded it to my family members and then I would have been “on edge” for hours. Shaken.

Not today.

Today, he doesn’t have that power. I am strong.

I opened the email and it was almost predictable– an intro about tomorrow’s visitation and then a series of  threats and attacks.

I had emailed him this week about calling me T-Rex in front of the girls.  My email was very brief– I said that obviously, he is entitled to feel anyway he wants but please don’t talk poorly about me in front of the girls.

He acknowledged that he calls me T-Rex and then dove straight into his normal ramblings and threats:

  • He accused me of quizzing the girls about their visits so they feel they must “tell” on their dad.  They are confused.  That is why my daughter told me about his name-calling.
  • I am purposefully creating a Parental Alienation Syndrome.
  • He is planning to report me to Child Welfare Services since the judge won’t listed to his complaint about my blog.

Why I know I am stronger– I see through him.  I can almost predict him.   He doesn’t affect me any longer.  I opened his email and it didn’t bother me at all.  In a way, I feel pity for him. 

1. He spins everything back and is unable to accept fault for anything.  This is who he is to his core.  He admitted to calling me “T-Rex” but then spun it around so that it is my fault that my daughter told me about it.  I watched him do this in every situation through our marriage– with employees, banks, family and friends.

2. His threats don’t work anymore.  Child Welfare Services?  Parental Alienation Syndrome?  Please.

3. He then went on to attack me for still using an email with my married name in the address.  “Do you have another email that does not have (my name)  in the address?  The judge gave you back your maiden name months ago”.

I saw the email…I read the email…I closed the email.  No feelings elicited.  No heart pounding.  Nothing.

I see him for who he is and I’ve given up on the hope that he can act in a healthy, rational manner.

I have come a long way from that caged animal look that I once wore.  I am strong today and I will be strong tomorrow.


Damaging my Daughters


Today my 6 year old daughter asked me if the upcoming weekend was her visitation weekend.

“It is”, I replied.

She informed me that she didn’t want to go and asked if she had too.  I informed her that she did.

Do I want her to have to go?  Of course not.  Do I have a say in the matter– no.  Do I want her to want to go?  Of course I do.  If she wants to go then that means it is a good situation.  It means my daughter is happy and safe in his care.  I have let go of that hope.

I asked her why she didn’t want to go with her dad.  She was quiet and didn’t really respond.  I let it go and dropped the subject.  I want her to know that I am here for her yet I don’t want her to feel pressured.  I want her to talk to me when she is ready.  It pains me to know that this tiny six year old girl is feeling angst.  

  • I heard a voice from the backseat as I pulled my car into the driveway, “Dad calls you ‘T-Rex”, she said.
  • “What”, I asked…confused.
  • “T-Rex.  Dad says bad things about you to everyone and he calls you T-Rex so I won’t know who he’s talking about”, she explained.
  • “Who is everyone?”, I asked.
  • “To Popi, Uncle Brian and other people in the family.  He says really mean things and I don’t like going over there anymore.  I wish I could just stay home”.

Deep breath.  Another deep breath.  I wish that she could stay home also.  I hate that I am forced to put my children in the care of someone who doesn’t care.  Their own father.

What I wanted to say: “He says mean things because he is a mean, sick  person.  He is an evil, selfish man who couldn’t care less about the damage he does to his daughters”.

What I said instead, “I don’t understand why dad would do that.  That is hurtful to you and it’s hurtful to me.  It’s a poor choice and I will talk to him about it”.

I emailed him.

I won’t get a response.  It will be an excuse– an attack– a denial.

Tina Rex.  I’ll claim it.  I’ll claim it as my role in protecting my children.  Fierce and fearless against evil predators.

Focusing on the Angels


While writing this blog has been therapeutic, it has also been difficult on occasion.  The blog gives me a voice that was previously forced into submission.  I’ve been able to break free from the choke hold.  It’s empowering.  I don’t want to be seen as a victim– that’s not who I am.  There were times in this story that I felt like a victim but that’s not what I want to be known for.  I would go through everything again to be the strong, confident woman that I am today.  I would do it again to find the strong friendships with the people in my circle because I was previously lacking that.

One gift that I’ve been given is the ability to look at a situation and see the positives.  A very wise friend once told me that the story has already been written– it’s my job to walk it out.  I want to walk out my journey with a glass that remains half full at all times.

I’ve received a lot of feedback on my blog from random people and others who are very near and dear to my heart.  I’m listening to all of it and taking the comments to heart.  I appreciate the opinions– the good and the bad. 

I want to stay true to myself with the blog and staying true means remaining grateful for the angels who have appeared in my life.  When things look dim, I try to look for little bits of inspiration– a quote on a coffee cup, a song on the radio or someone who comes into my life at just the right moment.  It’s amazing how the simplest thing can stop a pity party dead in it’s tracks.

In 2010, I met with an attorney in Morro Bay, California who reviewed my case and actually offered to help me for free.  While he could not represent me– he offered his assistance in reviewing my paperwork and giving me advice.  At the time I was incredibly appreciative however, I had a difficult time accepting free help.  I went on my way– court date after court date and loads of paperwork to prepare for each.

In the beginning of 2011, I had reached a breaking point.  He wasn’t showing up for visits, he was violating all of the items in our parenting agreement and was ignoring my attempts to finalize the divorce.  I went back to the attorney and explained to him that I could see the light at the end of the tunnel however, I was out of steam.  I needed to prepare my trial brief which was overwhelming and I didn’t know where to begin.

The attorney and his wife (my two angels) offered to help me once again.  He met with me and reviewed my case.  He gave me pointers on my trial brief and then offered to review it and meet with me again before court to prepare me for trial.  His wife helped me to subpoena the records I needed and helped me with the proper forms.

I went home and I went to work.  I worked night and day on my trial brief— and then again the next day.  And the next.  My final trial brief was 47 typed pages.  FORTY-SEVEN typed pages.  I drank a lot of coffee and I got a few new wrinkles.  My bedroom floor looked like a paper factory exploded.  I didn’t sleep very much during those two weeks– I went to work during the day….I was “mom” in the evenings and after sunset, I became my own attorney.

I met with my “angels” a couple of times for further review and additional pointers and then…I went to trial.  With my 47 page document in hand and my game face back on…Pro se legal representation is defined as advocating on one’s own behalf before a court and that’s what I did.

Forgiveness – and Pepper Spraying Myself


That is a big word to me right now.  Forgiveness.  It’s a word that I struggle with. 

I’ve never “hated” anyone in my life.  It’s a new feeling.  It’s a feeling that I don’t like. It’s a feeling that I want to get rid of but I don’t know how.  I believe that to forgive...I have to stop hating. 

I also believe that time helps to heal wounds and in my case– there is no time to heal because every week, there is a new occurrence to hate.  Last night he called…for the third time since last June.  In six months, he has made only three attempts to call.  Within 30 seconds of being on the phone, the narcissism took over– he talked about himself– his race tomorrow in San Francisco.  He made sure to ask my six year old if she was the fastest runner in her class– that is what is important to him.  She admitted that she wasn’t and he didn’t know how to handle it– he laughed…uncomfortably.  It was painful to listen to.  I hated it.

How do you not hate someone who hurts your children over…and over…and over?  How do you not hate someone who has put you through living hell?  Someone who causes you to live in constant fear for your life– for your safety.  Someone who has told lies to win– and someone who’s entire goal is to “win”.  A wise person once told me that you have to love your children more than you hate the person you are divorcing.  I have that going for me.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t.

“True forgiveness is not an action after the fact, it is an attitude with which you enter each moment.” David Ridge

I am now living in a safe environment.  It’s the first time in over two years that I can sleep through the night.  It’s the first time that a noise in the middle of the night doesn’t make me bolt upright, start praying…and cry.  I lived with an industrial strength Mace as my bedmate for two years and a smaller bottle as my constant companion in the house.  It’s not a fun way to live.  I don’t recommend it.

Post traumatic stress- it isn’t just for veterans of war.  It’s also for women who have been through divorce with a scary and unstable person.  I am jumpy and I have anxiety on occasion– it’s getting better but it’s still there.

I want to learn how to forgive and I want to know how to stop hating.  I am trying but I feel like I am failing.  


Note from Tina:

This blog is therapeutic– it’s helping me to heal.  It’s helping me to find my voice and share a story that I have kept bottled up.  Normally, I am funny– I make people laugh and I like to laugh.  Reliving this story is hard.  I am trying to find balance in telling this hellish story but not loosing myself back into the dark hole.

On that note, I must share a little bit of “me” and how dangerous it is for me to keep a bottle of Mace as my constant companion.  I am blonde and anyone who knows me can attest to my blonde moments.  I embrace these moments– they make me who I am.  I had a funny blonde moment with my Mace about 6 months ago and I must share–

I was carrying my Mace through the house and read the bottle which said to “test periodically in a well ventilated area”.  Brilliant idea, I thought!  I’ve never actually “tested” it.  The front yard of my condo was long and narrow– with a wall on each side.  I walked outside and pulled the trigger – a huge burst of red spray shot forth and covered the wall.  I panicked and grabbed the hose– quickly trying to clean the residue which was sure to stain the wall.  In my haste, I ran straight into the cloud of Mace and essentially, maced myself.

You have never truly coughed unless you’ve been maced.  You know that bad cold that turns to bronchitis?  It has NOTHING on a mace cough.  I gasped for air, I cried, I choked…I thought I was going to DIE.  It lasted forever.  and ever.  Once I could breathe, I called my loved ones who proceeded to gasp for air…while laughing.

It get’s better– I also maced my neighbor.  The poor guy next door was in his upstairs bedroom and heard me coughing and gasping.  It walked to the open window to check on my well-being…only to inhale the red cloud as it drifted through the air.

Moral of the story: when they say, “use in a well-ventilated area”…they really mean that.  

The Big Court Date: Part Two


September 14, 2011 Something came over me in court– the same sense of calm that I had felt the night before.  While my little bottle of Bach’s Homeopathic Rescue Remedy Stress Relief helps– it was more than that.  It was a feeling that went to my core– I knew everything was going to be okay.  I was in court alone this particular day– in the past, that alone would have normally caused me anxiety galore.

Today, it didn’t cause me anxiety.  For the first time, I felt like I was in control and I had this one.  I did have this one.

I brought up the fact that he was lying about my children’s whereabouts on the weekend visits.  In fact, he was lying about the most recent visit.  He claimed that they were in San Francisco all weekend.  I knew they weren’t.  In the past, it would have been my word against his.  Not this time.

The judge asked him where the children were residing.  He replied that they were staying at his condo in San Francisco.  The judge asked him to describe the weekend visitation– what time he picked them up, what they did after that and so on.  He claimed that he picked them up at 3:30pm.  This was true.  He claimed that he took them to Avila Beach for Farmer’s Market.  This was true.  He claimed that they had dinner and drove to San Francisco afterwards.

The judge pressed more– what time did they get to San Francisco?  What did they do Saturday morning when they woke up?  What did they do during the day on Saturday?  Saturday night?  Sunday?  You get the picture.  Speaking of pictures, he painted a huge mural using a colorful palate of lies.  He claimed that they arrived late Friday night– he carried my sleeping daughters to his condo around 11pm.  They woke up the next morning and went to a Starbucks in San Francisco…then to a park…and so on…and so on.  An entire weekend of fun and games in San Francisco.

I waited for him to finish.  I raised my hand and said, “that is not true”.

Ironically, the judge asked, “Does anyone have GPS to prove who is lying”?

“I do” – I answered. ..and I did.

I pulled out my GPS reports which showed my daughter’s location every hour on the hourall weekend long.  They weren’t in San Francisco– they were four hours south of San Francisco.  They were staying at his brother’s home the entire time.  It was another lie however, this time he was lying to the judge…to the court…and to the attorney.

At the advice of two friends in law enforcement, I had purchased GPS about two months prior to the weekend in question.  It gave me peace of mind to know where my children were at all times and he had no idea that I was tracking them.  The night prior to court, I printed out sheet after sheet of GPS reports and I was ready.

The judge called a recess.  The attorney and I along with the other people in the courtroom were dismissed for a 15-minute break while the judge reviewed the paperwork.  The attorney asked me why I hadn’t told him about the GPS and there were two reasons:

1. I had called his office and emailed multiple times with no response.

2. I knew that my only chance in proving him to be a liar was to catch him in the act– in the momentin the lie.

Court resumed and we were allowed to take our seats.

The judge stated, “Mr. X, I have told you on multiple occasions that you have lost all credibility in my courtroom.  Today, you lied to me…you lied to my court and you lied to Mr. (Attorney).  There will be sanctions for this.  I am awarding full legal and physical custody to Ms. Swithin.  There will be no overnight visits– visits are restricted to 10am-4pm on two weekends per month.  Ms. Swithin will be able to sleep at night knowing where her children are– in their own beds.”

I stood up and tears started to stream down my face.  I could barely see to open the little gate in the courtroom.  I looked up through my tears and the people in the courtroom….complete strangers were silently clapping with their hands and smiling.  One woman was holding her heart and I could see tears in her eyes as well.  I completely forgot that these people were there.  I went into a “zone” and I became Mama Bear.  These people who I had never met had felt my pain and they were cheering me on.

After 2.5 years of fighting to protect my children, I did it.  I succeeded.  My daughters still get to see their father and I get to sleep at night knowing that my daughters are safe in their beds.  This court battle has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  There were times when I wanted to throw in the towel– when I didn’t understand why the system was failing us time and time again.  I kept my game face on and I gave it everything I had.

I never lost sight of the goal: protecting my daughters.

My Girls: Despite everything they’ve been through— they are happy, healthy and they are thriving.  They are my girls and until I am confident that he is a healthy addition to their lives— I will always wear my battle gear and fight for the two most important people on Earth.

The Big Court Day- Part One


September 12, 2011 It was two days before our big court date and no one had been contacted by the court-appointed Minor’s Counsel.  I was anxious once again.  To him I was just a case.  To me, this wasn’t just a case.  This was my case and my daughter’s well-being was dependent on this investigation.  This was what I had been waiting for.

I pictured the “hurdles” in my mind.  Some people have their happy place that they go to in their mind.  My counselor told me to picture hurdles in my mind– jumping over one after another.  Sailing through the wind– hurdle after hurdle.  Ironically, the same week that she had given me this “visual image” I received a letter from my sister.  Inside the letter was an inspirational card to carry in my pocket.  It contained a poem about jumping over life’s hurdles.  In my “happy place”, I am strong, driven and I fly over hurdles with ease.  THIS was the mindset that I needed.

The day before the court date, I received a call from the attorney’s paralegal.  She was asking for the names and phone numbers of people to contact.  I was confused.  They had all of this information.  What was happening?  I felt like I plowed straight into a hurdle.  I gave her the information requested and I prayed.  Hard.

I sat and thought about it.  I was feeling powerless.  Why was I feeling powerless?  I was giving my power and my faith to another person- an attorney and a court system that is overloaded.  These people didn’t have to go home with me and look my two little girls in the eyes.  These were MY daughters and I needed to take control and fight.  I needed to awaken my inner momma bear again.  I needed to go home and prepare myself for tomorrow.  I needed to put on my “big girl panties” and do what I do best: protect my babies.

I went home and I reviewed my paperwork to prepare myself for battle.  I made bullet points of my key issues.  I know from past experience that nerves can take over and the best laid plans can go awry.  I had a burst of confidence and a sense of calm come over me that night.  I thank God for that and I thank two angels who have been in my corner through this process.  These two angels are in law enforcement and gave me a suggestion that ultimately saved my case.  I knew in my heart that their advice was going to help me drastically however, I had no idea of the magnitude.

September 14, 2011– Today is the day.  Court.

I arrived in court and discovered that my ex-husband was not going to appear in person.  He was going to call in and appear via the court speaker phone.  I was relieved about that.  I sat at the table as the attorney reported his findings– he had spoken to my daughter’s school principals along with my oldest daughter’s therapist.  He had also called my ex-husband’s cousin who gave him rave reviews as a father.  He called my ex-husband’s friend who is a local chiropractor and he also gave him rave reviews.  He didn’t call the people who knew us– the teachers, the nannies who lived in our home or the teachers from Mommy & Me classes.  He didn’t call my cousin nor did he call my friends.  I was devastated but kept my cool.  I waited patiently for him to finish– I checked the items off my list as he addressed them.  He closed his report and they asked me if I had anything to add.

I did.  I had many things to add.

I brought up multiple issues:

1. Drunk in Public offenses that the attorney had uncovered during the investigation but didn’t mention– these substantiated my claims of alcohol abuse.

2. My ex-brother-in-law (Brother A) and the disturbing issues that pertained to that topic which weren’t mentioned or investigated.

3. I brought up the fact that he was lying about the whereabouts of my children– each weekend and in fact, the most recent visitation of September 3 and 4th.  He claimed they were in San Francisco.  I knew they weren’t.

To be continued on 2nd Post……

Brother A


OSC-– a term that was foreign to me.  It means, “Order to Show Cause”. 

In “human-speak”, it means: “Dear Judge– Please add me to the court calendar because something needs to change- now”.

The term isn’t foreign to me anymore.  In all honesty, I feel like we’ve had an OSC on the court calendar every other month for two years.  The Commissioner probably cringes when he sees our name.  If there was ever a case on his desk that he’d hope to transfer to another judge– it’s ours.

I received notification that he had added an OSC to the calendar.  Basically, he wanted the order lifted that currently prevented our daughters from being in the presence of his older brother.  There were strict guidelines in our Parenting Agreement on when our children could be near “Brother A”  (There are four brothers in the family and I adore the younger two– I’ve fought hard to protect my children from “Brother A” and will continue to do so).  The visits were limited to four annual holidays and my ex-mother-in-law needed to be present.

What are the issues you are probably asking?  Here are excerpts from a letter that my ex-husband wrote to his mother  a few years ago about “Brother A” and why we didn’t want our daughters around him.  It sums up many of the issues– but not all.  I have removed names from the email:


Hi Mom,  I left (Brother A) a message early last week on his cell. Once a year or so I encourage him to write an apology and let ”by gones be by gones”.  His anger, comments about ”fags” and fat women, resentment towards me (likely a deep rooted jealousy of my career success, finding a cute blond girlfriend that he deliberately tried to sabotage, credit ability etc.) and his poor judgement. His beating dogs which our daughter repeated for two weeks.  Scarier was at Applebees where he talked about raping and killing (his ex-girlfriend).

Cumulatively, any licensed counselor or psychiatrist would agree he needs counseling and maybe meds. Until he apologizes to Tina even in email, Until he acknowledges and begins working on his anger and ending his redneck statements about gays, women etc. We do not want his influence or interaction with our daughters. That is a simple reality. Uncles and aunts have tremendous influence on nieces and nephews.  Attitude is even stronger influencer. Successful families have successful offspring.  Somewhere or sometime, he let anger interfere with his potential.

I am sorry that you are the most affected.  “Brother A” was the Senior Class President. Yet, he has two friends left –what happened to all these friendships?  He makes sure everyone who isn’t  on his agenda ”is done.”

“Brother A” is on a pathway to being a cantankerous hermit.  His decisions cause the alienation–one friend or family member at a time.  He needs counseling. Get him to go and then we can get back to being a family.  (Signed– “Him”)


Those issues are the tip of the iceberg.  Why does he now want my daughter around this man?  Why???!!!

I can tell you what the court paperwork states–  “Brother A has changed— he now has a wife and son.  He is a family man…yada…yada…yada”.

Fast-forward to reality:  “Brother A” does in fact have a wife and son.  He purchased a mail-order bride.  He brought her to America– she abandoned a child that she already had  and came to live here.  Together, they had a baby.  Being a husband and a father does not cure him. It does not change the person who beats tiny puppies, who is homophobic and talks about raping and killing people.

August 10, 2011 Court Date Re-Cap:  The court lifted the order slightly– and finally granted my request for a court-appointed attorney — Minor’s Counsel, who would look into my allegations and make a recommendation in the “best interest” of my daughters.

A new date was placed on the calendar— August 31, 2011.  This would be a report of findings from the attorney who would be representing my children.

Once again, I was hopeful.  I was also ready to put on the battle gear and fight.  Again.