In a custody case, there are lots of labels.
Official labels. Labels that professionals choose for you, often within 20 minutes of meeting you.
Often before they meet you.
Often incorrectly. Often based on how many concerns your ex has voiced about you in advance of your first appointment. And when you have an ex who isn’t afraid to lie and never stops voicing concerns, you find that you are seldom experienced authentically—for who you are and what your true patterns of behavior have been over time.
It gets worse the longer a case goes. Because when your case goes on for years, regardless of who’s driving it, the professionals are inclined to assume that you’re an asshole right up front. They’ll say:
“It takes two assholes to keep a case in court like this. You two just can’t get enough of it.”
I’ve heard that plenty of times by now, regardless of the fact that my ex has filed everything—this time for full custody—and has invested years and more than his extra money and time trying to ensure that I don’t see our boys at all. Ever again. Or once a month at most—if the court insists. The actual and clear fact that he’s driving this entire process is not something anyone involved talks about. Ever. So I have to show up to say, “hey, I’ve consistently been a good parent, and I don’t want my time with my kids to go away. I love them and want to help raise them.” And I have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars defending the idea that I should be part of their lives. And I have to show up for hundreds of meetings and assessments and appointments over time, most of which I’ve come to believe have been decided before I even arrive.
Because I’m part of a process that makes everyone an “asshole.”
I’m an asshole.
I’d really like a new label.