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Beaten, Raped, Robbed and Left for Dead: Unmasking the "Father's Rights" Movement
by Kathleen Parker
copyright Kathleen Parker

Under the guise of "gender equality," a well-funded father's rights movement has declared war on US laws mandating child support and placing a child's best interests ahead of a father's "entitlements" in custody decisions. Caught in the crossfire are thousands of women and children who are horrified to discover that too often, Family Court has become just one more lethal weapon in the arsenal of this army of "father's rights" deadbeats, bullies and abusers.

I. Prologue

For two years, my two darling daughters and I have been brutally and repeatedly beaten, raped, robbed and left for dead -- psychologically, emotionally and financially -- by the man who used to call himself the husband and father in this family.

Affable, intelligent, articulate, a successful businessman, this vilest of abusers was never a family man, but he certainly well-maintained the fiction of a perfect, public gentleman. He enjoyed, and enjoys, the pleasant aspect of the public eye, a smiling hail-fellow-well-met, friend of the well-connected, in a small Midwestern town where such niceties matterÂ? perhaps too much, as we'll see as this story unfolds.

No one is more surprised today than I am, that my children and I survived, thus far, what can only be described as a brutal gang assault from thugs in suits -- smiling, scented men and women, without soul or substance, masquerading as small-town community leaders, philanthropists and businessmen.

The blueprints for the man's relentless, insidious, assaults -- those we've endured, as well as those he promises still await us -- come straight from the international, fledgling, but vicious and well-organized, euphemistically-titled "father's rights" (FR) movement.

As I've discovered, FR militants comprise a movement completely and irrevocably corrupted by money, and by the power its advocates believe money gives them. It's an abomination that they so deliberately invoke the word "father" to gain validity for their purely selfish agenda.

A cruel, stunning ambush -- devised to play out when I was at my weakest and most vulnerable point -- that was my introduction to the glib liars and cold, compassionless cowards in the FR movement. My girls and I have not yet escaped the poisoned litigational swampland this movement, this man and his henchmen have created, but we are, I believe, well on our way to healing.

Admittedly, our case -- an extreme case of massive business fraud peddled for the public record as "divorce and custody"-- is not typical. Professionals in both family and business law assure me -- as they shake their heads in disgust and disbelief -- that the unique confluence of circumstance, opportunity and personality characterizing my situation is unlikely to be replicated.

But in researching my defense against these hollow-hearted monsters, I've encountered hundreds of women whose stories could be mine. I'm not alone, not by a long shot. Most disturbing is the number of women with whom I've communicated who are so demoralized and impoverished by the process of "divorce and custody, FR-style," that they are on the verge of giving up.

To these women and mothers I say: Losing is not an option. You must survive, somehow, any way you can, to fight another day. Perhaps I can help you with this series and its informational links.

This year, thousands of men -- hand-in-hand with their children -- will march in Nazi-like precision on Courthouses in more than 100 cities, demanding "gender equality" and "family preservation" as they seek legal sanction for their cowardly abuse and domestic terrorism.

For every one of those thousands of men, there is a woman whose life is about to be sacrificed in the crosshairs of the "father's rights" assault weaponry.

So I know I am not alone in the poisoned "father's rights" swampland. Many, many of the women I've encountered have been ambushed, brutalized, defamed and trashed, and don't have the first clue what happened or how or why, or when it mercifully, might end.

Nor are my children alone, in their children's Hell of paralysis, betrayal and uncertainty. There are thousands of children, just like them, tiny trophies for the FR militants' mantlepiece.

We are not alone.

After an initial warming wave of comfort, that fact horrifies me.

And that is why this story must be told.

II. The Men Behind the Masks

Who ARE these masked men, these well-heeled and highly motivated sloganeers who put their phony, sad-eyed faces toward a sympathetic world, and their money toward sympathetic legislators, and claim to be struggling against all odds for the 'equal right' to parent their children?

They are diverse in vocation, avocation, shape, age and color? but they are usually well-educated, articulate and well-off They are many and they are growing in size and strength. One thing is certain: The predators in the FR militancy are nothing at all akin to the smiling, loving "dads" they project on their websites and in their newsletters.

In fact, the stark contrasts are frightening, once you've had the misfortune, as I have had, to unwittingly stumble into this den of wily snakes.

You may meet some of them yourselves this year, in your own hometown, as they extend their reach, spider-like, into county courthouses and state legislatures, seeking the overturn of virtually every protection afforded women and children, especially, most diabolically, women and children who are or have been victims of abuse.

Consider just a few of the FR movement's real agenda -- overturn the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 as unconstitutional? end child support? eliminate battered women's shelters ? end child support? eliminate food stamps and AFDC? end child support? mandate policies of rebuttable presumptive joint physical and joint legal custody in 50 states in this country.

Oh, yes, and did I mention: eliminate child support and the laws that protect and enforce it.

FR militants will drone endlessly on about a non-issue they call Parental Alienation Syndrome and another they call Malicious Mother Syndrome, and demand evaluation after evaluation, in hopes of finding someone, anyone, to take their sick side, or failing that, of running the spouse completely out of financial and emotional resources, so that she can no longer do battle on a level footing.

FR militants purport to "document" -- with special software they market to newcomers on their websites -- an endless number of incidents of parenting interference by the mother. The documents or diaries are usually entirely bogus, the incidents described quite often self-created, or built around a half-truth dropped carefully into a new, sinister situation.

But the FR operators assure their militant members that the documents are magnificent "evidence" in a courtroom, especially when the accused mother comes ill-prepared to defend herself against a never-ending recitation of fantasies.

FR militants and their minions will cite multiple state and Federal court cases to the Judges, demanding that some weird, extrapolated precedent be followed, and that this interfering mother be stripped of her children for sabotaging the father's relationship with his child.

A sabotaged relationship. That's a key and favorite phrase and accusation of FR men -- and you can guess -- it's absolutely necessary: How else can these physically absent, emotionally crippled, unwelcoming, motivated-by-money 'fathers' reasonably explain to the Court their children's overwhelming preferences for mother, home, stability and security in the lives they've always known?

It is, of course, all the mom's fault, these glib and self-aggrandizing liars will claim, under oath, if needs be. The child is brainwashed. The mother exerts undue influence. The mother and child are 'pathologically bonded' and the mother is clearly doing 'irreparable harm' to this child.

FR militants, at an especially sick level of cruelty, engage in what they call gas-lighting, and what we call crazy-making ? a modus operendi worthy of an entire article in its own right.

These men insist that the sole remedy for the alienation they've endured is immediate removal of the children from their mother's home. Custody, they say, must go to the poor, victim father.

Never mind, they say, that PAS has been debunked repeatedly by the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychologists Association.

Never mind that the father has been tagged by professional forensic evaluators as physically absent, emotionally unavailable, rigid, unwelcoming in his demeanor, unbonded with any of his children.

Never mind that the father has been documented as a physical, financial and emotional abuser and the children do not wish to live with him.

Never mind the father's perjury and fraud. He is, he says, entitled to 50% of his child and woe be to the mother or judge or courtroom that denies him his 'rights.'

Consider just a few examples from the "Father's Rights Manifesto" -- among their other stated goals --

"Convert battered women's shelters to battered spouse's shelters, or eliminate them. These organizations have become guerilla training centers in the war against fatherhood and must be converted into facilities which assist in the elimination of fatherlessness and the preservation of families."

"Eliminate child support, alimony, and all other transfers of assets which encourage or support fatherlessness. Collecting such court ordered awards costs 2 to 3 times as much as the amount collected. Punitive measures recently enacted by government discourage or prohibit productivity. The negative psychological impact of requiring a father to subsidize the destruction of his own family is a powerful economic demotivater."

"Replace tax incentives which favor broken families or single parenthood with small but important "bonuses" to encourage and reward intact families, thus changing the tacit role of government from anti-family and anti-fatherhood to pro-family and pro-fatherhood."

You'll rarely hear or see such a stunning agenda voiced or envisaged in public by the smooth-talking operators of the FR groups. They are many nasty things, but they are not often fools.

III. The Uppity, Inconvenient Spouse Seen Through the FR Looking Glass

Allow me to remind readers that admittedly, my husband's attraction to the "father's rights" movement was occasioned not by his love or concern for his children, whom he barely knew, but by his perverse need for money -- not just his money, but my money as well. More than $1 million in assets just vanished during the pendancy of this litigation, and now my husband, like so many men on the FR sites, is pleading personal and business poverty.

We, of course, are all terminally stupid, and he apparently, has the only fully functioning brain cells in the neighborhood. Yes, I believe that he truly believes we do not know and will nopt reveal -- as I have known from the day I learned of his plan and am revealing now -- that this has been an extreme case of massive business fraud peddled for two long years for the public record as "divorce and custody."

And the FR movement afforded the perpetrator ample weaponry with which to wage his war against his family and his fraud against the Court, keeping the Court and myself wrapped up in an endless series of FR-scented motions and demands. And during those 18 months (and the eight months to a year of "planning ahead" he did) my husband casually offloaded hundreds of thousands of dollars from our businesses, right from under everyone's noses!

How did he do this?

All will be revealed.

I've often told folks that they can only truly comprehend and protect themselves from the duplicity of the 'father's rights' movement devotees, and understand my specific misadventure within it, if they examine the paper trail with a copy of Lewis Carroll's "Alice Through The Looking-Glass" right within their grasp.

The "father's rights movement" is a topsy-turvy, upside-down, inside-out and backwards world, a distortion of essential realities and the random creation of alternate realities, in which left is right and right is wrong and wrong is a necessary means to the 'right' end.

In this anti-female world of "father's rights," a woman's assertiveness is an obsessive need for dominance and control; a mother's nurturing love is unhealthy dependence and pathological bonding; a father's cold years of absence and emotional abuse are a noble endeavor to teach children independence.

A business partner's 18 years of hard work and sacrifice are transformed into a simple, selfish, manipulative gold-digging exercise, and the FR's systematic, casual, pre-emptive destruction of his spouse's hard-won personal and professional reputation becomes a justifiable act of self-defense against an unpredictable, vindictive 'crazy' woman determined to destroy the father's life-work.

Such a complex strategy of reinvention and historical revisionism takes time and money. So it's important, the FR militants tell their minions, to CONTROL THE MONEY as well as the FLOW OF INFORMATION.

You must, these FR operators admonish repeatedly, PLAN AHEAD, FILE FIRST with gusto, and file as often as necessary. And keep her scrambling for money, sputtering in outrage, and invariably, on the defensive.

'Plan ahead,' the FR sites advise. Translation: ambush your spouse and children, and hit them hard enough in the first round to knock them dead out of contention. Ugly? Yes. Cold-blooded? You betcha!

But such a plan is crucial for physically and emotionally absent men whose spouses are not only excellent mothers but also who claim 50% of the parties' assets -- and they may very well be significant assets -- not by virtue of marriage, but by virtue of the woman's own hard work in creating those assets and building the business.

All that history must be revised. All the past must be overwritten. And most importantly, the assets which would surely be divided with the mother, and equally bad, accounted in the calculations for the husband's contribution to child support, must gradually, unavoidably, seem to diminish and appear to DISappear.

That uppity spouse must never have access to the resources she will inevitably, ultimately use to unravel and rewind in public the FR advocate's tale of fraud, deceit and duplicity.

IV. Rapists in the Den of Thieves

As we are seeing, advocates of the "father's rights" movement, such as my soon-to-be-ex-husband, often find themselves saddled with uppity, inconvenient spouses such as myself:

Women who, during the marriage, do far more than their "fair share" with regard to both family and finances, without comment or complaint.

Women who had full, satisfying lives before their marriage and are destined to have full, satisfying lives when the marriage is over.

Women who take their responsibilities seriously -- and who assert the corresponding rights that they've earned by dint of having fulfilled and fulfilled well -- those responsibilities, be they financial or familial.

When faced with the prospect of parting from such women, men such as my husband and his cronies in the FR movement, whose 'responsibility' has been primarily to themselves, and whose interests are primarily money, power and control, and whose family links are historically characterized by remoteness and abdication of responsibility, must face an awful truth:

Divorcing men -- even those who have been allowed to control their spouses' assets throughout marriage -- must relinquish their control of her assets in order to accomplish a fair and equitable distribution Â? unless he can demonstrate that the assets were either his in the first place, and oh dear, they've been unavoidably depleted.

And oh yes, that depletion is HER fault. She MADE me do it; that over-controlling **** FORCED me to file 56 motions against her and engage in this litigation because? well, fill in the blank. Their excuses are limited only by their imaginations. And when their imaginations are limited, they have thousands of pals on the "father's rights" websites and in local organizations to "share" ideas with them.

But that awful truth about loss of control goes down very hard on these men, and that's what attracts them to the glittering promise imbedded in "father's rights." Is there any better way to look like a good guy than to claim to be 'forced' to diminish your assets (and hers) in a selfless struggle to rescue your children from an evil aggressive mother? How courageous! What a noble guy!

Think about it. Women of substance and assertiveness are all too frequently tagged, STILL, in our culture as aggressive, domineering and controlling. Men in the FR movement, often married to women of substance, use the Looking Glass strategy to crush their spouses, often in anticipation of divorce.

The spouses, of course, are not initially clued in. Subterfuge is a critical element of the Looking Glass strategy. As we've seen, these men don't often EVER come clean about their REAL agendas. Lie, lie, lie, deny, deny, deny.

And as we've seen, the "father's rights movement" has been masterful in its manipulation of its image, and by extension, in the image of its members. They are not "deadbeat dads," oh no, they are, they say, "dead-bolted dads," shut out of their children's lives by vindictive women.

They are the victims, they say, over and over. And that is simply not so.

My husband learned from his mentors in the "father's rights" movement exactly how to use his own children and the Family Court system to hold the knife to my neck while he continued his vicious assault on me.

V. "Are you a WEAK man, Mr. Rxxxd?"

A side-trip of sorts, but relevant to the balance of power that the "father's rights" militants seek to shift their way in the sniper-fire they employ before the "divorce war" actually begins at Trial.

One of the early difficulties my 2bx encountered -- a wee snag in the fabric of his well-woven strategy -- occurred during the initial hearing for temporary custody and support. This was not before a judge, but a lay person referee, in a courtroom.

On Day One, my 2bx described in appallingly convincing detail (to my total and complete shock -- because every word was a total and complete fabrication) to an apparently very sympathetic referee the following: how he'd been bullied by me for a decade, never allowed to make decisions, never allowed to have the kids alone or drive them to school, never allowed to pay the household bills, never allowed to maintain the house and property.

His point was intending to prove that my over-controlling, domineering obsessiveness was terrible for the minor child and she must be removed from my care IMMEDIATELY if not sooner. Oh yes, he was ready: yes, the children were not in any trouble and the elder daughter was successful in high school and was enrolled in the premier Catholic women's college in the country?. but the tragic truth (he looked up at the referee with wide eyes) is that these poor children were terrified of me and THAT explained their well-behaved manner and their successes? they didn't DARE cross their mother.

I believe he used the words "swift and terrible retribution" to describe what these children allegedly "knew" would happen to them if they fell out of line.

He was doing fine on the witness stand, lying under oath like an experienced perjurer (perhaps he is!) and even obviously enjoying his victimhood, until my attorney, reeled him in with --

"You know, Mr.Rxxx, you've described yourself to this court as having suffered all these things at the hands of your wife, and your children, too ? and you never did anything about it til now? You've described yourself as a very weak man, Mr. Rxxx. Are you a very weak man?"

My 2bx's face literally froze. This was unexpected and, worse, a public insult. He did not know how to answer. It was a joy, after months of ambush and uncertainty and terror on my part alone, finally to behold a crack in that smooth, well-oiled "fatherly" veneer.

Through my tears, I quite nearly laughed out loud. The spell this man had woven in that Courtroom was broken, as the referee and court personnel pondered?. hmmmm?

It was the only genuinely good moment I would have in Court for quite a long while, but if you've ever had to deal with a man totally consumed with his own self-image of power, dominance and total control? then you can image how deeply I cherish it!

VI. Arming Men for the Brutal 'Divorce Wars'

There's a very logical reason that "certain kinds of women" are especially attractive targets of the militant abusers and users in the FR movement. And don't be misled into the fantasy that the abuse and psychological trauma inflicted on the spouse and her children is "incidental" to divorce, custody and business dissolution litigation.

Abuse, trauma, conflict, chaos, imposed poverty -- these are weapons that are in fact the entire POINT of the FR's litigational strategy.

The men who run and operate the FR sites and handle the FR lobby contacts in Washington DC and set up the FR groups as 501( c ) (3) tax-exempt organizations and prepare their minions for what they call "the divorce wars" are intelligent, articulate, educated, savvy and largely, unscrupulous men.

They have likely been married to intelligent, articulate, accomplished, educated women. By nature of their associations with the FR movement, the men involved in the conflict are fathers and the women may be businesswomen and professionals, but they are also mothers.

And there's the rub for these FR militants. An intelligent, accomplished woman isn't typically going to allow herself to be beaten, raped, robbed -- of her assets AND her children -- and left for dead without a spirited defense. A spirited defense requires money and time and a clear head.

The spouse and mother MUST be either crushed at the onset, or worn down emotionally and financially, kept without money, without security, without a way out -- without the spirit part of her spirited defense -- until she begs to surrender, by constant, continual demoralization.

To accomplish that, these FR militants require -- absolutely require -- a lengthy, destructive Court battle of some kind in order to indefinitely delay any discussion of, or investigation into, assets, financial dealings, or their own poor past as a parent.

A lengthy, much-investigated child custody battle snarled up in an overburdened Court system, gives them the time they need to not only re-invent their histories, and those of their families, but also, most importantly, to move, hide, invest and offload their assets.

A custody battle is tailor-made for these men. I have seen and heard it many times on FR sites:

"Given the choice between fighting for the child and fighting for her property rights, the mother will nearly always go for the child first. The child will be the most powerful weapon you have in 'convincing' your wife that her concept of 'fair distribution of assets' needs to be revisited."

Go for custody, whether you want it or not, the FR operators tell their minions. Learn about your child, if you don't know your child. Look like you care very deeply for the children and keep the Court focused on your negative depiction of the mother-child relationship.

While that's going on, and it can be dragged out for YEARS, no one is looking at the absent, unavailable father! In fact, they EXPECT that his assets will be depleted by this terrible struggle. Even if he loses, he never wanted or expected to 'win' custody, so the delay is a win-win for the 'poor, victim dad.'

Here's how one counselor euphemistically couches the answer to the critical question for the uninvolved father seeking custody: when to file? Answer: Give yourself enough time to reinvent history. Here's a quote from one of the sites:

"If you want (insert: your spouse to have to fight for) primary custody, it is possible that a delay could provide a period of time when you are aware of what lies around the corner while your wife is not. This waiting period may afford you an opportunity to solidify your position as the primary nurturer, as well as to gather information and evidence."

'Gather information and evidence' is a euphemism for concoct and 'document' enough stories, incidents, events, distortions, ad nauseum, so that when you do get to Court -- and as Plaintiff, FR-advocate, you 'go first' -- your stories will appear credible.

As in so many rape situations, these psychological, financial and emotional rapists cowering behind the shield of the "father's rights movement" concoct scenarios in which they can blame their victims. Having shifted the focus to the woman and her alleged transgressions -- perjury is nothing to these men -- these FR militants are able to play themselves as the victim the entire time they engage in vicious assault.

As the above excerpt strongly implies, "solidifying" the absent dad's "position as the primary nurturer" recognizes that in fact, the men who resort to the FR tactics are not and have not been the child's primary nurturer.

Another FR site points out that the devious dad will need to build "a history of sharing of duties between two parents, or a very close bond between a dad and a child, which can be maintained only by a co-parenting arrangement."

None of the history has to be true, or real, or genuine, the FR advocates say in their chatrooms and message boards. It simply must APPEAR to be so for the benefit and duration of the litigation.

This is a key element of the gas-lighting or crazy-making strategy inflicted on the woman. The FR militant first steals his spouse's life and livelihood, and then makes certain that she's aware he is rubbing her proverbial nose in it.

It isn't accidental and it isn't incidental to divorce, custody or even business dissolution. It's deliberate, cold-blooded and -- as the FR operators will explain -- absolutely necessary.

That's such a key point, as we will see?

VII. Domestic Terrorism: Stalking a Wounded Victim

At the onset of this case, for which my husband initiated litigation in August 1999, I had the extreme misfortune and apparently unforgivable bad luck to be both an excellent mother and an accomplished professional, a 50% owner in a flourishing business that I helped found with my husband -- long before he was my husband -- 18 years ago.

I also had just endured two full years of absolutely crushing personal grief and family tragedy. Literally "just" endured. The day he advised me of what was afoot, was the first day I'd drawn a breath not fraught with tears in months and months.

So one of the truly horrifying aspects of this case, for me, has been having to come to grips with the fact that my husband is, and probably has been for some time, an amoral person without normal human feelings. He deliberately essentially stalked me and the kids, psychologically, for months and months, and I never recognized that for what it was until it was far too late to do anything about it.

The horrible truth is that my own husband watched and waited during my greatest period of personal crisis, and when he guessed that I would be at my absolute weakest and most vulnerable point, he STRUCK with a massive effort to take my child from me -- a child he could not be bothered with for the first 11 years of her life -- without even the benefit of a heated discussion, let alone a Court hearing.

One more loss, he was guessing, I could not endure. This evil man, to whom I'd been married 12 years, was literally gambling that I would be wiped out emotionally from simply the threat of such a loss.


My much-loved and great-guy father was very ill for the last half of 1997, just a week after we discovered that my brother's young wife had stage 4 cancer. My brother was coping with his own grief and that of his four children -- 14, 11, 4 and six months. My family, always very close, was in total and complete crisis.

My father went into the hospital for a heart catheterization and just never recovered. A month later he was diagnosed with stomch cancer, so they operated. Then more heart troubles ... his diabetes kicked in, and eventually in February 1998, they had to amputate his leg. He passed away in April 1998 and we were crushed.

My sister-in-law had surgery to no avail, and they sent her home in August 1997, giving her six months to live.

These were two terrible catastrophes from which my siblings and children did not know how we might ever recover. My husabnd, as always, was barely around, emotionally unavailable, as they say ...

The same year, 1997, my eldest daughter graduated from high school and was trying to prepare for college in the midst of these crises. My youngest, an ADHD high-maintenance child, was struggling mightily and desperately unhappy in school. I had been working at home part-time for two years, after 15 years of fulltime at half-pay in order to "build a base of retained earnings" for the business.

So in late 1997, I backed off the business and attended to family matters.

This of course, is characterized in Court papers as abandoning the business without explanation or permission. The date is alternately posed as 1993, 1994 or 1995. In one set of false papers, he even claims I "walked away" in 1995 but he kept me on the payroll until 1997.

That is all, of course, a deliberae strategy to convince the judge I'm not entitled to 50% of the business assets? but that's an entirely 'nother story.

My husband's stalking and disingenuous probing of my emotional state was entirely opportunistic and characteristic of the bloodlessly cold methodical win-at-all-costs strategies exhorted by the FR groups. I still shudder to think what would have happened had I been not such a strong person.

As far as the business went, my husband had always handled the business end, a task he enthusiastically embraced.

As a writer and right-brained thinker, I managed the creative end and developed a specialty in economic development and community revitalization. At home and in parenting matters, there was no option. I was "it." There was no discussion and no choice. He was neither interested nor inclined.

The single time in eight years that he took our daughter to school, she was in third grade -- and he took her to the wrong school. An accident? Or simply making sure he NEVER had to do that task again?

After a dozen years of marriage, I simply did not realize that uppity wives, such as myself, who aspire to a saner balance between family life and workplace, at a time of devastating personal crisis, are not only unentitled to understanding and compassionÂ?but are unwittingly wandering dead-center into the crosshairs of the fledgling but vicious "father's rights" movement.

I never once considered that the upshot of my decision to take a much-deserved break from the business (no vacuum was created, regardless; we had ample, experienced staff) to attend to family matters was simply the creation of a financial opportunity for my husband and his legal and accounting team.

He never let on, not for one single moment. THAT still amazes me, these four years later.

VIII: The Financial Desecration Begins

Another key "father's rights" admonishment to their minions: CONTROL the MONEY.

I spoke in Article VI of the 'initial' Court hearing that was held in January 2000. Given what's been debated in the comments section on the family court, I do use the term 'initial' advisedly, since several lawsuits were filed simultaneously against me in August 1999. Fending off the inevitable 'initial' hearing is also a core element of the "father's rights" strangulation and rape strategy, and my husband played it like a dream, conning everyone along the way that, indeed, he was "trying" to stay out of Court "for the child's sake."

By the time the hearing was held, the financial desecration was quite nearly complete. I had $61 to my name, a car in repossession, property taxes unpaid, my phone disconnected, internet service cancelled, credit card bills maxed out and overdue, and months of unpaid college tuition and board.

My own assets had been seized and held by my husband for nearly SEVEN months, courtesy of a restraining order that was basically superfluous, since he had already moved more than $500,000 and made $350,000 more just vanish into accounting adjustments, a full two months before he'd filed. He simply proceeded as though his reinvention of me as a gold-digging, self-indulgent, malicious nitwit was already reality, as though everything was rightfully only his, and he needed to "protect" it from me.

He never once gave a moment's thought to what his manipulations were doing to the kids. I told him clearly, "whenever you lob a bomb at me, you hit the kids." But to no avail. He simply did not care.

After all, as he explained to the Court, he had to keep the business going (hired 14 new people between august 1999 and May 2000) and all those people to keep employed, and this greedy woman will be happy to put the business on the skids to feed her vindictiveness! In fact, your honor, I believe she's trying to destroy this business. And she won;t let me see my poor daughter! Please give me a restraining order to keep her off the premises (and out of the financials and away from her own work-product)Â? and turn that child over to me, your honor. You can trust me..."

He had surreptitiously called our bank in JUNE 1999 and had the monthly automatic deposits into our bank account stopped. The deposits, but NOT the withdrawals, clever man. But then an unexpected bump in his smooth-sailing path: my sister-in-law, who had hung on for almost two years, succumbed in July 1999.

In an obvious attempt to not be caught out too early, my husband hand-deposited $2,300 into our household account in mid-July. Tat was roughly half of what the automatic deposits had been for years.

By the time he filed in August 1999, there was virtually nothing left but the money set aside in a separate account for that year's college tuition for my elder daughter. And in September, the automatic withdrawals kicked in, and of course, there was nothing there to cover them.

He wrote to the Court, filed motions against me, "outraged," that I'd been "trying to ruin his credit by bouncing hundreds of dollars of checks all over town! Punish this irresponsible, crazy woman, your honor, and did I mention she's also trying to destroy the business and doing irreparable harm to this poor child?"

There is absolutely no way to stay out of the way of that kind of strategy.

Worse, all of my professional work-product, my resume, client lists, billing records, writing samples, booklets, brochures, plans and programs I'd developed and produced over the course of 18 years were indeed in the office and out of my reach. He had earlier taken my printer from home to the office "to have it repaired." Ha.

Planning ahead, he of course had had the locks changed on our office building just days after he filed. (That small fact turned out to be a major factor in his undoing.) When I drove up to the office that Saturday morning (no one about), I found my key no longer worked. I returned home, where he was still allegedly living, and asked him for a key. He of course refused and alluded to the fact that I'd 'made threats.'

I then asked if this meant he would be releasing me from the non-compete clause in my employment contract. Looking at me as though I'd suddenly lost my mind, he asked, "Why would you think that? Of course not."

Me: "Obviously, if you're not going to have the money deposited, I will have to work to pay the bills."

Him: "You can work. No one is stopping you."

Problem: The minute I were to take any job doing what I do professionally, I am in violation of my non-compete clause, and the contract says I then forfeit my interest in the business. Such an unreasonable clause will likely never stand Court scrutiny, but given my circumstances, and having no funds and only debts, I did not care to be fighting yet ANOTHER lawsuit in another Court somewhere.

For the record, his strategy worked: my assets have still not been released to me. My husband was, and remains, in sole control of the rents and income from the building we co-own, of the income, dividend, interest and profits of the businesses we own.

And in a clever coup, he hit me in March 2000 with a K-1 advising the IRS that my share of the business profits the previous year was $161,000. I'd never seen a single penny. The IRS would like my $55,000, please. And of course, that much reported income guaranteed that I'd see NO financial aid for my daughter in college.

I was not aware at the time of the 'father's rights' movement or their advice to him in this regard. Nor was I aware that he had also been advised to pre-emptively alert the police and the Court that I had 'made threats' not only against the property, but also, he claimed in total and complete fabrication, against the poor terrified (he said, and that was a mistake that came back to haunt him) employees! That, he explained, 'forced' him to change the locks.

The only 'reasonable' thing to did when faced with this crazy, unstable woman, right?

I could sense it in my bones: he's setting me up for what he hopes will be a self-fulfilling prophesy. And he was setting me up in order to help him obtain a restraining order against me, which would then be further "proof" of my deteriorating mental condition. I suppose I was lucky not to have been arrested that morning!

But the effectiveness of this ploy went much deeper. He prevented me from obtaining what I needed to work, and reaped the benefits of the psychological despair that reality brings with it.

The author of this article is not the Kathleen Parker who is a syndicated columnist and writes for the Orlando Sentinel


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