1. Netanya is not waiting for her
They divorced very amicably a few years ago. However, the divorce agreement had very little to do with actuality. They, like many other divorcing couples, believed that a divorce agreement was like an insurance policy – you shove it in the back of a drawer and forget about it until something goes wrong. What happens in the meantime? In the meantime, they were doing the best they could for the sake of the children. So, Sharon and Yaron forgot about the divorce agreement and put their focus on their two daughters.
Yaron was a fairy tale divorcee. Although he was obligated to pay relatively low alimony in the divorce agreement, in practice he rented an apartment close to his place for Sharon and provided for a high standard of living for her and the girls. That was in accordance with three main considerations – his economic ability, his love for his daughters and his understanding that despite the divorce, he and their mom would always be family.
For a few years everything was fine until Yaron got into a new relationship. It was not that he did not have women before, he had quite a few women and Sharon didn’t stay alone either. However, this time Yaron found a serious relationship. Serious enough to consider having children together. When the girls came home one day and told Sharon that Einat, dad’s girlfriend, had a baby in her belly, Sharon completely changed her tune and in Yaron’s own words – flipped on him.
The reaction was swift – she began insisting on the visitation arrangements set in the agreement, although in practice the girls stayed with Yaron far more than was settled. She also informed the girls that they were moving. Two weeks ago, the girls told Yaron that Mom was taking them to see apartments close to their grandmother in Netanya (35 km from their current home).
Yaron tried to text Sharon and ask her about the matter but discovered that she had blocked his account. When he returned the girls, he wanted to stay and talk to her but she threatened to call the police. He sent her an email informing her that he did not agree to the girls' change of residence and received back an email claiming that the divorce agreement does not prohibit her from moving the girls, that she was the girls’ custodian, that he was a violent and dangerous person and so the girls would be better served away from him and that she was receiving ongoing legal counsel on this matter.
Immediately after the holiday, we filed a suit for joint custody on behalf of Yaron and a motion for an urgent injunction prohibiting Sharon from changing the girls’ place of residence and education. The motion was granted, with an order to have the respondent's response within 48 hours. I have a feeling that the girls will not move to Netanya …
2. Law and Order
She called me during Passover and I knew it wasn’t just another call, so I answered immediately. "The police called. There was a complaint against me for domestic violence and I have no idea where it came from." I laughed. This could only come from one source.
This was an amazing woman, a gentle accountant, who has been in the midst of a divorce proceeding for three years now from someone who has sworn to make her regret the moment she wanted to divorce him and hasn’t left her alone since.
Every few months he has been filing a new lawsuit against her, sometimes two at a time, entering into long exhausting legal proceedings whose outcome didn’t interest him. His losses deterred neither him nor his lawyer, who kept assuring him that next time they would win. They haven’t won, continuing to lose but enjoying the process very much.
This time he gave her a “gift” for Passover. On the way to the Passover dinner she called me distraught. He filed a police complaint against her for infringement of privacy and harassment. This was the “crime” that was committed and justified a complaint: Their daughter told her mom that her dad (who has claimed to have no income and has requested cancellation of alimony) has been taking her to work and leaving her alone in a room, having her texting him every time she needed to go to the bathroom. Her mom had no idea that the dad worked, where he worked and where he was taking their daughter for that many hours. When the girl desperately sent her mom a selfie from where she was, the mom saw the company logo and called to ask if the dad was there and what his position was with the company. The conversation lasted 10 seconds and at the end of it she hung up without identifying herself or leaving a message. That is the criminal offense for which the police complaint was filed immediately after the first night of Passover, and because of which my client was interrogated and her fingerprints and mug shot taken like she was a common criminal.
The police officer who interrogated her, heard her version and saw the distress texts from the girl. He did not like what he heard. He made it clear to her that she should file a complaint for imprisonment of a minor and the filing of a false complaint, and that if she did not do so, he would report it to social services. This is how a complaint for infringement of privacy and harassment filed by the dad, ended with his arrest and a restraining order against him.
3. A sting operation
They were in mediation and kept respectful communication even though they were in a divorce proceeding. Both had high-level jobs and were very sensitive and aware of the damage that a divorce process can cause their children, whom they have raised so lovingly. Therefore, they consulted with professionals on how to best act in this situation and, following their advice, decided to keep the kids in one house and have each of the parents spend time there during his or her visitation times, while having another accommodation to stay at in all other times. It's called "nesting" and in the early stages of divorce it's the arrangement that best benefits the children.
When the mediation process progressed and they were about to reach an agreement, she pursued legal advice and then everything turned around. She received a methodical plan of action and began to act accordingly. At first, she informed him that she was canceling the “nesting”, claiming that the arrangement was harming the kids who needed both their parents together. She also informed him that she wanted to reconcile, that there was no point in continuing mediation and that the divorce procedure should be concluded. Right then we realized that she was going to war.
In the second stage, with precise timing – on the day of the Seder meal, she filed a false poice complaint against him on the grounds that he stole her car keys and locked her in a room. She filed the complaint following a well-planned scene during which she went out to the building hallway and screamed for help. When he tried to soothe her, she called the police, distraught and crying. The police officer explained to him that, according to police procedures, due to the holiday, he had to be kept away from her until the end of it, albeit not from the children.
In the third stage, the day after, we appealed to her lawyer to coordinate visitation arrangements for the kids to meet with their father and when the lawyer took his time to respond and finally agreed to only a limited arrangement, we submitted to the court an urgent motion in which we requested the urgent response of the mother. The attending judge read the map correctly and did not like that dirty move. She gave a decision, cautioning the mother to return to negotiations, making it clear that she did not find the mother’s version reliable and transferring the children to their father until the end of the restraining period.
The moral of the three stories:
Even if you are emotionally hurt and even if you let someone else manage your process because you feel lost, do not burn all the bridges.
Imagine yourselves as the kids in the process you are going through and imagine how you would feel if your mother would do the things you are doing to your father or vice versa.
Then breathe deeply, count to 10 and think again before burn everything down.