Custody Battle ends in Tragedy

For many, becoming a parent is a milestone. A moment when a human being realizes he has the power to shape another life into a beautiful creation. However, this was not the case of Richard Anderson of Orange County, California.

It was a cold November morning when Richard Anderson heard a knock on his apartment door.  His girlfriend asks, “Go see who it is”.  Anderson answers the door as he wipes the crust from his sleepy eyes.  Upon opening the door, he sees a familiar woman. Vanessa Crawford, his former girlfriend that he broke up with 3 years prior. He has a small boy with her. Crawford exclaims, “This is your son, let’s be a family again…”

Anderson goes into a panic and slams the door. His girlfriend, Jasmine, shouts, “who is it honey?”  Anderson nervously yells back, “It was the paperboy…”

3 days later, Anderson receives an e-mail from his ex-lover from 3 years ago.

“Richard, I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you. We had a bad breakup, and I always wanted kids, you didn’t. I must have forgotten to take my birth control pills. I always wanted a child, so I was happy. My older brother has been supporting me, but, he recently kicked me out. I know I cheated on you before, but, that was a mistake. If you get back together with me, I promise not to take you to court. We can work this out!”

Anderson ignored the e-mail. He could feel his stomach beginning to cramp. What is he to do? Is this child even his?

1 month later, Mr.Anderson receives a letter in the mail from the Orange county Juvenile court house, stating that he was being subpoenaed to submit to a DNA test. Should he not comply, he would be arrested. Anderson arrives one month later to submit his DNA test. The result showed that he was indeed the father.  A subsequent child support/custody hearing would be set 30 days later.

Anderson decided it was time to come clean to his girlfriend about the child. Devastated at the news, she decides to break up with him. Now Anderson lives alone in his apartment, with all household bills laying upon his shoulders. Anderson became very depressed, but, he had a decent job, he could manage. He made 25K per year in salary. He worked as an office manager for a Construction company while moonlighting as a law student. His dream was to become a lawyer or a politician.

Soon, his court date arrived.  Anderson and his ex lover, Vannessa, approach the stand. Anderson is without a lawyer, since the courts do not provide them in civil cases. Vanessa is being represented, for free, by the state government. Vanessa explains all of her expenses towards the child. The judge’s assistance looks over both the mother and father’s income through their pay-stubs and tax returns.

The assistant plugs the numbers into an arbitrary computer program that calculates income and expenses such as daycare, after school programs, ect…

The assistant comes back with two pieces of paper. One for the mother and the father. The paper states that the father will be ordered to pay $645 per month in child support.

The mother then raises her hand, “what about all those months I raised him before we went to court?”

The assistant does more calculations. Five minutes later, she comes back with a new piece of paper stating that the father was being ordered to pay $8,459. in retroactive support, going back to the time of the child’s birth. an extra $5 per month would be paid towards those arrears with interest accruing at 12% per year.

The father lashes out, “I didn’t even know he existed? How could I have supported him?”   The mother’s attorney responds, “That’s neither here nor there now.”

The father then asks about whether he will be able to see his child. The mother says she will allow the father to see the child 4 days per month, supervised. The judge agreed that this was acceptable. The judge advises the father, “If you want joint or full custody, you need to hire an attorney and fight for it. You are also barred from leaving the state without court permission.  Case adjourned!”

Anderson is later fired from his job because the court date required him to miss work. He didn’t have any vacation time. Luckily, Anderson finds another job very quickly making about $10 per hour.

A few weeks later, Anderson noticed that his usual $400 per week check was now only $250. The Child Support Garnishment had now begun.  He then receives a text message from the mother who now has her own apartment. Apparently, her wealthier older brother was back in her good graces and was also funneling her money.

“It’s almost 7:30. If you don’t get over here at 7:30, you’re not seeing him. That’s the time we agreed on.” , the mother yells to Anderson.

Anderson rushes through his after work traffic to get to her apartment. He barely makes it. The mother opens the door, “You were almost late”.  Anderson attempts to play with his son and even snap a few selfies together while the mother uses the restroom. He whispers into the boy’s ear, “I’m sorry I put you in this crazy world son. I love you so much. I’m so sorry you got trapped in this situation.”

The mother exits the restroom. “What were you saying to him?” The father says, ‘Nothing”. The mother responds, “Don’t brainwash my son! If you aren’t going to move in and be a family with us, you can stay out of our lives. What is it going to be? Stay with us, or pay child support?”  Mr.Anderson, not being able to afford his apartment, decides to break the lease, and get back together with his ex as an attempt to salvage the situation.  Vanessa, his child’s mother, constantly makes demands over Mr.Anderson. Ridiculing him in front of the child, and making threats such as, “If you don’t do what I say, I’ll report you to the child support office.”  Mr.Anderson reaches out to his father, who is excited to be a grandad, but is worried about the situation. He tries to appease the mother by buying her a car so that he too can be a part of his grandson’s life.

For weeks, Mr.Anderson and his father do their best to be a good father/grandfather towards the boy. The mother makes constant demands towards them both. Asking for gifts, favors, and other errands be ran for her.  After about a month, Mr.Anderson can no longer take it. The constant fighting, arguing, jealously, he suddenly remembers why he left her 3 years ago.  Mr. Anderson contemplates moving in his father, however, he has a new fiance and she isn’t looking for any roommates.

Grudgingly, Anderson decides to move back home with his mother who had divorced his father 15 years prior.  Mr.Anderson’s mother herself exhibits similar qualities that his ex-lover has.  Many negative emotions and demanding attitudes. However, because of the child support payments, he cannot afford to go anywhere else. He agrees to pay his mother $100 per week rent to stay in his old childhood room.

In the meantime, Mr.Anderson takes law courses in his free-time and is looking for a higher paying job.  He still has a dream to one day become a lawyer or perhaps even just a highly respect clerk. Months go by, and Anderson has not seen his son or heard from the mother. She has blocked all communication and threatened to put restraining orders on any of Mr.Anderson’s family members who attempt to come near the small boy.

Essentially, the boy has been completely alienated from his father’s side of the family. Friends and family encourage Anderson to take her back to court, yet, none offer any help for legal fees.

Anderson struggles for the next year. Working, saving, studying, trying to better himself. He even manages to get a new girlfriend. Yet, it only lasts a few weeks once she discovers he is broke from his legal dilemma and is a 28 year old man still living at home.  Just days after this break up happens, he receives a letter in the mail.  A notice from the Child Support Enforcement Agency.

:Due to your arrears being over $7,000 dollars, according to federal law. Your passport is now revoked. We will also be intercepting your tax refunds and reporting this debt to the credit bureau which will negatively impact your credit score. 

Mr.Anderson tries to argue back in writing stating that the amount was from retroactive support, and he was making $5 payments towards it. The agency didn’t care….

Anderson finally finds a new job 1 year later making 32K per year. The monthly child support of $650 per month is still a challenge, but atleast he able to save a little more money now.  Anderson later discovers shortly after getting his new job that the courts automatically notify the mother of this change, thus giving her the chance to modify for an increase. The mother hasn’t been in contact with Anderson for over a year and has been getting her money, so Anderson isn’t too worried about it.

Weeks later, Anderson makes another discovery.  The mother’s brother, who she has living with her, is wanted by the FBI for molesting several underage women. Anderson becomes very distraught and notifies Child Protective Services. They respond by saying that, “Unless the child himself is being abused, with evidence, there is nothing we can do. He is abusing other people, not the child himself.”

After a quick google search, Anderson discovers that the mother is parading the boy around on Youtube making funny parody videos, profiting off the boy’s image, showing off expensive luxury items, most likely purchased with Child Support money.

Anderson becomes very agitated.  He reaches out to the mother by e-mail, letting her know that he is aware of these developments and seeks to sue her in court for custody. She responds by saying:

“If you try to fight for custody, I’ll raise your child support. I know you have a new job making more money now. My chances of winning modification of support are much higher than you taking a child away from his mother. I’ll gladly fight you in court as much as you like. Good luck paying child support and lawyer fees! haha 🙂 … ” 

Anderson knew she was correct. Even if he did manage to secure some type of visitation or custody, she would financially drain him even more and/or involve herself in his life even more, ruining relationships along the way and increasing his stress.

Ultimately, the hatred for this vile woman was more powerful than his love for a son that he only got to see on a handful of occasions.  Anderson was tired. He remembered what it felt like as a boy being estranged from his own father, and the brainwashing that his own mother attempted upon him.

Anderson decided to move on. He was going to strike out on his own and attempt to find his own apartment. Start over again. There was one problem. His credit was ruined due to the child support. No landlord would accept him, even though he had cash on hand to give. He had saved up $3,000 to get himself a place, but no one would lend or rent to him due to his credit score being so bad.

Anderson gets into his car to drive to the next apartment complex to inquire, but the engine doesn’t start. The crankshaft is broken. It will cost him $1,200 to repair. He returns home to his mother’s house, who now has a new alcoholic boyfriend. He witnesses the man slap his mother. Anderson attacks the man, finding himself in yet another court battle. The charges are dismissed.

Anderson vows to never live with his mother again, who he secretly resents for destroying his own father in a nasty divorce 15 years prior.  Anderson bounces around from friend to friend, family member to family member, looking for a place to call home. After a few weeks, every arrangement begins to become tense, forcing him to constantly move and seek survival while attempting to save every penny he can.

All the while, Anderson is seeking higher paying jobs. A few interviews here and there, but nothing so far. Eventually, a job out of state calls him, stating they are willing to pay him a salary of 50K per year.  Anderson jumps for joy, however, if he takes the job, he will have to get it court approved or he will be held in contempt, and his child support is likely to increase two fold. Negating the prospect all together. Anderson deliberates for weeks, until one day, the employer calls him to let him know the job was given to someone else.

With no one to turn to. Anderson is confused and drained. Emotionally. Spiritually, Physically. And financially. He feels as if every choice he makes has some sort of pitfall at the end of it. He feels stuck ,trapped, and enslaved.  He begins drinking regularly to cope with the constant thoughts going through his mind. “One more medicated peaceful moment…” he whispers to himself as he drinks his 4th glass of red wine whereas he slowly falls into a drunken sleep.

The next morning, he gets a call from his mother. “You got mail at my house. They are suspending your driver’s license because of your arrears. I guess because of the retroactive support….”

Anderson calls the Child Support Office to once again explain that he is not in arrears. He pays on time every week. The amount is simply caused by retroactive support during months he was unaware of the child’s existence. The child support office agrees to reinstate his license, but warns him that every 6 months they will send him a letter reminding him to pay off the back support that is accruing with 12% interest each year.

Anderson replies, “Yes, I am well aware of the extortion process!” , and hangs up..

It took the offices 6 weeks to reinstate his license. In the meantime, he had to drive to and work in constant fear that he would be pulled over and arrested for having a suspended driver’s license.

Weeks later, Anderson goes into his office. Tired and stressed as usual. A co-worker walks in and places 12 files on his desk and says, “We need these processed by the end of the day and you’re on reception duty today also. Don’t let these phones ring more than twice before answering”.  Anderson nods.

Anderson walks to the bathroom and begins to feel a little lightheaded. He faints and hits his head. He wakes up in the hospital. The doctor states that he is suffering from bradycardia. A heart condition that is making his heart beat too slowly. They want to implant him with a pacemaker. Anderson refuses and walks out of the hospital, still in his gown. The nurse stops him and says, “State law says that because you lost consciousness, you are not allowed to drive for 6 months.” Anderson keeps walking and gets into his car and drives to an old church he frequented as a boy.

As he sit on its steps, praying, sobbing, crying out to god, he says, “Am I to be a slave for the rest of my life? Am I just a battery for everyone else?” He sees a playground across the street. He takes off his belt and attempts to hang himself from the swingset, crying uncontrollably, wishing for the pain to go away. He ties the belt tightly around his neck, and suspends himself from the playground swingset. The belt breaks after a few seconds.

Anderson lays on the ground, with a purple face, gasping for air.

It was at that moment that Anderson knew. He knew that he wanted to live. He wanted to be in love. To have a wife. To have another child with a woman he actually loved. To stay alive long enough to atleast tell his son the truth. To maybe even teach him to be the man he was supposed to be.  Anderson was no longer just at war with the mother of his child, the authorities, and the bill collectors…..Anderson was now at war with himself.

Anderson returns to work the next day to discover that he has been put on a warning list. If he misses one more day of work due to court or illness, he will be fired.

Anderson looks at his desk. Stacks of applicants looking to obtain credit with his employer, a credit company. Most of the applicants he noticed are in a similar situation as him. He hears the same stories everyday, and has to explain why these people are denied for credit applications.

Anderson takes a swig of the Brandy he hides in his desk at work. He loosens his tie, looks up at the ceiling and says….

“Everyone says men are pigs, but no body complains about bringing home the bacon.”

Anderson looks down at his phone.

It’s a notification from his Facebook account.

His ex-girlfriend who had left him almost two years ago, Jasmine, she is now having a baby of her own with her new husband.

Anderson begins to tear up, and says, “That should have been me.”

Anderson leaves his job without clocking out.

His co-workers ask him where he is going. He doesn’t answer.

He gets into his car and speeds down the interstate going the wrong way.

Anderson is determined to kill himself.

He crashes into a car going 120 MPH.

He dies upon impact. The other car has two named victims.

A woman and her son.

The same woman he had a child with, and the same son that he called his own.

He had unknowingly collided with his former lover and son. All three, now deceased.

Because of what?

When a mother and father fight…

When the sun and the moon argue,

there will be nothing but tidal waves and earthquakes.

And the children of the sun and the moon will bear the weight of this destruction.

CBS- ACTION NEWS

 

2017

Nalini-Global

Randell Stroud

*Fictional story written to illustrate a parable.