Yesterday, we had our second Judicial Review (JR) since the boys have come to live with us. The first one wasn’t worth writing about. We went to court, CPC said they wanted a three month continuance, and the judge said ok. This one was far more frustrating.
First off, court day is always a pain in the butt. My husband and I have to pick up Mom, drive 20 miles, pick up her daughter, drive another 5 to court, then we sit in a hallway with three bored kids plus a bunch of other bored kids for about 45 minutes. We then go in, the kids meet the judge for 30 seconds, and then they are dismissed and not allowed back in court. But we have to stay… Not sure how other people make that work, but that is why my husband always comes. His job is to take the kids somewhere else until Mom and I are done. Mom and I get to wait for another 1-3 hours for her case to be called. So she spends it being nervous and complaining about being nervous, and I spend it reassuring her that absolutely nothing is going to happen. Because so far, nothing ever has.
This time started out just like last time, with the only difference being that Mom’s husband was going to be there. She married him at 15, they split a year later, and he’s been incarcerated since before her kids were conceived. But, Florida law states that because they were married, her kids are also his kids unless he decides to give up his rights, and he does not wish to do so. Now, prior to yesterday, she has said many horrible things about her husband: he was physically abusive, he only wants the kids as a way to control her, etc. Yesterday, the story changed. He’s “a really good guy.” He’s “only fighting for his rights to help [her] get the kids back.” She believes that since he can’t do his case plan in prison, they can’t terminate his rights and therefore the kids can’t be adopted out. She’s partially right, but the court can terminate her rights regardless of anything he does, and she’s actually working toward getting her kids, while he is not. She was super nervous to see him, and at first I assumed that was because any normal person would be nervous to see their abusive sort-of ex-husband who technically has rights to their kids. But NOOOO….
She was nervous because she is freaking infatuated with him. When they brought him through the hallway into the courtroom, he said “hey baby” in a seductive voice and gave her this look, and she looked just like a 15 year old who’s long time crush was actually showing interest for the first time. After that, she had to excuse herself to the bathroom to calm down. Then she started pacing back and forth in front of the courtroom door because she could see him through the little slit of a window. Every time she made a pass she would say “He’s still looking at me.” or “Why is he looking over here?” or “He’s staring at the window even when I’m not there.” Always with a huge smile she couldn’t wipe off her face. I tried to get her to sit down. I tried to get her to stay away from the window. I tried to talk sense into her.
“What would your fiance think if he was here right now?”
“It’s not like that. I just… We’ve always had that spark. And he’s such a good guy.”
“What’s he locked up for again?”
“Stabbing a guy in the neck.”
“Yeah, sounds like a good guy. I think I’m glad he won’t be out for another 5 years.”
“But it’s not like that. He’s always been so sweet to me.”
“I thought you said he was abusive.”
“Well, we were both on drugs.”
“You were 15.”
She put her hair up because she wanted him to see the tattoo of her fiance’s name on her neck. The problem is, it’s also her husband’s name. When I pointed out that he’d think it was for him, she giggled and said “But it’s not…” When I said, “True but he won’t know that,” she giggled again and said “I know, but…” She spent the next 30 minutes agonizing if she should put her hair back down because “he’s always liked my hair down.” And because he shook his head when she started to put it up (in front of the window, of course) It’s such a conundrum trying to decide between being obedient or flattering to your violent convicted felon husband who you ARE NOT IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH. She also decided it was too hot (I was freezing) and she needed to take off the black pants she had picked for court. She had skull and cross bone leggings underneath. I argued with her for a LONG time about whether her leggings were appropriate court wear, and I finally won. Thank God. Of course one of her arguments was that they matched her (covered) tattoos, and that her (very tattooed) husband would like them.
Once the pants issue was settled, she went back to pacing, or even just standing in front of the door. Her husband blew a kiss. She blew one back. And then nervously told me about it and went back to the door. Her husband mouthed “I love you.” She turned red, smiled even wider, ducked her head down shyly and shook it like someone uncomfortably receiving a much-wanted compliment. She mouthed something back, but she never told me what. Possibly because that’s when the bailiff came to reprimand her for communicating with the prisoners.
When I’ve yelled at her before, she’s gotten shy. When my husband makes even a disapproving facial expression, she agonizes over what she did to upset him. When her fiance gets angry, she apologizes a billion times, getting quieter every time. But at court, when the bailiff is lecturing you, when acting like beaten dog would be the obvious best course of action, what does Mom do? She gets an attitude. So she’s arguing with the bailiff, getting louder and louder, the bailiff threatens to throw her out of the courthouse and not allow her to attend her review, she’s acting all tough and like she doesn’t care, standing up to the bailiff like they are about to get in an actual physical altercation right there in front of the courtroom, and I’m at a complete loss as to what is happening and what, if anything, I should be trying to do about it. Luckily, five seconds after she yells at the bailiff that she wasn’t even looking at the inmates -she was trying to find her caseworker- the caseworker walks out of the courtroom right behind the bailiff, and I say, “Look! There’s [Caseworker]! You can talk to him right now!” And thankfully, the bailiff walks away, allowing Mom to be somebody else’s problem. We get her calmed down and the caseworker goes back into court. I make her sit next to me and she agrees to stay away from the window.
Then she says, “You know why that bailiff hates me?” I’m not sure what I was expecting. I think I was probably expecting some sort of immature guess as to why the bailiff was “picking on her.” That’s not what I got. The bailiff hates Mom because she slept with the bailiff’s husband. And because, when she got mad at the bailiff’s husband, she broke all of the windows in the bailiff’s house. And, she says, that’s out she found out the guy was married. I wish I could say Mom was a pathological liar, but most of that story is probably true. The only part I question was her not knowing the guy was married.
A little bit later, we get called into court. I feel like that is what this post was supposed to be about. But it’s not. Because nothing ever happens in court. She got another three month extension. No one was surprised. The judge did say that if nothing has changed by the next JR, CPC needs to have new plan. I wonder if he would have said that if she had been there alone, or if he was also understandably irritated by the tatooed, skinhead convict who’s presence had been useless yet dramatic and spoke with deafening silence of Mom’s continued poor life choices.
Mom had to take a drug test in court, which showed evidence of the marijuana she had admitted to smoking the night before. I was waiting in the hallway for her when they decided to bring the prisoners out. Not one to go silently, Mom’s husband treated all of the residents of the hallway to a interestingly dramatic exit.
Husband: “I didn’t say I was going to stab YOU. I said I stabbed three OTHER guards.”
Guard: “You better watch what you say.”
Husband: “Why? You gonna put me in the box? I ain’t scared a the box! I done did five months in the box! Box don’t scare me!”
My foster kids’ legal father, ladies and gentlemen! Mom came out, and I told her what happened. Her response? “Well he did.” *huge smile and look of appreciative awe* ” Did he really say that?” *giggle* Yeah. He sound’s like a really great guy. I’m totally not concerned about what is going to happen when he gets out prison. I still have no interest in adoption, but this is the first time I’ve been seriously concerned about the kids eventually going home.
She changed out of her pants and we left the courthouse. As soon as we were outside, she started running around the building. I yelled “Where are you going??” after her as I jogged to keep up. She “just had to see if the prisoners had left yet.” And since they hadn’t, we had to wait awkwardly 50 feet away until they did. She didn’t see her husband again because they load them up inside a garage through the back of the van, but we weren’t able to leave until the van drove off. I’m not looking forward to the next review. My husband is supposed to be working, but I’m debating having him take the day off and stay with her at court while I go to the park with the kids. It’s just not an experience I can explain well enough… or have any interest in repeating.