Friday, March 12, 2010

4 and a half minutes.

That's exactly the time it takes a judge to assess what the 'best interest' of a child is.

Yesterday, we went back to court. Noodlehead (as Marie calls him) wanted more access and to stop me from removing her from the country. If you remember, a couple of months back, I wrote this post. The plan was to ask her what she wanted to do. And so it happened and she said she didn't want to stay overnight. Wasted time as he'd gone and applied to the courts already.

So we went there yesterday. You are summoned to be in for 10h30, yet the judge doesn't bother appearing until 11h00. You go through the role call. And then you wait. Well, we didn't wait that long. Between 11h15 and 11h45, the judge had gone through about 10 cases. If you average it, it takes approximately 3 minutes to decide the fate of a child. That's all it takes.

I am frustrated, and defeated. I am terribly sad and angry.

I am frustrated because they just won't listen. It's like a self service cafeteria. The judge asked him what he was looking for, how much access he had at the moment. Then he asked me what I had to say to that. I told him that she doesn't want to go, that he asked her and that she denied. The judge cut me off and told me that she was only 7, and that if she said she told me that she didn't want to go to school, I would send her to school anyway. So that's what she has to be told, she has to go up there, end of. And went on to grant overnights every second week end. Oh and existing access still in place for the in between week. Which leaves me with what??? Well, it leaves me with this: 1 Sunday ever second week. If I were to work full time again, I would see my child 1 day every second week end. We rarely have a family week end as it is, since she goes there every Saturday. It's only when they cancel that we get to spend a whole week end together. Or, if my parents visit, which is about 3 times a year. And now, well, we'll get to spend family time one Sunday every 2 weeks.

How can a judge decide what is in the best interest of a child if he doesn't listen to them, if he doesn't listen to any argument at all? What kind of crystal ball does he have that allows him to know what the child is like, what effect his decisions have on a child, any child? Had she failed miserably at school, or developed some kind of unhealthy way of thinking, I couldn't even had put it across as he just DIDN'T WANT to listen. Is it normal for a 7 year old child to wish them all dead and express it? Is it normal for a 7 year old to express a will to crack people's head open? Because she does. She has said it to me on numerous occasions, more of late. We told her when we picked her up from school yesterday. She cried for 45 minutes. I feel like I failed her but I know I am not to blame. Judges just do not WANT to listen. It took him 4.5 minutes to 'hear' both sides and make a decision. Not even 4.5 minutes. I had to press to know where it would take place as there had been mentions of bed sharing. Small victory, it is to take place at his parents which he wasn't happy about.

People are treated like cattle. Children, although the decisions are meant to be for their best interest, are silenced, not given a voice. That judge turned up late and had to go through so many cases in the space of so many hours. There is no consideration for the children, for their feelings, for the long term effects, no consideration for the parents, no considerations for the ins and outs of things. No details to be discussed. No time for anything. A decision to be made, quickly, because there are another 20 cases to go through still.

What kind of long term effect will this have on her? What happens if you MAKE a child do something they do not want to do, every week over a period of time? It is terrible to think but I wish it could affect her to such an extend that her school work suffers, that she is affected deeply so I can have the tools to get her out of it. But then again, if I went back there to say this, would the judge LISTEN? My experience tells me that he wouldn't. He doesn't want to. So, no, I don't want her to suffer from it.

She told me this morning that she knows I did my best. It just broke my heart. She doesn't blame me, which is a good thing. But what best can I do, in the space of a few minutes? Did that judge realize that he was giving my child a day every second week to spend with our family at the week end, time when everybody can be together without work, school etc? He probably didn't even notice. He didn't bat an eyelid. Did he consider her feelings? Well, no, she has to be told that this is where she is going, end of. His words. So how is that in the best interest of the child, I ask you?

Did he even know the law? I bet you not, because when he was asked about the removing of the country, he said there was nothing he could do about that. Which is not true. I have looked into it, my mother has looked into it. It's called parental kidnapping if it's done without the other parent's consent, or the courts consent. And it's covered under the Hague Convention. So did he even know the law?

I have been crying since I got up this morning. I stayed strong in front of her and she told me that we would have to be strong. But it just breaks my heart to know that my child has been ordered away from me without any of her feelings acknowledged, without her voice being heard, without long term effects being considered. The best interest of a child in this country is just to disregard them as humans, and treat them as numbers. Don't know them, don't want to know them, don't want to listen to them. Second class citizens that do not have a voice and whoever speaks in their place is being silenced too. Her name was not spoken once in that room. Not once! She was merely a number, not even a number. She was not an individual in that room, she was not even a ghost in there. She had no place in there. That judge could have been talking about a puppy or a piece of furniture even, it would have felt the same. She was an object without feelings, without a voice. He made up his mind within less than a minute. Based on what? On thin air. On the need to make a decision because there was another 20 cases behind. That's probably what went on in his head. Make a decision, any decision. Go with what is asked. Don't look too much into it, it would last longer than 5 minutes and then you'd be there all day. Judges are being paid a small fortune to sit and make decisions. Their pay can not even be cut under the Irish constitution. In a criminal trial, the defendant has a voice, the victim has a voice, their families have a voice, they have a victim impact statement. In family court, the child, the one at the centre of the case, has no voice. There is no victim impact statement. The child is the victim of a hastily made decision. It's the judge's way or the highway.

My only consolation is that in the long run, forcing her to go there just makes her not want to go even more. When she is at an age when she is considered to be old enough to make her own decisions, she will make a decision. But what age is that? How old does she have to be to decide for herself?

This is the sad state of affair of the Irish family law at the moment. We were looking into options last night, impractical ones, stupid ones, even illegal ones. We are trying to come to terms with it, see what we can do. Mr Foodie is my rock. He is such a support. I don't know how to thank him. I know it is not easy for him either. He loves her with all his heart. But while I am just one for despairing for a bit and then act, he is one for action. I think Super Foodie is amongst us once again. We will get through this. We will protect her as much as we can. We will try and lessen the impact as much as we can. We will support her as much as we can. And we will listen to her, unlike the judges and the legal system in this country.

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