A little about me

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Brook, IN, United States
Abuse doesn't stop at the court room. Melinda has shared her battles in her life and through the court room as she navigates through the legal system Bringing encouragement, insight and empowerment to those that are in a abusive relationship. She is in the process of creating a new life, speaking engagements to "Break the Silence" of abuse, while putting a face to abuse. She is currently working on writing a book about her experiences as a Survivor.View short Bio here- https://www.patheos.com/blogs/ahappymedium/2013/02/notbrokenbutbrave/

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Terms you should know in a divorce/separation

Terms you should know if you are in the legal system seeking a separation or divorce from an abusive partner-

Guardian ad litem?

A Guardian ad litem (GAL) is a person the court appoints to represent the best interests of a child in a divorce or parental rights and responsibilities case. The GAL will investigate the family situation and advise the court about where a child should live and what type of contact parents should have with their children.

What is divorce mediation, and how is it different from arbitration?

Divorce mediation is a process in which divorcing spouses try to negotiate an acceptable divorce agreement with the help of a neutral third party: the mediator. The mediator helps the spouses to communicate and negotiate but doesn't make any decisions for them.

Both mediation and arbitration involve a neutral third party who is not a judge. In mediation, the neutral party has no power to make decisions. In arbitration, the neutral third party -- the arbitrator -- listens to the facts and then decides the case, just as a judge would. Although the parties can present evidence and make arguments, they have no say in the final decision.


Visitation/Supervised visitation


Visitation is the arrangement set out for contact between the child and the parent (or 3rd party) who does not maintain the primary residence for the child. Visitation can be set out in a number of ways including a flexible visitation schedule, reasonable visitation as determined by the custodial parent , a structured visitation schedule to include holidays, weekends and summer vacations and supervised visitation..
If one parent has sole legal custody, that parent has the authority to make long range decisions regarding the health, education and religious decisions for the child. . The parent who does not have legal custody, should not attempt to subvert those decisions. For example, if the parent with legal custody has decided to raise the child in the Jewish tradition, the parent with visitation rights should not take the child to be baptized in a Catholic church.

How do you determine a visitation schedule?

The courts encourage parents to work together to determine the visitation schedule that will be in the best interest of the child. Such factors as school and work schedules, family traditions, distance of the parents homes, other siblings and family members, health requirements and other personal issues effect each visitation schedule uniquely. If parents are able to work together to set a schedule that will benefit the child’s needs and accommodate the parents schedules, the courts have mediation resources available to assist. Court certified mediators are available in every county to provide neutral assistance to allow the parents to meet the needs of their child.

Who can be awarded visitation?

Obviously a biological parent can be awarded visitation . Additionally, grandparents (even when the parents weren't married or are not currently divorced) and step-parents may be awarded visitation rights. While there are no reported cases of brothers or sisters being given visitation , a strong argument could be made that it would be in the best interest of the child.

When can visitation be denied?

If the child is in an unsafe situation, it is important that the problem is brought to the attention of the court and other agencies that might be appropriate. The court has the power to deny visitation to a parent. Normally the court will only stop visitation for a certain time or until a certain task is performed. If the parent with primary residency denies court ordered visitation , the parent who has been denied visitation should consider filing an action for contempt and/or modification of the existing order.


Are visitation rights contingent on the payment of child support and vice versa?
 

No. Court ordered visitation rights may not be denied to the non-custodial parent, even though the non-custodial parent is not paying child support. A parent who has been denied visitation does not have the right to stop paying court ordered child support. Not following court orders will place you in contempt and will only get you in trouble with the possibility of jail time.

When is supervised visitation or monitored exchanges appropriate?

Supervised visitation protects the safety of the child and centers are available throughout Maryland. "Monitored Exchange" programs allow the child to be exchanged and move from one parent to the other without the parents having contact.

Many parents and children who are separating or divorcing in difficult circumstances need help from a neutral third party in arranging for visitation . Although emotions may be running high between the parents, it is in the child's best interests that they should consider that in most situations children want to continue relationships with both parents. If the child’s parentl wants to maintain a relationship with the child, judges are unlikely to terminate the rights of the parent to visit. In particularly volatile situations, supervised visitation or monitored exchanges should be considered. Supervised visitation is visitation between a parent and child held at a neutral location. Supervised visitations are closely monitored by staff who may intervene when necessary to ensure appropriate parent/child interactions.

Monitored exchange occur at a neutral center where the parents pre-arrange times at which the parents exchange the child. Staggered pick-up and drop-off times are usually arranged so that the parents do not have to be in contact with one another. The actual exchange is monitored by staff who generally try to ease the process for the child.

When might I consider using one of these services?

Supervised visitation may be useful in situations where the parent who does not have primary residence:

is working on improving his/her parenting skills;
may have a drug or alcohol abuse problem;
has been abusive or has had trouble controlling anger; or
may have been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with the child.

Monitored exchanges may be useful in any of the situations described above, particularly if the parent who does not have the primary residence completed treatment and is ready for unsupervised visits. Monitored exchanges may also be helpful when parents separate and find themselves arguing or when there is a history of domestic violence. If any violence was directed at the child, supervised visitation may be most appropriate.
How do I arrange for these services?

Most people find the services through referrals from the courts, Family Services, or Child Protective Services. Others negotiate visitation agreements that include one of these arrangements.


* I am not an Attorney. Please ask your lawyer or advocate information. Educate yourself on the system. Ask questions about EVERYTHING. You are paying a person (or blessed to have a Pro-bono atty), talk to them, inquire about what's going on. Voice your concerns. Try to keep your emotions in check. I know it's not easy. This is the tough part! Listen, take notes, ask questions and if need be take someone with you or ask if you can record the meeting to make sure you don't miss anything. 

Think about things to ask your legal person before you go to make sure you hit the things you feel are important. Be reliable, upfront and honest! Depending on circumstances in your break-up, you may have children or pets to protect.

Leave no stone unturned! If your legal representative seems as though they aren't truly listening or understanding- FIRE THEM! Don't be afraid to fire them. You can do this! Surprised? It does push back your court proceedings when this happens but make sure you feel comfortable with the person representing you. 

Pick someone that can work with you, whether it be someone that has worked with abuse victims before or someone that is sympathetic and not just out for a fat check.

You can actually do much or all the separation/divorce yourself. Now this is frustrating, empowering and can be rewarding. Many states offer Legal Assistance or Legal Aid or even some Pro-Bono attorneys that can help you, prepare, file, give advice or represent you if you need it! Honest! Call or check out your local governments website for more information. 

Women's Shelters- If you are lucky and don't have to stay in a shelter that is wonderful. These places can not only help you if you need shelter in an emergency, but they have resources for counseling, legal assistance, advocates, housing, help with job searches/resume and more! (Guys you can call too!)

Stay safe! Read and learn all you can about the courtroom.

Blessings!
Mel

I'm rooting for you!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Almost 4 years- Lessons learned

These few years seem to have flown so quickly. Though there were many points along the way I thought time would never pass fast enough to get the legal process part of our divorce done.

I have found some amazing things along the way, which I would like to share with you!

1) God didn't give up on me! He didn't let me just throw in the towel. He knew the who, what and when of the whole situation. And nudge me on when I felt defeated by a some sort of sign, person or dream when I needed it.


2) Good support of family and friends. Everyone close to me has been caring, great listeners and supportive of these events. My church family has been wonderful too! We appreciate the prayers, my Pastor and his Wife, have been AWESOME!

3) The kindness of strangers

4) That I am stronger, even through the pain of it all

5) I'm finding peace in every moment- Even when my teens are doing the "Teen thing"

6) More patience with everything. Things happen for a reason! A divine meeting or chance that worked out well for us. Even when things seemed dark.

7) The legal system WILL work even though it seems like the legal birds appear to have they're heads up... Anyway! It does work. It takes time and patience!

8) The importance of being situational aware! I make sure I know my surroundings without being conspicuous. Knowing where exits are. If  alone in a restaurant I make sure I am facing the door so I can see who comes in. Make sure my doors on car and around my home are secure. Changing path how get to my destination. Changing my passwords on email, banking, utilities, and so on. Carry permit and lessons on safety and shooting. Self defense class- youtube has some good ones!

I check a parking lot out before I park. I make sure I pay attention to my surroundings as best possible. Check parking lot again when heading to my car. Check car out quickly before leaving. Again, watch out to make sure no one is following. These tips may sound paranoid, but they could save your life! Early on my ex had hired someone to follow us/take pictures and later paid the person to kill me. I had a feeling he or someone was following but could never pin point it. Many months later it came to light his plan, thank goodness the person he hired got cold feet, if he hadn't I could rank among the hundreds (if not thousands- not sure if the stats but you get the picture) of persons murdered in the States daily.

If you feel that someone is watching or something feels off, call the police! I have talked to the local police several times to patrol our area when I got a feeling. They are happy to go through the area or even your home. Better safe then sorry! Always tell a friend or family member where you are heading, how long you will be and when you return. I know you may feel like all these are over-the-top or child like, all it takes is a moment for someone to do something dangerous that could be life or death for you.

NEVER be alone if you can help it! Ask someone to be with you during whatever the event or matter is. Even to court. Sneaky things can happen in the parking lot or on the premises.

Make sure you have a new cell phone account that is YOURS. That your ex does NOT have control of so he can not use GPS or call tracking. When taking pictures with cell phones please watch what you post on social media. Your abuser can figure out where you are or were if they are savvy enough.
If you have a computer/laptop, consider wiping it clean or getting a new one. Some abusers have been known to log on to your computer without you knowing and this could also be detrimental to your finances or personal safety!

Please view my Safety plan or Safety blogs for more tips or information.

9) It will take time to heal, both physically, mentally or emotionally. There is no way to rush this part. Everyone heals at they're own pace. Not everyone has PTSD or Health related conditions brought on by the stress of an abusive relationship. I am currently researching the effects of abuse on children, not just that the cycle of abuse may continue but the proven facts that most childhood illness could be related to abuse in some form and instead be PTSD. Examples, bed-wetting, ADHD, ADD, Epilepsy, Depression and more! I have a friend that mentioned that since they have not been living in the situation of abuse for months her son has shown marked improvement in his Asperger's Autism! Of course, further evaluation is needed from a medical standpoint. I am not a therapist or medical professional (Medical Assistant and Doula, I am told do not count- SHUCKS!). Please research and monitor your child(ren) yourself to see if there is improvement.

10) Relax! All these things shall pass. Life as precious as it is, can be done in a blink of an eye. I heard on a Christian radio station, that we are but a vapor or mist, with a short span here on earth. I liked that. Make this life count. If you have a child or pet, pick yourself up, dust off the past and start anew! Everyday is a new beginning to start over. Break bad habits. Improve yourself in some way. Smile at strangers and even say Hello! Journal, I just heard about SMASH books (form of a journal) I can't wait to try. I hear glitter and glue in my future! Create a vision board or a wish list on paper or virtual of things you would like to do. Outlandish or easy to do things or wishes. Take these and run!  Small steps! Try to get 2 things or more done a month or a season.

11) Clear the clutter. OK, Melinda, I had you for a bit now clean?! Clutter breeds chaos. I am very spiritual, in saying this, there are energies that love clutter, dirt, disorganization and filth. (No I am not pointing fingers and I am not the most organized person. Ask my husband!)

A cluttered house, car or office area can cause you and those around you to feel anger, dread of coming home or work or even in your car. I have been using a rule that if I have not used it in 6 months it goes into my selling pile or donated to local Mom and Pop resale shop (I love to help out local businesses!). Grab some garbage bags or boxes and get moving!

12) The dreaded word- EXERCISE! Whether from the comfort of your home or blazing your own path running. Exercise is a great way to help relax you, get your body moving towards better health and has been proven to help you heal after an abusive relationship! I myself am not a twig, I have a bad back, my knees have been doing some funky clicking and hurting lately. A sign of my age (42). I try to exercise at least 3 to 5 times a week, a half hour or longer if I can. It has been very therapeutic for me.

13) Talk to someone! Finding an outlet to talk about your experiences can be super important to your whole being. Keeping your abuse under wraps can be harmful to your health. Getting it out, bearing your soul to a group, friend, therapist is very important!. Personally, I have shared my thoughts on therapists and psychologist but to each their own. I don't believe in medication anymore, unless life-threatening (that's going to be part of my other blog)

14) Find yourself. I hate to sound repetitive, but I recently was privileged to win a scholarship to "Step our and Sparkle your life" with my fav intuitive, Kristy Robinett! In the few weeks I have been a part of a great group of gals, I have peeked under the cracks of my feelings to heal, re-new and rediscover me. It has been a very challenging, inspirational and empowering experience. I have gleaned a lot from both Kristy and the ladies involved. I have found I'm not alone in feeling a low self esteem.  I have made some great new friends and support this way! Do something you enjoy or once had a passion for. You maybe alone now, so what?! Being alone with just you, can be a enjoyable adventure!

I have discovered a farm life- Filled with chickens, canning, raising rabbits, aquaponics, soon bees and ducks! I enjoy gardening,composting, self-sufficient lifestyle still love antiques/garage sales, learning how to crochet, crafts of all sorts, learning about herbs and edibles in my yard (dandelions, purslane, chickweed, etc...). I finally took my CPR class so I can add that to my list of things to do 2013 both for myself and to add to my resume (Med. Assistant/Doula). I am finding me! I am enjoying the "Normalcy" of life. I love my life! I have $8.00 in the bank, but say Positive affirmations to improve my financial success as well as self improve me.

I could go on and on... You my dear blog reader are always in my prayers. Please if you are in some form of abusive relationship, get help from a shelter or call your local law enforcement. You can do it! I know your scared. You need to do this for you. Is this the life you want for the next 5 years? 10 years? Will you live that long? Will your child (pet) follow in the cycle of abuse? Do you want that for them? I can't tell you when jump from an abusive relationship. Only you can do that. Do not wait too long. Do not use the excuse of lack of finances, or place to live or no job. Call a local shelter, they have resources to help you! Or confess to a friend or family member. If there is a will there is a way.

BIG HUGS! I believe in you!
Mel

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Reader comments...



I dated a sociopath for 5 years. He was a heroin addict and he employed many family members and these friends of his as negative advocates. He would tell his family I was crazy and infact it was him. he moved to north carolina two years ago and was suppose to return to nj. well i discovered cheating plotting gas lighting and more.i found out that he was a lie. it alk came out after his dad died from cancer this year. but alot of who he is has been revealed. now i see the real him. i tricked him into thinking i was so hurt that he hurt me. now he is gone and i hope i never see him or his family again on Gaslight's- Sociopath mind games
Anonymous

I enjoyed reading your site. Most of all the poem.I had a friend who is a Sociopath. I did not know for over ten years. I found out when it was to late. He destroyed most of my life. I do not wont to write forever about it. But thank you for the poem once again. on Gaslight's- Sociopath mind games
Anonymous

I have been thinking of you and I understand the sad feelings, I know them all to well!! I think you should throw a bash of some sort I think it would be a good thing for you! i hope you have a great day!! on Winding down to Final hearing!
Y.P.

God is keeping you strong. Prayers continue. It sounds like the courts want to start bringing closure to this situation. on Final hearing!
ME

It seems like this was written just for me. Thank you! I don't know if this is the time I will find the courage to get him out of the house or not. I have people in my life who still think this can work. I am afraid that the stronger I get, the more stops he will pull out. He's already starting. I'm going to review and print out the safety plan information you so generously provide. I have a general plan and a few things at other's houses, but I need something more organized and truly safe. Thank you! P.S. You are a very good teacher and for that I am thankful! on No guts! No glory!
The Teacher

Leaving was a really hard decision and I kept thinking of how I wouldnt be able to make it on my own. I was wrong. not going to lie it was difficult but I never thought i'd feel any sort of relief. making a list of things im proud of and things I wanted to do did help me. It took time to heal and im still healing but im glad i got the courage to finally leave the guy. on So you left him now what?

r33na


Oh dear, I so wish that I could do this without leaving him, but he is back to his antics, so I think it's becoming inevitable. I look like a tear-stained Rudolph while I'm still with him. on So you left him now what?
The Teacher

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A fairytale life... Well in some respects




The amazing part of being me is that I survived a rough time in my life. From time to time I dared to dream of a life that belonged to anyone else but me. I couldn’t see the trees through the forest.

A normal relationship seemed like an impossible dream. There were times while licking my wounds that I would imagine a new life for us. Or that my ex would actually change as he promised.
 After time went on, I thought that if this is all there is for God to take me and my children. That I didn’t feel as though I could endure anymore. I couldn’t gather up any more courage or strength to fight my abuser. 

Of course the all-important question: “God why me?”
“What did I do to deserve this?” 
“God, why do you let him continue to do this to these kids or me?”
I blamed God for many of the issues I got myself into. It’s a human thing to do. Have you heard of freewill? We all have it.

I trusted God but wavered a lot. It’s normal. I put myself where I was. I chose the path I took. I made the conscious choice to believe my abuser’s lies about harming my family if I didn’t stay with him. I allowed him to guide my path and let God just tag along. 

I didn’t heed to voice and times in my life when I should have jumped out of the situation I was in. There were plenty of chances that I can see now looking back. Those years seem so foreign to me. It’s almost like another life. That is another person with bad memories. Someone else went through a terrible spot in her life. And an occasional Panic attack. Man! Where do those come from? Like a pimple they seem to come out of nowhere. I am still learning about what my triggers are.
I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve grown a lot. I don’t have all the answers and wish I could say a prayer so that all the pain will go away but I can only do so much. I rely on God to get me through, as He always had. He’s walked with me when I was bruised, crying and desperate. He never gave up on me! 

I’m one of His children that He wants so much for. Success.  Happiness.  A  good life.

The fairytale…

I’m grateful for all I have –

An adoring Husband. There are bumps here and there but nothing we can not endure or get through together. 

5 great kids- I miss my oldest Son terribly! I still pray someday we will have some sort of relationship. And my girls are still holding on to much of the anger and heartache that they have. This is a big struggle for all of us!

Farm with a old house attached.

Furry and feathered critters that bring me such joy to watch and tend to.

Despite our limited finances I was able to finally find a job and Terry is Mr. Mom! He has found great joy in being able to do so. 

We have a fridge of food.

A car that runs.

For the most part good health.

A safe place to live- My ex doesn’t know where we live as far as we know
We have money to get us by. It’s by no means a lot. (I can’t get my nails done or spurlge on a monthly hair cut) But it is all we need to help pay the bills and occasionally get a take out or a few DVD’s.

I still get to play with a glue gun and glitter!

I still have a fondness for antiques and hope to get a booth space soon.

I hope to have my Doula biz get going and the farm to take off with some things I dreamed up.

It’s not all perfect. I keep positive and try to focus on the good in my life. I could whine about my job being not quite what I want . My daughters have a real hard time with learning what “Normal” is and we argue often about authority, treating adults with respect and just doing what is asked (chores or helping around the house). Arguing about going to church or coping helping them try to deal with past memories (They want to forget and the repression comes out in bitterness and anger at various times). 

My health issues seem to change with the wind and I’m pretty uncomfortable every day physically and sometimes mentally. We live without any extra frills, yet I don’t feel I need to get my nails done or hair cut all the time. I don’t run out and get the newest clothes or accessories for us. I shop at resale shops and garage sales. You may find me even in a dumpster looking for some tossed treasure to re-purpose.I am in a much better place then you would have found me almost 4 years ago at the end of this month. 

I hope you find your fairytale! I hope you don’t give up in doing so! No matter what your dream of a fairytale or a happily ever after is, don’t give up! You can do it! I’m praying for you!

 *Not for the faint of heart on a side note*

I had a amazing moment when I realized I pooped for the third time today! I have been doing this for a few years now. I know gross right, TMI! Where am I going with this? Over 4 years ago I was lucky if I went once a week due to stress. I have become more regular in the past few years. But for some reason today it was amazing to me! I don't lose my hair anymore. No heart palpitations. No nervous twitching (unless I'm dealing with something related to my ex). YEA ME! Sorry I came home and had to tell Terry my epiphany, he just shook his head and listened. I'm a lucky girl! He has amazing patience and love. 

No more potty talk! I promise!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Victim and Survivor comments

I decided to feature victims or survivors on here. If you want to send in a story or comment please email me at hopewhentherewasnone@gmail.com.

Everyone has a story. Some have a bit of tragedy or sadness in they're lives that intertwines our paths together. Breaking the silence by coming open about your story. Your not alone! Your story maybe encouraging to someone that may need to hear they are not crazy or that they can move on.

I'm including comments from past blogs from victims, survivors and family of those loved ones trapped by DV.

I have decided to take my show on the road so to speak by coming out publicly to speak to others in need of encouragement and hope. And I finally made the decision to actually get a book written!
Update on us- I filed contempt charges for back payments of child support, non filing of arrears child support and lose of health insurance for the girls. There is still no way, without hiring a detective, that he is working for cash.

I have been receiving text messages over the past few days that are not mean spirited. They are small talk in a sense, as though we are having a conversation back and forth (I'm not texting him or replying back).

I'm unsure when the next court day is but I will keep ya posted!

Stay safe and remember you are a strong person, capable of wonderful things. It's not too late to start again. You can make it on your own. You can get through this! The road isn't easy but it's much better then where you are now. Believe in yourself. You may need to surround yourself with positive people and you may have to get rid of those in your life that bring you down.

Please keep us in your prayers for continued safety and strength. I appreciate every kind and sympathetic word written by everyone! Thank you!

Remember you can find me on FB as 
https://www.facebook.com/melinda.kunst.1
or hopewhentherewasnone


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Here are a few comments at the end of each is what blog the entry was from.


Keep these kind persons in your prayers as well... God bless...


That sounds a lot like my situation, I am sorry you had to endure that abuse and I am always here reading and praying for you. It is funny how the kids remember some of the things in the past, things you yourself don't want to remember. <3 on Like an open sore..

Even though my abuser is out of the house, I continue to have these kinds of feelings of dread and fear. Slowly, I connect these feelings to events that have happened and make changes where I can to reduce triggers and memories. on Living on the edge...

Any perspective would be helpful. In order for her to have contact with us, we all have to "act" and "treat" him as though nothing happened. We live, however, in constant fear that he will start again with the abuse. He's one of those you would call "charming, loved by everyone, quick-witted and very well-connected." on Your not worthless!

Anonymous
Thank you for your blog! Very courageous of you! Our daughter's husband began physically, verbally, emotionally, etc. abusing her very shortly after they married three years ago. Now she is pregnant. She appears to be happy and so does he. They now seem to be doing well, but we are always fearful of what may be happening behind closed doors. We can never know for sure that he has "changed." on Your not worthless!
Anonymous

I'm so happy that you receive encouragement from your readers, too! You have a wealth of information here that IS indeed helping others--even those who cannot tell you for whatever reason. Having a real life connection with a friend who has survived and is learning to thrive has been a huge help for me in learning that I can get out. Thank you! on Got bruises?

No bruises/blood, no protection/freedom. Scared. on Gaslight's- Sociopath mind games

I am dealing with the exact same thing with my ex-husband who I have two young children with. He is an extremely jealous and miserable person who hides his income so he won't have to pay us the child support he should, lies about anything and everything if it will benefit him, criticizes me and my family every chance he gets (even puts us down in front of the kids), constantly is trying to upset my family and I by his comments, harassment, and his dragging us to court over and over again so he can lie more to further reduce his child support payments and try to gain more parenting/visitation time. Now to make matters worse, we also have to deal with his crazy girlfriend who not only encourages my ex's outrageous behavior but participates in it and often instigates it! It is frustrating and exhausting. I beg everyone reading this to please, PLEASE keep your eyes wide open and pay attention to any red flags you notice in the early stages of a relationship (some good ones are listed on Text messages and my STBX