Kaitlyn* was shaking, her little body trembling in my arms as my husband raged. How many times would we have to go through this? How many times would Jason come home as a completely different person and terrify his own family? It hadn't always been like this.
I met Jason in college, and we married soon after. He was bright and charming — the life of the party. While the first few years of married life were a roller coaster, things eventually settled down. We went into business together, started attending church, and a short while later, our daughter, Kaitlyn, came into the world. I assumed our beautiful girl would be the final draw that would help Jason move beyond his wild past.
It didn't work. While there were seasons of quiet, Jason's addictions began to take over his life. Everything from pornography and affairs to alcohol and prescription drug abuse — his world spiraled out of control. His addictions transformed him so that Kaitlyn and I were no longer safe.
After 20 years of marriage and doing all I knew to do, I had to leave. Finding myself in the position to end my marriage and pursue sole custody was overwhelming, but I learned some important lessons. If you're thinking of pursuing sole custody, consider the following suggestions:
>Lean on godly professionals. I sought out a strong lawyer with good character who would be willing to fight to protect Kaitlyn. I didn't need someone who was vengeful and vindictive.
>Encourage relationship. I pursued sole custody because Jason's behavior was erratic, but I still wanted Kaitlyn to know her dad. I worked with the courts to offer supervised visits and give Jason more time with his daughter if he pursued professional help.
Protect your kids. Protecting my daughter meant more than just getting sole custody. I needed to comfort her fears and explain, to the best of my ability, what was happening. Because it was also important that I work through my own emotions, I found resources to help my heart heal so that my bitterness wouldn't seep into Kaitlyn's life.
I never imagined I would have to fight for my daughter or for our safety, but God strengthened me for the task and saw me through the pain. To this day, my prayer remains the same: that as I lean into God's grace, Kaitlyn would know to do the same — no matter what life may bring.
*All names have been changed.
This article appeared in the August/September 2013 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was titled "Fight for Kaitlyn." Copyright © 2013 by Elsa Kok Colopy. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.
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