My son and I are one family unit. For example, when I was dating, it was understood that Caleb and I are a package deal. We cannot be separated.
Out of love and sympathy in years past, I allowed other people to share in my family’s life. But certain people took advantage of my trust and tried to use it against me.
In 2014, my parental rights were challenged with litigation, and those who challenged me had no justifiable reason to do so.
After losing my husband in 2006, it was very hard to juggle. I needed to earn my bachelor’s degree. But classes were held at two different campuses, and my full time job was in Beaufort.
My parents were in Beaufort, and other family members live in Ridgeland.
Between each of those stops is a drive of about 30 miles, but I was determined to finish college and worked hard to take care of my family and provide an even better future for Caleb, which I have achieved.
Caleb and I were constantly going back and forth, staying with my parents or staying with other family, and that was okay. I was doing the best I could as a widowed mother.
I alone paid for every need of my son including his health insurance and school tuition. Even if my in-laws were babysitting Caleb, I wrote checks for the person who worked in the house for both babysitting and house cleaning (I have canceled checks to prove this, written to the names of both my future accuser and their relative).
I wanted Caleb to start school in Beaufort, but I could only afford the private schools in Ridgeland. I continued driving back and forth.
My schedule was always erratic, and like most full-time working parents, I was not able to attend most of the school events. I didn’t know many people in Ridgeland, so my time off was spent with Caleb and my parents, one town away.
I was absent from the public eye in the Ridgeland community, and that made it easy for certain people to spread malicious lies over the years. At local events and school functions, they told others that I was “out of the picture” and rarely spent time with my son.
I did not have postpartum depression. I was never out of the picture. There was never an interruption in my parenting.
Although my life was stretched thin at times, Caleb has always been and will always be my first love and my first concern—Caleb is my 100%.
Even if you don’t know me personally, thousands of our family photographs, bank statements and canceled checks to Caleb’s paid babysitters are enough to prove my love and care for my son to any legal party or anyone curious about the gossip.
In 2013, things began to unravel. Two of the people who I had trusted around my son were ignoring my decisions and even taking him on trips out of town without my permission.
One person called me and screamed at me over the phone for not letting my son go to their house on a school night. I was shocked, but managed to talk the person down from their irrational anger—temporarily.
That person also wrote about me, implying that I was negligent in caring for my baby and my husband before his suicide.
When I voiced my objections, witnesses told me that the person and their supporters had been slandering my reputation for years—at family events, at doctor appointments and on the bleachers at local ball fields. Even one of the aggressor’s children, who once loved me, was joining in with the ranting allegations.
Although I wanted to sympathize and forgive others for the actions they took while grieving, it was obvious that the defamation would never stop. I knew that the situation was rapidly becoming unhealthy for me and for my young child who was caught in the middle.
Caleb was absorbing angry conversations when I was at work (this I learned when I was pocket dialed).
Someone else who was living in that household admitted the following: the two people in question had been scheming for years, hoping for a reason to take me to court and take custody of my son (I have a recording of this statement).
The offensive party also claims that my fiance “kicked them out of their home,” but the truth is, moving out and creating separation was entirely their decision.
Caleb and I were sitting at their kitchen table doing homework as they hauled furniture out the front door (ironically, they claim that I took Caleb from them).
Furthermore, the house is in their name. How can they claim to have been kicked out of a house that they own?
My fiance moved into my house the same night. It was certainly not the behavior you would expect from a villain who turned an older couple out of the place in which they lived.
Someone please tell me how that’s believable—to say you were kicked out of a house that you own, and then subsequently collect rent on it every month. Yes, the rent is 100% their income. Check in at the courthouse if you doubt me.
I feel that my son was being used as a substitution for the death of another person. The party in question seemed to believe that they were the parents, not me. They became increasingly resentful toward me each time that I insisted on normal, healthy rules and routines for my son.
One of those people went so far as to phone my son’s teacher, but thankfully the teacher told me what was said. I had no choice but to rationally advise the party that I would take legal steps to enforce boundaries—this decision being in the best interest of my son.
However, three days later, I sent another text message to them, taking back my statement and inviting them to spend time with Caleb—as long as I was there with him.
It was against my better judgment to endure their behavior, but as long as I was supervising, I could monitor the increasingly tense situation and keep my son safe.
My lawyer agreed that I was being more than generous, and I continually invited the party over to spend time with us, via text messages and phone calls.
Most of the time they declined to see my son, but they told others that I was “keeping Caleb from them.” They continue to post this lie on social media, even though I have text messages proving otherwise.
Their last reply via text was a flat refusal to come over, stating that they would rather see what happened at the courthouse. That was their decision—not to work things out as I was suggesting, but instead to cause irreparable damage.
Their demands were to separate me from my child, but I stood firm. By this time I had seen and gathered more disturbing information from multiple witnesses, including the aggressor’s treatment of their oldest son when he was a little boy.
In preparation for the hearing, my lawyer attached the text messages and copies of the checks for childcare as exhibits on my affidavit.
One aggressor now claims on Facebook that they “raised” Caleb since he was an infant, and that I, his mother, would only “visit occasionally” (look for this quote in the edit history).
They are trying to change the past and convince others that I was a neglectful mother when Caleb was small.
But if they felt that I was shirking my responsibilities when Caleb was younger—that would have been the time to make those allegations and attempt a custody suit.
Why wait until now to make make that claim—now that have I met the goals which I had been working toward? I have purchased a house and established traditional family routines—dinner together at the table, homework, bedtimes, etc. No more traveling from town to town, crashing together with different family members. We were settled, we are settled (now being four years later btw), and Caleb is thriving.
To seek recognition now, for “raising” Caleb—to attempt condemning me for my struggles, makes it seem like they considered their time with Caleb to be a burden, like they are complaining.
If someone didn’t want to watch my son, they should have told me. We certainly had other options:
Countless times, my parents made plans to spend time with Caleb while I was working, but if Caleb happened to be with the other party, they would not return phone calls.
My dad remembers that I was in tears. I was torn in two different directions as I tried to give everyone time with Caleb. I was trying so hard to be sensitive to others’ feelings.
Caleb is my only child, and he is my parents’ only grandchild.
Many times in the past, I was guilted into allowing others to spend time with my son because they were grieving.
They now want to call this concept “visitation.” So be it—the reality is that I was allowing them to visit with my son in the past, not the other way around as they claim.
I myself stayed at the accuser’s house with Caleb, and we rotated back and forth from my parents’ house. It was the fairest situation that I could manage.
The accuser has posted a bold-faced lie in saying that I “occasionally visited” my son. It was an attempt to inspire public sympathy and make me out to be an absentee mother.
The legal papers they wrote up call me an “unfit” parent, but the spouse of my accuser refused to put his/her name on the paperwork, and other family members refused to support it because the accusation against me was simply ludicrous. That in itself speaks volumes.
The lawsuit was an eye-opening experience. I was able to see the true colors of the very small group of people who supported the litigation against me.
This type of lawsuit also opens the door for discrimination against single mothers.
In the past, certain people praised me as a wonderful mother and thanked me for letting them spend time with Caleb, yet now those people judge me for every minute that I was not with him. It’s very hypocritical, a Catch 22.
Like all single mothers, I had no choice but to lose time with my son. I did not have the privilege of a spouse supporting me.
Of course, even married parents have to make this sacrifice, but the people who suddenly found fault in me only worked outside of the home for short periods of time or as a hobby.
Would that I had that luxury.
I believe it’s my responsibility to warn others in my position because widows and widowers often become the target of unfounded litigation for the custody of their children.
Your parental rights are at stake; the welfare of your children is at stake. In some states, any person who spent time around you and your child can sue for visitation.
You must be financially prepared to pay an attorney’s retainer fee and possibly more if litigation continues. Your voice will not be heard in court unless you have legal defense.
Collect notarized affidavits from friends and relatives who are witnesses to your parenting. Present a record of your child’s grades to show that his/her academic and professional future is your priority.
Print out your bank statements and checks showing your payments for tuition, childcare and medical needs. Keep all receipts showing items that were purchased for your children.
Document every text message, phone call and email between yourself and the opposing party. Use an app like “snipping tool” to screenshot any negativity or defamation posted on social media. Record all phone conversations and take a video of all interactions.
I’ve found few articles in support of Parents’ Rights (but here is a great one), and websites in favor of parents have not been updated in years.
I encourage others to share their stories. Parents in the midst of litigation need support and advice. Consider me an advocate for Parents’ Rights.
Please refer to the image quotes here: Melissa Charles, “Grandparents Rights? No!”