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Provide your story for an upcoming book detailing short stories of your battle with a High Conflict Divorce

Friday, October 20, 2017 - Information - Erik Veneman

My hope is that my kids, other kids, and other parents can read this, and see what can happen when parents separate and don’t place the interests of the kids ahead of their own.

The Beginning

My story starts as Kathy and my marriage ended. I left her on October 18, 2004. About a year before I left, I asked her to try marriage counselling with me. She wouldn't so I tried it alone and got nowhere. I chose to buy a small house for myself to move to after I left her and kept no secrets about it. On the day of the house closing, I sent her an e-mail stating that if she were willing to try counselling, I would try to give our marriage one last shot. She called me right away and said yes so I suggested that her and the kids move into the house as well to which she immediately agreed. (we had lived in a two bedroom apartment for too many years because she wouldn't commit to purchasing a house). Over the next several months, the more I asked her if she’s made any effort to find a counsellor for her and possibly me, the more she started denying that she ever agreed to that. After over a year, the email I had sent her from work popped up on my screen when I was searching for something else so I printed it and when I got home, I asked if she remembered the email and that she had agreed to try counselling. She finally admitted that she lied and never had any intention of finding or going to any counsellor. That's when I made the final decision to leave.

Before and after separation, I was a very active father to my two daughters, Maggie and Abbey, who were 11 and 8 when we separated. I was the parent who did things with them – I was the one who taught them how to swim. I taught them how to ride their bikes. I taught them how to play cards. I taught them how to roller blade even though I could barely do it myself. Camping, some sports, and playing cards were our things. We had so much fun whenever we were together. They were the biggest part of my life. When I left, I found an apartment eight blocks away - so that I could have them for visits every other day and every weekend including one sleepover night - to remain a big part of their lives. This arrangement lasted for just over two years.

After Separation, Before Court

In 2005, Abbey was 9 years old. She asked me one day – ‘Dad, what’s wrong with you – why don’t you have a girlfriend ??’ I asked why she was asking and she said – ‘isn’t that what separated Dad’s do is get a girlfriend ??’ I thought to myself that’s great – they are ok with me having a girlfriend. I maintained to them from the day I left that there was no chance that Dad and Mom would ever get back together so there would be no confusion so this may have helped with the kids dealing with me moving on with my life. At that point I had no serious girlfriend so I told her I would find someone one day. 

In August, 2006, I wanted to settle the terms of the divorce by finalizing a separation agreement. Kathy did not respond or responded negatively to all of my suggestions for a separation agreement. When I expressed my concern about us not having an agreement, including payment terms, she started very subtly threatening cutting my time with the kids: ‘I think you're spending too much time with the kids, maybe every other weekend only might be better’. I suggested mediation to settle our terms and nothing. By September, I had hired a lawyer to help with the lack of response from Kathy. Still nothing. Kathy was enjoying me still paying for everything as I was starting to realize that I was paying her way too much. 

That October (2006), I met Michelle and our relationship became serious. Michelle was the first woman I told the kids about and I hadn’t introduced them to anyone up to that point. When I told the kids I wanted them to meet her, they said it was ‘no big deal’. I thought that was great so I didn’t push it any further. After a month, I was getting ready to introduce Michelle to the kids, however, on November 7th, on the morning of Kathy’s birthday and as she was opening presents from them, the kids decided to tell her all about Michelle (my policy was no secrets because I know Kathy would grill them when they got home from our visits and I knew they didn’t need more stress). I don’t know what Kathy’s reaction was but she certainly traumatized the kids because within one day they went from ‘no big deal’ to being terrified of meeting Michelle. When I would ask them why they were so stressed about meeting her, all they could tell me was ‘Mom’s reaction’.

Kathy immediately made all subsequent visits with me miserable for all of us even though I hadn’t included Michelle in any of it. Kathy’s inability to deal with my moving on and having a girlfriend is very evident in various nasty e-mails I saved – one of which she called Michelle the ‘internet whore’ because we met online that one bit her back in court as the judge asked her how she knew this and had she met Michelle to get to know her first? Kathy would constantly call during my last few visits with the kids, asking them whether or not my girlfriend was there and if they were ‘all right’, more often insinuating wrongdoing on my part for no reason other than to put ideas into their heads, to the point of making the visits unbearable (one visit she called 20 times before I shut off the phone and I knew then that mentally, there was something wrong with Kathy). I agreed not to have them meet Michelle until after Christmas but this didn’t help. 

I found out that Kathy had told them that I didn't love them anymore or want to spend time with them because of Michelle. She also told the children that I would be moving away to live with Michelle and that Michelle was pregnant by me. This all happened within a month after them telling her about Michelle. Of course, none of this was true (she even knew I had myself fixed so couldn’t get Michelle pregnant if I wanted to - what fabrication). Since it was getting so bad so quickly, I took it upon myself to introduce the children to Michelle (against all of their wishes) on December 2, 2006. I felt very strongly that the longer I waited, the harder it would be on the kids because of the lies they were being told by their mother. They had no choice but to believe her since they lived with her. After I picked them up I told them about the meeting and they got upset at first. We went back to my place where Michelle was and after a few minutes of them being very upset, they were fine and they were talking to Michelle and seemed OK with it. We took them to my parent’s house as part of this visit and I thought that the meeting went very well, considering. This was the last time my parents saw them and the last regular visit the kids had with me was December 17, 2006. Subsequent visits were blocked by Kathy including Christmas with me and my entire family – who also did nothing wrong. 

Kathy took advantage of the Christmas vacation to turn them completely against me very quickly. In January, she stopped referring to me as their Dad when I called to try to talk to them and started saying ‘Erik wants to talk to you’. When I first heard this, I said when did I stop being their dad?? No response from her, of course. It only took a few weeks until the kids were calling me by my name instead of calling me Dad. Kathy took every insignificant action, blew it all out of proportion and turned it negative for the children to use it to show what a ‘horrible monster’ person I was. She told Maggie I would not pay for her glasses even though she knew my work benefits would pay for them without question. I couldn’t explain this to Maggie, however, as she would not see my point because anything I said to or did for them was twisted into a ‘horrible’ negative. 

Shortly after new year’s, Kathy arranged a meeting between her and the kids and me at her house. I went over there and she was sitting on the couch with one daughter in each arm on either side of her. I sat in front of them while they asked me about 5 questions they had written down. The one that stuck in my head is ‘do you still love us’ and ‘do you love Michelle more than us (kids)’. I said no way and where did you even get this idea?? Right away they both looked up at Kathleen. Throughout January Kathleen also had the kids calling me asking for money knowing I would say no because I was paying her so much (way too much I found out later but couldn’t get any back as the courts only look forward, not backward don’t you know). I kept telling the kids, the money is between Mom and me and not for you to worry about but Kathleen kept telling them I wasn’t paying (this eventually also counted against her in court as it came out in some of the emails from the kids). 

I tried everything to get to see my kids – I called the police just before New Year’s (my then lawyer told me Kathy couldn’t change the established visitation without a good reason but the police told me if I went to the house to try to see the kids and Kathy called them, they would come and take ME away!), spoke with the children’s school counsellor from January to March and spoke to another counsellor on my own in March as well. 

By February, both kids wanted nothing to do with me. Kathy went out of her way to harass me and even drove by my house, saw me in my driveway (fixing a flat tire) cursed and yelled ‘you’re an asshole!!!’ as loud as she could out the window with the kids – then 10 and 13 – in the back seat, in front of my neighbour. 

Of the below 10 things to look out for with alienation, I can prove Kathleen did the first 8 of them and I’m almost sure she did the last two as well: 
1. Badmouthing;
2. Limiting contact;
3. Interfering with communication;
4. Limiting mention and photographs of the targeted parent;
5. Telling the child that the targeted parent does not love him or her;
6. Creating the impression that the targeted parent is dangerous;
7. Confiding in the child personal adult and litigation information;
8. Referring to the targeted parent by their first name;
9. Asking the child to spy or keep secrets from the targeted parent;
10. Withholding medical, social, academic information from the targeted parent and keeping his/her name off the records;

March was another month of hell for me so I decided to set a court date because there was still no response from Kathy on me seeing the kids or any other of the separation terms. Our first court date was to be July 30, 2007. The type of emotional abuse that the kids had been through was very difficult to prove. It is more difficult to undo because of the fact that the kids genuinely believe that I'm a ‘horrible monster’. As part of the court case, I asked for sole custody of the children until Kathy could get help. No success there, of course because there’s no way the court would take the kids from their mon without something severe happening like documented physical abuse. I did send a couple of emails to Child Services and the Guelph branch stated this was the worst case of parent coaching against the other parent they had ever seen but because the kids lived in Halton region they had to refer my case to their Halton branch who subsequently contacted me and stated there was no problem, no alienation (didn’t exist) or brainwashing and good luck proving anything. They did visit the kids once and finalized their investigation with a nice one page letter stating that they found no evidence of physical abuse. 

For my first court date, I thought I’d get everything I wanted because Kathleen had lied on her court documents multiple times and I was able to put together 90 pages of evidence - including her own emails where she contradicted herself - proving she lied and manipulated her way to where we were. We were both representing ourselves so when the court date started I was ready to go and excited to be there. After the judge came in (retired female is all I’ll say) she sat down looked up at us, squinted her eyes a bit, paused a bit, and said ‘ok what’s this one about again??’ Needless to say, that court date devastated me as I found out she could lie on court documents and in person in court and there were no repercussions at all.

Several court dates subsequently - all of which Kathy would not agree to anything. Kathy did everything she could to continue to make things difficult and she would not settle on anything for at least 5 court dates right up until the trial. Before the trial there’s Questioning and this is done under Oath with everything you say recorded. Here is where you do have to tell the truth and by then I did have a lawyer who was able to find a couple witnesses that were willing to testify against Kathy to prove that she lied under oath during Questioning twice regarding her employment status (so I would have to keep paying way too much, of course). Minutes before the trial because she knew she was in trouble seeing the witness list, she settled on all terms and I was able to get my divorce and one court-mandated visit with the kids.

The one kids visit - we met at Wendy's in Milton for a couple of hours and it took an hour and a half for them to start talking to me and actually smile. Abbey brought her deck of cards and I was really emotional and happy for the first time in a long time. At the end of the visit, Kathy came in to pick them up and as soon as the kids saw her walk into the doorway at Wendy’s, their faces dropped and became bitter again and they wouldn’t say another word to me. I then realized that I could not compete at all with Kathy's warped and overwhelmingly powerful influence over the kids. From then on, the court order completely left it up to the kids and Kathy to schedule future visits and of course, not one was planned. 

Went to Florida with Michelle and Kathleen called as soon as she knew I was on vacation told me maggie was in the hospital and I had to come right away. I asked her what happened and she wouldn't say just come now. I ended up calling the hospital directly and they informed no veneman was checked in there. 

Life insurance. Cried in the phone when I was I a mother vacation because I didn't send her proof if life insurance coverage fast enough. 

She told me health insurance provider I was dying. I had to correct her twice on that one. 

I learned several hard lessons about some lawyers and our family court system and all I’ll say about that is you can’t count on the courts to help you unless you can afford years of time and many thousands of dollars for fees. At that time, 10 years ago, it was very clear that the courts simply are not set up to deal with things that can happen this quickly, like parental alienation. They say they put the needs of the kids first, then leave it up to a 9 and 12 year old to decide which parent they want to live with and don’t even ask why not the other parent or look into it any further than that. At one court date, I found a Parent Alienation specialist/psychologist out of Toronto with ties to a larger US organization who had offered to do a complete assessment of the kids, me and Kathleen along with a nice report for court. I asked the court to allow this assessment to go ahead at my expense (would have cost me around $20,000) and they ruled against it because I was ‘trying to change the existing visitation arrangement’. Really.

Two emails from Maggie to me - 

1. Maggie was 13 at the time – She’s confirmed this was her, not her Mom’s writing and this one ended up being the last one she sent – in response to a note from me stating I wanted to go to her grade 8 graduation - 
From: veneman (Kathleen’s email)
To: veman_68 (my email)
Subject: Re: Grade 8 Graduation
Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2007 21:12:51 -0400
Erik,
I hate you. Don't come to my graduation. I don't want you or Oma and Opa there. You've ruined my graduation. You're a horrible stupid person and you don't deserve to be a part of this day or my life !
Maggie

2. This one about her glasses and me inviting them for some outings - 
From: m v (Maggie’s email) 
Sent: June 4, 2007 5:54:34 PM
To: veman_68 (my email)
Erik you are stupid. I don't think anything gets through to you. Mom recently gave you a package that contained all of our letters, including my most recent letter, that explains how very stupid you are. But still, no comprehension. Just stupidity. Mom tried to get me to meet you to get my glasses, but I'd really rather just not see than spend any time with you and your girlfriend, who is also very stupid. The thought of seeing the stupid freak you've become is just so ew! With that being said, why the heck (I would have loved to use another word here, but Mom said no) would I want to go to wonderland with you? You're ridiculous and stupid and I find it very insulting that you think I could ever stoop to your level of stupidity and be bribed. Canada's wonderland can't bring back the person you once were, nothing can, and I'm sick of having to explain that to you. 
I will pick out my glasses tomorrow only if you will come into town afterward and pay for them on your own. Because that's the only way you're ever going to pay for them. If you do choose to come into town tomorrow, like any good father would, then please bring the following items that we have left at your house: the small christmas tree, my bike (I know it's in Michelle's garage so don't bother with one of your pathetic lies), Shrek 2, and any colouring supplies or stuffed animals we might have left there. 
I can't get over how stupid you are, it's unbelievable. Assuming you still remember how to read and you're not completely brainwashed, you should have understood from my letter that you are no longer welcome in our lives, and that WE DON'T WANT YOU IN OUR LIVES. So stop your stupid little games and leave us alone. Unless you're willing to give me my glasses and the stuff we left at your house, we don't want to hear from you. We don't want to hear your stupid voice and listen to your stupid lies. We will however accept your stupid wonderland tickets. Abbey, Mom and I would have a great time. They're only stupid right now because they're yours.
Oh, and just in case you didn't recieve my camping email, we will ceratinly not be canmping with you either. That would just be - yep, you guessed it - STUPID.
Before I wasn't sure, but I just decided that if you do apologize, I'm not accepting. There's no way I'm accepting your stupid apology since you've had 5 darn (again, would like to use another word) months to do it.
In sum:- pay for my glasses on your own - there will be no wonderland or camping or anything else for that matter with you - bring us our stuff when you come into town - you're stupid - if you reply to this, don't you dare give me any crap about telling you what to do or namecalling because I really don't care
Maggie

After reading up on adult children of parental alienation and the stress that fighting a losing battle puts on the kids (there was one example where a teenager committed suicide in the middle of a fight similar to mine except the male parent was doing the alienating), I came to realize that giving up the fight may not be a bad thing for the kids, so I did. To be clear, because so many people don’t understand in the extreme cases such as this, I believe stopping the fight for everyone’s sanity sake is the right thing. Some who know call it ‘letting go’ rather than ‘giving up’ and that makes sense to me. The kids know they can contact me (phone, email, facebook) when they are ready but at some point, you have to stop hitting your head on the wall and move on with your life. I’ve never lost hope that one day they will want me back in their lives. One judge did state that this will take a very long time and may be when they’re much older, completely independent and able to really reflect back on their childhood years and ask why. 10 years later I still send the odd note stating I’m thinking of them but with no expectations of a return message. Progress was when, earlier on, my ex stopped replying nastily since she was monitoring their emails as well.

My last two court dates, one in 2012 and one in 2015 finally had the courts recognize there is a problem with kids not seeing me. I set these dates not to get them back, but to make my post-secondary support payments a little more reasonable. I still thought I was paying way too much, especially given the fact that there was no relationship there at all, long term. The trial in 2012 resulted in a precedent setting court order that made the national post with recognition that I should not be just a wallet to them, stopping me from having to pay child support for the 8 months a year while my daughter was in residence at university with me paying for 90% of all school and living expenses. Also, the kids had to start contributing 75% of their own income towards their school expenses - not all me – before I calculated my reduced 75% of the total. At this trial, Kathleen took the stand to defend her multiple emails accusing me of being mentally unstable and sick. Given there was no proof still, my lawyer asked what her medical training or background was in order for her to be able to come up with such a diagnosis and she had no answer. My lawyer then asked me if I had ever been diagnosed with anything like she’s noted by a doctor or trained professional and I said no. He then asked Kathleen if she’s ever been diagnosed with mental health issues by a professional and she hesitantly stated yes – I was shocked and learned that she was seeing a psychiatrist for anxiety and depression issues related to having time off at her last job. As bad as it sounds now, that was the day I realized that was a bit of karma and this is when it seemed like the courts were actually starting to understand what was happening (still didn’t matter to my not seeing the kids situation, however).

The link to the national post article about my case is here- 
http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/court-says-father-nothing-more-than-a-wallet-to-estranged-daughter-but-he-still-must-pay-toward-her-tuition/wcm/3637c1ec-83f2-4718-8fb1-ff1ee2c38495

A couple of years later, Kathy emailed me nicely to let me know that I would be paying for 3 university degrees for Maggie and a 5 year Engineering program, for Abbey, plus plus if anything were to change. Naturally, I set another court date in 2015 that resulted in the judge agreeing with me that one degree is all I should be paying for, not what Kathleen was after. She actually brought the kids to that date (judges recommended she bring them twice before and she hadn’t I’m sure because they would see parts of the truth she didn’t want them to see). I hadn’t seen them in about 8 years. Felt bad for Maggie as the judge looked at her and said ‘you're off the payroll’. He also saw right through Abbey's attempt at getting around having to pay her share for her school by not working on purpose. Games her Mom taught her I’m sure - go figure and so sad. 

All of this hasn't changed anything with the kids who are now 24 and 21. Maggie is currently getting her teacher's certification at Queen's and Abbey is in her 4th year of the five year Engineering coop program at McMaster. I do feel sorry for them now more than ever and can only hope that one day they will let me back into their lives. Maybe when they're permanently on their own.

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Provide your story for an upcoming book detailing short stories of your battle with a High Conflict Divorce

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X Hi parents, I did not see my kids for nearly 7 years but I have the kids full time now. I will be providing my story to an Ebook and I would love to write an Ebook with other parents short stories of PAS and would love to do this to inspire people... More >>
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