I really hope this case is over, in our favor, soon.
Mediation happened a couple of weeks ago, before my last FPF post. At that time I already had the outcome. Mediation was scheduled for a full-day session. Due to court/attorney schedules it didn't start until later, maybe 10 or 11 but it lasted until 5 or 5:30 so that was a full day in most court-related books.
I was incredibly nervous. I knew I would be so I took the day off work. I ended up being called in for a short early morning meeting and was assigned a few things to work on which turned into a huge blessing for me. It was a good distraction for my brain while waiting for things to start at the courthouse. I was able to leave before lunch but because I wasn't allowed at the courthouse (or, I was asked not to be there), I just went home. I was vegging on the couch, literally just sitting there staring at my phone every couple minutes, waiting for my phone to ring. My hubby was sleeping and texted me to come in and join him for a nap.
I did and I slept. More distraction.
I woke up around 2:30 when my phone rang. It was the children's attorney with the initial agreement. Hubby was awake so we talked about it, called our attorney, and then called the AAL back with our counter-position.
Can I take a step back here and say there really wasn't any room to have a counter position. We're not "in" the case and even if we were, what is our leverage? No, we're going to walk away from the kids and let the parents have them when the kids have expressed a desire to stay with us and we don't feel they will be safe with the parents? Really? Sorry kids...you have to go back and live with them because we weren't willing to do everything it would take to keep you? No thanks.
Despite our poor bargaining position we did go back and forth for the next 3 hours, at first over the phone and then by text. One parent came to an agreement and relinquished rights. The agreement includes a lot of stuff we're not excited about but we're "ok" with (barely) and something we absolutely hate but have come to accept. This parent relinquished and we expected that would never happen.
This is why I'm hesitant to share too many details. The other parent refused to mediate. Didn't want to take a deal. I have a lot to say about this but the only one I'm going to type out for now is that if the state was trying to take my kids away from mie I don't know if I'd ever agree to relinquish either. They'd have to take my kids from mie by force, I think (yes I comply with laws and no, I strongly doubt that would ever happen to begin with but you get my point). I can understand the person who says "I have to give it my everything. I can't give in. I must keep trying". See my comments two paragraphs ago.
This meant the trial date, which had already been set, would now involve an actual TPR trial. In this kind of scenario the settlement agreement with one parent and associated relinquishment would be entered and made official as part of the final order from the judge and the judge would hear testimony about whether the other parent's rights should be terminated.
In case you're not familiar, let me be clear - If rights are terminated, the case moves forward to adoption with a 90 day waiting period where kin can intervene and try to get the kids and the parents who had involuntary relinquishment have a chance to appeal (parents who voluntarily relinquish do not get to appeal). If rights are not terminated, that typically ends the case and the judge immediately sends the kids home.
So you can see why before trial I was even more nervous than I was before mediation. Yes, the trial already began - last week. There was a full day of testimony and the case didn't finish. Potential witnesses were sequestered and therefore I haven't been able to sit in the court and hear testimony even though I don't expect to be testifying - they may call me per one of the attorneys. Because the case didn't finish, they agreed to come back the next day to wrap things up.
To let you know how this affected our kids - they have literally had a countdown going for when their attorney was going to see the judge to see if "they can stay forever". They woke up saying "ZERO more days mommy!" I had to come home and explain to them that yes, their attorney got to talk to the judge. She did for the entire day but wasn't done yet so we have to wait until tomorrow. That's hard when to kids it sounds like it should just be a quick "Hey judge - can they stay forever?".
It was a hard night for my hubby and I who both cried in anticipation at one point.
The next day I showed up at the courthouse and walked up the steps. I noticed an abundance of un-manned police cars but figured hey - it's a courthouse and tried to move forward. Then I got word that no one was being allowed in and I had to return to my car. Later I got word that I had to take my car off the property. Thanks to my sister's case, I knew a bailiff there (her kiddo's CASA!) and got the scoop. There was a threat of harm at the courthouse.
I waited for 90 minutes or so nearby and then was told due to the circumstances the trial was going to be reset and I'd find out the next day when the new court date would be but I'd at least have to wait through the weekend.
It was hard to explain to the kids why, yet again, we didn't have an answer from the judge. They literally asked as they stepped off the school bus that day.
Long story not-so-short - We still do not have an answer. Court is now rescheduled for tomorrow. We had a fun weekend and when we're home as a family we're distracted enough not to think about it. But it's tomorrow. My head says "of course they'll terminate!" but my realistic side says "I know anything can happen".
There's nothing that can prepare me for my kiddos to leave tomorrow. I have to walk in faith knowing it will be ok and hoping that they will not go. In the meantime we'll spend extra quality family tonight, again, hug them a bit longer, say extra-special prayers for them, and try to leave it all in God's hands where it is much safer than with me alone.