Our family is devastated by the legal proceedings over the custody of my son. Zeno is 8 years old. This campaign will allow me to hire a lawyer so that my son could remain among his loving family.
This campaign is to fund a 4-day hearing and the corresponding pre-trials, submissions, reports and affidavits which is scheduled for February 2019.
RESTRICTIONS PLACED ON ZENO’S LIFE
For the first 5-years of Zeno’s life, his dad chose to not be a part of it. He left a couple of months after Zeno was born and did not attempt to contact him at all, despite us never moving or trying to shut him out.
However, for the past three and a half years, his dad started to interfere in every step of our daily existence by imposing legal restrictions over our every action. Zeno's dad opposes any decision we make condemning one life opportunity after another. He has stopped Zeno from traveling outside New Zealand whether for just a day or for a holiday. Furthermore, our family, that have never met Zeno, live in the USA and Israel. They can't travel to NZ due to their age, being all around 80 years old. Due to the travel restrictions, Zeno won't be able to travel to see them until he is 16 years old, which is a further 8 years away. Such a situation is totally against the Jewish way of living that has a mitzvah (good deed) of visiting the old and the frail. This is true regardless of our nationality – a child should be able to meet their family.
Zeno’s dad disapproves of Zeno attending sports or classes during his stays with him. He believes that Zeno attending any social activities is an “invasion” of his time. As Zeno spends every second weekend with his dad, he had to give up his favourite Saturday sports, with touch rugby being his personal biggest sacrifice. Team sports are part of every kid's life in New Zealand. He also had to give up on attending a community music school that is run at Waikato University. Zeno has an excellent musical ear, but cannot play any instruments, due to the missed opportunities. Along with this, every child in New Zealand should be able to swim and many classes are run on Saturdays. He can't have these simple opportunities, because his dad does not want him to do these classes. No club wants to cater for an "every second-week" child. To allow Zeno these opportunities, we have had to use private teachers and ensure lessons are conducted in my 67% of the time (in the past three years, Zeno's dad managed to have Zeno for 33% of the time).
I would not be able to raise Zeno without my parents and two older daughters. I returned to full time work when he was 4 months old. They took on most of the house-chores and looking after the then-baby Zeno to allow me to bring in the only income for the household. They all love him to bits. My parents are in their eighties. If they are around and still active, it is only thanks to Zeno. On the other hand, their whole life is revolved around Zeno: picking him up from school, taking him to sports, making him snacks after school, making sure he has done his homework, among many other daily activities. My daughters, both successful professionals, plan their lives around Zeno's availability, sharing with him all they can.
I have to commute to my work, from Hamilton to Auckland, 250 km return, 4-5 hours a day, 2-3 times a week. It would be considered a reasonable move to relocate closer to work. Zeno's dad does not allow us to move to Auckland. In the past half a year, I have driven over 25000 km. I don't know whether Zeno's dad thinks of the consequences of these restrictions on Zeno. I can see Zeno practically for half an hour a day in the morning on the way to school and when I am picking him up from his grandparents after work. I am missing him and he is missing me. He is a young boy. He needs his mother.
NOW HIS DAD WANTS 100%
Zeno spends every second weekend and a half of the school holidays with his dad. His father spends most of the time in his office watching news on his laptop. Zeno is only allowed to draw. He is not encouraged to read books from school that he brings in his suitcase. Zeno is not allowed to bring any Russian books with him at all, despite it being his first language. Most of the time he spends on his own, literally locked within the four walls of the ascetic unit where his father lives, not allowed to phone me, half-hungry. He tells me this after his visits and refuses to call his dad’s place “home”, instead referring to it like a chore he has to perform in Cambridge (city where his dad lives). Zeno's dad is not interested in him. Most of the time when Zeno is in his care, he either ignores him or sends him on full-day holiday programs. Not to mention, Zeno is constantly exposed to his father's frequent yelling rages, kicks and hurtful jokes.
My past three years only demonstrated that I am dealing with a toxic litigator, who only wants to destroy me in every way. I have tried to encourage him to be involved in his son’s life, but he does not try to share any interests or even talk to Zeno about them.
CAN I DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT? YES - I TRIED EVERYTHING
To say the least, the courts appear to be deaf to these arguments. I always thought that it is my fault: that I can't achieve any agreement with his father outside the court; that maybe I hired too cheap of a lawyer; that I cannot explain and present myself well in court; that maybe my background is too different to those common in the NZ society and I am unrelatable.
I tried to hire lawyers who are commonly known as "good" lawyers, however I found they were only concerned with their fees rather than the client's interests. On different occasions, I paid different lawyers $300/hr, $500/hr, even $920/hr. I can't do this anymore. I am a salaried engineer, I earn around $50/hr. I now changed the counsel prepared to fight with your help.
IN THE 16/17 FINANCIAL YEAR MY LEGAL FEES EXCEEDED MY FULL ANNUAL INCOME
I came to NZ from a peripheral city in Russia. I never had savings. I can't rely on any family assets - I have none. My parents, with almost a century of the engineering experience between them, came to NZ around their 70-s and worked as cleaners for 13 years to be eligible for NZ Superannuation. They did this to allow me and my daughters to start a life in a good country.
I raised two daughters, single-handedly. I did everything in my power to enable them to succeed and become who they are today. I learnt how to live life to the fullest, despite hardship, and how to allow myself nice things with little money. However, it is beyond my ability to pay both my existing legal debts and pay for these new proceedings.
In New Zealand, people who work are not eligible for any legal aid. From 2014, it is theoretically possible to be self-represented in the family court. Factually, the courts "hate" such applicants and when I tried to save on legal fees and apply without a lawyer, my self-represented submissions were ignored. I lost and was ordered to pay 6 weeks of my income to Zeno's dad. This is despite I also pay for Zeno's private school, all extra-mural activities and all living needs.
In the past three years, we have cut every line in the family budget, except Zeno's education and after-school classes. Zeno is attending a private school, for which his dad refused to pay. However, changing for a public school will now involve legal proceedings that will be way more-costly than the private school fees, as Zeno’s father wants to move him closer to Cambridge, which will be impossible for me to physically achieve.
I am asking for any possible assistance in financing Zeno's custody case. He is a cheeky, kind boy. These proceedings are his last bid for the rest of his childhood, to be cherished by the loving people and have normal, daily fun. He can't be deprived from his mum, grandparents and sisters at this age. Please donate, any donation will be appreciated greatly. If you live outside New Zealand, I would be very glad to host you at our place to thank you; if you are a Kiwi - I would love to bake you a cake for any special occasion. Let me know if I can be of any help to you.
My endless gratitude for your attention in reading this,
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