My Dad Hates Me

The tragedy of lies told in divorce court.
by Michael Bracken


happy girl with dad
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My Dad hates me. That’s what my Mom told me. That’s what I told the judge.

I didn’t like talking to the judge. I had to sit in a hard wooden chair and the lady who sits next to the judge made me promise to tell the truth.

Mom made me wear my best dress that day, the yellow one she bought me for Easter. She wouldn’t let me wear the wide-legged jeans I always wear to school, and she made me take off my black nail polish.

I haven’t seen my Dad in two years. Mom told me he doesn’t want to see me. I think maybe he can’t find me.

Mom and I have lived in six different places in four different states since she left Dad. Mom tells me we move so she can get better jobs. She says she needs a good job because Dad doesn’t pay my child support.

I told this to the judge and to the all the other men in the court room. There was my Mom’s lawyer, Mr. Wilson, and my Dad’s lawyer, Mr. Lucent, and then there was my lawyer. He wants me to call him Billy Ray, like he’s my friend.

I call him Mr. Smith.

My lawyer is a guardian ad litem. My Mom said that means he’s my lawyer. I had to see him three times before we went to court.

I don’t like him. He has bad breath and he’s always chewing on a peppermint. I can hear it click against his teeth when he talks.

He always asks me questions about my Dad. He never asks me about my Mom.

He asks me if my Dad ever touches me in bad places. He asks me if my Dad ever hits me. He asks me if my Dad ever shakes me. I told him no, no, no.

My Dad is always nice to me. Even when he is mad at my Mom, he is still nice to me. He reads me stories at bed time and he taught me how to ride a bicycle and once a month he used to take me to the cemetery where Grandma is buried and we would feed bread to the ducks in the pond.

Before my Mom left my Dad, my Dad bought me a silver locket and he put his picture and my picture in it. My Mom doesn’t know I have the locket, but I look at it almost every day. I showed the locket to the judge and to the lady who sits next to him and writes down everything I say.

My dad hates me, I told the judge when I showed him the locket. My Mom told me so.

When I saw my Dad in the courtroom for the first time, I wanted to run to him and hug him. My Mom wouldn’t let me. She held my shoulder real tight. I think I have a bruise now.

The judge wouldn’t let the other men talk. He asked me lots of questions. He even asked me questions about my Mom.

My Mom loves me. She told me so.

The judge asked me who I wanted to live with. I want to live with my Mom and my Dad. But they can’t live together. Not anymore. They loved each other when they made me, but they don’t love each other now.

The judge asked me if I lived with my Dad would he let me visit my Mom. I nodded my head.

The judge thought about that for a long time. Then he told me I could step down and another lady took me back to the room where I had been waiting before.

The room was right next to the courtroom and I could hear Mr. Wilson and Mr. Lucent and Mr. Smith arguing. I heard Mom screaming at somebody.

“You can’t do that!” My Mom screamed so loud I think the windows shook. “You can’t take her away!”

My Dad hates me so much he spent two years and lots of money looking for me.

I held my locket really, really tight and prayed that the judge would send me home with my Dad.

Michael Bracken is the author of three novels, a short story collection, and numerous short stories. His most recent novel is a young-adult romance titled Just in Time For Love.