As a teen mum who hadn’t seen her ex in over a year, Ashley was optimistic about her future — until she realised she’d been well and truly played.
As a teen mum who hadn’t seen her ex in over a year, Ashley was optimistic about her future — until she realised she’d been well and truly played.

‘My shocking divorce discovery’

As Ashley held the positive pregnancy test in her hands, she had no idea how drastically her life was about to change.

Just seconds earlier, she had been an ordinary 18-year-old girl in a failing relationship - now she was going to be a mother.

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"The next few months were filled with doubt and fear," the US woman first wrote on Love What Matters.

"But the moment she was born, nothing else mattered.

"I loved her with all of my heart.

"I knew I would do anything for her. I had no idea at the time that would mean letting her go."

 

Ashley knew she would do anything to protect her daughter. Picture: Ashley Machele
Ashley knew she would do anything to protect her daughter. Picture: Ashley Machele

Shortly after her daughter's birth, Ashley could no longer endure her rocky relationship.

"Long story short, the relationship with her dad didn't work out. After over a year of no contact, I filed for divorce in Utah," Ashley explained.

However, surrounded by a loving community of family and friends, Ashley easily adapted to life as a single mum.

"I assumed the paperwork would be quick and easy since it had been so long since I had even heard from my ex," she said.

"I was completely shocked to find out he had previously filed for divorce without my knowledge and had been granted temporary full custody months before."

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Ashley learned that her ex had moved to the other side of the country and was living in South Carolina.

It was there that he filed for divorce months earlier - with the court granting him custody without Ashley's knowledge.

Ashley had no choice but to fight the court's decision in both states.

"At that point, everything was chaos," she said.

 

 

She had no idea her ex had filed for custody of their daughter. Picture: Ashley Machele
She had no idea her ex had filed for custody of their daughter. Picture: Ashley Machele

 

"But after many hearings, a judge in South Carolina required that I quit my job, terminate my lease, and move within 50km of my ex.

"I couldn't believe this was actually happening. It was my worst nightmare."

So Ashley moved across the country to allow her ex to have their then-18-month-old daughter every other weekend.

"I had to drop my daughter off with strangers," she said.

"My ex's parents were the only ones to meet for pick up and drop off.

"I had to watch my daughter cry and hang onto me each visit - not understanding what was happening or why.

"It was heartbreaking. Why was he even doing this?"

Eventually, Ashley and her ex managed to reach an agreement that allowed her to move back to Utah.

She was so overjoyed to move home that she didn't realise her mistake - as the custody arrangement had been settled out of court, it couldn't be officially enforced.

 

 

The court forced Ashley and her little girl moved across the country. Picture: Ashley Machele
The court forced Ashley and her little girl moved across the country. Picture: Ashley Machele

 

"It led to the most terrible experience of my life: the day my daughter was taken," Ashley said.

"I still remember driving to our meeting location and the panic that started to set in as time went by and no one showed up.

"My knees buckled and I dropped to the ground when she said they weren't coming, and they wouldn't tell me where she was until I saw them in court as my daughter cried in the background.

"I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. I didn't know if I would ever see her again."

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Ashley called the police but they weren't able to help without an order from the judge.

So she drove back to South Carolina and filed an emergency hearing to get her daughter back.

By this time, she had remarried and was raising two more children with her new husband.

But the court wasn't willing to grant her full custody - meaning that Ashley had to fly with her daughter to South Carolina once a month for visitation with her father.

"They didn't want her to miss school, but she had to be at their house by 6pm on Friday," she said.

 

‘I was leaving my husband and other kids to travel’. Picture: Ashley Machele
‘I was leaving my husband and other kids to travel’. Picture: Ashley Machele

 

 

"Sometimes they wouldn't even meet closer to the airport - I literally had to fly across the country and then drive to their doorstep to drop her off.

"It was an impossible situation from the start.

"I was leaving my husband and other kids to travel, and it was usually over a holiday, so I was missing that time with our family.

"It wasn't sustainable."

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As the months dragged by, Ashley couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right with the arrangement.

"My daughter had asked to live with her dad - the answer had always been 'no'," she said.

"My daughter began to manipulate situations and not telling the truth - using both parents against each other.

"I felt like I was fighting for someone who didn't want to even be there.

"For the first time, an overwhelming sense of peace flooded over me.

"I knew it was the right decision for her to live with her dad."

 

Ashley eventually realised her daughter needed to be with her dad. Picture: Ashley Machele
Ashley eventually realised her daughter needed to be with her dad. Picture: Ashley Machele

 

Ashley sees her daughter about once a month. Picture: Ashley Machele
Ashley sees her daughter about once a month. Picture: Ashley Machele

 

Now Ashley's daughter lives with her dad full time, flying back to Utah to see her mum just once a month.

"I miss her every single day," Ashley said.

"I still struggle with feeling taken advantage of.

"I don't get to see her nearly as often as I'd like and we only FaceTime once a week - sometimes not even that.

"She doesn't answer my calls or texts and we struggle with consistent communication.

"Our situation is still difficult and probably always will be! But I know she is where she needs to be.

"She is loved and well taken care of. She's happy!"

- Madeline Cox is a writer and news producer for Kidspot, Australia's leading parenting site

- This story was originally published on Kidspot and was reproduced with permission


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