I didn’t know anything about the circumstances of my second husband’s divorce when I first met him.

After that first meeting, I remarked to my mother, half-jokingly, “I’d better know the story, if I’m going to marry him.”

My first marriage had ended after a year, leaving no children. Menachem had been married for longer, and had a three-year-old son who was living with his ex-wife.

My mother knew only the most basic details of the split. “The problems started, apparently, after the baby was born. His ex-wife suffered from postpartum depression, and her parents decided that her husband was to blame.”

When my parents looked into the shidduch, they didn’t hear any of the spiteful rumors that Menachem’s former in-laws had spread about him. All they heard was that his former in-laws were difficult people who forced their daughter to get divorced, and spread nasty rumors about their former son-in-law.

The first I heard about the vicious, year-long court battle that preceded Menachem’s get was when I was married for barely a few weeks and Menachem’s sister mentioned to me that there had been a terrible story prior to the get.

When I asked Menachem about this, he didn’t want to tell me anything. “It’s lashon hara, Perri,” he asserted. “There’s no toeles in discussing it.”

After a few days, however, he saw that it was bothering me that I was in the dark, so he asked a sh’eilah and was told that he could tell me briefly what had happened.

The story was terrible indeed. The beis din had granted him visitation rights every other weekend, plus Yamim Tovim after his son, Shimmy, would reach the age of seven. But his former in-laws claimed he was mentally unstable and dangerous to the child, and insisted on supervised visitation only. Menachem and his parents had refused to accept this condition, both for the sake of their relationship with Shimmy and in order to clear Menachem’s name.

The case dragged through beis din and then through the courts for over a year, during which time Menachem did not see Shimmy at all. When Menachem insisted on being able to see his son unsupervised as a condition for giving a get, his former in-laws hired goons to assault him — in front of Shimmy. It was the talk of the town, and a huge embarrassment to his in-laws, who subsequently acquiesced to the beis din’s custody terms.

At that time, the police told Menachem that he could file for full custody. “The mother’s compliance in this violent incident shows that she is an incompetent parent,” they told him.

But Menachem hadn’t wanted to do that. He felt that his ex, Gila, wasn’t the problem — her parents were the problem, and he didn’t think it would be good for Shimmy to be separated from his mother. So he sufficed with a weekly visit with his son, communicating with Gila exclusively through an intermediary.

Then Gila remarried a man from Canada. At that point she requested that the terms of the agreement be changed so she could leave the United States with her son and her new husband. This meant that Menachem would have to give up most of his visitation rights, but he was not about to deny his ex-wife the opportunity to remarry. He agreed that she could move, on condition that she send Shimmy to visit him twice a year, for half of Pesach and Succos, from the time he turned seven.

Menachem was not planning to have me meet Shimmy for a while after our wedding, to give us time to gel as a couple, but I was actually excited to meet Shimmy, and I told Menachem that I wanted to see him at the first opportunity. On Pesach, a month after we got married, we saw Shimmy a couple of times. The first time, we took him to an amusement park, and the second time, after Yom Tov, I baked cookies with him. I took an immediate liking to Shimmy, and he felt comfortable with me as well — even more comfortable than he felt with Menachem, who by then was basically a stranger to him.

During the next few years, we saw Shimmy a couple of times a year, usually over Pesach or during the summer. Then, finally, Shimmy turned seven. We had a couple of children by then, and we were looking forward to having Shimmy spend part of Yom Tov with our family.

But Gila said no.

“What do you mean?” we asked. “We signed an agreement that from the age of seven he’d spend half of Yom Tov with us!”

Gila was too nervous, the intermediary told us. Apparently, it meant nothing to her that Menachem had given up his weekly visitation rights so she could move out of the country. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 659)