September 30, 2018 at 1:01 pm #18394
Hello! I’m trying to find some answers, but because my situation is not at the extreme end of the spectrum- where it is ‘easily’ identified as a form of mental or emotional abuse- I haven’t been able to find information that seems relevant or that will even give me some direction. Please understand, I’m not looking for legal advice! Taking the legal route is my last resort and I’m trying to avoid it, if at all possible. But I have everything in place if I need to do so, including an attorney who is familiar with my circumstances.
I’m a single mother of two trying to co-parent after divorce. My daughter is 14 and my son is 12, and co-parent is a loose term at this point because both of my kids refuse to go see their dad. It’s a long story, but he ‘disappeared’ from their lives for 3 months (May, June, July of this year) right after the divorce was finalized at the end of April. Their dad and I had been living apart since January, and we had been fairly successful at 50/50 placement until May when he switched positions at his job. He now is wanting things to go back to ‘normal’. What I mean by disappeared is that he works year-round at a resort that is only 13 miles away and decided, unbeknownst to us, to just stay out there with his new 23yo girlfriend (again, we had no knowledge of her or that they were together or anything) when the resort opened for guests in May. There was so much wrong with how he handled the whole situation, but here’s the jist of it: He continues to act in ways that I believe to be harmful to our children and so I can’t, in good conscience, encourage them to reconcile with their dad. I have encouraged them to talk with him, I have brought them to his house, I have tried to get him to schedule regular time each week to see them but he refuses. He wants what he wants when he wants it. And because I won’t force them to do what he wants, he, of course, says that I am keeping the kids from him. Yes, I do believe it to be emotional abuse. But I honestly don’t think he knows that he’s doing it. And he’s definitely not willing to admit to any wrongdoing or mistakes. I know, too, that I don’t handle some things very well… there is so much toxicity between their dad and me that I know I’ve been horrible at following all of the advice about not badmouthing the other parent. (I mean, seriously, how is it a positive to stay silent when your child catches their father in a string of lies and manipulation, calls him out on it, and then hears, “… well, anyway…” as the response?!?!?! Or, when the father, in a desperate attempt to force compliance, says, “son, you don’t deserve to be in hockey this year because you won’t come and stay with me.” Or, when he says, “I’ll pay for hockey when son starts acting like a real son.” -That was in response to the 12yo saying he’d stay with his dad when he started acting like a real dad. Um, who’s 12 and has no control over his parent’s divorce? Who’s 40 and the parent?)
Ugh, trying not to fall into bashing the other parent even now. And I know that’s a problem for me! And I’ve had to apologize to my kids for my reactions.
But here’s the thing- how is it a good thing for me to encourage or force them into a situation that they know has hurt them in the past? And when they can clearly see that he is not willing to face his problems and things aren’t changing at all?
They have been with me full time since May. The positive changes in my daughter are nothing short of amazing. My son, too, is more emotionally stable then I’ve ever seen him. They are both doing better than I’ve seen in a long time. What I’m after are resources- information that deals with this type of situation, how to approach it in a manner that is beneficial for my kids as well as myself, maybe even information about parenting techniques or human development that I might toss their dad’s way? (I’m considering this as an option only because he keeps asking me what to do and how to fix it… although he really doesn’t want to hear what I have to say and immediately makes excuses as to why he’s right. And then we argue. And then the pattern of toxic interaction ensues. And so I have stopped giving any kind of thoughts anymore. But I might be willing to put professional advice or info in his vicinity and then he can do with it what he chooses…)
Sorry so long and confusing, just kind of stuck and seeking new ideas and thought!
Thanks!September 30, 2018 at 4:09 pm #18395
Hey go green mama, thanks for sharing your story. We hope you can find solace here. I was wondering if you have considered family counseling or if you think you he would go? Do you think he would agree? It might be a good step before any legal stuff and might help the kids sort out their feelings also in front of him?October 1, 2018 at 5:00 am #18396
MarleenSpeaksUp, thanks for your reply! I haven’t asked about family counseling, but I have asked him about mediation and he refused to even answer and then told me I need to be the parent and tell the kids ‘what’s what’. I took that as a ‘no’.
I could try it and see what he says… But I’ll have to gear myself up for a few insults before I head into that conversation, so we’ll see.
That kind of makes me nervous though, because I don’t want my kids thinking I condone his behavior or break their trust in me by being willing to put them in harm’s way. (My son is actually frightened by his dad and won’t talk to him or be around him unless I’m there. Their relationship was strained well before the divorce and son had begged me not to leave him alone with his dad.)October 1, 2018 at 10:51 am #18401
Hi GoGreen…uff this is a tough situation and I really feel for you. We also went through a hard divorce process and it was difficult for my kids. I wish I had better advice for you, at the end we had to get lawyers involved because it was the only way we could act amicably. It was unfortunate but there was so much resentment at the end that we had a hard time being civil. I know it doesn’t feel good and hurts you probably as well as the kids and you shouldn’t have to force them into a situation that they know has hurt them in the past. Not to be blunt, but do they even want to see him? Does he want to spend time with them? It is kind of unclear what he wants from this situation (not that it should be his choice – they are his kids after all).
My parents divorced when I was young and when I was growing up my father didn’t want to see me and I didn’t want to see him. My mother talked really bad about him and what happened and this was the main reason because I felt like if he hurt her, then I didn’t want anything to do with him. It did cause some problems later on in life for me as I had relationship issues and kept choosing men that were not good for me. Out of deep insecurities I think. I tried to keep this in mind when I went through my divorce but their father was so mean, was having an affair, and wanted to see the kids “on his terms”. Sorry sir..but it isn’t like that!! Luckily I had some strong family support who was able to talk and help with the kids while we went through the legal stuff and now he has visitation every 2 weeks. The kids still don’t really like going there at first, but then they start to have a good time. We couldn’t stay together just for their sake, which is actually better because kids need their mom to be happy and healthy in order to take the best care of them. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup, I try to always remember that. You are doing a good job mama! Just keep your eyes on the big picture, reach out to family support if you can, and keep doing the right thing. If you need to talk, we are here for you!October 1, 2018 at 9:43 pm #18410
Jessica, Thanks for your reply! And I really appreciate that you shared your experiences from both perspectives. To answer your question- no, neither of the kids wants to see their dad. And just like you mentioned, he wants to see them on his terms- whenever it’s convenient for him, which means no advance notice and sporadic. He’s badgering them every time he sees or talks to them now, repeatedly asking when they are going to start going to stay with him again, instead of addressing their concerns or even simply just enjoying the time together (in whatever form- my son won’t even answer the phone when his dad calls). My daughter brought up something just today that made me sad but proud at the same time… she said, “Mom, even if we started staying with him, it would be just like it always was, nothing would change.” And in that moment, the way she made that statement, I saw so much hurt and vulnerability and resignation and wisdom, too, even. This little girl who wanted to be daddy’s girl but was never quite important enough to him. This teenager who was going to show everyone that she was strong enough to not let rejection affect her. This breakdown of their relationships had begun years ago, way before the divorce.
Both kids now have a sense of consistency in the household that they have never really experienced before, ever. It’s almost visible relief. And it is positively affecting all aspects of their lives. My roommate-recently-turned-boyfriend (who was so very cool and asked the kids first if they were okay with him asking me out!!) has provided a sense of stability for them, as well as being a caring male role model- all without any pretense of acting like a parental figure, so it’s been really great.
While I’m not actively keeping them from their dad (and I never would), I am not willing to push them to go back into that environment, that is still so very stressful and was taking its toll, especially when I see how much happier and healthier they are now. He’s just gotta realize no one else can fix this except him.
Ugh, if I got paid for how much I blabber on, I’d be a freakin’ millionaire! Thanks for the support and for sharing your thoughts!!February 9, 2019 at 9:55 am #19501
Hey guys, I am a little stuck on what steps I should take for my situation and/or what rights I have. In November 2017 my ex wife left my step son with me a week before thanksgiving and never returned. I never called CPS on her because I wasn’t sure if that was considered neglect. She is a long time drug addict and has been in and out of rehabs and jail. Just in this past year and 3 months she was in jail twice I believe and has only come around to a few of his soccer games last year and visited with him through her parents after the games which were saturdays. It only lasted a short period of time. Before me and her got together she had a custody agreement with her mother while she went to “rehab” that gave her mother majority custody and gave her only visitations every other weekend. Her mother had custody for a year or 2 before me and her got together and then her mom gave him to us. We got together in 2013 and married in 2016. He was in our care in the summer of 2014 and on. I have been caring for this child alone everytime she got locked up or went to rehab and when we separated when she left in 2017. Everytime she goes to jail she contacts my step son telling him she’s going to come visit him and he’s going to come live with her when she gets out. He has been through a lot with her addiction that he doesn’t need to continue to go through. He goes to weekly therapy and everytime she comes back into his life and leaves again it sets him back negatively in many ways. He becomes stressed about her getting out of jail and then excited when his grandparents just decide to bring her around without talking to me about it and then he gets stressed out and angry when she disappears again and he acts out towards me at home. It’s a constant viscous cycle he is still being put through all the time while she suffers no consequence of abandoning her son. All the while she just thinks it’s ok to continue this. I feel as if me and him are stuck in this spot not able to move forward from this chapter. So my question is, if I would have called CPS would they have been able to do anything being that I’m his step parent and he was left in my care? Can I still call? I’m looking to get a divorce but if I were to do that first would that leave me with no rights to him? Can I file for emergency custody? Who do I file against, her, her mother, or both? (Due to the custody order between them) Is this even the right place to be asking this stuff? I’m just stuck on what to do, what my rights are, where to begin, and lawyers are expensive when the money goes to the bills and the kid. So if anyone has any advice or can help in anyway, I would greatly appreciate it.
Just a confused and concerned mom
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