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Never married custodial mother of toddler doesn't want father to have 50/50, mostly due to stepmom

Your Question:
I have written to you once before.

I went to court a couple of weeks ago regarding my son's father wanting joint physical custody 50/50 time. Our attorneys decided to recommend that we go to Conciliation Services and meet with a counselor (for three hours). We both were given a 3 page sheet to fill out, front and back to return on the day we meet the counselor in 3 weeks. The sheet ask for some very basic information and then it gets more into detail as to domestic violence, arrest, drug use etc. It also ask for us to list concerns we have with the other parent in regards to the child being with that parent.

To make a long story short when I met my son's father he told me he was not married. We were together for 5 years (he finally came clean 2 years into the relationship that he was married, he then told me he was getting a divorce. I know I was stupid enough to believe him). When in fact his wife was in NY and they were separted. Well now they are back together. As I stated before on the sheet for the counselor it ask to list concerns regarding the other parent.

My concerns are my son's father and his wife have both been arrested for a domestic dispute (nearly 10 years ago)& he spent a night or two in jail. His wife has violently put holes in the walls of their home (I saw the patch work myself). They have had verbal confrontations on a number of occasions using inappropriate language in front of their children(I have been a witness to these heated arguments) and they have physically fought in front of their children, that one time time their oldest daughter called 911 because she was scared.

My son's father isn't a fighter (a liar but not a fighter and he has never shown any aggression towards me or our child). It has been his wife that has reacted in such rage and is irrational when these incidents have occurred. She has sent my parents a letter degrading me & her husband asking them to keep me away from her husband (I'm 34 years, not a kid anymore & I feel her husband should accept some responsibility for the games he played) and she has called my former employer to obtain information on me. I know those two incidents don't have a barring on custody regarding my son but it does show her immaturity and instability (at least I think so).

I did hit my son's father once. And only ONCE! When I found out he was married and it was not in front of our child.

My main concern is I don't want to come off as being a drama queen but I do have serious concerns that they don't respect their children by acting this way and creating ill memories for them. I don't want my son to experience any of their antics.

Also regarding emotional stability, my son's father tells our son to call his wife MOM (I feel this is very disrespectful, I'm not dead. I take care of our son every day). And my son's father and his wife went to our son's daycare where his wife rude & insulting to the director stating she didn't like the facility and she would never send her children there. She obviously does not know not her boundaries. I spoke with my son's father but he says she has every right. I have remain respectful and did not confront her.

I feel our son is in a very stable envirnoment living with me and it would be an emotional disruption for our child to go back and forth at two years of age.

Should I present this domestic violence information to the counselor? How should I present it without looking like the bitter woman on the side (which I'm not. I have accepted my situation for what it is and have followed the court order to the letter & have been very business like when dealing with my son's father). And should I also state that my son's father STILL IS NOT FOLLOWING COURT ORDERS to pay the correct amount for child support. I feel him not being able to follow court orders is a refelction of his inability to work with me as a parent and undeserving of 50/50 time, which would require even more cooperation from him.

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My Answer:

Thanks for letting me know about your previous question. I went back and read my prior advice to you.

I'll say this for your own introspection. On a 1 to 10 scale of being a drama queen (where the average person is "5", and dead people are a "1"), you sound like a 7.

I think you have some legitimate concerns, and it also seems like you're going to make an issue out of nearly anything wrong this man and his wife do.

The important thing for you to do - sooner or later - is to learn what really matters to judges when deciding on child custody and parenting plans. I suggest that you learn this stuff sooner, by getting a book like this one, written by retired judge James Stewart. This is a relatively quick-read and an excellent overview to child custody issues.

The importance of learning what's relevant is that it lets you hammer on your strongest points, while spending less attention on weaker ones (with regard to what matters to a judge). I know it ALL bothers you, but your opinion is not the most important thing here.

So, let's run down what you have:

  • A single incident of violence ten years ago is irrelevant, particularly if there was no criminal conviction. Drop it.

  • An on-going pattern of punching holes in walls is relevant, so long as you can prove it (i.e., got any good witnesses?). Patchwork on walls is not evidence. Maybe they hung pictures, maybe they had electrical repair, etc. If you can't prove it, drop it.

  • Yelling angrily at the daycare director in front of children is relevant. Doing it privately is probably irrelevant, unless it has an impact on your son's relationship with the daycare provider. If you can demonstrate that you're going to lose your daycare provider due to the stepmom's actions, it's relevant. If you can get an affadavit from the daycare provider as to being fearful for her own safety, it's relevant. If stepmom just made a snide remark, you're being a drama queen. Drop it.

  • If you can demonstrate that the oldest daughter called 9-1-1 recently (i.e., within past year) due to fearing her parents' volatile fighting, it's a bit relevant. But your problem is that it doesn't look like child protective services was called; which would of occurred if the responding police officers felt the children were in danger. So, it's likely not a strong point for you.

  • Dad and stepmom allegedly fight loudly and sometimes with violence. If you can prove it, it's relevant. Proving it means getting objective witnesses (e.g., their neighbors) who testify that they hear screaming all night long and crashes of things being thrown or people shoving each other. Because you're seeking anything on him, I'd suspect that you're exaggerating, and they may fight as much as many other couples. Not ideal, but not relevant to a court.

  • You hit father once. It's just as relevant as the DV incident 10 years ago. And that relevance is zippo.

Let's also look at the fact that you remained in a relationship with a married man. You claim you didn't know at first, but after you found out, you stayed with him for a while. To an outsider, that's the only ingredient necessary to have stepmom (true wife) pitted against unwed mother (the affairee). That will likely be the starting place for a judge, and the judge will take everything with a grain of salt.

I think your best approach is to outline the stability currently in the child's life, insinuate that dad's home is a bit volatile (and give a couple exampes), point out that dad's sense of parental responsibility is questionable given the massive child support arrears already occuring with a toddler, and ask the court not to again disrupt the child's life after the child has already faced such turmoil due to his parents' actions. If you want brownie points with the court, ask that the court make orders for you and dad to attend a co-parenting course. Judges love parents who want to reduce conflict and act like they're working together.

The best advice that I have for you regarding stepmom is to stay out of her way, refuse to engage, and don't make her a target for anything. If you don't fuel her rage, it will likely dissipate (eventually) or move somewhere else. The majority of your email above deals with the stepmother, and that's a sure-fire way to keep her on the warpath against you.

Finally, nobody is going to disagree with you that stepmom sounds like a bit of an emotionally charged, inappropriate person. But it's also important to distinguish that you haven't outlined anything severe enough for a court to really care. So, it's up to you to learn to live with it. Tough assignment, but it's your reality.

Good luck.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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