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Noncustodial mother trying to change custody due to son's poor grades and abusive, manipulative father


Your Question:
Hi!

I have been a NCM for the past five years. I have been separated for seven an a half years and divorced for six years. My case has been extremely hostile. We have been to ocurt over what time I take the kids out of the house ( 10 pm in the summer to pick my husband up from work) to whether or not my daughter would go to girl scout camp with her step-mom on my time without any make up time ( she went, I got no make up time).

For the last five years I have only had the children EOW and half of all summers. This was based on a custody eval that went very badly for me. My husband was thought to be a danger to the children ( he has a clean child abuse record and had lived with the children and I for two years without any court oders or incidences). For over two years the children were not allowed around him without adult supervision. The court finally allowed an evlauation which stated that he was competent to care for them when I was not at home without any supervision. The only reason it was allowed ( in my opinion) is because I was working and my husband was a stay at home dad with our own two children ( he's a great dad and cared for the kids better than anyone else) and I was paying a care giver a dollar more an hour than what I was making at my job when I had my NC kids here. The bite out of my X's child support check prompted the judge to allow the eval which cleared my husband.

After the new order my X turned up the alinenation tatics. My relationship with the NC kids suffered a lot. They were disrespectful and downright rude and claimed to not want to come here for visits. We entered family therapy which helped. My X threatened the therapist with a lawsuit for discussing issues concerning HIS home. The "issue" was which school my son would attend and was raised by the child himself. We ended up going to court over this one and the child ended up going to the school I favored which child claimed to not want to go to. Then the X got really hostile. X went the the school and created such a ruckus that the principal called me and told me it was my fault that the secreatry was in tears becasue of the way the X had acted. I suggested that if the X was disruptive they call the local police. Butthe principal said X had threatened to close down the schoola nd since the school was his life he wasn ot prepared to get on X's wrong side.

He began denying me records ( medical and educational). I had to meet with the guidance counselor and read the permenant records for the kids. I found that X had listed himself as sole custodian. He put three copies of the order which prevented my husband from being with the children in the file, but no copy of the new order which essentially made our homes equal. One school principal even stated to me, "You mean they allow children to live with YOU!" in response to hearing that my NC kids have two half siblings. This woman had never met me before and had not reason ( except what X told her) to think that I could not have children live in my home. Infactt hat is a complete lie.

On top of all this he has neglected to take the children to the doctor's and dentist. He has neglected to get our daughter braces which the orthododtist recommeded a year ago. After nearly a year he decided he'd get a second opinion, which was the same as the first. But still no forward movement on the braces. He does not give our child perscription medicine becasue it was me who recommeded that she see the doc who ordered it and he thinks I paid the guy off to say daughter needs the medicine. He pulled our son out of tutoring recommeded by the school. Prior to the tutoring son's grades were F's. During the tutoring they were A's and B's after he pulled him out they dropped to C's, D's andF's. Our son has a diagnosed LD and dad refuses to support the IEP. He will agree to learning support then tell son, "You don't have to go to the sessions."

The step-mom also is very hostile towards me. She has threatened me over the children's activities. She is over bearing and does all the dicpline at dad's house. Dad plays maryter and the kids feel they have to be there to support him. They lied to a second custody evlauator concerning parent alienation. They said they were happy with dad but son was diagnosed with mild depression which doc attributed to the "situation between the parents".

I have been as cooperative as possible. I have allowed the kids to go to all of the activites dad schedules for my time. Until recently when I had to cut back due to the worsening of the kid's relationship with me. They were treating me like a maid at a hotel. And it was my own falut because I was allowing all these activites and not standing up for my time with them. Dad would not allow compensatory time because, "The court order doesn't say I have to." So now I am very selctive about which activities they may attend on my weekends. My relationship with my kids has improved due to my standing up for my right to be with them.

The children have a very open relationship with me and readily discuss a lot of issues with me. Drugs, friends, politics,boy/girl friend stuff...anything but custody which they refuse to discuss. They merely state they want to stay where they are even thought they admit Step mom is mean and borderline abusive.

She gets migraine headaches alomst every day and the kids are punished if they close a door too hard or otherwise disturb her. Apparently nothing bothers her headaches more than when I call my kids and they are happily telling me about their day. SHe has made them hang up! They are also made ot get off the computer if they are caught IM ing me.

They admit to feeling obligated to thier dad but won't say why. The custody evlautors say there is nothing amiss and no alienation and that they kids would never lie ( even thought they admitted to me that they withheld stuff that would be negatively recieved about dad and SM.).

I have petitioned for a custody modification based on change of circumstances. The opposing attorney wants the kids to talk with the judge. Everyone knows they will say exactly what thier dad tells them too. Their reasoning:We know you will always love us no matter what we do.

In your opinion, is there any way to counter act the negative impact this will have on my case? My kids are 16 and 13 so they are old enough to have what they say taken into account.

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My Answer:
Hi,

Thanks for writing... we have a new winner for longest-ever post to me. You further specified in a subsequent email (not posted) details that your husband has a past filled with crime and addiction issues (but not since you've known him).

I mainly asked you to give me further information so I could get a better sense of whether you're a nut or not, given the situation you're describing. I also wanted to see if you'd take any ownership for your situation, which people with mental health issues may have trouble doing.

So, my reaction is that you seem pretty rational, regardless of any questionable choices you may have made along the way that has led you to your current horrible situation.

You may fit into a category of parents who experience "the perfect storm" of conditions to lead to where you are currently:

  • You left the marital home, which put you at a disadvantage.

  • You never reported any spousal abuse during the marriage, which you now recognize may have hindered you.

  • It sounds like your attorney really sucked during the divorce.

  • You immediately got involved with a man who looks pretty bad to be around kids, at least when seeing his rap sheet.

  • You felt very guilty about the whole thing since you left the marriage (i.e., as you wrote in your other email).

  • You didn't aggressively protect your position for five years.

  • And finally, it sounds like your ex is a real piece of work.

For some reason, evaluators didn't buy your story. The court didn't buy your story. This is either because you are wrong, or because you weren't convincing enough. If you weren't convincing enough, you need to educate yourself on how to present a convincing case via sound arguments supported by strong evidence.

You already have a date on calendar, so there's not much I can do to help you build your case. I agree that the kid failing in school is a huge concern, and probably your biggest argument. But you need to demonstrate that it's because of DAD, and that YOU can be the savior. Given the past rulings against you, I think you're really fighting an uphill battle. It may be the right battle, but I'm just saying it's an extremely tough one.

I suggest that you get three books, if you haven't already. All three are on my Recommended Books page.

The first is "Win Your Child Custody War" by Hardwick. It will help you with big-picture tactics, as well as many details.

The second is "Child Custody A to Z" by White, which will help you build your case through evidence that will be convincing to the judge and any future evaluators, if any.

The third is solely about your relationship with the kids, "Divorce Poison" by Warshak. This provides excellent proactive tactics that can combat lasting effects of alienation attempts. It will help you really understand the dynamics at work here and potentially have greater compassion for the pressures the kids are feelings.

I think the best news of all is that the kids still want to have a relationship with you after seven years of programming against you. No matter what happens in court, no matter how hard their dad tries, the kids are still attached and bonded to you.

Regarding what they tell a judge or evaluator, they may say whatever they have to say, just to survive. But it's not sinking in to the degree that they're hating you. Children who are successfully alienated from a parent will want nothing to do with that parent. So, at least be at peace that the kids love you and if you keep doing what you're doing, that will probably remain.

Finally, you've only got a few more years before the kids are 18. At that point, your nightmare is all over, and you may find that once they truly have a choice in the matter (i.e., outside of both parents' homes), they may get closer and closer to you.

All you can do is your best. Part of doing your best is educating yourself on how to be most effective in family law. Beyond that, you've done all you can, and chances are that your kids will one day know.

Eric





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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