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Recently separated mother wonders how to stop father's volatile and harassing behavior

Your Question:
the current situation is that I left my soon to be ex husband four months ago and moved out. In haste I decided that 50:50 custody would be OK. THe minute he got wind that I was dating someone else he went ballistic and I had to get a new lawyer and a restraining order. Per the advice of my lawyer the restraining order was modified to a no stalk no harass order. Unfortunately he continues to violate the order but flies under the legal radar (i.e. state he has a private investigator on me with video, recordings, etc). He has made false allegations with CPS and has called my employer anonomously with more false allegations to have me fired (thank God they are understanding and realize that he is full of crap). Now we are to return to the court after his failed attempt of getting a restraining order against me. The child custody mediator feels that he ossilates from angry and hurt to rationale and that it will most likely pass. We are trying to modify the 50:50 just for a change in days of the week. I really think he suffers from a personality disorder (and my lawyer and the child custody mediator eluded to this to) but is very costly to prove b/c the evals are 5-6 grand per person and we would both have to submit to one. I really feel like no one is taking this seriously and everybody is out to get paid when is all is said and done.

MY QUESTION, finally...what do I do to keep him from his continued harrassment, especially he verbal abuse during our exchanges. He yells, threatens me, and screams out "slut" in front of our two year old son. I have the option of leaving out of state and I am wondering if it would better for me to leave and have him stop this madness. please advise

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My Answer:

I have a few comments, along with some suggestions.

Is it unusual to start dating immediately after leaving a marriage? I find it unusual. Maybe it's normal. In any event, if you were already thinking about dating when you left "in haste", and he had no clue that you were planning a separation, I could understand that he'd be extremely angry and hurt. When some people are angry and hurt, they lash out to varying degrees. It doesn't necessarily mean that he has a mental illness. He may, but just because he's extremely hurt, it ain't a good time to be treating him like he's his normal self.

Enough said on that.

Let's also recall (for the sake of readers who may not have gotten this point) that you voluntarily agreed for the father to have custody 50% of the time. At the time you left, you felt the father was stable enough and healthy enough to take care of the child half the time. If you didn't feel that way, you'd have to admit that you willingly put the child in harm's way. So, that decision has really put you in a pickle right now.

I put in bold a very important point you made. Yes, the system has evolved to a place where lawyers refer clients to evaluators who refer clients to counselors and classes and who feed information back to a judge who schedules future hearings. And the more hearings there are, the more the lawyers get paid. The evaluators don't want to shoot themselves in the foot (with future referrals), so they generally don't make any extreme recommendations. The attorneys don't want to shoot themselves in the foot (with colleagues and judges), so they don't take any extreme actions on behalf of their clients. In the end, everyone gets paid.

So, it becomes up to YOU to make a case that a judge can't ignore. It's up to YOU to gather evidence and manage your attorney as a hired gun, not as your leader. It's up to YOU to learn what most matters in child custody decisions.

I suggest you go through an exercise where you specify every single behavior he has been doing that has a negative impact on your child or your ability to support your child.

Next to each behavior, write what witness or piece of evidence will prove that the behavior is occurring. If you're missing any evidence, think about how to get it.

The first, easiest, and perhaps wisest thing to do is to write your ex a certified letter, cc your attorney, and advise him that you may be audio recording any conversation that you have with him in the future. If he thereafter chooses to talk with you, it's his implied consent to be recorded (regardless of how he responds to your letter).

Then, purchase a little microcassette recorder that you can carry in your hand, purse, etc. If concealed in a pocket or purse, test it first to check the sound quality.

For each exchange, start recording right before you see him, announce the time, date, and place. If he starts something with you or calls you names, you simply say, "It's inappropriate to talk like this in front of our child."

You may also wish to bring a witness (not a boyfriend) who can later testify as to what occurred.

After you get a few such exchanges recorded, you'll have enough evidence to force a court to make orders about how exchanges occur.

If everything is as bad as you're saying, within a few times back to court (with solid evidence each time; not just he-said-she-said), you'll likely see a judge annoyed enough to strip Dad of much of the custodial time, make more severe orders, and take care of the problem for you.

If the father has a mental illness, nothing will fix it. If the father is acting out of anger, it will eventually dissipate; especially when he realizes it's costing him his child.

I don't view moving away as the solution. To deal with this sort of stuff from a long distance would be even more stressful (e.g., father doesn't return child). I think you're trying to run away from your problems (and I HOPE the move-away thought isn't due to a long-distance boyfriend).

Ideally, greater restrictions and slaps from a judge will encourage the father to settle down and you two can then peacefully raise this child.

Bottom line... you owe it to your kid to try hard (i.e., at least for the next year) to stabilize the situation before you think about ripping Dad away from him.

It's not easy. But if you approach this with awareness about how to manage a child custody case, you'll have greater sanity and eventually have greater peace.

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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