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Self-proclaimed "powerless dad" whines about how mean his ex is

Your Question:
It has been almost two years that my ex and I have been apart and the power struggle shows no sign of slowing down. We came to an agreement of a parenting plan a year ago after complete compromise on my part and little to none on her part. The year is up and its time to write another plan. Itís all about control it seems.

She has started to refuse to share transportation time with no reason whatís so ever. She refuses to allow our 3 year old son to go away with me for a full week of vacation time with no reason other than he's to young. She wants to have his middle and last name hyphenated to show both our last names in his name.

This doesnít include the several times I have been refused access last minute (day of) with no offer of make up time. Another example was, [my son] was sick around the holidays and his live in nanny was in the Philippines for a month, so alternate day care had to be found. I was not permitted to now the name, number or address of the day care provider. I merely wanted to talk to [my son] to see how he was doing. If he were really bad I would have taken the day off work. Itís sad because in the end this is only hurting [my son].

I am only interested in being the best dad I can be. My ex makes 400k a year to my 80k. My rent is almost as much as her mortgage due to getting a 2 bedroom so [my son] has his own room. I purchase cloths, toys, books, and food. I teach him how to skate, swim and play all the other sports with him. I also am encouraging music by playing the drums with him. I pay my monthly child support as required by law as well as accommodate any changes in scheduling just to try and get along. Yet to her in her own words, ďWhy canít you take responsibility for anything I do everything else".

I constantly remind her that itís in everyoneís best interests that we just try and get along. We both lose our cool once in a while but maintain for [my son]ís sake we continue to try and work together.

She claims she has talked to child physiologists about only 4 days and nights at a time for vacation but wonít provide me of a name so I may make an appointment with the same one to gain a better understanding of why they feel that way. She claims she is making an appointment with a mediator but wonít give me the name so I can call to confirm. She clearly manipulating the control and dragging her feet to get this plan done. No to mention it all is her way or the high way. I have offered several compromises to her suggestions to the plan but only get more demands and less compromise.

My friends and family seem to think that she is giving me a hard time because I have gotten really serious with this beautiful woman over the last year and a half and the ex canít seem to find that happiness. I truly want the ex to be happy and am trying to do what ever I can with out being stepped on to make that happen. Happy ex means- happy child and less power struggle between parents. I am at wits end and losing what little patience I have left with the ex. I have no money for lawyers so I am debating whether or not I should start the court process my self to make sure things move along.

What to do?

Powerless Dad

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing. You're probably not going to get the answer you expected, but it's an answer you need.

At this point, your ex views you as a whiney little annoying mosquito whom she can merely swat at her whim, knowing full well that you'll perhaps buzz a bit but do nothing else. And, of course, she's right...

"Waaa waaa waaa, my ex isn't playing nice, and so I'll whine and moan until she learns to play nice."

Doesn't that about sum up what you wrote to me?

Here's my overall advice: I'm not quite sure where or when you lost them, but it's very important for you to find your testicles (and everything they symbolize).

It's in your best interest to FIND your power, not give it all away. It's in your SON'S best interest to have a MAN as a role model, not a wimp (i.e., lest he grow up to believe it's proper and normal to simply succumb to demanding women).

You haven't quite grasped in that thick, nice-guy skull of yours that a peace treaty is NOT POSSIBLE IN YOUR SITUATION. Your ex has made it very clear that she demands complete surrender (else to be left alone). Unless you agree to complete surrender, you have a battle. This is far from ideal, but IT IS YOUR REALITY. Just as the U.S. would probably have preferred not to invade Iraq, Saddam left no choice but to create a war.

So, the courtroom is your battleground. If you think you're going to win on your charm, morals, pleasantness, and good intent; you will lose. Your ex will be trying to slaughter you. If you don't have a good BATTLE strategy, she WILL probably slaughter you. Her attorney will do his/her best to make you out to be an inadequate father, a loser, and an unreliable guy. That will be the attorney's sole job. You will whine that it's not fair, and you will lose.

I suggest you quit worrying about negotiating, making your ex happy, dating a new beautiful woman, or letting time pass to create peace.

You asked for my advice, and here it is:

  • 1. Find the money (even if it means a loan or credit card debt) to retain a family law attorney who has at least 10 years experience in your city. In southern California, retainers range from $2500 to $10,000, depending upon the complexity of a case and experience of the attorney. I imagine it's similar in your city, maybe a little less.

  • 2. Interview a few attorneys, ideally ones who have been recommended by someone you know. Because your ex has demonstrated NO interest in reasonable settlement, you should be hiring an attorney for litigation skills. Typically, this means someone whose personality is a bit aggressive.

  • 3. Put together a parenting plan that you think is best for your son. Propose it to your ex, give a 10 day time period to accept, and file for a court hearing thereafter. Seek what you think is best.

  • 4. Consider a little bit of counseling (private, don't tell anyone) to help uncover the reasons why you're such a push-over. Any insight you can gain into yourself and your extreme avoidance of conflict will aid you well throughout life, and it will help you model a stronger male figure for your son.

Finally, go to my Recommended Books page and pick out one or two that best speaks to you. You really need to understand how child custody works, because your approach to date has put you at a major disadvantage.

Get strong, develop a solid strategy, and execute. You'll feel empowered, you'll feel better, and it'll give you way better results than your current tactics.

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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