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Separated father made a bad choice in his unstable ex; he now has complicated situation with stepkids and biological child

Your Question:
I am starting divorce process. We have been married for 6 years. When I married her she had four children, already. We had a fifth child. When we married/met (short engagement) her oldest son was seven and was a ward of the court. She had just gotten back custody of her four year old daughter and three year old son. She had just had a baby girl when I met her. I even saw the baby girl in the hospital. She was pregnant with my son two months later. The youngest daughter has a different father than the older three siblings.

The first three children were taken from her and their biological father after abuse and neglect was found to be happening. The biological father is no longer around and there is little chance that he ever will be. When I met her, I was under the impression that she had not done any of the acts that the children were taken for and that the state was just abusing her because (insert any large number of excuses here). I later found that she was severely neglectful and abusive. The state did study myself when I entered the picture and found me to not be a risk. She was never able to gain custody of her eldest son due to his issues that developed during his extreme abuse that he endured growing up. When I met her she was participating in parenting classes and made me believe that they were because they were ordered in the past but continued because she liked them. Needless to say, she knew all the right ways to parent and so I tended to believe that she had not done the things that were being said that she had done.

I began helping her straighten out her life. I cleaned the severely dirty home up and started cooking healthy meals for the kids. I moved them into better living environment. For the next three years I did most of the parenting. We then started to get a divorce and she made a false abuse charge against me that I had harmed my youngest son. It was found to be false and later she asked me to try our marriage again. During the next three years she became more controling of the kids' affairs but I spent the majority of the time with them while she worked many hours and I was going to school. Just as I was graduating from school she then served me with a protection order claiming that I was harming my step-children. That order was dropped by her after the police investigated and were prepared to state that there was no abuse. We stopped the divorce process that I again started in order to hopefully get an agreement on custody, due to the fact that I refuse to continue living in a situation were this seems to be a common threat.

I was asking her to allow me to have a week on - week off custody agreement for all of the kids because they have known me as daddy for as long as they have known how to say daddy pretty much. She fought this because she did not want my step-kids to be in any of the court papers and that she would never keep them away from me anyway. Things have gotten to be bad between us and she has the kids either believing that I have done something wrong or just telling them that they are not allowed to see me. She claims that she hasn't, but there was a sudden change in their behavior around me.

The youngest girl does hve her biological dad in her life and there is a custody agreement that is in place where he has every other weekend and some evenings with her. She is very happy with two fathers and her biological father loves her dearly, even though he has limited skills as a parent. I would not have any issue with keeping his arrangment in place, especially since it has to be that way. But I also believe that he is very important to her life.

Their mother has not done any major physical violence since I have been in the picture. She has a long history of mental instability though. She has used mental games to manipulate the children in the past and has a history of lying to judges. I have no doubt that she is lying to the kids now in order to convince them to say they do not want to be around me. Two weeks ago, they couldn't seem to get enough time with me and this week they hardly can look at me when I come around.

I don't know what to do. Can I force visitation while waiting to go to court. Can I get some sort of child welfare worker to intervene in their mental abuse. I am going to try to get custody of the kids, but with step-children I am thinking that I may be asking for the impossible considering that I can't prove severe abuse. Really, the only abuse is mild neglect and mental abuse. She does have a history of doing things like stealing. Once before I met her and once while we were seperated. The time that she stole someones purse while we were seperated she went through some program to have it not put on her record. I have some of her mental evaluations from eight years ago that say how dangerous she potentially may be to the kids in stressful situations, but will a judge care about something so old. Can I get someone to evaluate her knowing all of this past information. If she went to a counselor without them knowing the past she would most likely be able to put on a very good face. She told me that she is getting treatment for her problems of lying and abuse and neglect issues but I don't think that this is true. I love all of my kids dearly; I would hate for them to loss me. The court records told of slim chances of them growing up successfully and I gave them the structure in their lives to prove that to not be true. I don't think that their mom can continue this for them. Even if I only have them for every other week, I believe that they will have a much happier and successful life.

Any advice?

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing.

I know you spent a great deal of time writing that out, and I can sense how difficult this is for you.

That said, I'm going to give a pretty short response and guide you to three resources that you should start reading and reviewing in every spare minute you have. They will answer the tons of questions that I'm sure you have.

Yes, you should get some temporary orders on seeing the kids, but those temporary things have a way of becoming permanent eventually in family law. I have no idea of your financial resources. However, in your situation, a thorough custody evaluation is your best shot. You want psychological evaluations done as part of that. You're going to need an attorney-- an aggressive one for your situation. I would suggest that you also hire an experienced investigator who has spent a good deal of time in child custody cases, to start putting together the mother's background.

Resource #1 that I recommend is a website called BPD Central. It sounds like your ex displays many of the symptoms of a personality disorder. Educate yourself about that.

Resource #2 is the most important book you'll purchase during your child custody proceedings: Win Your Child Custody War by Hardwick. I have a link to it on my Recommended Books page. You can pick up a copy for $70, and it will help you understand how to tackle the huge challenge in front of you. Some things in family law are extremely important, and some are not. It's critical that you understand each of those areas.

Resource #3 is a book that will help you take proactive steps against the mother's attempts to turn the kids against you. It's excellent and will help you understand what conflicts are being instilled within the kids, along with what you should be doing to help them-- which, of course, helps your relationship with them. Divorce Poison by Warshak is in my Recommended Books page.

Finally, start carrying around a microcassette recorder whenever you're going to be near your ex. If trouble starts, whip out the recorder and start recording. It'll either immediately diffuse the situation or you'll capture the exact conversation that transpires.

You have a very long road ahead of you, one that may take a couple years before you really start to see things start to improve for yourself and your kids. If you do it half-assed, you will likely fail. This is one of those things where we wonder at night why we were chosen for such a difficult path, but during the day we have no choice but to make every effort to our best ability.

I've given you very important advice on how to educate yourself about this process. I'm happy to be here for further guidance and any words of strength I can provide. But you owe it to yourself to commit yourself to this, and it sounds like there is no one else in the world besides you who can give these kids a shot at not becoming messed up adults.

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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