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Is this Parental Alienation Syndrome? What can we do about it?

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
Is this Parental Alienation Syndrome? My stepdaughter's been starting to think for herself, and rebel against her Mother in many of these ways, but it's making things worse, making her Mother more aggressive towards our side of the family. We can't afford to go to court or family counceling at this point, and her Mother cn't see her daughter's needs from her own. What can we do about it in our own home? How can we help my stepdaughter (and the rest of us!) get through this?

1. My stepdaughter's Mother has turned off the phone on occasion, including my stepdaughter's birthday, two years in a row, so that my Hubby cannot call. My son and I are not "allowed" to talk to my stepdaughter on the phone- if we do, and my stepdaughter gets "caught", the phone call is cut short and my stepdaughter is told how "sad" her Mother is that she wanted to talk to us, when we're "not even family".

2. My Hubby is occasionally told about events in my stepdaughter's life, but it is a known, and much visited fact, that my son and I are not "allowed" to attend any event. My stepdaughter has been told that school, daycare, camp and Religious events are for "family only" (which has included her Mother's boyfriends), and since my son and I aren't "real family", we shouldn't be coming, and also, if we do come, my stepdaughter knows not to acknowledge us, or if absolutely neccesary, to barely acknowledge us, because to acknowledge us, would make her Mother sad and "think she loves US more than HER."

3. My stepdaughter has been told that she has to go to her Dad's, or her Mother will go to jail, and her Mother is sad, depressed and worried, the entire time she's with us. My stepdaughter has said, she doesn't know if her Mother "is okay" when she's at our house.

4. My stepdaughter's Mother talks about and shows disrespect of me, my son and occasionally my Hubby to my stepdaughter.

5. My son and I are either not acknowledged or my stepdaughter is told how we're wrong/bad/or me trying to "steal" her.

6. My stepdaughter is two different children, depending on which house she's at. She's said so herself. She's only 8.

7. My stepdaughter knows she needs to cry and get upset, for her Mother's sake, when it's time to come to our house. The same goes with phone calls, which usually consists of 10-15 minutes of her Mother asking what we're doing, what she's eaten, what she's wearing, is she sad she's not "at home" and "are you sure you're okay there?, but my stepdaughter's back to normal the moment she hangs up.[/I]

8. My stepdaughter's Mother does not allow her to talk on the phone with me or my son. If she does and gets caught, she gets in trouble for wanting to talk to us, and guilted, because she must not love her Mother, then.

9. "I am not sure I will be able to afford to send you to camp because Daddy won't give me the money for it.", "I saved up for a long time to bring you to Disney World. Daddy doesn't bring you anywhere for vacation because he doesn't want to.", "Daddy left us for his new family and now his new family is trying to take you away from me." This is the language my stepdaughter's Mother speaks with my stepdaughter.

10. When we do have my stepdaughter for a week vacation, at dropoff, even if my son and I am standing right there, my stepdaughter is asked, "Did you have a good vacation with Daddy?" The same goes with dropoff with visits. Now, we're not "allowed" to get out of the car if we're there for dropoff.

11. The my stepdaughter's Mother tells her many of the details of the ongoing conflict, financial problems and possible legal proceedings.

12. My stepdaughter's Mother blames my Hubby and I for changes in life style, any current hardships, and her negative emotional state.

13. We've been accused of neglect, and it's been hinted at that, when my son gets older, we must be careful that "he doesn't try something" with my stepdaughter. I fear that she may use that in the future if she wants something. She can mess up my son's entire life if she does that.

14. My stepdaughter knows how she must act and say she feels about me, my son and her Dad, in her Mother's presence. She must not show any excitement about seeing us or anything we do with or for her (example- happiness about any gift for brithday or Christmas) and she must appear very upset that she has to come to our house and act like she's having a rotten time when her Mother calls. If not, she is betraying her Mother. This includes all extended family on our side, with the exception of my Grandmother. For some reason, my stepdaughter's Mother absolutely ADORES my Grandmother.

15. My stepdaughter is allowed to talk negatively or disrespectfully about our side of the family. This is encouraged greatly, but to my knowledge, my stepdaughter is beginning to rebel against it.

16. She uses my stepdaughter as a messenger or a spy. Not with her Dad- it goes past him, directed at me. Example- "My Mom says you can't come to my Open House because you're not my parent." or "My Mom says I have to tell her you don't blowdry my hair after my shower."

17. She asks my stepdaughter to lie to her Dad. It happens alot, but there's an unfortunate loophole- "My Mom said I can't tell Daddy that she didn't make me wear my seatbelt."- and then I've got to say something to my Hubby.

18. She nfringes on the my Hubby's time with excessive phone calls or scheduled activities. There are usually three, four phone calls a day, to see if my stepdaughter is "okay". Birthday parties, special outings (with just her and her Mother) and even extracurricular activities that have options for which days she can go (example, choosing to sign her up for Religion class on Sundays, instead of having her brought there after school on the bus on Tuesdays, while her Mother's working anyways) , all seem to get scheduled on my Hubby's time. And then she can go "if Daddy lets you".

19. My stepdaughter is made to feel she's the sole reason for her Mother's happiness and her Daddy and I "take her away from her Mom", causing her Mother great sadness.

20. I'm "THAT WOMAN" to her Mother, and my stepdaughter is only allowed to refer to me as "Daddy's Wife", because "Stepmother" has "Mother" in it and I'm NOT her Mother. However, if she ever remarries, my stepdaughter has been told that, she'd then have "two Daddies".

21. She listens in on my stepdaughter's phone conversation with us, partly to make sure my stepdaughter isn't talking to me or my son, parly so that she can ask questions, change answers, and orchastrate the conversation.

22. She encourages my stepdaughter to pretend that me and my son does not exsist and that she doesn't really need a Dad, but she can't live without her Mom. All parenting things are for "the Mother" and the only reason she has to talk to Daddy about it is, "the court makes her". She's not allowed to mention me or my son at all in her Mother's precense.

23. She rewrites history. She pumps my stepdaughter for information, and then uses it to make up stories. And example is, one day my Hubby really yelled at my son good and got in his face, to get his attention. (Not the usual occurance in our house, but it does happen once in a while- my son is a very trying child and can push a saint to the limits sometimes.) My stepdaughter mentioned it to her Mother and it was suggested that my stepdaughter must be careful so that nobody yells at her and gets in her face or even hits or abuses her- she must be on her guard at our house, so that she can stay "safe".

24. Everything me or my son does, and many of the things my Hubby does, is wrong. An example is, last summer, my stepdaughter wasn't paying attention, stepped off the curb to cross the street, and stepped right in front of an oncoming car. She was walking with my son, me and my Hubby were maybe 40 feet behind. My son grabbed her arm and yanked her backward, possibly saving her life. When the story got back to her Mother, my Hubby and I were "neglecting her" (letting a 7 year old walk ahead of the adults with her 13 year old brother?) and my son apparently hurt her arm, twisting it as he pulled her backwards (no mention of hurting her arm until she was alone with her Mother, and even if he did, isn't it better than getting run over by a car?). Nothing we do is good enough and it gets turned around by my stepdaughter's Mother in a negative way.

25. No credit for the "good" things we do. An example is, a couple years ago, my stepdaughter forgot something that was very dear to her at our house, a stuffed animal she slept with every night of her life. My Hubby thought she'd be okay, but I insisted to that we bring it right to her, so we did. When we got there, my stepdaughter's Mother came our of the house to get it. My Hubby told her the story, gave me full credit. Her Mother stood there, in front of us, thanking my Hubby profusely for what "HE" did and refusing to believe that I did anything more than come along to annoy her with my presence. To this day, my stepdaughter still believes that her Mother had to go track it down at our house and then DADDY found it for her, because that's the story she was told.
post #2 of 43


there are a lot of websites out there you can check out for more information, for example
http://family-law.lawyers.com/visita...-Syndrome.html


as to what you can do it about it, i honestly don't know. my sister's ex has used every means possible to alienate their son from her (including denying her access for 3 1/2 years) and their daughter (whom she is allowed to see periodically). she finally this week only, after years and tens of thousands of dollars, found a judge who listened to her and gave her a police enforceable clause for access to her daughter.

dealing with the rest, there really is no easy way. i would comb through all the sites i could find for information until you find something you can use with your own family.

good luck.
post #3 of 43
First off please protect your son and his friends. Never leave him alone with your stepdaughter. As you said one alligation can put your son accused for ever.

Your husband needs to grow a back bone-- document and be honest with his daughter. Please do something now. The longer you wait the harder it will be. After a while your sd might start believing the lies. Also, on your visits -- unplug the phone. She can call and leave a message on your cell phone. She isn't alinating your dh but you and your son. Have your sd call once a day and that is it. If she has e-mail maybe teach your sd how to and you can then watch/monitor what she gets in your house.

As for the religous classes if she wants her dd to have them she needs to have them on her day/s since it is an obtion. Make sure your dh lets his dd know that he doesn't believe that way and that is why he doesn't support the classes. Also have your dh ask the church to change them or sd won't be there.

Birthday/weddings/funerals (ARE NOT HER FAULT) and you have to deal with them. It would be nice if she would let you know but...(don't blame her or deny your dsd). Your dh can take her to most of these things . Have her before or after. Go to any or all other scheduled activities. If mom signs her up for swim class take her! Go! Your sd has a right to these things. And dad needs to be there. If she is over scheduled then fight or deny but being honest with child. Have dh speak up saying he thinks swim, baseball, and dance is to much. If she does Girl Scouts (or xyz) during the week be involved and make sure she gets to the week end functions. Accept some activties will take up your weekends but your sd should be allowed these things and be involved in them.

I know your dh doesn't want to get police involved but if she isn't there for pick up do call. This will help document. Don't bring sd back early in these sitautions. Also if she plans something on dh week end --"Oh your mom must have made a mistake it is our weekend. I am sure she will rescedule it for you for another weekend". "I don't know why she keeps forgetting." Dh needs to say "You knew this was my week end. Guess you will have to do it next weekend with your mom". Don't let the ex minipulate her because dh doesn't want to see his daughter sad or missing something special. Your sd doesn't know that these special outings can be rescheduled or scheduled differently. Let the ex eat the cost. When it happens often enough and your dh lets it slip that she could have bought tickets for XYZ on any of these days your ds will catch on (or other senerios -- "oh the xyz was from then to then, guess your mom forgot to schedule better). Also be very sympathetic to your sd, "You must be sad that you can't go with your mom. I bet you wish she would have planned better. I am sad that you couldn't do XYZ but I/we are glad to have you the little time we do." If your ex comes to early for pick up deny her--if need be call the police. Be sorry that mom forgets the rules. Your sd knows some of them already.

Also tell your dh not to compete with mom. It is hard to do when mom is always trying to one up.

The only thing that didn't both me was about blow drying her hair. That is something you might not know.


I would also think a video camera might be something you would want to consider. Not to purposely catch your dsd behavior with mom or telling you things mom say but at the same time it will be caught and help with your documentation.

Please understand this is very hard on your dsd. You need to nip it in the butt now. It becomes harder and more confusing. I have friends that are going through this now with an older child. They seriously thought they were doing their child the best by not stirring the pot earlier. Now that mom burnt the pot and the dd is angrier at everyone.
post #4 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marsupialmom View Post

I would also think a video camera might be something you would want to consider. Not to purposely catch your dsd behavior with mom or telling you things mom say but at the same time it will be caught and help with your documentation.
my sister considered this but as far as we know it would not be accepted as evidence unless you have consent from all parties being taped.
post #5 of 43
"Please do something now. The longer you wait the harder it will be."


: Honesty is the way to go. And from what you describe, your dsd is not exactly being sheltered from the situation right now. She knows that she has to produce tears from mom at dropoff. She knows that she has to pretend not to love you and your ds. She knows, in short, that she is two different kids - the kid at your house who gets her needs met, and the kid at mom's house who is responsible for meeting mom's needs.

So, without drama on your end, start telling the truth. "We're going to call mom once per day, and use speakerphone here in the kitchen, because we know that she says things sometimes that make you feel bad about being here and that is not OK with us." If the ex doesn't care to speak where the whole family can hear, oh well, she can talk to dsd when she gets home. (Obviously this may change as your dsd gets older and feels she can handle her mom's spiel without outside help.)

Every.single.time. dsd says something about you not being "family," or if ex says it in front of you, correct the misimpression. "That is not true. We are all part of your family and we all love you very much. I am sorry that you mom doesn't agree, but I am your stepmother and ds is your stepbrother and we are part of your family." Lather, rinse, repeat. Let ex yell her head off if that's the result - but YOU don't yell and YOU don't bring negative emotion into it - only positive vibes towards dsd.

A million little things will help, and will make dsd feel supported and validated as she tries to navigate the craziness of living with her mom (remember, you experience this bs secondhand, she LIVES with it). Attend school events. Introduce yourself to teachers, coaches, etc. If ex throws some sort of public fit about it, be politely confused and continue introducing yourself. At pickup/dropoff, get out of the car. When ex throws a fit, again, you are politely bewildered. Pretend you are dealing with somebody who is mentally ill and has outbursts. You wouldn't get enraged, but you wouldn't give in to their irrational demand that you get back in your car, either!

No more missing time because ex scheduled something, and no covering for ex! Again, a nice calm "I don't know why your mother scheduled X during our weekend with you. I will remind her that our weekends this coming month are Y and Z, and hopefully she won't forget again." Lather, rinse, repeat. Never get visibly angry and never back down.

The thing with bullies is, once you stand up to them, they very often back down. Normally I'd say that final responsibility for fixing this situation rests with the bioparent, but really, it's YOU she's bullying. I think you might be the only one who can successfully change the dynamic. Where you dh would have to take the lead is if she started missing dropoffs, etc. and he needed to file a formal complaint.
post #6 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by mandib50 View Post
my sister considered this but as far as we know it would not be accepted as evidence unless you have consent from all parties being taped.
I am not talking sneaking. I am talking about general play and video recording in their home. My son is 14 and has a video camera (cheap one)....oh the accidental behaviors we have caught and ignore. He likes to make movies.

I am not saying rush to get the camera when mom calls but if it happens to catch the call it does. If the 13 year old happens to catch a call and the behavior so be it. If not it is no big deal.

Also if they do let bio-mom know she is being taped then she might behave her self. Or make an arse out of herself on tape. It does never hurt to check your state laws.

As I said I do have a friend that is going through this. The now 16 year old gave old video of her mom being "bad" (bad mouthing, minipulating, et) to her dad. Since at the time of the taping the mom was a will participate it could be used. The mom's lawyers tried to use part of a clip but when you played the full 5 minutes use see the 30 sec. snippet wasn't what it appeared. This 16 yrold did it on her own free will and idea. There is a long back story.


****
OP, also keep vioce messages from your cell phone.

*****
Smithie said what I wanted to with a lot less words. Go and let the mom make an arse out of herself. Always be polite and act dumbfounded.
post #7 of 43
we use to bring a digital audio recorder for kid switch, we were told that in a custody/visitation evaluation the guardian ad litem would listen to them and even though it never got to this point it made us feel better to have the information
post #8 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
First off please protect your son and his friends. Never leave him alone with your stepdaughter. As you said one alligation can put your son accused for ever.
We do. We have to. We shouldn't have to live in a state of seige like that.

Quote:
Your husband needs to grow a back bone-- document and be honest with his daughter.
He has a backbone and he is honest with his daughter, but there really is a fine line between "standing up for himself and his family" and "toeing the line because his Ex is vindictive enough to take his daughter away from him and her side of the family has the money and the lawyers to do it if they really want to. I honestly can't say I wouldn't do the same thing, if it meant permanently losing my son.

Quote:
After a while your sd might start believing the lies. Also, on your visits -- unplug the phone.
That's the weird thing- she's been rebelling against her Mother so much (mostly when she's at our house, which puts us in the middle) that her relationship with her Mother is crap right now. It bothers me that she's losing her relationship with her Mother because her Mother won't let her have a relationship with everyone else. I'm not sure my stepdaughter believes very much of anything her Mother tells her these days- she talks very scornfully and disrepectfully about her Mother, expecially when it's just me and her. (Alot of the back and forth is designed to go under my Hubby's radar. "Girl language", as I tell my Hubby.

Quote:
She can call and leave a message on your cell phone.
My Hubby's cell phone. Repeatedly. My stepdaughter is "trained" to ask who's calling whenever it rings. And if it's not picked up each time, or called back within 10-15 minutes, she calls again. And again. And again.

Quote:
As for the religous classes if she wants her dd to have them she needs to have them on her day/s since it is an obtion. Make sure your dh lets his dd know that he doesn't believe that way and that is why he doesn't support the classes. Also have your dh ask the church to change them or sd won't be there.
My hubby supports the classes. That's not the problem. Her Mother was given an option from the Religion school of, I think Mondays, Tuesdays or Sundays. It would have fit into her schedule, no extra work on her part, for my stepdaughter to be brought on the bus to the classes, and then they ended after her Mother got out of work, so she could've just picked her up then, but she insisted on Sundays. The court papers state that "the child shall be raised by the Catholic religion", and since my Hubby's Christina but not Catholic and her Mother is Catholic, apparently it meant that she had ultimate control over her religion.

Quote:
Birthday/weddings/funerals (ARE NOT HER FAULT) and you have to deal with them.
Only birthdays have happend, keeping her away from our home. Birthdays, weddings AND funerals have happened at our home that she's been kept fomr, on "our" days as well as "her" days. We haven't denied my stepdaughter birthdays at friends houses on "our" weekends, but we have had to change plans many times, because her Mother told the brithday child she's be there.

Quote:
I know your dh doesn't want to get police involved but if she isn't there for pick up do call.
This hasn't happened yet. It's more along the lines of a phone call telling my Hubby that my stepdaughter "has other plans".

Quote:
Also tell your dh not to compete with mom. It is hard to do when mom is always trying to one up.
We don't. That's why we "lose" all the time. "Daddy took you campiing for three days? Wow, that must've been uncomfortable sleeping on the ground and getting bit by bugs! Remember how I took you to Disney World for a week? The rides, the massage parlor, the nail salon, all those gifts I bought you? And remember how much fun we had with blah blah blah blah......" And then my stepdaughter can't remember how much fun she had with us.

Quote:
The only thing that didn't both me was about blow drying her hair. That is something you might not know.
I would know, because it's been mentioned by her Mother repeatedly for the last five years. At our house, unless my stepdaughter is going straight to sleep, or straight outside on a cold winter day, we don't blowdry hair. My Hubby's way of thinking, as well as mine. Her Mother thinks if you don't blowdry hair immediately after it's wet, even on a 90 degree day in the middle of the summer, you'll get sick and die. That's fine... for her house. But why should we be forced to go by her rules at our house? That's actually been under one of the "neglect" accusations- we don't blowdry her hair every time after her bath. It's a pain in the butt. The person blowdrying hates it, the person getting her hair blowdried hates it. Why should my stepdaughter's Mother get to dictate how my stepdaughter is parented in our home?

Quote:
I would also think a video camera might be something you would want to consider. Not to purposely catch your dsd behavior with mom or telling you things mom say but at the same time it will be caught and help with your documentation.
That feels kinda creepy, I'm not sure if I could do that or if my Hubby would even agree. She saves most of it for me- we have alot of "girl time" (hair, nails, clothes, etc), and she jabbers the entire time. My Hubby's not one for idle conversation, so most of what he hears, I'm telling him about after. He tends to play more with the kids, and they tend to talk more with me.

Quote:
Please understand this is very hard on your dsd.
I know. It bothered me when she was believing everythingher Mother told her about, now it bothers me that she's been ripping her Mother apart for my benefit, it feels like. I've found myself actually having to defend her Mother to her alot in the last several months and that can't be healthy for my stepdaughter, either. It's almost like, she's used to ripping me apart to her Mother, that she thinks she has to rip her Mother apart to me, but I've never, ever (even when it almost killed me not to!) said anything negative about her Mother in front of her or where she can possibly hear it. I'm afraid it will permanently emotionally mess her up or something.

Quote:
And from what you describe, your dsd is not exactly being sheltered from the situation right now. She knows that she has to produce tears from mom at dropoff. She knows that she has to pretend not to love you and your ds. She knows, in short, that she is two different kids - the kid at your house who gets her needs met, and the kid at mom's house who is responsible for meeting mom's needs.
That's exactly it. Is this gonna screw her up bigtime? Even with me and my Hubby trying out best?

Quote:
Without drama on your end, start telling the truth. "We're going to call mom once per day, and use speakerphone here in the kitchen, because we know that she says things sometimes that make you feel bad about being here and that is not OK with us."
My Hubby lost his Mother when he was young. He's a firm believer of "don't take a child away from her Mother at any cost". Unfortunately, not letting his daughter talk to her Mother when her Mother calls, falls under this catagory. I'm not sure at what extent we can go with limiting it.

Quote:
Every.single.time. dsd says something about you not being "family," or if ex says it in front of you, correct the misimpression. "That is not true. We are all part of your family and we all love you very much. I am sorry that you mom doesn't agree, but I am your stepmother and ds is your stepbrother and we are part of your family." Lather, rinse, repeat. Let ex yell her head off if that's the result - but YOU don't yell and YOU don't bring negative emotion into it - only positive vibes towards dsd.
Way ahead of you there! We've been doing this for years. it's probably the only reason why my stepdaughter still loves us.

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Pretend you are dealing with somebody who is mentally ill and has outbursts. You wouldn't get enraged, but you wouldn't give in to their irrational demand that you get back in your car, either!
I've often wondered (seriously, not spitefully), if my stepdaughter's Mother has some kind of mental illness. It's funny you should use that compairison.

Quote:
The thing with bullies is, once you stand up to them, they very often back down.
I think that's a big part of the problem there. My Hubby tries to keep peace, for his daughter's sake, but I know for a fact that I've (unintentionally) intiminated my stepdaughter's Mother. That was about the time where she started getting very upset with my involvement with my stepdaughter. If it's just me and her, she backs down. If it's just my Hubby and her, anything goes. If it's me, my Hubby and her, she tries to ignore me, because I'll tell her (nicely, because my stepdaughter is always there) exactly what's on my mind.

Quote:
Normally I'd say that final responsibility for fixing this situation rests with the bioparent, but really, it's YOU she's bullying. I think you might be the only one who can successfully change the dynamic.
That's the problem. My Hubby is mostly untouchable, by her standards, and things are said to me or to my stepdaughter for me to hear, that a female would get, but not the average guy. Like asking how was vacation with DADDY, what did she do with DADDY, did she have fun with DADDY, okay, hug DADDY goodbye now" while physically standing between me and my stepdaughter and then trying to bring my stepdaughter into her house without letting her say goodbye to me, never mind completely putting into my stepdaughter's head that she's only been with us to spend time with DADDY and not the rest of her family. My Hubby doesn't pick up on it and making a fuss would just make me look like a petty fool to him. Know what I mean? Suggestions?
post #9 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by harleyhalfmoon View Post
My Hubby's cell phone. Repeatedly. My stepdaughter is "trained" to ask who's calling whenever it rings. And if it's not picked up each time, or called back within 10-15 minutes, she calls again. And again. And again.



This hasn't happened yet. It's more along the lines of a phone call telling my Hubby that my stepdaughter "has other plans".


That's the problem. My Hubby is mostly untouchable, by her standards, and things are said to me or to my stepdaughter for me to hear, that a female would get, but not the average guy. Like asking how was vacation with DADDY, what did she do with DADDY, did she have fun with DADDY, okay, hug DADDY goodbye now" while physically standing between me and my stepdaughter and then trying to bring my stepdaughter into her house without letting her say goodbye to me, never mind completely putting into my stepdaughter's head that she's only been with us to spend time with DADDY and not the rest of her family. My Hubby doesn't pick up on it and making a fuss would just make me look like a petty fool to him. Know what I mean? Suggestions?
Your dh has a vibrate mode or turn it off. Let her call over and over again.

When mom calls and says dd has plans if it is for a b-day party you say that is ok we will taker her. If it is something with mom say we will be there at xyz and if she isn't there you call the police.

The last part you are going to have to ignore. I know it most likely is catty behavior but it won't hold up in court. You want this woman to acknowledge you she won't. Don't let it get to you.
post #10 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marsupialmom View Post
Your dh has a vibrate mode or turn it off. Let her call over and over again.

When mom calls and says dd has plans if it is for a b-day party you say that is ok we will taker her. If it is something with mom say we will be there at xyz and if she isn't there you call the police.

I agree with this. With the phone calls, if you make this the policy for a while, eventually she will get tired of calling. Might take months, but eventually she will get the picture.

In this particular custody situation, I'm of the opinion that your DH needs to start following the schedule *exactly*. Even if the parenting agreement says that your DSD is to be raised Catholic, she does not have to attend religious training during your parenting time. Your DH needs to tell his ex to make other arrangements. And with birthday parties, etc, either you guys bring her, or she doesn't go. In normal situations, I'd say to be flexible. But this situation is not normal. On your parenting time, she does not get to have "other plans." Period.

I would start showing up to school events, etc. She cannot prevent you from going unless she has a restraining order. This is one of those times where your DH really needs to start backing you up. Same thing with having to stay in the car at pick-up/drop-off, things like that. Stop letting her dictate how things will go. She cannot prevent you from getting out of the car.

At good-byes, when she says "Give DADDY a hug," your DH can certainly say "And your stepmom and brother (or whatever he refers to you guys as in *your* home)."

Stop playing by her rules.

In the end, this is all up to your DH. Mine wound up getting a second job to fund what he thought was going to be a court battle. Luckily, it wound up not being one, but he was willing to work for it. Should it have to be that way? No. But your family should not have this woman running your lives. Your DH needs to do whatever he can to stop living in fear.

Does your DH want his daughter to wonder why he didn't try to do something about this when she is an adult? At the rate things are going, she is going to need a lot of therapy (and probably does already).
post #11 of 43
I don't think that I have any new advice beyond what everyone else has been saying. I do think that action needs to be taken.

My DH and his X split when my stepsons were 2 and 4. My youngest stepson has a life threatening disease, which is probably why his mom never brought him into the struggle she creates between my DH and herself.

My oldest stepson has gotten the brunt of the "alienating" behavior on her part and it has effected his relationship with my DH erevocably. His X did a lot of what you are describing in your post, going so far as to show up at our house for visitation without my oldest stepson claiming that he didn't want to come over to Daddy's house.

My husband was much like yours, not wanting to put his son in the middle of things and not wanting to rock the boat. I would grit my teeth and just go along with it.

I firmly believe that a lot of the difficulties (based on my stepson's preconceived notions of his father planted by his mother long ago) that my DH and his son encounter today are due to this alienation.

Here is a great example for you:

We were taking the kids out of town to visit some friends and my stepson forgot a few things from his mother's house that he wanted to take with him.

We happened to be stopping by a burger joint, where my stepsons live with their mom, to pick up lunch to eat on the way.

We were trying to make as few stops as possible because our son who was a year old at the time had a four hour ride in his car seat to look forward to and we wanted him to last out the trip.

We told my stepson to call his mom and see if she would bring the things for him to the burger joint, otherwise he would just have to do without.

This thoroughly irritated his mother because she thought that we should take the extra time to drive over to her house to get the things.

I was in the restaurant with my stepson ordering the burgers and such while his mom was headed to the restaurant. I was thoroughly irritated over the drama and just wanted to get on the road...I figure if a 14 year old can't remember his stuff, then he can just do without it for the weekend!

(Pettily, I admit) I thanked him for creating so much drama and possibly causing a fight between his parents through his behavior.

Get this, he got on this whole diatribe about how it's his dad's fault and that his dad is the one that always gets angry and never gives him what he wants...yata yata yata yata.

My jaw dropped to the floor and for that moment in time it was like I was looking at this little angry four year old again!

That kind of meddling behavior leaves it's mark and probably doesn't get worked out until adulthood when the child starts raising their own kids.
post #12 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pinksprklybarefoot View Post
In the end, this is all up to your DH. Mine wound up getting a second job to fund what he thought was going to be a court battle. Luckily, it wound up not being one, but he was willing to work for it. Should it have to be that way? No. But your family should not have this woman running your lives. Your DH needs to do whatever he can to stop living in fear.(
What about the fact that, any money my Hubby makes can and will be added into the child support? She went so far as to investigate the laws regarding MY income- if for some reason my Hubby can't pay child support, as his spouse, I am legally responsible, if I make a certain ammount of money more than I'm making now, she can bring us to court for more child support. We investigated with our lawyer, and she's actually right- by NY law, with unlimited resources for lawyers and drawn out court cases (stepdaughter's Mother's Dad's a millionaire, no exaggeration), we would stand a very, very good chance of losing. We finally got out of alimony (it was a 5 year deal), but for the last five years, we've been living off my oncome, and 66% of my Hubby's income has been going to child support and alimony. All legal, nothing we could have done about it, believe me, my Hubby fought tooth and nail for 3 years straight, and his lawyers and the judge both told him that, considering the circumstances, he should take the loss and consider himself lucky. I feel like we're in between a rock and a hard place. I would never give my stepdaughter (or my son) up for the world, not even if I had to live under a bridge, but I think I understand now, how some non-custodial parents would leave, never to be seen again, because the financial pressure is just too much.
post #13 of 43
I am not a psychologist, but what I know suggests that this is indeed PAS. GEt the book Divorce Poison by Richard Warshak. It is marvellous at explaining it (and, get this, in the latest edition of --I forget the formal name, but the book of mental illnesses, it is listed as one!!), and giving ppl strategies to prevent alienation from permanently occuring.
Basically you and your husband have to do a lot of work making the girl happy. Luckily she is at a great age for doing fun things together. Memorialize them with photos, montages,scrapbooks, have them up as a constant reminder. These children have to be constantly reminded that they are loved by the other side, and to have those reminders in their face. YOu can play a huge role in this, without inserting yourself in the parental conflict.
My DH was always unable to talk to the kids about the situations b/c he never wanted to badmouth their mom. ANd he never has. (He's remarkably disciplined). WArshak does counsel you to be more proactive in conversations with the kids.
Warshak will even respond to emails!!! (This may take some time, though)
I would not let the girl miss anything like a birthday party. Unfortunately my SD was best friends (kind of a forced friendship, it's over now!) for most of her childhood with her mom's best friend's daughter, and so whenever she was invited to a party it was likely that my husband's X was there, too, which was annoying. HOwever, truly it isn't the kid's fault that something fun is going on during Dad's weekend--and it adds a lot of ammunition to the mother's side.
As for yourself, no one likes to be ignored or unappreciated. My husband's X has rarely acknowledged me, and has never once in any fashion acknowledged our daughter, who is nearly 4. My husband was very annoyed by the latter, but I told him, look, I want our daughter to have as little contact with this woman as possible, so I'm fine with it. As far as I'm concerned, she can think what she likes about my role in her kids' life, but she's not there to see it in action. Be confident that you can make a difference, simply by being kind, avoiding conflict as much as you can, and providing a happy place for her to be and enabling her to remember it.
The best of luck to you. I have seen how this kind of behaviour hurts everyone involved, including extended family.
Feel free to privately contact me.
post #14 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by harleyhalfmoon View Post
Is this Parental Alienation Syndrome?
Assuming, of course, that your husband is not actually abusive, then from the examples you gave, when your SD's mom:
- Restricts or monitors your SD's phone contact with her dad;
- Interferes with your husband's participation in celebrating holidays/birthdays with your SD;
- Withholds info. from your husband about ANY of his daughter's activities that allow for parental participation;
- Suggests to your daughter that the only reason she lets her see her dad is that the court/police force her to;
- Intentionally manipulates your SD to feel guilty and worry about her mom's sadness and well-being while she's visiting her dad;
- Implies that your SD is in danger ("unsafe") when she's with her dad;
- Is openly hostile/rude to your husband in front of their daughter;
- Tells your SD that her dad or anyone close to him is trying to "steal" your SD from her;
- Makes your SD feel that she's expected to "be a different person" with her mom (i.e., implies that your SD is only her "true self" when she's with her & doesn't want Daughter to share that self with Dad);
- Emotionally manipulates your SD into acting like she neither wants nor enjoys contact with her dad, when the opposite appears to be true, judging from how Daughter acts with Dad outside Mom's influence;
- Burdens your SD with details of their divorce, custody battle, or the hardships (financial and otherwise) Mom believes she suffers as a result. (Even if what Mom tells Daughter is true, it's not appropriate to share that type of info. with an 8-y-o, as though she is Mom's confidante!);
- Tells your SD in any way that she cares about her more than her dad does ("I sacrifice to take you on vacation, but he doesn't want to...");
- Tells or encourages your SD to lie to or keep secrets from her dad;
- Routinely expects to talk to your SD on the phone more than once/day, during your husband's visitation;
- EVER schedules activities for your SD during your husband's visitation that your husband is not "allowed" to take her to. (I.e., if your SD's invited to a friend's party, or enrolled in activities or classes - even at Mom's church - and those fall during your husband's visitation, he should take her, pick her up, or do the activity with her, if it calls for parent participation. An obvious exception to this would be a birthday celebration in Mom's family.)
- Mischaracterizes benign situations as threatening or dangerous, to make your husband sound like a bad parent or an undesirable person;
- Takes credit for positive things your husband did, in order to discredit him (i.e., telling your SD your husband forced her to "track down" her teddy bear at his house, instead of admitting that he made the effort to drop it off for her).
When she does any of these things, your SD's mom is being "an alienator". She is trying to alienate your SD from her father.

Thankfully, it does NOT sound as though your SD has "Parental Alienation Syndrome". Yet. That is when the child succumbs to the alienator's manipulations and begins acting like she hates or fears the other parent.

Based on what you've said, you should be very concerned about alienation, for two basic reasons:

#1- Trying to sabotage and destroy a child's relationship with a loving, non-abusive parent is child abuse.

#2- From what you've described, right now your SD seems clear that she loves her dad and enjoys contact with him, and only acts otherwise for her mom's benefit. HOWEVER, your SD is already complying with her Mom, by acting like she doesn't like contact with her Dad. Plus, it sounds like she's genuinely concerned that her mom's happiness and emotional stability depend on Daughter preferring Mom and not really needing or wanting Dad. In PAS, kids either:
1- Come to the conclusion that they must sacrifice their relationship with the "target" parent, in order to help/save/prove their love to the alienator (the less emotionally healthy parent, the parent who "can't make it without them" - and doesn't seem capable of sharing them with the other parent), OR
2- They begin to see how cruel the alienator can be (toward the "target" parent). The child comes to fear that if she doesn't fall in line with the alienator's way of thinking/agenda, the alienator may target her in the same way and the child may lose the alienator's love.
In your SD's case, I would be extremely worried about things developing into a case of PAS, if she buckles under the pressure of more years of this garbage.

The big problem with PAS is that once kids have it, it's very subconcious. They cannot necessarily be reasoned out of the way they start to feel. A close friend of mine tells me that now, as an adult, she knows her mom's hysterical, hostile behavior is what always made contact with her dad so miserable while she was growing up. But she had to figure out how to get along with her mom, because that's where she lived. So, without realizing it at the time, she turned all of her anger about the situation on her dad. Instead of resenting her mom for interrupting her calls with her dad to scream at him, my friend came to resent her dad for calling! Even though she understands these things intellectually now, she still has a gut feeling of loathing every time she's around her dad and it makes her sad that she cannot seem to force herself to resurrect any loving feelings for him now, even though her dad wants to rebuild their relationship and she no longer has to worry about trying to live with her mom.

The best thing you can do about PAS is to keep it from developing. For that reason and because it is child abuse, your husband should seek custody. This is difficult and miserable and your husband's ex will make all kinds of ugly accusations. But it is possible. My husband did it and it is worth everything he went through. Custody not only gives your husband the legal standing to put an end to such nonsense as being told he's "not allowed" to take your SD to her extra-curricular activities (or that his wife isn't allowed to come to special events at school), but it sends an invaluable message to the child that no, the court does not agree with Mom that her Dad is a worse, or less-capable, or undesirable, or "unsafe" parent and there is no reason the child should pull away from him, or be expected to act like she doesn't love him. Yes, Mom will redouble her efforts. But spending more time with your husband is the best way for your SD to judge him on his own merits.

Sorry so long. Obviously I feel very passionately about this.

As far as your complaints about your SD's mom's attitude toward you and your son: Those things are regrettable, hurtful and immature. But Mom doesn't have a legal obligation to facilitate and support your SD's relationship with you, only with your husband (her child's father). So when you and your husband begin preparing for the court a list of the ways Mom attempts to sabotage his relationship with his daughter, be very specific and leave yourself out of it. Good luck.
post #15 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by harleyhalfmoon View Post
What about the fact that, any money my Hubby makes can and will be added into the child support? She went so far as to investigate the laws regarding MY income- if for some reason my Hubby can't pay child support, as his spouse, I am legally responsible, if I make a certain ammount of money more than I'm making now, she can bring us to court for more child support. We investigated with our lawyer, and she's actually right- by NY law, with unlimited resources for lawyers and drawn out court cases (stepdaughter's Mother's Dad's a millionaire, no exaggeration), we would stand a very, very good chance of losing. We finally got out of alimony (it was a 5 year deal), but for the last five years, we've been living off my oncome, and 66% of my Hubby's income has been going to child support and alimony. All legal, nothing we could have done about it, believe me, my Hubby fought tooth and nail for 3 years straight, and his lawyers and the judge both told him that, considering the circumstances, he should take the loss and consider himself lucky.
Things are a little different in my state, thank goodness. Anything over 40 hours doesn't count towards CS. Also, a stepparent's income does not count. TBH, if DSD's mom was entitled to support based off of my income, we'd be headed to divorce court pretty fast (DH agrees with this). I'll be making pretty good money in a few years time, and there is no way that I would let someone else profit off of all of the hard work that DH and I will have done to get there.

The laws in your state sound pretty messed up.
post #16 of 43
wow much of what you describe is exactly what was happening to my dsd at that age. we tried to combat the alienating ways of her other family, but she finally succumbed and bought into her mother's version of things. now shes 14 and the courts have given us full custody but she is so screwed up. i feel like we're deprogramming a religious zealot. i wish we'd gone back to court when she was 8...we, like you, had plenty of grounds (and evidence) but we thought we couldn;t afford to and that things would get better. My advice from experience is to rethink going to court. there is definately alienation going on, the longer you wait, the more damage is done, and the more money you will have to spend on therapy etc. good luck
post #17 of 43
Harley, there has been a lot of good advice here so far. I will throw in my two cents since we are actively working through this stuff as well. Here are the things that we are doing to combat this stuff that seems to work:

-lots of photographs...seriously! I take pictures of everything we do. DH and I have made photo albums with just a mish-mash of photos of the kids when they were younger, people from my family, people from DH's family, more recent photos, all sorts of things. The kids love these photo albums. I take them with us on longer car trips, to places where they need to sit quietly for a little while and sometimes we just sit on the couch and look at them. It really helps them "remember" the fun stuff that we do and the love that our side of the family has for them.

-attend everything...within reason. There have been a few occasions where DH can't get out of work or I can't get out of work but other than that, if we know about it, we're there regardless of if it is DH's parenting time or not. Which leads to the point of how do you know about the activities? DSC's mom is a lot like your DSD's mom in that she is an information-horder. So how do you combat that? The internet for one. I regularly review her church's website to see if there is stuff going on that the kids would like us to be there for. The school websites are a great source of info as well. Both our kids' elementary and middle schools have a PTO-type email blast that goes out with news and announcements and so we are on that email list. We make sure we attend orientation night at school, back to school night, parent-teacher conferences (we schedule our own so we don't have that drama in the classroom) and we make sure the teachers know who we are.

-lunch dates. Both DH and I regularly drop by school to have lunch with at least one kid. Unless there is a restraining order in place, it's my understanding that they can't keep you out of the school. Before DH and I got married, I was hesitant to drop by school without him since I wasn't "legal". But once we got married, all bets were off. I volunteer in classrooms, go on field trips, have lunch, go in just to say hi and collect papers, etc.

-stick to the order and be willing to file a show cause if it isn't adhered to. DH and I have taught ourselves family law and if the court order is not adhered to by their mom, we file a show cause. We've only had to do it once and DH represented himself (and won!) and she knows we mean business. It is unacceptable for someone else to continually plan activities that interfer with your DH's time with his daughter. But you have to be willing to give it teeth, you know?

Hugs to you and good luck. It's hard work. Some days it feels like we spend more time fighting the alienation than doing our actual jobs.
post #18 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnnieA View Post
...DH represented himself (and won!)...
To further encourage you to go to court over this, my husband has also represented himself during parts of the custody battle and won. In fact, twice he won arguments that his previous attorney told him were impossible to win and not worth going to court over. Don't be so intimidated by your husband's ex's family money and high-priced attorneys. Sometimes what's best for the child really is the most important thing, in the eyes of the court. (And if that doesn't seem to be the case, ask for a change of judge before the next hearing!)
post #19 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by pinksprklybarefoot View Post
I agree with this. With the phone calls, if you make this the policy for a while, eventually she will get tired of calling. Might take months, but eventually she will get the picture.

In this particular custody situation, I'm of the opinion that your DH needs to start following the schedule *exactly*. Even if the parenting agreement says that your DSD is to be raised Catholic, she does not have to attend religious training during your parenting time. Your DH needs to tell his ex to make other arrangements. And with birthday parties, etc, either you guys bring her, or she doesn't go. In normal situations, I'd say to be flexible. But this situation is not normal. On your parenting time, she does not get to have "other plans." Period.

I would start showing up to school events, etc. She cannot prevent you from going unless she has a restraining order. This is one of those times where your DH really needs to start backing you up. Same thing with having to stay in the car at pick-up/drop-off, things like that. Stop letting her dictate how things will go. She cannot prevent you from getting out of the car.

At good-byes, when she says "Give DADDY a hug," your DH can certainly say "And your stepmom and brother (or whatever he refers to you guys as in *your* home)."

Stop playing by her rules.

In the end, this is all up to your DH. Mine wound up getting a second job to fund what he thought was going to be a court battle. Luckily, it wound up not being one, but he was willing to work for it. Should it have to be that way? No. But your family should not have this woman running your lives. Your DH needs to do whatever he can to stop living in fear.

Does your DH want his daughter to wonder why he didn't try to do something about this when she is an adult? At the rate things are going, she is going to need a lot of therapy (and probably does already).
Yes to all this.

Dh's ex used to call 100x a day. His ringer is always off, he checks it when he wants to, and dss can call her at 7pm each day (or whatever, it can be written into a parenting agreement and I can't imagine that a judge would require more than one phone call a day). She got bored and stopped calling.

As for events on your parenting time, you must be consulted first, you decide and you will go with her. Let your dss know.

I agree with acting like she is mental ill. Dss's mother is, and it keeps me cool. I just tell my self, not her fault, just smile and remain calm.
post #20 of 43
I have a lot of empathy for what you are going through and it sounds like the mother is doing some things that are definitely not okay. Wanted to point out tho that I notice you psychopathologizing her as well, and agreeing with comments that ascribe only negative motivation or assume that she is entirely wrong and you are entirely right, or that feel for the 'poor child' who you only take care of and she only takes care of her mother. Nothing is so one dimensional.

I agree wiht the positive suggestions such as taking a lot of photos, letting the child know that you are not at important events because you did not know about them, and attending anything scheduled during your time. Deciding what the mother is doing though, or feeling sorry for the child when she is with her, starts to be the very same behaviour you are objecting to coming your way. So I would watch that.
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