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Happy Thanksgiving... now give me all your parenting time.

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Well, happy Thanksgiving indeed. What a day. I'm looking for advice, mainly. Especially from people who have rocky relationships with their ex-spouse.


Quick backstory- DH and his ex divorced when DSD was 3. She is now 7, and DH and I have been dating since she was 4, moved in together when she was 5, and got married two months ago. DH and his ex have always split custody 50/50, with neither really doing a whole lot in the way of parenting... they were/are both servers, and their parents did a lot of the work in raising DSD. DSD generally has spent more time in the care of DH or his parents. That has all changed within the last year and a half, since I moved in.


DH and his parents had a falling out, and they are no longer in our lives. We know that DSD sees them on exes parenting time, which we are fine with. I have a job that has enabled me to take up much of the slack over the last 18 months, and DSD has spent most of her time with me, while DH worked. In the beginning, ex had no problem with this, and actually called and told me she preferred DSD was with me, and not DH's parents. However, the closer we came to marriage, the rockier things got.


She began scheduling DSD's camps and activities on our parenting time, time DH actually COULD HAVE been with DSD. She began having a problem with DSD being mainly with me... which I can understand. DH took a job for much less money than he was making, and rearranged his life so he can be home two out of the three nights we currently have DSD. We voluntarily informed ex that DH was working on Saturdays, and now, although Saturdays were split before, DSD goes to her mom's every Saturday. (Which she has a problem with, and has told me she wants to be with me every other Saturday).


There have been a lot of other little things happening.... we were letting her walk home from the bus stop by herself... half a block IN SIGHT of our house the entire way. Many other people out walking at this time of day, and one of us is always outside WATCHING her walk. Whatever, she had a problem with it, so we are now picking her up from school.


So today happens... she splits holidays, and was scheduled to be with us starting at 3. 3:30 rolls around, and she's not here, so DH texts his ex to see what's going on. She texts back that she's almost to our house and they "need to talk." So, in front of my whole family, she informs DH that DSD told her that she no longer wants to come to our house. Apparently she wanted her mom to tell us. So... after everyone is gone, we talk to DSD about this, and she starts crying and says she does still want to come, that she wants things to be just like the always are. We told her that if coming here doesn't make her happy, we all need to decide what to do together. But she insists she does want to come here, so we asked her why she said it. Her reply? "I didn't say it. Mom asked me if..." then she stopped talking and admitted that her mom was the one who asked if she didn't want to come to Daddy's anymore.


DH called ex after DSD went to bed, and his ex said DSD didn't want to talk about it front of me. That she really doesn't want to come here anymore. And oh yeah... she has a problem with the babysitter we have watch DSD for 2 hours on Friday until I'm off work... the babysitter that was recommended to us by DSD's teacher. The babysitter that is a 4th grade teacher at DSD's school. She said our homelife is very unstable and DSD never knows where she's going to be. Which is crap... she's picked up from school Wednesday or Thursday by one of us, and all three of us are home together all evening. On Friday's she goes to the babysitters until 5:45 when I get her, and she's home with me all evening. Ex lives with her mother, and we know for a fact she works on her parenting time, and leaves DSD with her mom. Which we've never had a problem with. It's her time, and DSD has seemed happy.


She's gunning to get DH's parenting time taken away. In the past, DH has been very easy-going to his ex, overlooking parenting choices she was making that were VERY suspect. Because his ex is DSD's mother, and that needs to be respected. However, he now isn't getting that same respect. She kept referencing a "meeting" on the phone that they would be attending. A meeting DH knows nothing about. Should he be preparing to go back to court? Could we really lose parenting time just because a 7 year may or may not have said she didn't want to come here anymore? Our home life is very stable. We have no other kids, and we pretty much arrange our lives around DSD. This is all starting to really scare DH and we're not sure what to do. I'm thinking this is sounding more and more like parental alienation.


Does anyone have any advice? We don't currently pay any child support, because we share 50/50, although until DH is done with school in April, we won't be able to have her on our Saturdays. This is really long, I'm sorry. DH is really reeling from all of this, and does not want to lose custody of his daughter.

post #2 of 15

Don't worry, but get prepared.  Courts care a lot about precedent - which strongly supports your husband continuing to have his daughter 1/2 the time.  They tend to dismiss the stated wishes of kids under about 14.  For obvious reasons!  How is anyone going to know what the girl really wants, and what she was simply influenced to say by the parent who drove her to court, or the parent whose anger she fears more?  Not to mention the fact that 7-year-olds don't know what's best for them, on a large scale.  A 7-year-old might impulsively say she doesn't want to go to one parent's house anymore because that parent won't let her watch TV, or because she thinks the boogey-man lives under the stairs at that parent's house.


It is wholly inappropriate for Mom to tell you guys - in front of the child - that she said she doesn't want to come to your house anymore.  Even IF the girl said it.  The Mom should have talked to her about how important her Dad is, in her life; and explained that it's not her choice whether she goes to his house; and tried to ferret out whether there was anything specific, bothering her.  Then she could have shared the specifics with you guys, in private.  But if she was, indeed, pressuring her daughter to say that - and then said it in front of everyone - that was cruel.  A pattern of that would, indeed, be alienating behavior.

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

What exactly should DH be doing to get prepared? Their divorce was pretty harmonious- his ex cheated on him, and wasn't that interested in parenting when it all happened. When I first started dating DH, he generally had DSD 5-6 days a week. So in court the first time, he didn't really do anything to prepare. Should he be speaking to his lawyer? We really aren't interested in trying to change anything ourselves. DH believes that it's in DSD's best interest to spend equal time with both parents, and we won't be trying to get more custody personally. We just want things to go back to "normal" and not have our lives disrupted by these threats.


In the past, DSD has OFTEN voiced that she doesn't want to go to her mom's. She has actually told me she wishes I were her mom. She attempted to call me mom about 6 months after I moved in, and her mom told her not to. Our response in all of this has been like you said, Jeannine. We have always said good things about her mom, and talk about the fun they will have together. Her mom actually started to get much more involved in her life in the last year- which we have thought was GREAT. DSD hasn't spent as much time with ex's parents as she did before, and spends more time in the care of her mom. DH attributes it to jealousy over my relationship with DSD, but who cares? Anything that gets her more involved has been good in our book. It just sucks that this hasn't gone both ways.


And yeah, just like you said Jeannine- DSD had been disciplined by DH over not picking up after herself right before drop-off last Saturday. I'm sure she went home and said she hates it here or whatever. Which is TOTALLY NORMAL for a 7 year old to do- but shouldn't be twisted like this by her mom.

post #4 of 15

Where do you live? That's pretty important, because each state has it's own spin on custody.


Here is CA, we had to spend almost a year get primary custody of my DD from her father. DD was 13 when we filed, and turned 14 by the time anything changed. We went to mediation (required in our CA county) and then we were required to attend co-counseling -- DD and her father/me and her father -- for 6 months. After all of the counseling did not "fix" the emotional abuse DD was suffering at the hands of her father and step-mother, the court finally gave primary to me and drastically reduced the father's visitation.


Now, I am NOT saying we have similar situations. I only told you my situation to illustrate how difficult it is to get custody away from a co-parent EVEN IF there are legitimate reasons. The court does not want to disrupt the life of a child and alienate them from either parent. As tough as it is, keep doing what you are doing. In the end, your DSD will know the truth. hug.gif

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

We are in Missouri, FireFrog.


After we dropped DSD off this morning, DH got a text from her mom saying, "What is wrong with H?????" Apparently she was teary and emotional, and wouldn't tell her mom why. Gee, you think it could be because she knows her mom will get mad at her if she expresses that she wants to keep coming to our house? Suck.

post #6 of 15


Time to lawyer up. A formal, enforceable custody order is going to serve your DSD best in the long term, and it sounds like your husband is very well situated to retain 50/50 physical. But you have to go through the stress and expense of legal proceedings in order to get to that point. I'm so sorry things could not have continued to be reasonable and amicable between your DSD's parents. 

post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

DH has a formal and enforceable custody order. 50/50 was ordered, and what they've been doing the last few years. We're just worried she's going to take us back to court to try to change it. There really are no grounds for it, other than ex apparently trying to coerce DSD into saying she doesn't want to come here anymore.


DH gets her from school on Wednesdays, so I'm not sure how ex could set it up that we couldn't START our parenting time on a weekly basis, unless she was kept home. If that happened, who would we call? The police? The lawyer? DH has pretty much decided that it is in DSD's best interest to "force" her to come here, even if she states she doesn't want to. (Which she hasn't, to us anyway). If we were to let her "decide" where to go, it really would be a matter of who makes her feel worse about not being on their "side"... and we're not interested in playing that game. No court would change custody based on a 7 year old saying she doesn't want to go to Dad's because she loses computer time, I'm pretty sure.

post #8 of 15
Good to hear that an order is in place! If mom starts violating it, you'll probably need to go back to court. Cops don't enforce custody orders, neither do schools.

Letting mom change the terms in the first place was probably a bad idea, although I totally see why you guys agreed to it with your DH working all the time. You were being reasonable and flexible, too bad it gave her the idea that she could push things. This is ultimately DH's call, but if I were the stepmom I'd be asking my DH to start obeying the letter of the agreement and not go below 50 percent physical custody. It could actually make him look bad in court that he willingly gave up some of his time, and it could leave your household vulnerable to a support order (or a higher one than you currently pay).

If your DSD is signed up for things during your DH's parenting time - just don't take her. At all. You want to nip that right in the bud, so there's never an expectation that mom can commit to something on his time without his consent. One set of "wasted" ballet lessons is a small price to pay for making the point that an activity you don't agree to is an activity that's not happening.
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

The reason she is not with us on DH's Saturdays is because Right of First Refusal is also written into their order. Any time DSD is not with one of her parents for more than 3 hours, the time needs to be offered to the other parent. We have never enforced this, but I do believe DH intends to now- we were offering the Saturdays in accordance with their order, and now will expect her to do the same. We know she works Sundays, but claims she does not go in for more than 3 hours. DH now plans to make sure this is the truth, which, as she is a server, is most likely not. I'm pretty sure ROFR also applies to step-parents in most states- so DSD cannot be left with me for more than 3 hours on DH's parenting time.  It's really too bad that things have come to this. I was a child of divorce, and know how messy things can get. I don't understand why DH's ex would do this, when DH has always bent over backwards to make things as easy on everyone as possible. He truly loves his daughter, and has been trying to act in her best interest.


This summer, his ex scheduled a class on his parenting time. He did not take her to it, and that's really when the majority of this ugliness started. Taking her to the class took away, at the time, the only night he had with her a week- by the time driving to and from and the actual class took place, she would have needed to go to bed as soon as they got home. Obviously, ex did this on purpose, and was royally pissed when he didn't cave- this class was ALSO offered on her parenting time, but she chose to sign  DSD  up for it on DH's. What's more, this was a class DSD expressed to us that she did not want to go to.


This will be the first summer DH will not be working as a server- which will mean his schedule is a lot less flexible. In the past, ex has signed DSD up for week-long camps, that we were not informed of, but still expected to pay half for. (Which we have done). What's going to happen when she's signed up for a camp that starts at say, 10, and ends at 3- times when we will both be at work? Are we still expected to take her, even though this will be close to impossible?


I'm definitely thinking DH and ex are going to end up back in court, which is unfortunate. We never wanted this to happen.

post #10 of 15

Everything else aside, I really had to jump in and say that ROFR has made both my (and my ex - he agrees with me) life absolutely unbearable.


When we get along, it really doesn't affect anything. You offer the time to the other party as seems reasonable... which we do... when we're getting along.


When we're fighting, we both use the ROFR order like a club to bash the other person.


You'd be surprised how ugly it can get. Ours states 'more than four hours' and also includes step parents - so my two girls can be left over night with my girlfriend if I'm at work.


I find that ROFR orders need to be really, really specific. Does it include classes, camps, sleepovers with friends? With grandparents? Anytime? During the middle of the night? etc.


I really wish that we could take it out of our divorce decree, but my ex isn't willing to.

post #11 of 15

Definitely check whether ROFR is enforced for stepparents. I could be wrong , but I think many states will actually consider an adult who lives with the child to be outside of ROFR. As far as camps go, if you can't take your dsd at those times, do not pay half and sign her up for a different camp/daycare for your weeks that fits your schedule.  If you dh has 50/50 custody, he is well within his rights to do so. Ideally, the parents could talk about what works and agree on something so she has some continuity, so I would be sure your dh discusses it with ex first to get it on paper that he tried, but otherwise take the opportunity to let dsd try a different activity that works with your schedules. 

post #12 of 15
Originally Posted by greenemami View Post

Definitely check whether ROFR is enforced for stepparents. I could be wrong , but I think many states will actually consider an adult who lives with the child to be outside of ROFR. As far as camps go, if you can't take your dsd at those times, do not pay half and sign her up for a different camp/daycare for your weeks that fits your schedule.  If you dh has 50/50 custody, he is well within his rights to do so. Ideally, the parents could talk about what works and agree on something so she has some continuity, so I would be sure your dh discusses it with ex first to get it on paper that he tried, but otherwise take the opportunity to let dsd try a different activity that works with your schedules. 



I'm in Ontario, and my (almost) wife has the right to keep the girls at home with her. Usually this is only over night when I'm working (I work nights occasionally) and even my ex agrees that dragging them to his house just to sleep makes no sense.


If/when my ex remarries or has a common law partner, the same right would extend to them.


It would be nice, in a perfect co-parenting world, to always keep the kids best interests at heart. We're good about 90% of the time... it's that other 10% that gets rocky.


As for the camp issue, you're under no obligation to bring her just because her mother signed her up for something. Or to pay for it. Especially if she didn't talk to you about it first.

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much, ladies. DH has a call in to his lawyer to see if the ROFR covers step-parents or not. He thinks it's a good idea to sit down with her and go over all that's going on, in case he is called back into court. I definitely agree. He'll be bringing up our questions about summer camps as well.


I think, and I hope I'm right, that just the mention of, "Well, I consulted my lawyer, and she said [this]," will be enough to calm DH's ex down, and things can hopefully go back to normal.

post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 

Well, you ladies were all right...


DH had a long conversation with his lawyer about everything that is going on.


DH is well within his rights to leave DSD with me on his parenting time. Apparently, no judge in our state will say that DSD cannot stay with me on DH's Saturdays. We will be taking them back! Especially because in a month's time, DH will no longer have to work them. (Christmas is a busy time of year at the restaurant he works at on weekends!)


As far as summer camps and classes go, she advised that we should NOT be paying for half of them, especially as she is signed up without our consent, and we are under NO obligation to send her to anything that occurs on DH's time.


So, basically, we have nothing to worry about. She says we're doing everything right. DH is going to quietly keep all of this information to himself, until there is another big blowout like on Thanksgiving. Then he's going to mention that he's consulted his lawyer, and if she wants anything changed, to feel free to take him back to court.

post #15 of 15

Awesome!  So glad your lawyer was helpful and made you guys feel better about the situation :) 

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