I'll refrain from repeating everything in my previous posts, except to say:
* DH has had sole custody of his 12-y-o son, since DSS was 8. DH's ex-wife ("X") - DSS's Mom - moved to California when DSS was 7 and she still lives there.
* I can't say X has Borderline Personality Disorder. But most of what you can read about it (and the "distortion campaigns" some people with BPD engage in) gives a very accurate picture of X's behavior and relationships; and what it's like to deal with her. For that matter, so does reading about "Obsessed Parental Alienators".
* We know for certain X plans to take DH back to court, to regain custody, within the next 2 years. Here, judges "give more weight" to a child's stated wishes regarding custody, at age 14. X believes this means DSS will dictate what happens. While she expects DSS to say he wants to live with her - and wants to live in CA, far away from his Dad - she has still hedged her bets with a lot of coaching and intense emotional manipulation of DSS.
* The reasons DH and I want DSS to stay here are not only selfish. We understand that no matter where DSS lives, he suffers with missing one of his parents. But the same logic X used during the 8-year visitation/custody battle ("The one thing my child really needs is me. Therefore anything I want for myself is, by extension, what's best for my child.") spills over into countless other areas of her parenting, with negative effects on DSS's physical and psychological health, his education, the appropriateness of his living conditions, and his character development. That's not to say DSS should never be around his mother; only that DH is far and away the healthier parent, with a much clearer understanding of DSS's actual needs.
Predictably, X has ignored laws/guidelines/court orders from the earliest days of the custody change. Many times, DH has remarked in frustration, "That's it. I have to take her back to court!" But he hasn't.
1- Court's expensive, of course.
2- It increases animosity, which might be hard on DSS. We make it a point not to burden him with legal issues, but we know his mother does.
3- When X takes DH back to court for custody, there is some value in DH being able to tell the judge, "When she had custody, we were in court almost monthly. Since I've had custody, we haven't been back once ('til now). X still doesn't comply with court orders, but after I got reasonable access to my kid, I haven't bothered the court over any petty details!"
4- DH also assumed, with the way X is, that things might escalate, forcing him to take her back to court - over some issue no judge could find petty - and that he could raise all the smaller issues then.
I think that day has come. DH (or his atty. I can't tell who's the chicken and who's the egg, here.) has concluded otherwise.
DH says he's still exercising restraint and not giving in to the impulse to rail about things just because they upset him, when there's little or nothing the court can do.
But I suspect he's taking the path of least resistance: not making the effort to look for ways around the problems with "how things are typically done" in court; heeding the advice of an attorney who, for all his kindness, may be too conventional and hesitant to act; and avoiding revisiting one of the worst experiences of his life (even though he knows he'll wind up in court eventually, regardless). I am not accustomed to seeing DH take the easy road in ANYthing and I don't like it!
I'm also afraid that if he waits for X to take him back to court, he will end up defending himself on many issues where it would be better if she were defending herself. I hate to sound mercenary, but court is a chess game. How you play it matters as much - no, more! - than the truth. I don't defend dishonesty. I just think it's foolish to ignore the importance of whether you make the first move; whether you get things in writing, etc. I have seen that judges don't always follow the letter of every rule, so sometimes it's useful to say something, even if you assume opposing counsel will object. After all, this isn't criminal court. No one's being convicted of anything. These judges are charged with determining what's in the best interest of a child. And how can a judge protect a child from something no one BRINGS UP!? A judge can't possibly give you what you need, if you never ASK!
Just before DSS left for his 7-week summer visit with X this year, X's long-term BF called DH to say:
- X is addicted to Klonopin (one of the highest-potency benzodiazepines, which basically combat anxiety by mimicking the feeling - and symptoms - of being drunk. They're highly addictive and typically only prescribed for a few months, if used daily.);
- She's drinking increasingly heavily. (Heavy drinking is a common way to deal with developing tolerance to benzos, esp. in people with a history of heavy drinking. Doctors are advised not to prescribe benzos for people with "any history" of alcoholism. Since alcohol and benzos affect the body similarly, it can be dangerous - even life-threatening - to use both.)
- She skips work sometimes, to stay home and drink all day. She starts drinking at breakfast and continues until she passes out after dinner.
- When DSS and his friend were out there for Spring Break, X was too incapacitated to look after them in the evenings, so BF watched them. But he just broke up with her, so now he isn't around to take care of DSS anymore.
- Her behavior is increasingly irrational and volatile, to the point that BF said he's "afraid to be around her". (That's typical of benzo addiction, but also of someone with BPD, when relationships turn sour.)
Of course, BF is an idiot who didn't realize DH must have permission from the court, to deny a visit with X. When DH explained this, BF said he had really bonded with DSS; was deeply worried about him being alone with X; and that he'd do anything - sign an affidavit, fly here to testify - to help protect DSS.
DH's atty. and the CE both said DH could do nothing, without a notarized affidavit from BF. So DH flew to CA the same day DSS did. He and X both arrived at the airport well before DSS, and talked. When X develops a new "enemy" (in this case, her ex-BF), she becomes open to rekindling old relationships, even with people she has previously accused of "abusing" her, like DH. This is common, in people with BPD. X jumped to the conclusion that DH had flown all that way to see HER and to kick her ex-BF's a**, if she wanted! She tried to be affectionate with DH. And when he asked about the Klonopin, she admitted she's been taking anti-anxiety meds for approximately the last 3 years; and that she drinks, but she claimed she only does so lightly and sees no reason to refrain. She "knows" DH will "be compassionate about that, and not use that info. against her".
X told DH she and DSS had no plans for the week and invited him to "stop by her house any time, to visit". (This is the same person who so many times tried to hide from DH where she and DSS were living!) But then, curiously, she took DSS to a hotel for the week, so DH never saw him and barely talked to him.
DH met with BF while he was out there. BF said other things that seem relevant for a return to court, like:
- X's new apt. is a 1-bedroom, just like her last one. She tells DSS to say it's a 2-bedroom, because the Custody Modification Order said it was inappropriate that DSS didn't have sleeping quarters separate from hers. But DSS's "room" - where he keeps his stuff - is X's closet and they still share a bed.
- X really loved the idea of BF, DSS and her all cuddling up in the bed, as a "family". One of the problems with their relationship is that BF wasn't comfortable with this and would go home at night, when DSS visited. But who knows if X's next BF will respect the same boundaries? I'm all for family beds, but with an almost-teenage boy and a man who's not his father? No, no, no.
- X still tells everyone such God-awful things about DH that BF at first assumed he was a monster. Another problem with his and X's relationship was that, after a while, he began to wonder how DSS could seem so normal and well-adjusted, if he lived all year with DH, and if DH were really as abusive and awful as X said? (I.e., X still tries to surround DSS with people who believe he shouldn't have anything to do with his father.)
- Two summers ago, we were concerned because X posted on her public blog that she'd received a job offer at a coastal resort in Africa and was spending "hours and hours" researching the life and culture there. But it just sounded too crazy - like a grotesque overreaction - for us to try to do anything with that info. But evidently, X DID plan to move there. She spent the whole summer while DSS was with her, negotiating her salary and job perks, in Nigeria; how often she'd be able to travel back to the U.S. and who'd pay for it, etc. The only reason she didn't move is that - surprise - it turned out to be a scam. A Nigerian scam.
BUT when BF broke up with X, she stole and destroyed all the personal documents she could get her hands on - his driver's license, birth certificate, social security card, etc. (She once did that to DH, too.) So...no notarized affidavit. All DH has from BF is an email, with what BF planned to put in the affidavit. After DH finally had to come home, BF called a few times, promising he was working on replacing his i.d. and sending the affidavit, but finally he stopped calling. I hope I never meet him, because I want to strangle him. How the f*** can you claim to care about a kid; get his parents all worked up, worrying about issues YOU raised, and then just lose interest and bag it all?
DSS came home a few weeks ago and has started school. He does not seem to be texting his Mom about how much he hates us and only wants to be with her - which is nice...but weird, because it's not normal, after the summer. He hasn't said anything specific. He's not going to betray his Mom, by telling us if she was passing out, or being volatile and screaming at him, or calling the cops about her ex-BF. But nearly everything we've asked him, about the summer, is vaguely negative.
"So, tell me what you and your Mom did, to celebrate your birthday this year?"
"We didn't do ANYthing. She bought me a skateboard during Spring Break, two months before my birthday, and that was it. Nothing."
"Did you see any good movies, over the summer?"
"Mom and I didn't go out to any movies, this time. Not even once."
"Well, it sure seems like having a Kindle motivated you, to get your summer reading done. I'm proud of you!"
"It's easy to stay on top of your school work, when you don't have anything else to do."
And, when DH picked him up at the airport, DSS asked when he "had to" go back; and said he didn't want to go out there anymore, that he'd rather his Mom come here, to see him.
I may not be this kid's mother, but I'm telling you something is not right.
He doesn't want to go to counseling. His mother's visit here, next weekend, is complicating the issue. She has pushed for a family counseling session - DH, DSS and her. She asserts DSS getting an "F" and a "C" in the first week of school shows he's not happy here. (He didn't put his name on a song choice, in Band [5 pts. of "F"]; and missed one question on a 5-question, 10-pt. quiz, in another class. [80% is a "C", at his school.] So, really...big deal!) So, is DSS saying "I'm happy with my life. I don't need counseling!" because he wants to avoid the counseling session X wants - where these trivial things at school get twisted into a reason for DSS to move back to California? Or does he really feel no need for counseling?
DH's atty. says, without the affidavit from BF, all the issues he raised are moot. The court won't do anything about them and DH would look bad, for bringing them up, if he can't substantiate them. It doesn't count for anything that X ADMITTED to DH she's been taking highly addictive drugs for 3 years and still drinks? How do you get a legal 2nd opinion, when you've already signed a contract with an attorney?
It's secondary, but DH has been talking for 3 years, now, about asking for child support. He volunteered to let X spend it, visiting DSS here. The court allowed this, but did not simply exempt her from paying support. It cited an amount she should pay and ordered her to pay it through the cost of her travel here. The cost of incidentals - gasoline, food, entertainment - during her visits is already factored into the child support amount, via the "parenting time credit". And she's credited with significantly more parenting time than she exercises, due to the assumption she'd visit frequently. Her actual travel costs are pretty easy to calculate. She always stays in the same hotel, flies the same airline and rents a car. Since she works in the travel/hospitality industry and one of her employers has a professional relationship with the hotel chain where she stays, her travel costs are almost certainly lower than our calculations. But even our calculations show that what she spends on travel is at most about half what she ought to contribute to DSS's needs. Also, she has spent less time here, each year since the custody change. Plus she dumped DSS's health insurance (that she's under court order to maintain). Plus she hasn't paid numerous other expenses she's under court order to cover.
I think she's established a pattern, over 4 years. DH has given her ample time to change, visit more, and use the child support money for its intended purpose. It seems perfectly reasonable to say, "I don't expect this to get better, so if she's not going to use child support to give DSS more time with her, let her start paying it conventionally. Or, let her pay some adjusted amount." I think if he asks for CS now, it sounds completely fair and reasonable... But if he doesn't ask for it until after she asks for custody, he'll look punitive.
But I always second-guess myself. Am I just being greedy?
IS DH wise, for continuing to exhibit restraint about going back to court?
Do I just want to see X called to task over the things that upset me, even if it won't lead to any change?
DO we have to rely on DSS to tell us, if he's not safe with his Mom; or else wait until "something" happens?
I. Hate. This.
Hey, if you made it through all this, you're a saint! DH and I are having some definite stress over this and I don't want it to become the only thing we talk about. Nor do I like to discuss all this detail with people IRL, because they know DSS - and might meet his Mom - and I don't want them to act funny about her because of things I've said. Sometimes I just need to get it all out, here on MDC. Thanks for reading!
Edited by VocalMinority - 8/28/11 at 8:04pm