Going From Absent Parent to Involved? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 10-06-2013, 05:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My ex recently showed up to my home after 3 years asking to see my twin boys who are 4. He owes over $20,000 in child support and I have full custody because he no showed for all custody hearings but miraculously could show for child support hearings. Because he was so flaky, my kids daycare asked for him to be removed as an emergency contact because he never showed up or answered his phone; this embarrassed the heck out of me because I was so eager to co-parent.  He missed one of the twins surgery because-well I was so concerned about my son I didn't waste time asking.

Long story short, I supervised a 2 hour visit but when he insisted on seeing them the next day alone with him and his new baby and gf, I said no. Eventually but because they do not know you...let's work on that first. He proceeded to cuss me out so I hung up. A few weeks later I got notice he is requesting to get his support order reduced with majority of the questions being about parent time.

Luckily my new partner has been very supportive but my fears is that he will keep pushing to see them and may, gasp, go to court for visitation just to lower his child support and then leave for another 3 years with my twins entrails stuck between his teeth(yikes...I better lay off the zombie movies).

Has anyone here ever seen where a very absent parent becomes genuinely involved?
 
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#2 of 14 Old 10-06-2013, 07:29 PM
 
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I haven't had to deal with that, but it seems that the ones who have offered a step-up sort of visit schedule, like a couple hours at a public place once a week to get the kids re-acquainted with their dad. If he's serious about getting to know his kids and isn't just trying to prove something or get his CS lowered, then he shouldn't have a good reason to say no to your offer and he should happily get involved in playing with them at the park and not just sit on a bench.

 

I suspect that his new GF is pushing for him to see his kids (to prove to herself that he really is a good guy and a good parent) and he's trying to look good to her.

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#3 of 14 Old 10-06-2013, 07:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Rubelin- Wow...good insight. I didn't really think of his new girlfriend. He totally refused the park/library idea and went on to text a few days later asking to take the kids for a few hours to their house alone. I never responded but got the cs papers the next week.
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#4 of 14 Old 10-06-2013, 08:33 PM
 
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I got phased in visitation for DD. We are flexible now that he has truly decided to step up as much as he can. He struggles with ptarmigan but sees her for four hours once a week and sometimes is able to do more when I have to work and DD has no school.

Phase one is six consecutive weeks of four hour visits supervised by me in our home, phase two is six consecutive weeks of four hour unsupervised visits, phase three is unsupervised based on the minimum guidelines in our state for the age she was when I filed. Missing a visit brings him back to the previous phase. No visits are required without a valid home address and phone number. If your kids will have to have overnight visits I would also put in the agreement that they must have their own beds.
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#5 of 14 Old 10-06-2013, 08:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by One_Girl View Post


Phase one is six consecutive weeks of four hour visits supervised by me in our home, phase two is six consecutive weeks of four hour unsupervised visits, phase three is unsupervised based on the minimum guidelines in our state for the age she was when I filed. Missing a visit brings him back to the previous phase. No visits are required without a valid home address and phone number. If your kids will have to have overnight visits I would also put in the agreement that they must have their own beds.

This was what I had in mind. What state are you in? And was this worked out through the court?
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#6 of 14 Old 10-06-2013, 09:04 PM
 
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Originally Posted by rubelin View Post
 

I suspect that his new GF is pushing for him to see his kids (to prove to herself that he really is a good guy and a good parent) and he's trying to look good to her.

 

:yeah


I pray for the day Family Court recognizes that CHILDREN have rights, parents only have PRIVILEGES.  Only then, will I know my child is safe.
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#7 of 14 Old 10-06-2013, 09:06 PM
 
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I'm in the southwest and we went through the court. I had a very good lawyer and she wrote up the order in a way that was reasonable to the judges in our city and also protected my DD. It is something you can probably do without a lawyer too. It did cite his long absence and her need to get to know him as grounds for supervised visits also.

I would also countersue for arrears since he is so far behind on child support. I haven't done this but have read that it is possible.
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#8 of 14 Old 10-06-2013, 09:12 PM
 
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Also, be specific with times. It was a pain in the butt to have to put off Saturday plans until I heard from my ex back when he was visiting but sporadic. The visits have to happen if there are in a decree and having to rush back home to accommodate them is frustrating. I wished I'd scheduled a specific time like 9-1 on Saturday.
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#9 of 14 Old 10-06-2013, 09:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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one_girl- I'm shocked that he went to ask for a reduction because a contempt warrant has been out for him since June. I will def. run this "phasing" to a lawyer if he pursues custody. I believe he definitely has some untreated mental illness. Thanks for the advice.
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#10 of 14 Old 10-07-2013, 01:26 PM
 
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Ding! I suspected a new girlfriend before getting to where you mentioned it. If he has another child now (assuming it is his and the GF's joint child), remember that child is your boys' brother or sister. That might change the situation a bit, in that he now sees what he's been missing out on and wants to reconnect and have a closer family that doesn't exclude his two eldest children. I'd put money on it being the girlfriend, but maybe??? he really is a "changed man" and things will not be so tumultuous for your boys and visiting their father, going forward; surely it is rough on children to not be able to know when they're going to see their parent, or to have that parent be unreliable. It is important to separate out the impact of his flakiness on you to the extent that it doesn't affect your children--sure it's embarrassing to have daycare take him off the emergency contact, but if the boys don't know and aren't negatively impacted by it, you might consider it water under the bridge.

 

As long as you show the Court that you're not interfering with your childrens' relationship with their father, you should have a fairly easy time securing court orders for reasonable things you think to be best for your kids. A step-up plan is exactly that--it shows that you intend to accommodate generous time between the children and their father. If he cares about your DSs at all, he will heed your advice about getting to know them before taking them alone. It is solidly in their best interest to know their father but not to just disappear to some place they don't recognize without any familiar adults. This is not to say it will be stress-free (to the contrary) but I wouldn't be overly concerned that you'll be ordered to send the kids for overnights with someone they sincerely don't know. I wouldn't normally say it was a good thing to not allow a parent to take a child (absent orders to do so) but in this case, letting him take the boys on his own sets the bar--if it's OK to take them today, your argument that they shouldn't be able to go with their father alone without a step-up plan, wouldn't hold water. Be a broken record in saying "yes, where would you like us to meet you and when?" to demonstrate that you are not interfering, but trying to help your children become acquainted with their father and strengthen their relationship.

 

Don't hold out hope that he will be prevented from being granted generous parenting time just because he owes a significant amount of back support (though some jurisdictions may disallow a parent who owes back support from petitioning for additional parenting time), though it definitely doesn't show well of his ability and desire to parent if he can't bother with that aspect of being a parent. A Court probably can't (again, depending on the laws in your jurisdiction) tie the two issues of parenting time and child support together, but that doesn't mean knowledge of his flakiness on all aspects won't be in their mind a little bit and potentially tip the scales to make them err in favor of your reasonable requests.

 

As has been mentioned, include specific times in your proposed plan. If you feel like specific hours each week are too rigid, you could also set a deadline (for example, the prior Thursday at 6PM) when he must notify you of his requested time else it defaults to X o'clock Saturday. Especially if you will meet away from home, but even if he is to pick up DSs at your house, you might consider being specific about what time (or how many minutes late) you can consider him to have forfeited the visit. That is, you shouldn't have to sit at the park for 4 hours waiting and waiting for him to show up to avoid him saying you blocked the visit; once he's 20 minutes late, you can go home. Regardless of the outcome (whether there is a visit or not) you should keep a journal of your interactions with him regarding the visits, the visits themselves, and anything noteworthy your boys have to say afterward. A spreadsheet ledger with date, what time he arrived, when the visit concluded, and additional notes (like agreed to shorten visit so Father could go to work, or, Father did not attend visit), is sufficient. Don't editorialize but keep the journal purely factual. This will be your evidence to the court if the issue needs to be revisited (and for the review he's requested already, so start documenting).

 

The trick your attorney should help you with is to make the step-up enforceable (to protect you and your DSs). On one hand, specifying exact dates for the phases, if he is doing--or not doing--something indicated in the Order, it is clear whether he is adhering to the Order or not. The drawback is that he might skip all of phase 1 and show up 2 months from now expecting to be entitled to phase 2 because the Order says that's when he gets to take the kids by himself. Ideally (that is, without courts) you would agree that he has to make X number of supervised visits or that the boys reach some milestone (like they say they're ready) before he moves on to Y number of mini visits before he moves on to Z number of longer visits, and so forth. The problem with this arrangement is that if he misses all but one of X supervised visits, it's your word against his and costly fights in court arguing what he did and didn't do or whether or not his partial visits count, to enforce whether he's entitled to the Y mini visits yet. Your attorney should have ideas on how to address this. I hope you have already or will retain a quality lawyer especially if he has retained a lawyer. These issues are too complex to navigate alone and critical mistakes can be made that will negatively impact your children's future. If you haven't retained a lawyer, you should meet with several (they usually offer a free hour consultation) to find one with whom you feel comfortable and confident. Even if you're sitting back waiting for him to follow through on action and choose to wait on paying the retainer, it is good to know exactly who you will call in the event you need to take fast action.

 

IFF there is any kind of statutory reduction of child support for the amount of increased parenting time/visitation he will (eventually?) take on, I don't think it should apply until he hits the end of the step-up phases. So if the goal is for him to have 20% of overnights by June 2014 that would entitle him to a 5% discount of parenting time (random, made-up numbers because the deduction amount is usually more complicated) that he doesn't get that 5% deduction at the beginning when he's only having short visits but no overnights, it applies in June 2014 when he starts having that many overnights. Perhaps you could even get no reduction ordered until he actually reaches that phase (that he would have to petition the court for the change) though I'm not optimistic that would be allowed--it will vary depending on your jurisdiction's laws. I doubt if back support would be affected, regardless of parenting time he assumes going forward. In any event, there should be an opportunity for him to not get the reduction he seeks unless he follows through on the visitation time also.

 

If he has another child that he is supporting (if the child lives with him) there may be a statutory reduction of child support on account of the support he provides to that other child. If that is the case, and the other circumstances that would contribute to the amount of child support he owes each month have not changed since child support was last calculated, it is conceivable that the amount he will owe each month could go down. If his income has increased over the past 4 (?) years, if your income has decreased and your state considers your income in its support model, if your state has adjusted the statutory amount due (this tends upward for each income level), if he's not providing health care insurance and was receiving a reduction of CS in order to provide health insurance, if your children's need for support has increased (you mentioned surgery), or numerous other factors could lead to the amount of his child support obligation increasing. It is stressful, but he may have opened a can of worms he doesn't like.

 

He can still withdraw his request  to the Court, so if you can demonstrate to him that these shenanigans won't benefit him (i.e. if his true motivation is only to pay less child support and he sees that he will owe more) perhaps you can squash the issue with knowledge too. Look up your state's child support guidelines to get an estimate if the current statutory amount is what he's already paying or if it will likely change and share the result with him if it is unfavorable for him. Many states have calculators online to use for estimate purposes.

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#11 of 14 Old 10-07-2013, 07:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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autumngrey- Thanks for the reply. I'm not holding my breath that the court will base visitation on what he owes...the courts here don't care about that more than the fact that he's absent. I doubt the order will change because I agreed to way below guideline because I didn't feel like running back and forth to court. I will definitely use the visitation advice.
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#12 of 14 Old 10-11-2013, 01:40 PM
 
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Originally Posted by One_Girl View Post

Also, be specific with times. It was a pain in the butt to have to put off Saturday plans until I heard from my ex back when he was visiting but sporadic. The visits have to happen if there are in a decree and having to rush back home to accommodate them is frustrating. I wished I'd scheduled a specific time like 9-1 on Saturday.

:yeah  We had ours written up with specific times, 1-4 on Saturdays, as well as a 15 min grace time. What that meant was that if he had until 1:15 to pick them up, if he didn't show I didn't have to wait the whole three hours to see if he wanted to exercise his visitation that day. Ended up that he NEVER exercised his visitation.


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#13 of 14 Old 11-02-2013, 01:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Update: my children's bio dad withdrew the request to have support reduced and have not bothered us since this original post.
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#14 of 14 Old 11-05-2013, 03:33 PM
 
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I haven't dealt with the same thing as you have. But I have had my ex-husband be really hands off after his girlfriend moved out and left him. When she was there with him he let the youngest 2 come over and he would let her do most of the child care. Once she left him he didn't do it for about 9 months or so. I didn't care. He still paid support and did that part. But more recently in the last 3-4 months he has been more hands on wanting his youngest two children over more and he even does overnights every weekend now and I'm not arguing with him. As long as they have me they are good but if he wants to do something from his end then I let him. It is what it is.


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