This question is for my friend. Long, but she needs advice!
She and her stbx have been separated for more than a year. Their ad litem hearing is next month. Before they split, they sat down and wrote out (and signed) an agreement which covered everything from finances to property division to visitation for their 7 year old son.
They spent a lot of time and thought on the agreement, and followed it for months. They were getting along really well-- my friend even let stbx come over and have breakfast with them every school morning. Then, stbx suddenly decided to start changing and going against the agreement whenever he felt like it. My friend has been documenting this, fwiw.
My friend was so shocked and upset by this that she said she didn't want him in her home anymore, so that was the end of the breakfasts. Stbx complained that she was "keeping their son from him," but she wasn't-- the agreement said that they could both have daily access to their son-- it wasn't specific about how or where. Also, my friend continued to honor their set schedule of their ds spending Wednesday overnights and every other weekend with stbx.
Suddenly, a few weeks ago, stbx picked ds up from school on a day he should've ridden the bus home to his mom. He texted her and told her not to "make a fuss" that would upset their ds! He kept ds overnight. She filed a police report and called her lawyer. She also picked their son up from school the next day, so stbx couldn't take him again.
She found out that the police wouldn't do anything and she could not file for emergency custody. Her lawyer advised her NOT to withhold ds (even though stbx had), so she sent him to stbx for his regular weekend visit. Stbx was supposed to return ds Sunday evening. He did not, and did not answer calls or texts from my friend (or 2 other friends she had try to contact him) until late that night. Stbx took ds to school Monday morning. Ds didn't even have his backpack or books.
When stbx finally replied, he said he was "justified" in taking their son-- off schedule and without asking-- because she had been "withholding" him. He specifically brought up that he wanted the school-morning breakfasts back! So, my friend decided to not send their son for his usual Wed. overnight.
Later that week, stbx went to ds' school (again, on a day that was not "his,") and was upset to find his son absent. My friend had kept him home for a "mental health day" (with the blessing of his teacher and the school psychologist). This whole thing is very stressful for the little guy. Stbx asked for ds' absence records, to check if my friend is engaging in "truancy."
Her lawyer talked to his lawyer. His lawyer admitted ENCOURAGING stbx to just "steal" their son like this, to set a sort of precedent before they go to court. Her lawyer agrees that it's a dirty trick, but sort of shrugs about it! She's at her wit's end, because if she LETS him take ds when he wants, it seems like she's ok with it, and if she doesn't, it seems like she's trying to keep father and son apart!
Has anyone BTDT? What should she do?
They don't have any actual set days so technically he could take him when he wants. He isn't stealing him. On an emotional side of things..yes that is messed up. But the guy knows his rights and seems like he will make it known to exercise them. My only idea is she tells him that he at least should tell her before hand
I would encourage mom to document, preferably via email or at least text, her repeated requests to follow a set schedule for the childs benefit. Though their previous agreement is not legally binding, it may help show the exs original intent at least. I would also continue picking the child up from school directly, and being early!
I think she should try to allow ex the days they originally agreed on and just document her disagreement when he doesntfollow it. Show that pattern and hopefully they can get a formal temporary order at the hearing!
That's a good idea-or perhaps offer to let him take him to dinner twice a week or something. Do you know what schedule the dad is ultimately hoping for? Breakfast at mom's house every day isn't really feasible long term, so it might be helpful to find out what dad realistically wants.