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#1 of 15 Old 06-14-2010, 01:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi, this is my first post on this forum and I need some input. The situation is that my 8yo DS lives with myself & my DH (his stepdad) and the court paperwork I have states that I have sole legal and residential custody. I'll be re-reading the paperwork again, but my ex says there is court-ordered visitation in there somewhere, which I have yet to see. Now, things have been OK for most of the last 8 years until a little over a year ago when my ex called to tell me that his cancer had returned & the doctors had told him he had 2-4 years to live. Since then, he has tried to get me to let our son live with him until he passes away, accused my DH of child & spousal abuse (which are both highly ridiculous charges), basically called me a bad parent, and threatened to take me to court for custody. Now...my son is fed, clothed, sees the doctor, and is, IMO, a fairly well-adjusted 8yo. However, since his last visit to his dad at Xmas, he has been increasingly difficult in school (mostly in the areas of listening & keeping hands/feet/etc. to himself). His teacher commented on how it all seems to have started at that time & we (my DH & I) have spoken with her, the principal, and our son about his behavior. I told this to my ex & he says it's not his problem...that our son lives with me 10 months of the year & that it must be something we're doing.
I think that mostly sums everything up. What has me concerned is letting him have our son over the summer. He has called me 2 times (both times from his cell phone after his wife had left for work) and has been, to me, highly irrational & erratic. The last call, which was a message on my voicemail that I have saved & written down ends with him practically screaming. He claims to call me 2-3 times a week to talk to his son (which our caller ID clearly shows to be false...and when he does call, he very rarely leaves a message...the one he left me is the first one in months, at least), claims I dress him in raggedy*** clothes (he's an 8yo kid & a boy specifically...he's hard on his clothes & I'm not going to put him into anything supernice just to play in, we save those clothes for school & church) and just goes on & on. I just really don't want to send him down there and feel I have a good case for supervised visitation based on my ex's behavior. I am at least afraid of emotional harm. Who knows what might be going through my ex's head if he really is dying or what he's taking med-wise that could be affecting it or what choices he's making to deal with it (honestly, I think he sounds drunk or something in the 2 confrontational calls he's made).
I hope this post makes sense and I would appreciate any advice offered. I do plan on talking with the courts this week, as well as a lawyer, but if there are any other ideas floating around out there, I would be grateful.
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#2 of 15 Old 06-14-2010, 08:21 AM
 
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What a tough situation! Is your son close to his father at all? Has he always been in touch with his dad, spending summers there and such? Is his father's wife reliable? Because if he's always been in contact with his dad and well-taken-care-of while he's there, this probably isn't the time to pull him away from his father, especially if his dad only has a few years to live. I don't know the full situation, obviously, but I can imagine that your son's behavioral changes may be due to processing the information that his dad isn't going to be around much longer... that's hard, harder in some ways than losing a family member suddenly, with no warning. While it's good in a sense to have time to prepare for a loved one's passing, it's rough having to deal with that knowledge while they're still alive. He's probably internalizing a lot of this and just doesn't know how to deal with it effectively. If your son knows that you aren't on good terms with his ill father, he may be feeling additional stress. This isn't to say that you have to make nice! But at least demonstrate to your son that his dad is worthy of respect.

I'd recommend talking to your son about his father's illness and giving him a healthy and constructive channel to vent any anger or sadness he might be feeling. The illness, its treatment, and coming to terms with the end of one's life may certainly be affecting his father's mental health and wellbeing, and you can talk to your son about that, too. Basically just give your son an outlet for releasing the stress that he feels, and let him know that he can always come talk to you about these things. He'll probably need to - both now and especially after his dad passes away.

So no, I wouldn't change the visitation agreements. Unless you have a very strong case that your ex is violent, it probably won't matter in court anyway. (And he probably is entitled to visitation, especially if he's had your son during the summer for years - so he'd probably win that battle in court even if it isn't explicitly in the court documents.) But most importantly, if his dad is at least a semi-decent parent, your son needs to spend these last years of his life with him.
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#3 of 15 Old 06-14-2010, 03:39 PM
 
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I have to agree with the previous poster. It would help to know what the visitation arrangements have been thus far and the nature of the relationship between dad and his son. But especially if his dad is terminally ill, then a change in visitation is likely to leave your son feeling very guilty and emotionally lost. He's likely to feel some of this regardless because he doesn't live with his dad, but I would work on minimizing that. And probably dad and son both need each other.

I would instead push for counseling for dad and son together to deal with the grief and loss involved in this whole situation. If not for dad, at least get some help for your son. I also wouldn't attribute behavior changes to "dad". It could very well be to the stress of the situation, but blaming that on dad and then trying to remove your son from the situation is unlikely to resolve the underlying stress that is causing the behavior.

Also, assuming he is even a half-way decent parent, I think a dying father deserves that time with his child.

I say this, by the way, as the primary parent to a daughter whose dad definitely has some mental health issues that can make him difficult to deal with. But I still feel that relationship is important.
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#4 of 15 Old 06-14-2010, 08:13 PM
 
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I feel I have a good case for supervised visitation
No you don't.

Supervised visitation is not meant to be a flip consequence for an ex who upsets you; nor is it meant to be an excuse for denying summer visitation to an out-of-town parent ("Well, I didn't WANT to make him skip his summer visit, but he HAS to be supervised, so our kid CAN'T stay overnight with him...").

Sadly, S/V often IS used for those purposes. So, if you really want to... if you work hard to manipulate the molehill you've related here into the biggest mountain you can make of it... you might very well get some judge to give you what you want. But it wouldn't be right. S/V is upsetting for the child - it's not a natural way to spend time with a parent. It's humiliating for the NCP. And it sends the very clear message to the child that the NCP is so bad that he can't fill a regular parental role - even part-time. He has to be watched around his own children. You may be so angry at your ex that you'd like everyone including your son to think that about him. But remember: if your son believes his father's bad, he will believe part of himself is bad. And what you've said about your ex doesn't justify that.

He sounds like a fairly typical man who's angry at his ex-wife and resentful that he has little to no input in his son's life, or how much access he has to his son. It is not reasonable to assume that because a man spouted off and said angry things to his ex-wife that he is a "DANGER" to his child! He's not even a "danger" to YOU! He criticized how you dress your son? Big deal! He used the word "ass"? Again, big deal. He threatened to take you to court? Well, that's the only recourse that a NCP has, when he's dissatisfied with the custodial situation. He didn't threaten to kidnap your son or kill you. (I assume you would've mentioned that.)

And, as far as him behaving poorly in school after visiting his father... ??? In an intact family with a perfect father, I'd expect some behavior issues out of a child who has learned one of his parents is dying. In a long-distance divorce where no one's dying, it's not out-of-the-question for a child to have behavior issues stemming from the hurt and confusion he may feel about the separation from one parent - and the fact that he may not feel comfortable discussing it. You sound pretty hostile about his Dad, even to me. So your son may not think you'd want to hear it, if he told you he misses his Dad and wishes he could spend more time with him and feels disloyal about spending more time around his Step-Dad than his real one.

If he really is dying, it's perfectly reasonable that he'd be extra-emotional about wanting access to his child, wanting a voice in how his child is raised - and that from time to time he might sound irrational and upset. Be compassionate. Of course your son shouldn't live with him - especially if that would mean switching towns and schools. It would be too upsetting for an 8-year-old, to watch his Dad die while separated from his Mom. But agree to summer visitation! Don't make your ex go to court and beg for it! Give him and your son the time together which may not be available to them later. This man - not your husband - is his father and always will be.

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#5 of 15 Old 06-15-2010, 09:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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What a tough situation! Is your son close to his father at all? Has he always been in touch with his dad, spending summers there and such? Is his father's wife reliable? Because if he's always been in contact with his dad and well-taken-care-of while he's there, this probably isn't the time to pull him away from his father, especially if his dad only has a few years to live. I don't know the full situation, obviously, but I can imagine that your son's behavioral changes may be due to processing the information that his dad isn't going to be around much longer... that's hard, harder in some ways than losing a family member suddenly, with no warning. While it's good in a sense to have time to prepare for a loved one's passing, it's rough having to deal with that knowledge while they're still alive. He's probably internalizing a lot of this and just doesn't know how to deal with it effectively. If your son knows that you aren't on good terms with his ill father, he may be feeling additional stress. This isn't to say that you have to make nice! But at least demonstrate to your son that his dad is worthy of respect.

I'd recommend talking to your son about his father's illness and giving him a healthy and constructive channel to vent any anger or sadness he might be feeling. The illness, its treatment, and coming to terms with the end of one's life may certainly be affecting his father's mental health and wellbeing, and you can talk to your son about that, too. Basically just give your son an outlet for releasing the stress that he feels, and let him know that he can always come talk to you about these things. He'll probably need to - both now and especially after his dad passes away.

So no, I wouldn't change the visitation agreements. Unless you have a very strong case that your ex is violent, it probably won't matter in court anyway. (And he probably is entitled to visitation, especially if he's had your son during the summer for years - so he'd probably win that battle in court even if it isn't explicitly in the court documents.) But most importantly, if his dad is at least a semi-decent parent, your son needs to spend these last years of his life with him.
I'm actually not sure if his dad has said anything to him about dying. I haven't at all. I would not say that my DS is close to his dad from what he has said. He never talks about his dad when he's up here with us except to mention what he gets from him (like a PS2 and a Nintendo DSi) or where they go for vacation (Disneyland, Kalahari, etc.) or what he is allowed to do (such as watching adult swim... and riding a 4 wheeler). On top of which his dad says they never have discipline problems with him when he is down there, then proceeds to say he steals food & hides it in his room when they're only allowed to eat in the kitchen (and stealing was the term he used).
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#6 of 15 Old 06-15-2010, 09:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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And, there's something else as well, something I can't believe I forgot to mention. Once, my ex had our DS call to tell me he didn't want to live with me anymore. He was in tears on the phone and I swear I heard his dad coaching him or something in the background. I told him I'd see him soon (we had already made plans to pick him up, which his dad went along with) and he sounded just fine when he responded to that remark (which, I would think would have upset him more if he really didn't want to come home). Also, my mom visited with him during that same summer break & told me that he seemed really subdued. Subdued is not even close to a way I or anyone I know would describe my son.
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#7 of 15 Old 06-15-2010, 10:41 PM
 
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I would seek a therapist now. Make sure the therapist knows the gravity of the situation and might be called to testify in court. I'm so sorry your son is being manipulated this way. It is so sad when a parent (or any other authority figure for that matter) does that to a child.
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#8 of 15 Old 06-15-2010, 11:07 PM
 
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If your ex has cancer and is dieing please! please! look into grief counselling for your son. American Cancer society has things also look into what is directly available in your area.

One of my daughters friend's lost her mom to cancer. DF is 9 now and yes, she had issues during the process of her mom dieing and now that she has pass.

It could also be depression issues with the entire situation.
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#9 of 15 Old 06-15-2010, 11:17 PM
 
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Really kids pick up on more then we give them credit for. Most likely he is aware his dad is dying. And since your son senses your hostility towards his dad it is not surprising he does not talk to you about it.
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#10 of 15 Old 06-16-2010, 05:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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But most importantly, if his dad is at least a semi-decent parent, your son needs to spend these last years of his life with him.
That's the other thing. I have no idea what kind of a parent my ex is. I have never seen him with our son other than when we drop him off for visitation. I get the impression that his way of parenting is different than mine, but I don't know how different.
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#11 of 15 Old 06-16-2010, 11:17 PM
 
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I'm actually not sure if his dad has said anything to him about dying. I haven't at all.
He's 8, not 2. He senses that something is wrong, regardless.

Since this is a rather massive thing your son will have to deal with, don't you think you should make some effort to communicate with your ex about whether/how he has discussed it with your son? It would be a shame if you and your ex's unwillingness to interact with each other meant that one day his death just gets dumped on your son, with no preparation.

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I would not say that my DS is close to his dad from what he has said. He never talks about his dad when he's up here with us except to mention what he gets from him (like a PS2 and a Nintendo DSi) or where they go for vacation (Disneyland, Kalahari, etc.) or what he is allowed to do (such as watching adult swim... and riding a 4 wheeler).
My step-son (who has lived with us since he was 8) used to mention his mother so little that one could have easily made the superficial assumption that he did not think about her or miss her. Nothing could be further from the truth. He loves her, is close to her and it's hard on him to be away from her so much. But, like your son, there has been hostility between his parents as far back as he can remember. While he lived with his Mom, it upset her for him to talk about his Dad, or else she criticized everything my step-son said about him. Naturally, he assumed we'd react the same way if he talked about HER. So it's taken him a long time for him to grow comfortable bringing her up.

You acknowledge your son DOES mention his life with his Dad to you. Yet you sound critical of every single example. It sounds like you don't approve of anything he's allowed to do or have at his Dad's, or anywhere they go together. Don't you suppose your attitude discourages him from telling you more, from discussing his most deeply-held feelings about a person you apparently hate?

It's a mistake for divorced parents to EVER assume their children share their hateful feelings toward their exes - even if the children SAY they do. Kids know that's what their hurting parents want to hear.

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On top of which his dad says they never have discipline problems with him when he is down there, then proceeds to say he steals food & hides it in his room when they're only allowed to eat in the kitchen (and stealing was the term he used).
It ISN'T necessarily a "problem" (disciplinary or psychological) if an 8-year-old boy sneaks extra snacks or sweets, after being told he can only have one, or that he must wait 'til after dinner; or if he simply sneaks food into his room so he can snack while he does whatever it is he does in there, like play video games. What difference does it make whether your ex uses the word "sneak" or the word "steal"? Apparently, his attitude about the food issue is pretty reasonable, since in spite of it, he does NOT describe your son as having any significant "discipline problems".

You really come across as though you are reaching for any way to vilify your ex and justify keeping your son to yourself. When we're angry, it's hard to realize we're doing that. I'm sure you would never mean to hurt your son. But this type of behavior - if a parent does not get it under control - DOES HURT CHILDREN.

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Once, my ex had our DS call to tell me he didn't want to live with me anymore. He was in tears on the phone and I swear I heard his dad coaching him or something in the background. I told him I'd see him soon (we had already made plans to pick him up, which his dad went along with) and he sounded just fine when he responded to that remark (which, I would think would have upset him more if he really didn't want to come home).
From the time he was tiny, my step-son consistently and unwaveringly told my husband he wanted to live with HIM and periodically expressed anger about the things his Mom did, to try to keep them apart. At the same time, my step-son was telling his Mom he wanted to live with HER and would occasionally parrot back her criticisms of his Dad. BOTH parents genuinely believed the child wanted to live with THEM and that he had "issues" with the other parent. The Mom rejected any suggestion that the child ever expressed a desire to live with his Dad. Anyone who claimed to have heard her son say that must be lying, OR her son had been manipulated or forced to say such a thing. After all, he never told HER he wanted to live with anyone but her...

And, in a sense, ALL of it was true. Their son DID want to live with each (both) of them and he DID have issues with each of them, because together they had created a situation where he COULDN'T have both of them.

Because you and your ex communicate so poorly, you don't know the larger context of this incident. It may have been as simple as your son throwing a fit, wanting one more night of ATV riding and video games with his Dad. In exasperation, your ex may have insisted your son call you and ask to stay, knowing you'd say no if he (your ex) asked. Your son may have phrased his request badly, petulantly, because he was emotional. Your ex may have been scolding him in the background.

Or your son may have said things to his Dad - criticizing you, or complaining about the visit coming to an end, or the lack of time together - which made your ex genuinely believe he wanted to change residences. Just as you fail to see that your son could feel close to his Dad even if he doesn't tell you so; your ex may have trouble understanding that your son could complain about you or about the custodial situation, but still not really want to be separated from you.

Certainly, if your ex encouraged or pushed your son to call you and be "honest" or "direct" about his desires, that was a poor parenting choice. But it's not nearly the same thing as what you suggest: that your son was eager to go home to Mommy, but your ex terrorized him by forcing him to call his Mommy and say he didn't want to live with her anymore. I don't think you can assume the worst, simply because he was crying when he called you, but didn't cry when you picked him up.

And if this is the absolute worst you can come up with about your ex, I still don't think supervised visitation is warranted - or denying summer visitation. This happened once. And your ex didn't actually give you any problems about picking up your son, nor did he file anything with the court to create problems.

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My mom visited with him during that same summer break & told me that he seemed really subdued. Subdued is not even close to a way I or anyone I know would describe my son.
It is quite normal for a child in a high-conflict divorce to seem unusually subdued, in a situation where he anticipates conflict. Your mother showed up during his time with his Dad. You cannot assume the way he behaved then is the way he typically behaves with his Dad when your Mom's not there.

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I have no idea what kind of a parent my ex is. I have never seen him with our son other than when we drop him off for visitation. I get the impression that his way of parenting is different than mine, but I don't know how different.
None of this justifies trying to keep your son away from him.

Presumably, your ex has no idea what kind of parent you are, either. But you're both in the situation ALL OF US divorced parents are in: we must tolerate the differences and lack of control when our child is at the other parent's house, unless there is some actual danger to the child. You have not mentioned one.

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#12 of 15 Old 06-17-2010, 10:10 AM
 
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That's the other thing. I have no idea what kind of a parent my ex is. I have never seen him with our son other than when we drop him off for visitation. I get the impression that his way of parenting is different than mine, but I don't know how different.
And he's allowed to parent differently. It really doesn't sound as though your son is in danger with his Dad. My kids act differently around their Dad than they do with me, too. But that's kind of normal. Given Dad's apparent medical issues, I wouldn't even consider withholding the kiddo from his Dad unless I had actual proof that he was in danger. JMO
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#13 of 15 Old 06-17-2010, 04:16 PM
 
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You might want to consider how your son might feel in years to come if he were to find out that you prevented him from spending time with his dying father. I doubt it would be good for your relationship.

I speak as someone who lost her father as a child.
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#14 of 15 Old 06-17-2010, 06:41 PM
 
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Hi, this is my first post on this forum and I need some input. The situation is that my 8yo DS lives with myself & my DH (his stepdad) and the court paperwork I have states that I have sole legal and residential custody. I'll be re-reading the paperwork again, but my ex says there is court-ordered visitation in there somewhere, which I have yet to see. Now, things have been OK for most of the last 8 years until a little over a year ago when my ex called to tell me that his cancer had returned & the doctors had told him he had 2-4 years to live. Since then, he has tried to get me to let our son live with him until he passes away, accused my DH of child & spousal abuse (which are both highly ridiculous charges), basically called me a bad parent, and threatened to take me to court for custody.
I guess I'm a little confused about what your visitation agreement really is. For the last 8 years has the visitation time just been agreed upon between you & your ex? Or did the courts dictate time?
It sounds like for the last 8 years your son has been seeing his dad at Christmas & during the summer. Is that right?
If that is true & he pays child support even if there wasn't a court ordered visitation he would probably get to keep that time he has had.
Having cancer doesn't give him the right to make false allegations or be hostile to you. Nor does it make it ok for him to manipulate his son into living with him.
I'd hire a lawyer (or at least go to mediation with your ex) & put your son in counseling where he might feel more free to talk about his feelings.

"Now, things have been OK for most of the last 8 years"
I thought this too for the most part with my ex until I realized that it was going well because basically I'd give in to whatever he wanted. When I would assert myself things wouldn't go so well.

Good luck mama.

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#15 of 15 Old 06-19-2010, 05:28 PM
 
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OP, there is nothing you've posted here that makes me think your ex is dying.

There may be more information you haven't posted.

You may have excellent cause to believe that he is dying.

Or your may be dealing with a sociopath who will say ANYTHING to yank your chain.

Before you decide whether to allow visitation this summer, please spend some time and energy figuring out what you are really dealing with here. If he's lying to you about having a terminal illness, cut him off. Let him take you to court, if he's got that kind of initiative, and explain to the judge exactly why he scares the hell out of you.

If he really does have a terminal illness, facilitate some level of visitation, even if you have to chaperone your ds in order to make sure that he is safe.
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