Granted, this is minor compared to our prior problems with my DSS's mom. Life is easier, since she appears to have abandoned her big plan to win back custody. Nevertheless, I just realized today that DH is still waffling about which plane tickets to buy DSS, for Xmas break. So I figure I'll see what you all think:
1 - A year ago, DH and his ex ("Mom") went to mediation. One issue was her insistence on arranging for DSS (then 13) to change planes alone on cross-country flights, when direct flights were available. There seemed to be no reason for this, besides the fact that DH objected to it and Mom had the power to oppose him, because she was assigned to pay for DSS's travel.
2 - The mediator thought it was outrageous not to put DSS on direct flights and convinced Mom to agree that DH could start buying DSS's plane tickets.
3 - Mom agreed to turn over the travel planning to DH, only on the condition that he limit himself to choosing flights into/out of San Diego. At the time, she lived near the SD airport, but had often flown DSS into/out of LA, which has 4 airports and offers a wider variety of flights and prices. Naturally, though, any time DH had suggested an LA flight (i.e., to get DSS on a direct flight), it had been unthinkable to Mom.
4 - After mediation, Mom moved out into the hills, far from any airport. She has advertised in a very public, commercial forum that her new home is "equally accessible" from the SD or LA airports. I can't imagine she knows we've seen that, though.
5 - Since mediation, most (maybe all?) direct flights between SD and our city - or any of the cities near us - have been phased out. However, direct flights are still offered, between here and LA.
6 - DSS is 14 now, but still rather immature and often impulsive, testing limits and not thinking of the consequences; not managing his time well or taking care of his responsibilities. DH and I still don't think it's a great idea for him to be changing planes - much less having a layover - in some huge airport, during a peak travel season, with absolutely no supervision, hundreds of miles from either parent.
7 - Yet, DH is reluctant to violate the letter of the mediation agreement - esp. since there's a clause that whichever party is found guilty of violating it must pay the entire cost, if they return to mediation.
8 - I think:
A) If Mom didn't take DH back to mediation this past summer, she's not going to do it at all. This summer, Mom was supposed to get 4 extra days with DSS. Instead, she got LESS than her usual time, because of commitments DSS had here. DH argues that, technically, Mom agreed to that change; whereas he can't imagine she'd agree to change airports - especially if flying through SD would force DH to let DSS change planes alone, when Mom knows DH worries about it.
B) If Mom did take DH back to mediation, they would also discuss the ways she violated the mediation agreement, within 24 hours of signing it. And those weren't ways that can possibly be construed as addressing DSS's best interest, in the light of changed circumstances (as is flying him through LA). Those were malicious, "you can't force me to follow this damn agreement" type of violations. I don't think it would be at all clear that DH was the "violator" who had to pay for all of mediation. But then again, this is my first experience with mediation. I don't really know how it works. It shocked the heck out of me that it was successful, the 1st time around!
I agree that it's not clear-cut that you guys would have to pay if it goes back to mediation - but it's a risk. I'd weigh the risk of wasting that time and money with the risk of time and money wasted if DSS messes up his transfer, and go from there. I don't think kidnapping is a serious risk for a child this age who is remaining inside an airport terminal, so don't stress either way - just do your potential-hassle analysis and make a decision.
The biggest risk seems to be him missing his flight (which, by the way, is a risk even with the most organized and responsible, especially over winter- I once had a plane delayed so much that when i finally got off it, I had to run not to miss the final boarding of my connecting flight). If you only give your son cash money, he won't be able to take a credit card and buy an obscene amount of airport, overpriced crap (I don't know if that was a concern, it'd be a concern for me), but at the same time if he misses his flight and needs a hotel or something he won't be able to pay for it easily. I agree that the risk of kidnapping isn't too large, although I'd also make a point of informing him about the risk and such. It's a little late, but if you could get him into self defense classes for the future- it may help put your mind at ease. Does your son have any issues with anxiety disorders or something like that? That would make transferring alone even more dangerous and, as far as I'm concerned, would be reason enough to demand a direct flight.
I agree that direct flights would be ideal. If he misses his flight, that is a HUGE stress for a kid. You may be able to help over the phone, but ultimately it will be up to him to work out getting another connecting flight. If he misses it due to his own mistakes (rather than due to a delayed flight), I don't know how much the airline will work with him. I don't know how much mediation costs- would the potential cost of having to buy new plane tickets, cover the cost of a hotel, etc be less expensive than mediation? Would the risk and worry of his son missing his flight cost more emotionally than the cost of mediation? If your step son would be able to bounce back from the stress easily- it may be worth it to go along with her demands. If your son would have a very difficult time of it- it may be worth it to risk mediation.
Do you have any record of her flying your son to LA when she lived closer to SD (I really hope you'll be able to, this would show a precedence)? Take a screen shot of her saying that she lives equally close to LA and SD. Will the mediator thinking it was outrageous not to put your step son on direct flights be part of any records? Even if you do have to do mediation and pay for it- it should NOT be difficult to prove that your husband was acting in his son's best interests.
It's sad to me that your DSS's mother seems to care so little about him- it really seems like she's doing things solely to spite your husband, not out of her son's best interests. There's no reason for her to refuse direct flights when she lives equally between SD and LA and when she isn't paying for it.
Proud Formula Feeder, I support how ALL parents feed their babies. Breast or bottle, formula or breastmilk, and any combination thereof.
Happily married since 4/30/2009 Our first was born 4/23/2013
What I'd do? Book the direct flight, and give DSS cab fare to get all the way to mom's house. I'm imagining that there'd be a line up of cabs outside the airport terminal, right? Getting a cab has got to be a lot easier than switching planes. And if he does reun into trouble, at least he is in the same city as a parent who he can caall for help. Your DH could still give her the option of picking DSS up at the airport, if she wants. If she complains about having DSS arrive at her house, and takes that to court, how ridiculous would she look then?! It sucks to tack on yet another expense, but if it would actually keep the peace? It might be worth it. I wish things could just be straight forward for you guys!
~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.
Serendipitously, DH waffled about plane tickets until he found direct (albeit not nonstop) flights into/out of San Diego. We're flying DSS into/out of an airport 4 hrs away from us, but we'll take our other kids and make a fun couple of days out of the trips.
Problem averted, right? Yet, Mom is still mad because she says she deserves the entire break and DH only gave her half (as per their mediation agreement).
Now that I'm not afraid we'll lose DSS, if Mom gets too upset or does something devious, I have no anxiety about this whatsoever. It feels SO NICE to have a sense of permanence and security about our family structure! Until this summer (when it began to seem obvious that DSS will stay here until he finishes high school) I didn't fully realize what stress DH, DSS and I were under, having this giant question-mark in the back of our minds all the time, about what Mom's next move would be and whether it would succeed (for DSS's part, whether he should help her).
Mom's new approach seems to be an abject refusal to communicate with DH, instead expecting DSS to pass messages (which is completely at odds with the mediation agreement, not to mention our state guidelines). She gets furious with DH, on the phone with DSS, and expects DSS to feel just as outraged and vengeful as she does. The problem is, DSS is more and more his own person. He knows DH isn't scheming to cheat and torment Mom; that she makes demands with which it's hard to comply - and which increasingly conflict with what DSS wants, in his own life and his own time. He isn't turning against her (which would make me worry that we've alienated him from her). He's just not buying into her excessive, self-centered "Don't you understand what your father's doing to me!? You have to help me!" B.S. It's nice to see. It's mature, rational and healthy. Dare I say it? I'm tempted to take it as a sign that DH and I have done some things right...