Issues with stepsons mother. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 01-05-2014, 09:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi, haven't done anything like this before but running out of idea's and wanted to talk to other people in similar situations.
My husband and I have 2 children, the eldest is 7yo and my husbands son to a previous relationship. We also have a 1 yo son together. The mother lives in another town, 3hrs drive away and although we haven't been to court for custody we have done mediation and have parenting orders in place, the latest orders were agreed upon in Semptember 2012.
We have our 7yo, K, pretty much full time. She has him every 3rd weekend during the school term and for half of the holidays. She doesn't work, pay child support\maintenance, it is in the orders that she is meant to pay half of education and medical expenses although we have never asked for it as she is always crying broke and has cancelled weekends with him as she said she couldn't afford to see him.
My husband and I married in july as my mil was diagnosed with terminal cancer and not expected to last long, we had already been engaged for about a year. Once she found out that we were going ahead with the wedding we received a letter from her lawyer wanting to change the orders.
She isn't asking for more visitation, what she wants is for us to have to drive K to her so she doesn't have to. As my partner works full time and I don't have my license, im going for it in 2 weeks so fingers crossed! And I am starting uni this year as well, I don't think it's unreasonable to say no to this. As I said before she doesn't work or pay maintenance all she has to do is pay fuel for the drive.
She sends random argumentative messages, expects to change weekends with less than a days notice and cancels on him. We've recently been told that she is now using drugs as well..
We have requested mediation again as we have been unable to settle the matter through lawyers and letters and are waiting to hear back from her lawyer.
Are we being unreasonable in refusing to do the drive and does it get any easier dealing with blended families? Finding it very difficult atm!
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#2 of 8 Old 01-06-2014, 11:09 AM
 
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My DH has two exes that I deal with.  The transportation agreement with both of them is the same.  Halfway.  We meet halfway every other weekend for two of his boys.  His eldest son (16) lives in Texas (we are in Indiana) and we alternate who pays for the plane ticket every time.  Ex-wife number one is a breeze to work with and has two subsequent children, so she totally "gets" that life happens and is very easy to work with.  Ex-wife number two is a pain in the rear and would do anything she can to torture my DH and make his life difficult.  So, she often pleads poverty and says that she doesn't have the time, yada, yada. yada.  We respond that it's in the court order and she doesn't have a choice.  If they are not there, she will be in violation of the court order and it will give us even more record when we go back to court in order to lower her support. (Her support was originally based on her not working, my DH making $20K more a year and paying nothing for insurance or having no additional children.)  My advice to you, is to suck it up and take him for his scheduled visitation with her.  One, because he needs to have this time with his mother.  Two, she still is his mother and he will see in his own time that she is making up excuses for reasons not to have him.  You will not need to point this out.  Now, the switching back and forth, we don't do that.  If she can't make it one weekend, then you skip to the next. It is difficult enough for kids (and blended families) to keep up with the schedule of which kid is where without one of them switching it up.  They need to have that stability and will appreciate you supplying it for them.  I certainly would request a drug test in mediation.  Make sure you make her pay for her own.  Sorry about the book! :)

ETA: Keep a record in writing of everything that happens so that you can have that handy in mediation or court.  The best thing that happened to me was my boss giving me a calendar and telling me to keep track of each time she refuse to get them or threw a fit about something.  


~~~Jennifer~~~

Mama and stepmama to DSS1 (16), DSS2 (12), DSS3 in heaven, DD1 (9), DSS4 (8), DS1 (7), DD2 (1) and DS2 due spring 2014!

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#3 of 8 Old 01-06-2014, 12:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, we're already keeping diary and we save all the phone messages as well. We've already agreed that one of her family members can help her with the driving but she has sent him back with other people before, one being her cousin who has been to jail for assault and drug charges which we weren't too happy about.

I've been thinking that we might have to agree to some driving even just to keep some peace and also as its not fair on K, as you said she is his mother and he gets excited knowing he's going to see her then she cancels the day before or the morning of.. we have taken him a few times but when its such short notice we're not always able to.

The other problem is my dh and her do not get along at all so sometimes its hard to talk reason with either of them and I feel that K and I are stuck in the middle..
We have a rule that we don't talk about her negatively in front him which is hard sometimes as she'll tell him that she cant see him because dh and I wont agree to changing weekends of schedule visits when she cant make it. We offer her extra days if he has a long weekend or something and my dh has family where she lives as well so if we go there for the weekend we let her know so she can see him. We really are trying to do the right for him but its just so hard as if we do something like that she just expects more and more from us.

Definitely going to ask for a drug test and family assessments at mediation though. We have already organise letters from his school to show his progress, he had problems with his speech and fine motor skills so we had him do speech therapy and worked on his motor skills at home, he was behind in his education that we had to keep him back to repeat his first year of school. Again all this we organise. She didn't even return the schools calls or contact them after we discussed it with her as the school wanted her approval as well. We ended explaining the situation to his teacher and decided to just go ahead with it without her approval in the end as the school couldn't wait any longer.
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#4 of 8 Old 01-07-2014, 01:56 PM
 
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Unfortunately a 3 hour distance between your homes means 6 hours of round-trip driving for the driving parent, which is admittedly exhausting to do alone. It probably means she is quite tired for the whole weekend with 7yo from all the driving. From that vantage, I can understand why it might be desirable to make a change to the transportation arrangement even if it's not desirable for you. For parents that want to share transportation responsibility, I would normally suggest that each parent be responsible to transport the child from the other parent's home to their own home at the start of their own parenting time.  The reason I don't like meeting halfway is that it puts you at the mercy of the other parent, who might decide to show up late or not at all and you've got to wait around at some remote location for who knows how long until you can finally go home. Being responsible for the whole trip back to your home also eliminates the potential for arguments of "XH didn't wait long enough for me to get there," or "XH wasn't there" (when really he was) and the associated games of trying to make him look like the bad guy. If you don't think that would be a problem in your case, meeting halfway might be a good solution. If you think these "games" might be a problem, sharing the burden of transportation by each picking up the child from the other parent's house might be a good solution. But if you think that DH (and you) cannot accommodate her request in good faith, I don't think it's unreasonable to respond that you can't agree to make a change to the transportation arrangement. You will probably have to accept whomever she designates to do the driving in her place (usually a parent or their assigned designate gets to do the driving) if DH doesn't take over responsibility for part or all of the travel.

 

I recommend notifying her when there are education or medical expenses that she's supposed to pay for, even if you don't think she'll pay her portion, because you (and the Court) cannot fault her for not doing something she wasn't informed of or asked to do (she doesn't get your mail to see the bills). Let her respond with "I can't afford that," or "I'm not going to pay my share" rather than just not asking.

 

If you do request mediation, a good topic to discuss is what arrangement you would like for making up missed weekends. If it is clear what accommodations will--or won't--be available when she asks for makeups, hopefully the ongoing disagreements in front of 7yo will stop. If you think it's reasonable to change the schedule with a certain amount of notice (say, 7 days notice) but not offer any makeup when she doesn't give that much notice, it should be easier to work out. Given how little time she gets to spend with 7yo, I think it would be good to work in the possibility of makeups when she's responsible enough to proactively arrange an alternative. Two months is a long time to go without seeing your child (a month is a long time, for that matter!). On the other hand, she only has to make one weekend a month work and if she can't manage to schedule her social life around that, you shouldn't necessarily have to be the one constantly changing plans to accommodate. If her child is truly important to her, she'll manage to make the assigned schedule work.

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#5 of 8 Old 01-13-2014, 10:33 AM
 
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I'm also a "custodial stepmother" and my stepson's mom is beyond difficult.  She lives more than 2,000 miles from us.  Luckily, my husband controls the transportation arrangements; my step-son's mom works and pays support; and half the estimated cost of the transportation was added to the support she owed.  Even so, we have transportation-related conflict with nearly every visit.  Less luckily, we worry about her abusing (prescription) drugs, having inappropriate situations with men in her home, and providing inadequate supervision during visits.  With so much distance, we can mostly just speculate, based on snippets of information we gather here and there.  Various legal resources have assured us there is nothing my husband can do, unless/until "something happens".

 

In our situation, the more control my husband has over his son's life, the "easier" things are.  When Mom had custody - and even when she controlled the transportation arrangements, after losing custody - she was so focused on punishing my husband any way she could, that she routinely made choices at odds with their son's needs.  It's "easier" now, because when Mom wants to act maliciously, she rarely has the power to do so.  She sends nasty emails, to convince my husband he should let her have what she wants; implying that if he doesn't, everyone will know she's the long-suffering victim and he's the hideous bully.  It's annoying, but so what?  The key is, she no longer controls a part of our lives.

 

In terms of the antagonistic emails, I don't think things will get "easier" until my stepson's an adult.  Even then, I expect drama over where he spends holidays and vacations, his wedding, and how often he brings his kids to visit each parent.  Even if your step-son's mom agreed to give up custody, she'll probably always feel insecure about your role in his life and act out, accordingly.

 

When making decisions in cases like ours, it's easy to get caught up in all the drama between the adults - what's "fair" to one parent or the other; what one parent or the other "deserves".  Better to focus on the kid.  At every stage, ask yourself what's best - or at least the lesser of two evils - for him, and you're less likely to wind up regretting your decisions.

 

If money is truly keeping his mother from spending time with him, then it may not be "fair" for you and your husband to shell out more money, for transportation.  But if you can find a way, it might be best for your step-son, that you facilitate his access to his mother.

 

However, if you think he won't be safe with her, because of drugs, then her request for transportation gives you some leverage:

 

#1 - What are your legal options?  If one parent suspects the other is abusing drugs, will the courts order random drug testing and limit visitation rights if the parents fails a test?

 

#2 - If you DON'T have legal options, you could offer to take care of the transportation for her visits, as long as she agrees to random drug-testing, so you'll be sure he's safe while he's there.


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#6 of 8 Old 01-20-2014, 01:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi all. Thank you all for the advice. We've been having a few issues since my stepson (k) came home from xmas holidays with her. Aside from usual behavior problems we have after the longer visits she has been telling him he's going to live with her which upset and confused him a lot. He came home saying he doesnt want to live with her and doesn't want to be shared anymore. Said he wanted to call us outside of scheduled phone calls and she wouldn't let him and he spent most of his time at her mothers or sisters.
We had calls and messages from herself and the guy shes been seeing as they broke up while K was visiting, got back together and have now broken up again. She rang saying he's crazy and not to listen to him if he contacted us and he contacted us saying she's using drugs and a few other things... Then they got back together and broke up again and we've had the same calls again.
Our lawyer sent a letter before xmas requesting mediation which we havent received a reply to yet but she rang us a couple days ago saying that she no longer wants to go through the lawyers and will stick to the orders we currently have in place. We're not sure of whether we should follow through with lawyers or give her another chance. The talk and rumors we've been hearing about drug use is really worrying us which is why we are still considering mediation or at least requesting drug tests to done...
Very worried and upset over what has happened in last couple of weeks and just dont know what to do.
Neither of us wants to limit contact even more, she is his mother and he loves her but we starting to become very concerned for his safety when he is with her and after the last couple of phone calls her state of mind as well.
Pretty certain that she was high as kite during last call. She couldnt follow the conversation, kept repeating herself and was going off onto completely unrelated subjects.
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#7 of 8 Old 01-20-2014, 02:40 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I would also like to point out in regards to the shared driving that my husband and myself struggle financially as well and as we dont get legal aide we have also have to pay a few thousand so far in lawyers fees as well as trying to keep up with everyday bills and costs.

I am studying and my husband is doing an apprenticeship through his work. I don't have my driving license though I am booked in for my driving test in 2 weeks so fingers crossed, for my husband to do the the driving would mean that he would have to take time off work every 3 weeks to get there at the appointed time or drive at night after work along a road with emu's and kangaroos with a minor in the car. She doesn't work and at 31yo has never worked.

Also she does not pay child maintenance and because she has cancelled in the past saying she couldn't afford it, we haven't asked her to pay her share of education or medical cost in over a year to help her out.

She cant afford to see her son but she can afford to put on parties and go out nightclubbing regularly. We have friends and family where she lives and she has told us herself that she has seen them out at nightclubs. One time when she cancelled because she apparently couldn't afford it she then put on social media that she had gone away for the weekend with her boyfriend, was staying in a nice hotel and drinking cocktails.

Sorry to have a bit of a rant but I am feeling very frustrated and a little tired of the whole situation this week which why I haven't been on for a while, I didn't want to rant and be negative or nasty.
So apologies for rant 😟
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#8 of 8 Old 01-20-2014, 06:06 PM
 
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If you guys can't afford the money or time off work, to help with Mom's transportation issues, then no one can criticize you for not doing it.  It sounds like you're already shouldering more than your share of the responsibilities for the child.  If Mom is not genuinely unable to afford the transportation...she'd just prefer someone else pay for it, so she can use her money for drugs and alcohol...then it's doubly true that you should feel no guilt.
 
We went through a somewhat similar dilemma with my step-son's mom.  When my husband got custody, at first he volunteered to receive no child support, so Mom could spend the money traveling here, for extra visits.  However, she hoped their son would miss her more - and be more motivated to help her get custody back - if he believed that he couldn't see much of her, if he lived here.  She only visited a little bit at first, then less and less until she stopped altogether.  He still visits her, 3 times a year, but she never comes here.  
 
For a while, my husband and I thought, "SURELY she will miss her son so terribly that she won't keep this up.  She'll want to visit more."  We didn't want to ask that she start paying support, then have it complicate things for her, if she decided to start visiting more.  But then she went a whole year without visiting - and at the same time, she was spending all this money trying to be the "cool parent":  taking him on lavish vacations; buying him outlandishly expensive gifts and electronics; giving him a credit card, so if we wouldn't buy something for him - or told him he couldn't have something - he could just go online and order it for himself (and say, "What?  I can't help it.  Mom had it sent to me!")
 
So, the heck with it.  We knew she'd complain to their son that we were causing financial problems for her and keeping her from visiting him, by asking for child support.  But if she wasn't making any effort to do her part, to see him, then we could really use that money for his school tuition, dental bills, etc.  Those things are in his best interest, too - and we had the power to make sure he got those things.  We couldn't force her to give him her time.
 
But, if you have good reason to fear for his safety, then transportation is a moot point, anyway.  I hope you will research your options for making random drug testing a requirement, if she gets to keep having visits; and how feasible it would be, to represent yourselves in court or mediation.  I can't give you advice, because I have no idea how the courts work where you live.

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