new here...looking for advice on how to move on... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 02-26-2014, 08:16 AM - Thread Starter
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I have been with my husband for 15yrs. We have been married for 9yrs and have 2 daughters together, they are 6yrs and 8yrs. He has a daughter from his previous relationship. She is 16. BM has always been difficult to deal with and has always had issues with me. She has always tried to keep his daughter out of his life. It has always been a difficult struggle. We moved to SD school district 5yrs ago in hopes to get more time with her. My DH tried communicating with BM to get more time. She would give a little, with much hesitation, but then stop if she got upset about something. DH and I talked with SD over the years about what she wanted in regards to time here. She consistently said she wanted more. Finally after she turned 15 and still said she wanted more time here we all met to talk with BM, but BM wasn't having it. She would take our info home to look it over but say SD didn't want more time. It came to the point my DH filed with court to get more time. It got dragged out and there was mediation, GAL, etc...finally trial came in Sept and DH was given more time, not as much as he asked for (50/50) but he went with GAL recommendations and BM and SD agreed too. BUT immediately conflicts began...and in Nov SD stopped coming over. SD and DH had an argument over the time/day that was his, but BM and SD claim they didn't know it was his time and they made other plans. SD came out with "I've spoke with several lawyers and I don't have to come if I don't want, no one can make me" all through text messages, she would not answer DH calls. WHAT?! We were shocked by her behavior, and hurt. My DH tried several times to still get her on his scheduled days, but she wouldn't come. He contacted BM too, but she lashed out unbelievable threats, such as, DH is mentally abusing her and she has written statements to prove in court. As soon as paperwork is filed things will be changing...again WHAT?! So DH was in contact with his lawyer about all this. He did end up filing contempt the end of Dec. Hearing is not until late March. DH did speak to SD a week before Christmas and she wanted to come over. She did come (with headache from BM though) She came Christmas day and hasn't been back sense. She found out about contempt charges the beginning of Jan, DH would text her and she wouldn't reply. She finally did and said she was sorry but was just busy and was upset about court, but was ok with it now cause she can now tell her side. Again, WHAT?! My DH and I have done nothing but do whatever for SD to keep her happy and make things better. DH tried calling her and she wouldn't answer. There has been zero communication since the beginning of Jan. What do we do? DH is beyond devastated, he has lost his daughter who he has fought to be there for all her life. Our daughters miss her and ask for her. Her bedroom sits empty without her. Last weekend after DH melt down about it all, I packed some of her things that were hard reminders for us all. Our oldest daughter wanted to sleep in there since she shares a room with our youngest. We aren't moving her into that room, just letting her stay in there some. But part of us wants to box it all up, change it to our daughters room and move on...but we are lost in what is "right" to do. I have gotten an apt for us to start counseling, I know how much this crap effects me and DH I want to be sure our girls are treated right. There is SO much more and I could go on and on...if you take the time to read, thank you, I hope for input...I'm lost

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#2 of 7 Old 02-27-2014, 09:36 PM
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I'm so sorry you're facing this, that must be unimaginably painful for your husband. Counseling is a very good idea, especially for him, it's very hard to make good decisions when you're facing such an emotional situation. I can understand wanting to move on after so long of no real contact with SD. Honestly, though, I don't think you should.


I'm incredibly worried for your SD. From what you've said here, her mother has shown signs of parental alienation (trying to keep dad out of her life, stopping visitation when she gets upset, refusing to accept SD wants more time with dad), which is very damaging to children, and it likely amped up after you won more visitation. It's possible SD just had a change of heart and doesn't want to be around her dad, but given the extreme change (from "I want to see dad more" to "I won't even talk to him on the phone") it seems more likely that she's facing emotional manipulation and even abuse from her mother. There are a few people on here who've faced parental alienation from the other parent, it's incredibly difficult and it's very hurtful, it can really damage the kids. Honestly, I'm a bit suspicious that your SD may not be writing all the texts- is there any chance that BM has taken her phone and is texting these things to dad while insisting to SD that dad is the one cancelling the visits and who doesn't want to talk to her? I've heard of a parent taking their kid's phone to block contact with the other parent. It might be SD writing it, but is there a chance it's not?


Even if I'm wrong, and there is no parental alienation, and this is what your SD feels, you just don't know if there's an underlying cause. Until you can talk to her, look her in the eyes, hear her tone and see her body language- don't make any permanent decisions. If for some reason you absolutely have to give up, like if it turns out that legally visitation can't be enforced anymore, her dad should make it clear to her that he loves her, he still wants her in his life, that he and her sisters miss her, and that if she ever changes her mind- you'll be there for her. She, like all children, needs to know that her dad loves her and will be there for her no matter what.

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#3 of 7 Old 02-28-2014, 12:57 PM
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I know there are moms here who have been through tough situations like this and come out the other side with more time (or primary custody) of their DSC so I hope great advice will be here soon.


My DSD was 5 when our "court battle" phase of life began. We didn't have involvement of a GAL and the court wouldn't hear anything of DSD's mom's claims of harm in DH's care. Her mom did the stereotypical "take her to the doctor and file reports" thing, and those seemed to be put aside. Really, all of her phony claims were the scariest part of the whole court process to me. DSD was too young to "get a say" in court, so she wasn't put in a position to have to testify to a judge, but that doesn't mean it was stress-free for her either. She came to our house and cried because (she said) her mom told her she wasn't going to get to see DH anymore. From her behavior it seemed that she was being told more about the parenting conflict than she should've had to deal with and that was hard for us to witness. I'm not sure if it was harder for DH than not getting to see her at all (which was the standard before the court battle, since DSD's mom was pretty flaky about letting them have time together before being court-ordered) but who wants to choose between those two extremes?


After the court order giving DH a huge amount of parenting time, way more than we thought court would give him since he'd never lived with DSD before--he has her for 3 months over summer, for starters--things. were. awful. There was no cooperation from DSD's mom, she was so angry. DSD came to our house in tears now saying she wanted to leave because her mom misses her and that she didn't want to come back ever again. From our perspective we wondered where did this come from? since she'd been sad at the prospect of not getting to come to our house only a few weeks earlier. She told DH that she doesn't love him, that she only loves her mom, after years of telling him she loves him. DSD's mom stopped answering the phone (we still have troubles with this sometimes). But things have gotten a lot better as time has passed. We were back in court the two summers after the "big" court order, with DSD's mom trying to argue her way out of the ordered time, but the order hasn't changed. She's still obviously unhappy with it but seems to have accepted the reality of things. From my perspective, it seems like she gives DSD a harsh guilt trip about leaving for summer and the summers begin a little rough, but after DSD is with us for a couple days, it seems like she sees that our house is a good and safe place, and she settles in and seems to genuinely enjoy it.



So with that, I can first suggest to give it time. It's unfair that it is at the cost of time with your DSD when her mom interferes, but it might not be this bad forever.

Then, don't give up on following the order. Show up at DSD's house to pick her up according to the order. If she refuses to leave, it might be impractical to drag her out of the house, but at least make sure she knows you're there for her. Document every time you go there and she refuses to come out.

Call the house phone or DSD's mom's phone if DSD doesn't answer her own phone. If DSD refuses to answer her own phone, there might not be anything the court can do about it, but if DSD's mom refuses to answer the phone that's another issue entirely. That's interfering and it's not OK. Even if DSD doesn't answer or respond, don't stop calling her. Don't give up on her. Doing so would validate that DH doesn't care about her, along with anything else her mom may have implied or said outright about you all. At this point, you might need to start documenting every time you call her mom and the result of the call (no answer, voicemail left, when/if returned, answered, etc.) to show the pattern of interference.


Her about-face on the matter isn't terribly surprising, albeit disheartening for you to experience. A child will often tell her parents what she thinks they want to hear. A child may also "stick up" for the parent who she perceives to be the weaker parent--the one she may fear would give up on her--while being hard on the parent she believes will be there through thick and thin. So she may have been really interested in spending more time with her dad but now she sees how it's made her home life with mom difficult, and is "defending" mom. Or she may have been somewhat indifferent to how much time she spent with dad but agreed that it would be nice to spend more time there because it made dad happy to hear. I suspect the former given a history of being difficult in allowing parenting time, but in either case, she's probably going through some turmoil and has her own feelings of being lost and needs your love and support more than ever.

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#4 of 7 Old 02-28-2014, 10:11 PM
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I second the advice you've been given! Don't give up on DSD. It's heartbreaking for you, just imagine how she will feel if she thinks you guys don't care.

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#5 of 7 Old 02-28-2014, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by singin'intherain View Post

I second the advice you've been given! Don't give up on DSD. It's heartbreaking for you, just imagine how she will feel if she thinks you guys don't care.

Op, you are talking about two months since you've seen your sd, right? Why would you even consider just boxing her stuff up and being done?! The teen years are a difficult time, and teenagers can be immature and reactionary. Unfortunately, this teen doesn't have the benefit of daily living with the parent she's angry with. I would def recommend your husband and you get into counselling so you are ready to welcome sd back with loving arms the minute she is ready to return.

What an awful situation.
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#6 of 7 Old 03-01-2014, 03:25 AM
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It seems to me given the situation it might be time to go back to court and possibly have the mom charged with contempt for interfering with the court order. It seems highly likely parental alienation is at play here.
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#7 of 7 Old 03-03-2014, 07:51 AM
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:grouphug  I'm so sorry you're going through this!  


Our family has struggled with similar - though not identical - details.  My husband's ex tried to alienate their son from him, moved away and then portrayed DH's frequent visits as "abuse"/"stalking".  In our case, my DH eventually got the right judge and was given sole custody.


I won't draw many parallels between my DSS's mom and your DH, because that wouldn't be very nice; and because it sounds like your DH has done appropriate things to remain close to his daughter:  moving near her, trying to communicate, asking for more parenting time.  Many of my DSS's mom's efforts to maintain her bond with DSS have been very INappropriate.


The similarity is that my DSS's mom - however misguided - genuinely feels the way you and your DH (more legitimately) feel:  that she has knocked herself out, for years, to combat her ex's efforts to drive her child away from her... but now she feels bewildered, betrayed and abandoned because her child (now almost 15) has stopped saying he wants more time with her and seems to be taking her ex's side.  (She coached my DSS to file for emancipation when he turned 14, then move back to her state. But now he's in high school, attached to his friends and sports, doesn't want to leave and wants to spend less of his vacation time away from here, visiting her.)  His mom's battle had always been with her ex and she had believed DSS was her ally, but now her battle is more with DSS himself.  And does it even make sense to fight for more time with a teenager who doesn't seem to want it?


The other similarity is that our step-kids are both teenagers.  Thus, it may be ineffective to approach parenting time and contempt charges the same way you would, with a young child:


1 - If a CP denies visitation with a young child, it's right for the NCP to seek a contempt finding and visitation enforcement and ideally the child won't know anything more than, "Mommy and Daddy couldn't agree on some things and had to get help from the judge.  Only the adults need to worry about it.  We both love you."  


But teens have a legal right for judges to at least consider their wishes and perspectives about their own lives and schedules - if not defer to them.  A teen will know which parent brought suit against the other and is likely to view that as an attack.  You and your DH understandably think his ex's undermining is the attack, which necessitates returning to court.  But your DSD may think, "I'm grown up and make my own decisions!  I haven't wanted to visit him and he's taking it out on my mom!  I'll show him!"  She's unlikely to admit to herself how much influence her mom has, over her.


One of the most difficult, exasperating dilemmas about high-conflict divorce is trying to understand and respect that defensiveness of a child, for a parent whose behavior seems so wrong - and is making your life such hell - that anyone who loves you - or just loves justice and decent behavior - ought to be forming picket lines outside your ex's house!  But that's often how kids feel, regardless of their age.  They don't want to think a parent is being criticized or attacked, even if that parent deserves it.  And if they feel both parents are criticizing and attacking each other, they tend to side with the parent they think is more fragile or lonely, or more likely to turn on them if they support the other parent.  (That's why parental alienation works.  The alienator usually fits into one or both of those categories.)


With a teen - who can get on the stand, defend her mother, and make things even worse and more heartbreaking for you - you guys might be better off staying out of court and just continuing to let her know that you miss her, you want her in your lives, and she's welcome whenever she's willing to visit.  Or, you might back off on the contempt and enforcement of strict visitation times, but ask the court to enforce DSD attending weekly or bi-weekly counseling with you and your DH.  DSD would feel listened to and an outside 3rd party might open her eyes to ways her mother poisons her mind against her dad; whereas if you guys suggest that, she'll just feel defensive of her mom.


2 - Teens are self-centered.  They're supposed to be.  They NEED to start focusing more on their own friendships, interests, needs and (hopefully) goals, than on hanging out with their parents - or, as is often the case for kids in high-conflict divorces - trying to comfort, validate or rescue them.  


Your DSD may have thrown up her hands and thought, "Forget this constant, emotionally exhausting effort to balance relationships with both parents.  Life at Mom's is easier when Dad's out of the picture and I want peace.  Dad divorced her.  Let him deal with the fallout.  Not my problem anymore."


She may feel pissed that, her entire childhood, she's been at the center of a waxing-and-waning battle between her parents, over her time.  She may feel like she's spent a long time making her feelings secondary to her parents' because she knew they were both upset.  And now she wants control.  She likes her mom telling her visitation ought to be her choice and letting her discuss her rights with attorneys.  In contrast, she may feel like your DH is trying to take control away from her, by going back to court to enforce the visitation orders.


And, for any teen, as school, homework, extra-curricular and social schedules get more demanding, it IS increasingly convenient to have one, consistent home-base.  It's a sacrifice for kids of divorce to also juggle a visitation schedule; different rules/expectations at two parents' homes; which of their things is at which parent's house; and both parents craving more than half of the kids' ever-dwindling free time.  


It's understandable that you and your DH feel hurt and don't want to tolerate the status quo, but rather than trying to more firmly enforce his scheduled visitation - when his daughter will have total control over whether you see her or not, within just a few years, no matter what happens in court - consider letting her have the control she wants now, and emphasizing that you just want time with her, it doesn't have to be on the assigned schedule.


But other posters are right:  don't give up on her.  A 16-year-old girl needs to know that, even if she's an immature brat, she can't lose her father's love and interest.  Text her, email her, contact her on social media - whatever is her preferred method of communication.  Send her treats in the mail at her mom's house, occasionally.  Keep inviting her over.  Forgive her for being selfish and inconsiderate toward you and have faith that your patience with her now will pay off, with a more tolerable relationship with her, as an adult.

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