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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My STBX and I disagree about the timing of when to tell the kids, so I guess I'm looking for confirmation that I'm not crazy (or a reality check if he's in the right).

Background: I requested a divorce April 2013. We began living separately the majority of the time in August 2013. (We had two houses, but they were in separate states so sometimes practicality required us staying in the same house for brief periods so we could both attend important events for the kids.) It is at this point that we began a bird nesting arrangement where the kids occupy a single house and the parents take turns living with them. In September of 2014, I got my own apartment about five miles from the kids' house (when he isn't with them he works out of state) and we haven't lived together at all since.

I had him served with papers in February 2015. Even at that point he was dragging his feet about actually getting divorced, so in April my lawyer filed a petition with the state; the result of which is that we have an initial hearing on June 25th that no further motions can be filed by either side before.

There is no history of abuse or anything like that. He's an involved father and we agree on shared custody of the kids and have similar parenting styles. Our kids are 7 and 4. The points of contention are:

a) the division of assets (he makes six figures, I was a SAHM and have an English BA) which we're close to an agreement on

b) the continuation of the bird nesting... he is really super attached to the idea of the bird nesting not only continuing but views it as the only custody arrangement that won't damage the children. And I'm over it. I think it was a good thing to do the first two years we were separated, particularly while our youngest was a preschooler. I tried to tell him at several points that I wasn't willing to continue bird nesting, but he wouldn't listen/would present these insane scenarios that would make it continue to 'work' financially and it got to the point where I told him other than matters directly dealing with the kids we'd communicate through lawyers. He didn't understand that I was not willing to continue the bird nesting until I had my lawyer tell his lawyer (even though I'd said the same thing to him), and even now he's not acknowledging that we won't continue to do it once the divorce is final.

c) when to tell the kids we're divorcing, which brings me to my actual question...

When should you tell the kids?

He has been extremely reluctant for us to tell the kids we are divorcing. He believes that they've just decided that I don't live with them sometimes because that's what I need to do in order to be able to do my freelancing work, since they were used to not seeing him at weeks at a time due to work their entire lives. I have not been comfortable with this, but I've gone along to keep the peace.

Recently our 7 y/o has started asking me questions and making observations that are impossible for me to answer within the assumed context of us continuing to remain married. She has asked me why I don’t go on dates or have a boyfriend. (And I did ask her what she meant by ‘boyfriend’ and she said ‘a man you kiss.’) She also just wants to talk quite a bit about husbands, wives, and people being married in general. And she's been asking me about his ex wife. I’ve told her these are conversations I don’t want to have with her right now, but will at some point.

I alerted STBX to all of this and gave him two options:

1) choose a date for us to tell the kids together when he had custody of them this most recent time (our custody swap is today, he's had them for 2 weeks).

2) I tell them myself the next time I have them.

He waited until today to reply and said that he still feels we should not tell them yet because aside from having to view conflict, the thing that upsets kids the most in divorce is uncertainty about what is going to happen to them. And then he went on to say that he's only just heard from his lawyer that I'm not willing to continue bird nesting and implied that I've blindsided him with this and claims that he has no idea how on earth we'll manage custody if we aren't bird nesting.

(I had asked for one of our two houses; the one the kids currently live in. He proposed a counter offer saying he wants to keep both houses but will give me additional money from the retirement accounts—I'd already asked for half, which he's agreed—equal to the equity in the house he is keeping. I informed my lawyer that I'm willing to accept that as long as all of the money comes to me in a lump sum without penalty through a QDRO... with my plan being to put down a 75% down payment on a house of my own.)

My plan had been to tell the kids this:

We have decided not to be married anymore because that’s something husbands and wives sometimes decide to do, but we will never stop being your parents and you will always have your family. [I don’t want to make specific long-range promises about living arrangements, given that we don’t know exactly and even if we did things could change, but rather say that for now everything will continue as it has with them living in their current house with either me or him caring for them and that they will always get to spend time with both of us and have one of us caring for them and be near their friends/school, even though that will probably mean having two houses.] And there are all sorts of families and your family has two parents who care for you and work together to do what’s best for you.

Is he right that it's terrible to tell them when all I have are good guesses about what our living arrangements will be once the divorce is final? Is it better to continue to lie to them and evade our oldest's questions?

Their last day of school is Friday, and I was planning on telling them this weekend since I have custody of them for the following three weeks. Maybe I'm deluded, but I honestly don't feel like this news will upset them unduly if presented in a calm manner and even if it DOES upset them it's a conversation that needs to happen and we've now been living apart for over 18 months. I want to give them both a good long chance (i.e. months) to get used to the idea of us not being married before new partners are introduced. I won't say much about that on this forum right now, but my marriage has been over for two years (in all honesty it was 'over' long before I decided to leave), we will have been physically separated for over two by the time this is legally finalized, and I need to move on with that aspect of my life... something my oldest is apparently perceptive enough to pick up on. I would prefer to introduce the kids to one transition at a time.

(And I apologize in advance that I will almost certainly edit this post later just because it makes me uncomfortable to have a record of things related to ongoing litigation on a publicly viewable forum.)
 

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I think it is absolutely appropriate to tell them that you are getting divorced now. It would have been appropriate as soon as you started bird nesting, IMO-I can imagine they have been a bit confused about why you don't spend time together as a family if you claim that you are still together, but obviously your 7-year-old has figured it out anyway.

Your plan to tell them sounds great. I agree, don't mention changing living arrangements until you have a solid plan as to what is happening.

I am curious, do you always do such long periods of custody with one parent? You said he had them for 2 weeks, and then you have them for 3 weeks? That seems like a lot for such young children. If you do end up not taking their main house, I'd make absolutely sure to buy a house in the same school zone just to simplify things.
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
His work schedule is somewhat erratic. It results in him only working 26 weeks of the year overall, but that sometimes mean he works one on/one off and other times it means the weirdness we've had the past few weeks. I agree that it's not ideal given their ages, but the alternative would be them having much less time with him. Not only would he fight that in court, I agree that he should be able to have 50% parenting time since he is a good father and the kids enjoy their time with him. We've actually had way fewer behavioral issues with either child since we began the shared custody (vs trying to parent together). Our youngest clearly misses me and would prefer greater amounts of time with me, but she seems to have a secure enough attachment that she's dealing and she's always happy to see both of us and doesn't cry when separated. Our oldest is a daddy's girl and frequently tells me that she misses him/would rather be with him. I try to keep it in perspective and not let it get to me.

I won't get a house more than 5-10 miles from our current one, but we live in a city with multiple districts and Byzantine enrollment regulations. They currently attend private school and will through 8th grade. High school is up in the air, but it will probably be another private school or a magnet school. Actually, one of my considerations in buying my own house is choosing a better school district (within the same city) than the one we currently live in, just so they'll have better options if private school doesn't work out. I'm also not totally ruling out one of the inner suburbs or another nearby, larger, city, but in any case the distance between houses wouldn't exceed ten miles since I want to keep it under a 20 minute commute (and within the same or less distance to their school).

Thanks for confirming that I should tell them. I feel guilty that we've gone this long without doing so, but I guess I was more worried about upsetting him than doing what made sense... DD1's recent line of questioning, however, made me realize how screwed up it all is.
 

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I think he's so wrong. In pretending you are married you are modeling a terribly dysfunctional relationship to them but calling it marriage.

I think you're oldest already knows even if she isn't clearly saying so.

Sorry I am short on time but had to say something
 

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I agree with the PPs that you should have told them when you first moved out, but telling them asap is the best you can do now.

My kids were just turning 7 & 3 when we told them about a month before XH moved out. He had already been sleeping in a bed in our office for a month or 2 (none of which fazed them in the least since we'd all bed-hopped for years of co-sleeping) and as soon as he decided that he was moving out (and it happened to be into the house next door) we told them. They really were some of the most well-adjusted kids of divorce, super matter-of-fact about everything, most of their friends and teachers didn't even realize they had 2 homes (that changed quite a lot 2 yrs ago when he moved 25 - 30 miles away and we're dealing with the fallout of that disruption now)

Bird Nesting co-parenting is very rare for a good reason; it really doesn't work for most people. I think it would be best for the parent who is with them most to stay in the family home, but I hope you can at least find something close that works for you :)
 

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It sounds like you are both trying to keep the transition as simple as possible for the children which I commend you on. In terms of telling them, if there is any way to do that together, I feel like it would have a more positive impact on the kids that way. It would show a unified front and you would both be there if they wanted to ask you questions. I understand he isn't coming through in this regard, but wanted to offer my 2 cents. Bless your heart for going through this! If you are interested in any resources on children and divorce, let me know, I have a few good ones. Praying for your family,

mommato2lilmonkeys
 

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He has been extremely reluctant for us to tell the kids we are divorcing. He believes that they've just decided that I don't live with them sometimes because that's what I need to do in order to be able to do my freelancing work, since they were used to not seeing him at weeks at a time due to work their entire lives. I have not been comfortable with this, but I've gone along to keep the peace.
This disturbs me, and I think that is an impression that needs correcting. It's a subtle way of blameshifting the divorce to you....implying that it is your fault you are not around. Maybe his intention was good, to not hurt them or make them think it's their fault....but I still think that they deserve to know the truth and that it's not okay for them to be led to believe your work is the cause of your absence.

I think it's okay to tell them that "mommy and daddy are getting divorced because we argue too much when we are together, and that makes us unhappy. We are happier living apart, and that will help us be better parents for you. We both love you, will always love you no matter what, and we will always ensure you have what you need."
 

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Our oldest is a daddy's girl and frequently tells me that she misses him/would rather be with him. I try to keep it in perspective and not let it get to me.
Good. With rare exception, a "daddy's girl" who knows (in your daughter's case, senses) that she can't have both parents together, and who professes a preference for Dad, is simply secure enough in her relationship Mom that she can take her for granted; and she may feel more responsibility for Dad's emotional state. Since your daughter is picking up on reality while your ex is struggling with it, this may be exactly what's going on: You may project such strength to your daughter that she's not worried about you, but she may worry that her dad either is hurting, or will be, as things progress. The only childish comfort she really has, to offer him, is letting it be known that she would choose him. I'm glad you're level-headed enough not to take her words at face value.

In pretending you are married you are modeling a terribly dysfunctional relationship to them but calling it marriage.
:yeah

...In terms of telling them, if there is any way to do that together, I feel like it would have a more positive impact on the kids that way. It would show a unified front and you would both be there if they wanted to ask you questions.
In ideal circumstances, sure. But the confusion your ex is creating for your 7-year-old is potentially damaging, in a way that detracts from the potential benefit of telling the kids together. He is withholding his willingness to participate in telling them together, as a way to postpone the subsequent changes (the end of bird-nesting) - and those changes may be more upsetting to him, than they are to the kids.

Your 7-y-o especially may feel more secure having her parents acknowledge the truth she already senses; and being able to be part of both her parents' homes. Right now, your kids have consistency - they always live in the same place - but they know both parents have other homes and lives, into which you guys disappear for weeks at a time, and which - so far - the kids aren't part of. Your daughter is wondering if you have a boyfriend and a secret life, separate from her, when you're at your apartment. Who knows what she wonders, about her dad?

Your kids already have the uncertainty in living arrangements from which your ex so desperately wants to shield them. I think, in your situation, airing the truth would lessen your kids' uncertainty, not worsen it.

Besides, you told your ex if he didn't facilitate telling them together during his recent parenting time, that you'd tell them yourself, in your current PT. It sounds like he needs you to be firm and consistent in what you tell him, otherwise he is able to convince himself you never said/meant it (ex., about not continuing bird-nesting).

This disturbs me, and I think that is an impression that needs correcting. It's a subtle way of blameshifting the divorce to you...."
Exactly right.
 

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I think he's so wrong. In pretending you are married you are modeling a terribly dysfunctional relationship to them but calling it marriage.
I so so so agree with this. How confusing for the kids. They are imprinting and absorbing that a normal marriage looks like what you and stbx have. It's priming them to accept crumbs in their own future marriages.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Update (sorry for the delay!):

I went ahead and told them Thursday night.

DD1 (7) sobbed and yelled and then was calm within 15 minutes. She kept quizzing me as to why we actually NEEDED to divorce and everything couldn't just continue as it had. My answers of us being better friends/parents when not married/living together and that we just don't want to be married anymore didn't seem to fly. Part of the issue is that we've always been very good at not fighting in front of the kids and neither of us are the type to raise our voices. I accidentally blundered into hypothetical territory, and the idea of possible step parents or siblings was something she viewed as a positive. She also views the idea of another house as a positive but informed me that she would rather we stayed married and she got to live in two houses. Since then she's asked a few questions but has been mostly unconcerned. When we were passing a bridal store yesterday she asked me if people had divorce parties and said that I should and should wear a wedding dress to it... She also demanded to know why I'm telling her now and thinks it would have made more sense to wait until one day before the divorce is final.

DD2 (4) either didn't understand what I was saying or didn't care. I repeated myself and used the simplest explanation I could,but I think divorce may be a concept she won't get either until she's older or maybe with the aid of some picture books. DD1 understood because she's had classmates whose parents are divorced.

I agree that it would have been better to tell them together, which is why I waited this long to begin with. I also agree that it would have been better telling them sooner and the way we've handled it has made me super uneasy. I honestly feel that I should have told them when I signed the lease on the apartment back in August, but he was so adamant that I backed down.

Part of me is relieved that we didn't do it together, because with how emotional he is about the divorce and how DD1 reacted... it wouldn't have gone down well. One of the things we've fought over in the past are her tantrums. (That's why her crying didn't faze me... she'll sob hysterically over *minor* setbacks; she's outgrown it some, but regressing in this instance makes sense.) I know that once DD1 talks to him about it there are going to be "I told you sos," but I feel like I made the best choice I could in a situation with no great ones.
 
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