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A reader asked this question sometime ago via a magazine (Indiana Parenting) that I used to write for. It is a situation that is common in blended families (including mine at one point), so I thought I’d share her question and my response.
Question: I have two children with someone else, and I am married to someone who has a child with someone else. Our children have different school schedules because we live in different states. My husbands “baby mama” always wants his son with us when he’s out of school, but my children are still in school, and it is a HUGE distraction for them. They are all around the same age and get very excited when they are with each other. Therefore, my children go to school tired and unable to concentrate. So, I suggested that the visitation schedule be set up for times when all children are out of school (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, MLK Day) so that no one suffers academically. We could also increase the number of weeks he spends with us in the summer because all children are out of school then (we currently only get him for 4 out of 12 weeks) My husband’s “baby mama” said that my husband should always consider the best interest of their son first no matter who is hurt by it. Simply put, my kids aren’t his kids (even though he’s the father figure in the home who’s raising them). KP, should my husband always consider his son first even though his decisions might hurt my children?
Answer: At the end of the day the blended family is hard for EVERYONE involved, not just one party and their children! When there are multiple children within the blended family they all have to be considered, and COMPROMISE MUST EXIST. All the children, on either side, can’t come first all the time. If everyone is considering their child first, then all you’re going to get is a 4 car collision. If your husband’s ex-wife is suggesting that he always consider their child first, then isn’t it fair for you to do the same? So, there has to be a compromise because every child won’t, and often times, shouldn’t be first all the time. The adults must do what is logical and best for all children involved. If it is a distraction for your husband’s son to be there when school is in session, that is completely understandable, and isn’t necessary when other options exist. If his ex-wife isn’t willing to review those options, then she is being difficult. Why can’t his son visit more during the summer and during the breaks when all children are out of school, as opposed to during the school year when school breaks and schedules are conflicting?
My advice to you and your husband is to remember the vows that you took before God – for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, and forsaken all others. Those are powerful words that mean something, and you can’t throw them out the window because his ex-wife is trying to interfere or doesn’t agree. Although it is ideal for everyone involved to have a meeting of the minds, it often times isn’t likely. Therefore, you and your husband must achieve consensus when it comes to running your household. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have to consider your children, but your husband should as you should consider his. It is also essential that you openly communicate with the children, especially his son, if schedule changes are made. You want this information to come from you and not her.
I just got off of the phone with my husband, and he seemed really sad. As a matter of fact, he has seemed pretty sad for the last week or so. I wish there was something that I could do as I feel partly responsible for his sadness. My mere presence is causing and has caused his crazy ex-wife to act a fool over the past 7 years, and as in most baby mama cases, one of her first reactions is “you can’t see your child.”
We haven’t seen K since early January. Although I can not disclose specific details about what happened, I will try to give you some idea. You see, K did something that was very wrong ! Even though I don’t want this action to ever happen again, I was more concerned than upset. So, I suggested that my husband call his ex-wife to inform her about it. Especially since he spends most of his time with her (we only see him about once per month). I wanted her to watch out for certain types of behavior. My husband told me that he didn’t think it was a good idea. I told him that she is still his mother, and that there are certain things that she should be informed about no matter what she’s done in the past. I truly thought it was in K’s best interest to clue her in. What in the hell was I thinking? I expected her to react as any concerned parent would, but instead guess where we ended up – that’s right, court. She took my husband to court stating that I had devised this master plan to label K as a bad kid and get him out of our house. She went on to say that she felt like our environment was perilous to K.
Now, let me explain why this too is sooooo ridiculous! Number one, I am just now recovering after being sick for an entire year. My last house had mold in it, and it wreaked havoc on my system. I passed out about 12 times in an hour, lost a bunch of weight and even lost my memory at one point. At one point I didn’t even remember who K was! I was still very sick in January. So as you can imagine, the last thing I was thinking about is a master plan to label K as a bad kid to get him out of the house. Number two, I am the one who takes good care of K while he’s in our care. We actually have a really good relationship when he’s here. As a matter of fact, she has conceded to the fact that I was trying to replace her due to our good relationship. This is why she decided that she wanted to see him more, thereby, lessening the number of visits with my husband. So how can I be trying to replace her as a mother, but be trying to get rid of him simultaneously???
At any rate, at the end of the day my husband hasn’t seen his son in 5 months, and he is extremely uspet about it. Every time she gets upset this is the card that she deals. The question is – what can I do to make the man that I love with all of my heart happy? I have truly struggled with this. If I leave, then she will be happy, and my husband will be able to see his son as much as he wants. If I just give in to her ridiculous antics, then not only will I be unhappy, but it’s also not in the best interest of my son. My heart is telling me to continue to focus on my marriage and my family because I’m going to be the bad guy (in her eyes) no matter what I do. I keep telling myself that we have made it this far, we’re happy with each other, we truly love each other, we have a solid marriage, and it will get better. But, it’s been 7 years – do I really believe that???
It seems as if my husband and I are always confronting some type of legal issue because his ex-wife frequently throws temper tantrums. They are so frequent that if we don’t hear from her or her attorney for a couple of months, our extended family starts questioning whether or not she’s feeling okay. I swear she makes it her life’s goal to ruin our lives. She does this every time she doesn’t get her way.
Before I start giving you examples of her childish behavior, I should mention that we live in separate states (about 3 hours away from each other). In the beginning my husband and I would sign both of our children up for extra curricular activities (basketball, baseball, tae kwon do, etc). Well when she found out she started complaining that she was not invited. She said that she is his mother, and should be invited to all of her child’s activities. Keep in mind that her child (we’ll call him K from now on) does the same sort of activities where they live, and she and her husband attend those activities. So, she is not missing out on K’s extra curricular activities. Furthermore, we can’t be in the same room with each other without arguing, mean mugging or just good old fashioned tension, and lots of it. So why would she want to come to the activities that we plan for him? Why – because she wants to be difficult, and that’s the only reason why. Trust me when I say she is not that in love with her child. She wasn’t concerned about these things before I came along. We attended several activities, without her, prior to her finding out that I was here to stay. However, she threw a temper tantrum, and took us to court demanding that she receive a schedule of all of his activities that we sign him up for. I should also mention that she’s an attorney so it’s easy for her to draw up a legal document, call one of her friends and have the Judge rule in her favor. The justice system is not as just as you think it is, but that’s another story. As a result, we just stopped signing K up for extra curricular activities. She thought she was hurting us, but in the end, as you can see, she only hurt her child. Now he watches my son (we’ll call him M) while he participates.
We are still battling it out in court (about 5 years now) over visitation. She gets one month in the summer and we get 2. We initially we got him in June and July and she got him in August. However, when she realized we were happy with that arrangement, she had to make sure she put a stop to that. I think she sends out a “happy radar” every now and then. If she sees that we are all content in our neck of the woods, she has to stop it. At any rate, she petitioned the court to request that she get July and we get June and August. Her reasoning behind this ridiculous request was that K had to attend summer camp (not summer school). We were confused as to why he couldn’t attend summer camp with us like he had been doing. But, she claims that he needed time with his friends. I could have sworn that he spends time with his friends all year, and time with friends shouldn’t be priority over visitation with your father, but once again, the Judge ruled in her favor. So we don’t see him in July or August, and we only get him in June. Once again, she thinks that she’s hurting us, but she is hurting her child more.
Before you start assuming that we are being difficult, let me explain. Our state starts school at the beginning of August (7th), and K’s school doesn’t start until the beginning of September (after Labor Day). So, for an entire month there is no where for him to go. M is in school, we’re at work; our mom’s are both teachers so they’re in school; my dad is dead; my husband’s dad lives about 18 hours away; and there are no summer camps. As a result, don’t you think it makes more sense for us to have him in June and July and she get him in August? Because the rest of the kids, where they live, are out of school one would logically assume that there is somewhere for him to go there.
Having said that, we still tried to compromise. She suggested that her grandparents and parents keep him during the day, and we get him at night and on the weekends. I countered that by suggesting that we just get him on the weekends. Our children are now both 11 years old, and the beginning of the school year is difficult for any child. You have to get back into your groove after being away all summer. So, having K return after being gone for a whole month would pose a distraction for M. Keep in mind that they are both the same age, and are only children within their respective households. So, when they get together they want to play because they haven’t seen each other for a whole month. I didn’t want my child’s sleep patterns to suffer due to the excitement. Furthermore, the fact that we are having to compromise is ridiculous. There’s no need to go through all of this when there’s a better solution – we get him in June and July and she gets him in August.
And so, the battle continues, and honestly, I think K will be out of school by the time this matter is solved. I hope that those difficult baby mama’s out there will read and learn from this. Your tactics do more harm to your child than they do to your ex. K misses out on extra curricular activities, and has minimal time with his father because his mother can’t deal with her own issues.
I realize that this situation is tough as I experienced certain feelings when I realized that my ex and I were definitely over. Even though I was with a man that I was completely in love with, you must realize that I shared a strong history with my ex, including our child. I also had to face the fact that I could no longer give my child what every child wants at some point in their lives, and that is for their parents to be together again. When he said he was getting married, that was confirmation for me, and it kind of hurt. However, as stated in my Wives Wars article, “you must deal with your own issues in a way that doesn’t affect those around you, especially your children.” I knew that I couldn’t let my feelings affect me doing what’s best for my child, and that was to help him get used to another type of family – the blended family. I wanted him to realize that everyone of his parents (mom, dad, stepmom and stepdad) share a special place in his life, and although things would not be as they were before, they could still be really good, maybe even better. This means that the adults have to realize their places in the child’s life. You won’t be that full-time father if you’re not in the house full- time. You have to share those responsibilties with the child’s stepfather. Additionally, as a mother, you can’t be fully thrusted into every aspect of your child’s life because you have to share him with his father and his stepmother. As long as everyone respects each other as parents, and realizes their respective place in the child’s life, the child can and often will adjust.