Dear Chump Lady,
I know you aren’t a lawyer, or a psychologist. I also know that although your husband is an attorney (who was chumped), he can’t give me legal advice. I’m not seeking that kind of advice. I’m seeking the advice of somebody who understands the fuckupedness of this sort of situation.
My stbx and I were married 12 years, and had two children together. In that 12 year span, she had 18 affairs that I didn’t know about until after she left. When I found the list she left, it included my sister’s husband, the fathers of two of my step daughter’s boyfriends, and several men she brought into our lives to become close family friends. I worry, she has boundary issues (cue the laugh track). Also during our marriage she attempted suicide twice in one day, and on five occasions I had to stop her while she was hitting or kicking children.
I never called cps or the cops. Like a chump, I figured how can I save a marriage and be calling the authorities on my wife? So, now I am in a 2.5 year long custody fight.
My question is really more of validation seeking. My gut tells me that a person who would hit kids, lie under oath, have 18 affairs, and everything else I’m not listing, is not who I want having the majority of the care of the children (now 11 and 13). But, the attornies (I’ve had three so far), the ad litem, the social worker, and the psychological evaluator all tell me that 50/50 is best for the kids.
The ad litem went so far as to threaten that if I did not settle for 50/50, she would testify I should only have standard visitation. When I reminded her of the child abuse, she said I had no evidence it continued after she left me.
My gut tells me not to give up. How could I forgive myself if the kids got hurt again? My gut also tells me the changes in the children’s behavior since the court ordered 50/50 temporary schedule are not normal growing up. 11 year old boys dont lay on the floor calling themselves a “mistake” and crying uncontrollably for 30 minutes. 13 year old girls dont hit their fathers and leave bruises.
Yet, only my dad and a handful of friends tell me I’m doing the right thing.
My counselor tells me my stbx is borderline. The court ordered psych evaluation only said bipolar (and well under control without meds or treatment).
You can’t give me legal advice… I know. What I want to know, chump to chump, is does your gut tell you that I should keep trying?
The trial is set for November, I have to represent myself now. I’ve spent and borrowed all I can on the prior three attornies, who all wanted out when they realized I wasn’t going to settle, and that the case was going to a jury.
She sucks. You want validation that she’s a wingnut and not worthy of caring for your children? You got it. I Chump Lady validate you. She’s not worth spit. She’s a lousy mother and a lousy human being, and I understand that you want to protect your children from further hurt. I get it.
In a perfect world children would go where they are loved and cared for most. We do not live in a perfect world. I think your lawyers are advising you correctly that 50-50 is the best deal you’re going to get. Right now. Emphasis on RIGHT NOW.
I cannot speak for all your legal help there, but IMO, it’s not that they think 50-50 is “best” for children, it’s that 50-50 is the best deal you can get at this time. Those are two very different things. Sure, some of them probably think with utopian optimism that more time with a suicidal wing nut is improving for children, but I doubt it. What they realize, however, with their professional experience is that courts don’t see it that way. There is a very high threshold of fuckupedness before a court will terminate or diminish someone’s parental rights, especially if that someone is a mother.
I’m sure there are exceptions, but I would not gamble another 2.5 years of legal fees on it. I think you need to accept this arrangement and make the best of it. You cannot control her crazy. Let me repeat that — YOU CANNOT CONTROL HER CRAZY. But you can keep your side of the street clean. You can be the best father you can be. You can be that rock of stability for your kids. And you can take that money you’d throw at more lawyers and invest it in some serious therapy for your children so that they can advocate for themselves.
They need to manage their relationship with their mother, and you can give them the professional help they need to do that. To draw boundaries, to be strong, to ask for help. Your kid can call CPS on mom, or the cops, when mom does something scary on their watch. They need shoring up in therapy to know that’s an okay choice. They’re allowed to assert themselves. They’re also almost old enough (depending on your state) that they may choose where they live. So, some time with Crazy Mom without you as the human buffer zone, may be enough to tell a court they want to live with your full time. Don’t despair.
But you need to LET GO and work with what you have.
Please don’t think I don’t understand the seriousness of her illness or her malevolence. My son’s father is a hoarder. I had to call CPS on him last year — and like you, I only wish I had done it years sooner. I have had to send my child since he was 4 years old to a guy who cannot open his mail. Who would leave him in a car unattended. Who let strangers move in as renters and under court oath didn’t recall their last names. I endured over a DECADE of this shit, Chumpattney. My heart breaks for you. I know it’s hard. Only very recently did my son start opening up to me about the conditions at his dad’s. How there was no functional kitchen, a fridge of rotting food, how dad would buy him a 75 cent pot pie to eat, how he spent most of his time being dropped off at friends, whose moms fed him. I GET IT.
And while I won’t bore you with my 12 years of court battles, let me tell you from first hand experience, the courts don’t really give a shit. Now, at very great expense (over $100K in legal fees to date), I have full decision making authority and physical custody. He has generous visitation (which he doesn’t exercise). And my son, is finally at an age — as a teenager, where he calls the shots on how much he wants to see his father. And when this summer he wanted to see him for a week? His dad canceled on him at the very last minute.
Chumpattney, I get it. You want to protect your children from the hurt. From the chaos. From the mental illness. You’ve saved yourself, now you want to save them.
You cannot save them. They have to figure out that relationship for themselves. They have to fight that fight. Yes, even as minors. You just have to document, document, document and be the best, sanest parent you can be for them.
There is a terrible price to pay when you breed with a crazy person. I know it, my husband knows it, most of the people who post here know it. It’s not fair — but I want to give you hope — the kids turn out okay anyway. I swear they do.
My son is a great kid, an honor roll student, and other than the usual pain in the ass teenage stuff (how many aps does a 16 year old “need”?) — he’s turned out splendidly. Despite mindfuckery and physical neglect from his father. Your kids are going to turn out okay too.
Empower them. You won’t always be around to protect them. Mom lays a hand on them? You tell that kid to call CPS or their school counselor. You document it. Don’t raise them to be chumps, passive in the face of this. You can start the paper trail on her now — I promise her crazy isn’t going away.
I worry that if you tilt at windmills, Chumpattney, if you go in there pro se (representing yourself) a judge is going to think you’re just full of scorn because she cheated on you. That you are dragging your children through a custody battle, and every child should be spared such a nightmare. They’re going to think you were offered a decent deal by three attorneys and you turned it down. Judges like to see settlements. They don’t like to be stirred. They’re like sleeping dogs — grouchy, ill-tempered sleeping dogs. You’re bothering me with THIS?
To you it is EVERYTHING — I get it. I so get it. To them you are another disgruntled parent in a grudge match. Family court sees such horrors every day. You’ve got a litany, absolutely. They see worse. Much worse. Sexual abuse. Terrible physical abuse. I was told by the cop investigating my son’s dad “Yeah, it’s bad, but it’s not like roaches are crawling over your kid. I’ve seen that.” They see WORSE, Chumpattney. You roll those dice, you’re going to have to live with the consequences — and it might not be as good as the deal you are rejecting.
I think you’d be in a much better position of attempting to be the Cooperative Sane Parent for a year, and then document her crazy and revisit it. Get a court order and watch her violate it. Let her do something abusive with the kids, and have the backing of the shrink, the school counselor. That stuff MATTERS to judges. Your word against hers? Not so much.
A mental illness diagnosis? That’s something — but I’m telling you from personal experience, the court didn’t weigh it that much. No one wants to stigmatize the mentally ill. I knew of a woman that had to share custody with a paranoid schizophrenic in Virginia (where I used to live), because they passed a law in the 1990s that a parent’s mental illness couldn’t be disclosed.
I’m sorry to be such a bummer, Chumpattney. Please know I am still your cheerleader, but I think you can do a lot more good with a moderated approach. Get the 50/50 deal and NOW do all the things you didn’t do before — counseling, documenting, calling in the big guns when she loses it. I think you’ve got a better shot at this later — and your kids are nearly teens and can decide.
Fighting her keeps you mentally locked in this nightmare. You need all your healing energy for yourself and for those kids. So many men would love 50/50. They’ve been chumped and they don’t even get that. Please reconsider the trial in November, Chumpattney and take the 50/50 now. It’s not defeat. It’s playing smart. You aren’t a bad parent, and it’s not “giving up.” I know it’s a big shit sandwich and it’s unjust. Focus on what you can do — and IMO, that’s throwing your time and resources at therapy and quality time with the kids. (((Big hugs)))
Oh I felt so sick inside reading your letter. It is such a friggin nightmare to have to coparent with these sick, sick fuckers. Your wife sounds so horrible, despicable. But CL is right. The courts don’t give a damn about any of that stuff. They send kids to live with abusive, mentally ill, horrible people all the time, just because that person gestated an egg or shot out some sperm.
Your best bet is probably to take the 50/50 and then be a rock of strength for your kids. I would definitely get them cell phones, if they don’t have them already, and I would program the number for CPS into the phone, giving the kids strict instructions on when to call, what to say and what to do. Keep meticulous records of your kids’ behavior, what happens at the freak mother’s house and anything she does that could endanger your kids. Get those kids into therapy.
In my state, judges will consider a child’s preference on living arrangements at age 14. Check out the law in your state. Some go as young as 12 in getting a child’s input on custody.
Eventually, your kids will be old enough to get away from that disgusting mother. Or she’ll do something to terminate her custody. No matter what, I am so sorry for you and for your children. My son is 17, and lives with me 100%. He sees his father twice a week for dinner, and that is bad enough. I understand what it is like to have to coparent with a deranged person, believe me.
Go for 50/50. Best you’ll get if you can. Your kids will be fine. Best part is if she is what you say the kids will eventually be able to choose you. But don’t take their mother away as much of a nut job as she is. I was married 12, same type of story as you. I lost all to get my kids 50/50. And now they live in two households. Hers is unstable and mine is stable. My stability balances her craziness.
You’ve lost all you have thinking you were doing the right thing being cheered on by lawyers who only wanted your money. Look at what you’ve accomplished and what the courts say. They don’t care about your kids. You are part of a system that is about making money. Be a good dad, take what you can get of the kids, but don’t take them from their mother. Shes a fuck up but every kid needs both a father and a mother. I know it sucks. And frankly she could have a knife in a holster in court and shell still rule when it comes to the kids. Let it go. Let her go. Focus on the kids. I was in your boat, lost all and now my life is these kids and making them have the best future they can. And already my 9 year old is talking about how much he wants to live with me over his mom. Let them decide. They know.
Actually it sounds like the lawyers got him to a 50/50 settlement and Chumpattny won’t settle. Yes, they got the money, but they’re not the one’s egging him on. He wants to pursue it.
Your advice seems very good here. But here’s a wrinkle. What if, in a situtation with joint custody, the Chump Parent (a.k.a. the good parent) recognizes that the kids need therapy but the bad parent (the narc) refuses to go along? How does a situation like this play out. Does anyone know?
I ask because I think it’s a general question with likely relevance to more than just any one case. Former Chump Parents, now liberated from a narc, may realize that therapy is vital, but can the narc then veto this because, being a narc, everything that’s wrong is all someone else’s fault/the kids don’t need therapy, they just need to learn to obey/etc. etc.
You just take them to therapy. To my knowledge, unless you have some court decree saying otherwise, you don’t need the consent of the other parent.
I would hope that the courts would see getting an impartial, third-party professional to help the kids would be a good thing. I can’t imagine a judge holding it against a parent that you got the kid a therapist. Some courts order therapy.
I’m sure an NPD parent would hate it, or be disdainful. They don’t want to be exposed.
I share 50-50 custody and the parenting plan says, therefore, we share 50-50 decision making authority on a number of items, including therapy. My xh is opposed to an impartial third-party “intervening” (go figure), so I requested the court appoint a parenting coordinator. Once I made that request, he’s been playing really nice – agreeing to therapy, meds, whatever our son may need to help with the divorce, school, etc. Before, everything was a battle and therapy (and meds, if needed) were an absolute “no.” Hopefully the court grants it and we can continue to keep him in check, while doing what’s best for our son. There are other factors that made me request the parenting coordinator, but thank God, no roaches (except for the xh – badum bump! I’m here all week, folks)
“so I requested the court appoint a parenting coordinator. ”
Nicely done. What you will find with a non cooperative parent is that they continue causing trouble as long as your correspondence is between you. CC a therapist, a lawyer or anyone that is outside of the game and you’ll find sudden cooperation. An appointed coordinator makes your future much easier.
Thanks, Walter. Sometimes I feel like it’s overkill given our situation, but it’s already made my life more peaceful. I’m hopeful that it will benefit my son to have an advocate since my ex is like everyone else’s here. I hope the court approves it. Appreciate your supportive words.
Chumpattney and David, In my state, you cannot get counseling for your children (without spouses approval), unless you have full legal custody. Before I knew this, I found a court-approved counseling center that worked on a sliding scale, then lined up the appointments. I ran it by my lawyer, and he informed me that before the kids could speak to a counselor, my ex had to give his consent. My ex refused and, because of his bullshit and immaturity, it was another 4 months until they started. FYI
I have 50/50 custody and I just took my daughter to custody. The first two times he pulled the plug and went in and smooth talked the therapist. One therapist saw through it and wished me luck. The other one caved.
I gave it time and persisted. I finally found a therapist that got it and called him in! It was great! My daughter kept going and it did help.
Go for 50/50 and spend your money on a good therapist. I hope they will be fine in the end.
I thought this therapy thing would be complicated. Narcs do NOT want therapists around, because they will see through the controlling, nasty narc almost at once. I think that we should have a discussion of this. In my observations, the presence of a therapist really intimidates a narc, but I don’t think it’s that easy to get one involved over the narc-parent’s (inevitable) objections. The narc can, at least in some cases, veto therapy. This is a tactical issue that we should hash out for ex-Chumps (now liberated) who are trying to help their kids deal with the other-parent-narc situation. Who knows? It may vary from state to state? Thanks to all for responding. Therapy is critical. That said, kids themselves will often not want to talk to a therapist. Kids often overestimate their abilities to handle these situations. “I can handle it.” That’s what we Chumps often say for way too long! Kids often do the same.
More on the therapy dilemma when it’s joint custody? Hang in there Chumps. You are way-good people!
I had to fight with my ex about just this issue–thank God it was one of the few battles I actually won. I wanted my daughters to go to therapy because I thought it was important for them to have a third party to talk to. Two years after the separation, my girls are still struggling (dealing with issues of adolescence and problems with their father), but the therapist is a good ally and advocate for them. Take CL’s advice and get them to a therapist–for kids going through this, it ought to be a basic human right.
Bottom line is if you take your kid to therapy without your ex’s agreement, you are violating the joint decision-making order that is legal custody and are in contempt of court. That would go for every state in the U.S. YOU ARE VIOLATING A COURT ORDER. Counseling is not considered a major medical decision in legal custody judgments unless specifically worded that way. To give you the upper hand if it might become a court issue ask the other parent for permission, and ALWAYS do so in writing (letter or e-mail) so you can prove you did it. In fact anything you do with an ex should always have a paper trail if you have anything but a very friendly relationship. And not just a request but you need to put a deadline on your request, BUT it can’t be confrontational. Usually something like if I do not hear back from you in seven days I will assume you are confirming my request and i will bring the child to a qualified therapist. If you do get an answer and it is no, then you unfortunately need to file a motion asking the court for permission to allow you to enroll your kid. Simply say why the kid needs it along with stating that the other parent refuses. If the court says yes then fuck the other parent, you have legal right.
Where I live, the therapists won’t treat your kid without written consent from both custodial parents. If the other parent won’t sign, you go to court over it, and the judge gives you a decree dispensing with the other parent’s need for consent wrt therapy–judges don’t like to see a kid denied access to counseling, especially during a separation/divorce. If your ex does this sort of thing a few more times–acts not in the child’s best interests wrt medical stuff–you can go to court for full medical custody. Ask me how I know….
In most cases as batty as a parent might be, they realize that therapy isn’t bad for a kid. If they are not cooperating you write them and tell them you are taking the kids to therapy as it is in their best interest. If they respond that is is not, you hold the letters as it helps you in court when and if that time comes. Worst case if there is no cooperation, you go to court and present your case. But after divorce court should always be the last option.
Chump Lady, clearly you have not been involved with the family court. All of what he talks about, GALS, outside evaluations, etc are all ways for lawyers to make money. He may have went along but I can tell you from dealing with over a hundred cases helping fathers get some custody in family court, the lawyers who are all in cahoots use these tactics to keep the case going and to make money. As our fathers group has found looking at court results, most every case where these tactics are employed (and “employed” is the key word) the outcome of the final decision was not affected. Everyone wants to prove the other is crazy. Courts see this constantly and it weighs very little and in some cases actually helps to prove parent alienation. just saw this happen in two cases and if you didn’t know you would have thought the father did all the right things. They are smoke screen to make you feel you are doing the right thing, while making thousands of dollars more for your attorney and the “experts” they suggest you use to prove your case. And in the end the court knows all involved and has seen this story a thousand times and really doesn’t care. From what you’ve said they “discovered” you haven’t proved anythign compelling. Now without an attorney your ass will be wiped. DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE OF THINKING FAMILY COURT US ACTUALLY CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN’S WELFARE. Here is a hint http://www.justiceforfamilies.us/
All you have to do is look at where he is now. He is where every father like him ends up, spending all they have being told that all these evaluations will make a difference and doing the worst thing they can do in the end, going to court after a “valiant battle” with no representation which is a bloodbath. His best bet is to negotiate with her attorney now to make sure that they get 50/50 and child support is at a minimum. He is making a grave mistake at this point because while his intentions are good, he is not really fighting about the children now, but rather trying to prove the mother is wrong. That NEVER wins in court. I could send 1500 fathers to this site right now to tell you that happened to them. His story exactly. They will tell you his how his best intentions are not going to work well for him at this juncture.
The best thing for any child in a divorce (and nothing is best for a child who suffers from a divorce) is 50/50 shared parenting unless there is direct and substantial physical abuse to a child. Most courts will give you legal but not physical. They look at where the kids are right now and do not want to change that as they claim its in the best interest of the child. Unfortunately in most states mothers (crack addicted or not) still have the upper hand. Prove what you want, but you have no smoking gun.
Dude your best bet is NOT to step foot in that court. Call her lawyer, offer your proposal and settle NOW accepting nothing less than 50/50 legal (and physical although I doubt she’ll take that as she has a golden uterus and wants her check each week). At this point because you have called into question her character as a person and a mother so she is vengeful towards you now so expect a reasonable child support.
I’m talking from a great deal of experience on the subject of how family court works and if you need to talk more contact me.
Walter, I’ve been sued for over a decade. I’m not part of some parenting rights movement, but I’ve read on infidelity boards and I’ve had my own little nightmare. I think our advice is actually in line with each other’s — Chumpattney should take the 50/50 deal, it’s the best he’s likely to get.
We can argue if that’s just or unjust, but it’s practical. It saves him heartache and money — and I agree, at this point, it could well be about proving the mom wrong. But I also believe he is sincerely concerned about his kids.
People don’t just call “crazy” — some parents are ACTUALLY crazy. Would you want a 50/50 split with a paranoid schizophrenic? How about a hoarder? Ever watch that reality TV show? That’s what I’ve been sending my kid into for years. I vehemently disagree that 50/50 is the best arrangement for every family. I’m sure it’s great for some — I’m sure for many fathers it’s infinitely preferable to the every other weekend — especially if they’ve been chumped, in which case it’s grossly unjust. My attorney said about 50/50 “I wouldn’t want that arrangement for a dog.” And a friend here, a family law guy, said 50/50 is often awarded, but rarely lasts. The kids choose eventually and/or one parent moves away. It’s not always sustainable. You do the best you can do. For the poster, I think 50/50 is his best shot. His kids are pre-teens/teens — they can decide soon.
I also do not share your cynicism about family court. There are a lot of hard working lawyers, judges, guardians who totally want what’s best for the kids. And trust me, I’ve been burned and had bad experiences too — but I believe, over all, people are trying to do their best. And an ethical attorney will fight for you AND will guide you to settlement if they can. And yes, this shit is expensive.
I might feel differently about this case if his children were newborns or toddlers, but they are children old enough to have a voice and to act if they are imperiled.
I HATE that the poster has to play some game of chicken with the system… well, I’ll send them there and just hope she doesn’t off herself or do something nuts. But that’s how it is. The courts see much worse than that woman. And if she does any harm to the kids THEN he can act. He’s got very little to work with right now.
Sadly, part of that is the poster’s own chumpiness. And I get it because I have the same regrets. Because he didn’t chuck the codependence when he was married to her, he didn’t call the cops, or have her hospitalized after the suicide threats — he’s got no paper trail, and that spackle (I can fix this!) is biting him in the ass now when he wants to be believed.
Spot on. I wish you weren’t, but you are. I have documentation of two of three suicide attempts, I have writings by the kids describing being abused, and witnesses to attempted punches that missed, but for 2.5 years I have no new information… and the gap is killing my case. If I had not been a chump, I could have filed the year of her dual suicide attempts and her subsequent dui while riding a motorcycle. . But I didn’t. I was doing the codependent chump dance. And she waited until the records retention period lapsed by the treating doctors to file for divorce. Our spouses know what they are doing. And they know a chump when they have their clutches on you.
I’m sorry chumpattny, the woulda coulda shoulda sucks. But you’re armed going forward. No more chump dance. This might be a bit of what’s fueling your desire to keep fighting this — you were chumped, and fuck it, you’re not going to be taken again! But you’ve got to play smart. I know with my ex, he’s mentally ill. Yours sounds mentally ill. That’s not going away. They WILL slip up. You will have more incidents, only now you’ll be in a position to act on it — or with therapy, your kids will. Please trust that she cannot manipulate them forever. Trust that in time they WILL figure it out. And know too, that they will always care for her, even if they pity her and don’t respect her, and even hate her at times.
The more you engage with her, I bet the more she plays the victim. You’re the bad guy. It’s another reason to let go of the rope and focus on what you CAN control — being a great dad when you have them. Showing up for their school events. Congratulating their successes. Having holidays and weekends and vacations that don’t center around her crazy. Be their sanctuary.
Don’t let them triangulate either. “Well mom lets me do…” Your house, your rules. Don’t do the pick me dance with your kids. I promise they will respect you and they will figure this out in time.
And, if you haven’t already, do get yourself into some therapy so you’ve got someone in your court helping you with this huge, stressful time. And of course, to kick any residual chumpiness to the curb.
Great advice as always, Tracy. Love this part especially.
“They need to manage their relationship with their mother, and you can give them the professional help they need to do that. To draw boundaries, to be strong, to ask for help. Your kid can call CPS on mom, or the cops, when mom does something scary on their watch. They need shoring up in therapy to know that’s an okay choice.”
Bravo! cause Mom ain’t going away no matter what their living arrangements are and chump children are in grave danger of becoming chump adults. How many of us were chump children? I’ll raise my hand. Let’s give our children the tools they’ll need to break the chain of dysfunction!
Everyone here knows it is tough. But time to take a deep breath and step back from the crazy. Everyone hears of cases such as the one on the East Coast of the US (Mass.?) where the couple has been fighting for 10 years (6oo filings, or something similar).
Do not let your case turn into something similar.
Long drawn out battles are also damaging to the kids. Your kids sound old enough to see what is going on. They can report any issues, etc.
You be their rock, take them to counseling, listen to them, demonstrate by actions, etc. You might not see it, but it registers, and they will take it in.
All the best!
Thank you all for your input. I did have the kids in counseling, but after the first time stbx took them to an appointment, the children refused to go anymore. I do have a plan for a joint session with them, blessed by the counselor, to discuss what abuse is in the context of how they abuse each other and me.
I do gratefully thank you all for your opinions as I deal with this issue. I practice family law and personal injury law, so I know the risks. I’m just having a really hard time with swallowing my guilt, if giving in meant that the kids ever got hurt emotionally or physically again.
The takeaway for anyone still with their partner is stop being a chump. Call the authorities if there is abuse, and get out asap.
You’re an attorney? If I were the judge, I’d assume that you’re trying to bully your ex. Logically, you know that 50/50 is a good deal. It’s time to lead with your mind instead of your emotions.
The light is now seen! The very words you said are the sad truth! Money is the fuel that convinces the court! I have a Husband who is very unstable left most of the marriage and cheated of course but decided one day to take all the money and run me off the road and disappear leaving me with 3 kids and not a dime. I text him but he quit his high paying job shut his phone off and all of know is his last search history of hotels in MI. I don’t have gas in my car or food and he was the bread winner so I reached out to the school and a church and got a lot of help but that guy who said I’d never see him again came back and wanted to see how I was surviving which I wasn’t of course cause I lost my job and had papers stating he was going after me for divorce but also me pay him! I found out his lawyer was a pricey one and the top judges son! I was hated for texting him about leaving us with nothing and it was unfriendly text but it’s not what he did it was how he did it to hurt us and put me and his kids on the streets. I have all his stuff fake names email accounts, bank statements, tax info, and best yet his journal stating how horrible of a father and husband he is… well I lost my lawyer because I refused 50/50 I got nothing for child support for 3 months and then nothing ordered because I didn’t deserve maintenance and he made over 80,000 and I worked just short time for insurance. I have it all and if I breathe wrong or not do what they say like move to an area I can’t afford because I was punished to paying all the bills and he paid when he had too! What does that do to a family besides make them homeless? I sat countless hours in offices asking for help I never thought I would be standing in line to get assistance..I thought how did I get here? I was the girl that most were jealous of size 0 pretty and a great person who helped people. The truth was I was alone inside a small box of games and a man who never bothered to even talk to me. My Husband the sex addict was a Scott Peterson of hell to me but a gem in the world that I have stories people would just vomit over. He had the job and paid bills when he felt like it but he always has that charisma that just got better and better the more he got. I was a trophy wife and most said just that to him and myself. I later realized I lived a lie and I was a stepping stone of use for his own achievements that didn’t include me. When he left I was told good luck because no one would ever want u because u are nothing and have 3 kids. Well truth is I was the most desired woman in my be area and had the confidence to drive the hat home but I believed him and felt like my life was over. It’s been a year of hell and the court only critizes and backs me into a even worse corner and he gets what he asks for. I truly want him far away from me but I can’t because he is staking me and wanting me back now and I have washed my hands of him and this true evil I have nor felt since he left! Abuse he has tourched me and threats he’s said he will kill me and the lack of concern for his family has really made this a easy case but it’s not because I’m being dragged through hell and judged for my vegan lifestyle and he’s 290lbs and has paid now money to lose weight when I’m living a lifestyle that can’t be proven better or worse? I think it’s clear that I’m going to lose and I have done everything I was asked to do and he gets a high five and even thinks I would ever face my old lonely existence with him again and keep this nightmare of a marriage! I want just justice and I want to be left in peace to heal and find my once huge heart and goals I need to finish! My kids are my life and that’s all he has left to take because he’s got the rest now it’s the only thing that will upset me and I can’t stop him and I don’t trust him and I can’t keep him away from me so I guess it’s his world and we just just jump when he says and no one can see past the he crap he is selling even with strong evidence! Justice I think it’s a road to detail my life further and position him for more profit because he’s got the money and the time but he always wants more!
The light is now seen! The very words you said are the sad truth! Money is the fuel that convinces the court! I have a Husband who is very unstable left most of the marriage and cheated of course but decided one day to take all the money and run me off the road and disappear leaving me with 3 kids and not a dime. I text him but he quit his high paying job shut his phone off and all of his known search hx is of hotels in MI. I don’t have gas in my car or food and he was the bread winner so I reached out to the school and a church and got a lot of help but that guy who said I’d never see him again came back and wanted to see how I was surviving which I wasn’t of course cause I lost my job and had papers stating he was going after me for divorce but also me to pay him! I found out his lawyer was a pricey one and the top judges son! I was hated the moment I came In and for texting him about leaving us with nothing and it was a unfriendly text but it’s not what he did it was how he did it to hurt us and put me and his kids on the streets. I have all his stuff fake names, email accounts, bank statements, tax info, and best yet his journal stating how horrible of a father and husband he is… well I lost my lawyer because I refused 50/50 I got nothing for child support for 3 months and then nothing ordered because I didn’t deserve maintenance and he made over 80,000 and I worked just short time for insurance. I have it all and yet I’m under skrutteny if I breathe wrong or not do what they say like move to an area I can’t afford because I was punished to fail and I pulled through and paying all the bills and he paid when he had too! What does that do to a family besides make them homeless? I sat countless hours in offices asking for help I never thought I would be standing in line to get assistance..I thought how did I get here? I was the girl that most were jealous of size 0 pretty and a great person who helped people. The truth was I was alone inside a small box of games and a man who never bothered to even talk to me. My Husband the sex addict was a Scott Peterson of hell to me but a gem in the world that I have stories people would just vomit over. He had the job and paid bills when he felt like it but he always has that charisma that just got better and better the more he got. I was a trophy wife and most said just that to him and myself. I later realized I lived a lie and I was a stepping stone of use for his own achievements that didn’t include me. When he left I was told good luck because no one would ever want u because u are nothing and have 3 kids. Well truth is I was the most desired woman in my area and had the confidence to drive the that home but I believed him and felt like my life was over. It’s been a year of hell and the court only critizes and backs me into a even worse corner and he gets what he asks for. I truly want him far away from me but I can’t because he is stalking me and wanting me back now and I have washed my hands of him and this true evil I have never felt since he left! Abuse! he has tourched me and threatened me by saying he will kill me and the lack of concern for his family has really made this a easy case but it’s not because I’m being dragged through hell and judged for my vegan lifestyle and he’s 290lbs and he has paid now money to lose weight when I’m living a lifestyle that can’t be proven better or worse? I think it’s clear that I’m going to lose and I have done everything I was asked to do and he gets a high five and more time. If he thinks I would ever face my old lonely existence with him again and keep this nightmare of a marriage he will never stop and I want just justice and I want to be left in peace to heal and find my once huge heart and goals I need to finish! My kids are my life and that’s all he has left to take because he’s got the rest now it’s the only thing that will upset me the most because if I dont do it he gets louder and scarier and I can’t stop him and I don’t trust him and I can’t keep him away from me so I guess it’s his world and we just just jump when he says and no one can see past the he crap he is selling even with strong evidence! Justice I think it’s a road to detail my life further and position him for more profitable life because he’s got the money and the time but he always wants more just like tiger woods who regrets but can’t see consequences because he walks on water and thinks he can continue to harass and control me including name calling and stalking. Who lives like this? It’s not that hard it’s all there a life I had to sadly read that really hurt me but he was mad I read it but yet he should have told me. I’m gonna lose but the areagent is biased so it’s gonna take nanny grace to shake his delusional life and say get a job and start picking up the prices of ur kids lives or sign off. Justice is not right I was even assulted in the police parking lot by him nothing was done! I. Need Nancy she’s got a good news flah that this has got to stop and u don’t pay u have 5 days then jail no 6 months let’s get real 6 months of no pay to them is a wake up to this system that protects the non payer but what w
About the kids? Then don’t say best interest because no one seems to have cared for kids so don’t rule what the judge would never rule for herself and child! U quit 80,000 u get a job to make that because standing aside watching his kids lose their home was stoppable yet he said too Bad! I’m pretty like he says but someone will always be better…looks are not what make a person I am not barbie and u truly made me feel like a hooker. U want out but ask me to sleep with u spend time w u and u say I’m so awful. I’m the only one driving this ship now so don’t get in my way because I will drive over u and not look back????
chumpattny, please don’t feel guilty. You’re doing the best you can. Your takeaway is totally right on — report abuse when it happens.
I wrote this above, I’ll reiterate — I understand your regrets. I totally get it. I wish I had chucked my codependency earlier and called in CPS when my son was younger — but I feared I was pushing some nuclear button. I would be seen as vengeful. And back then, he kept his father’s secrets. He wouldn’t tell me how it was, but I feared it was bad (it was bad). When he got older, and healthier, he opened up. Now, I can say I think he really understands his father’s condition and who his dad really is.
Your kids will get there too. Often when we take ourselves out of the equation and just let them have the relationship without our editorializing and protecting, they get it sooner. It’s SO hard. I know it feels like a game of chicken. I think your energies would be best directed at therapy helping your children manage their relationship with their mom, and coping with the divorce.
I’m also worried that you’ll lose in front of a judge now. I think you’d have a stronger case if you waited and documented noncompliance, or alienation, or harm.
The problem with being a chump earlier and not taking action is you won’t be believed. There is no paper trail. They will think you are alleging crazy because she cheated.
I think if you want to be successful, you need to talk in terms of recognizing your kids deserve a relationship with her, but you are doing a balancing act between honoring that relationship and managing her mental illness. That’s how I put it to a judge once, and it resonated. It’s a balancing act. But you need to recognize that your children WANT that relationship with their mom, even if you feel she is a piece of shit.
It hurts. A lot. And it hurts when they figure it out for themselves, when mom hurts them. But IMO, it’s best if you let go of the rope and control your side of the parenting. Be strong and sane.
So sorry you’re going through this.
Listen to Chump Lady. Family court is crazy. No matter how much they talk about the BIOTCH (Best Interests Of The CHildren), it doesn’t really matter. If you go before a judge with this, you will get less than 50/50, and he or she will be angry with you for wasting the courts’ time. Take the deal.
Chumpattney, CL is right. Take the 50/50. It’s what you’ll end up with anyhow, no matter how much you spend.
I’m a great mom while my STBX is nuts…BUT…..there’s still no way in hell I would get full custody, at this point.
Seriously, don’t think that it’s just because you’re a guy that you’re not able to keep the kids away from your crazy ex. Even moms have this problem, too. Speaking from my own experience, I have a borderline-narc STBX and am going through the divorce process right now. I don’t have much documentation of my ex’s antics, therefore I’m stuck with joint legal. Even though I’m the prime example of a good mom and my STBX is a wingnut, it doesn’t matter to the courts. My attorney correctly told me that if the other parent has a pulse and requests joint legal, they will get it. Period. Unless you have lots of documentation to prove otherwise. This goes for moms and dads. Sucks, but it’s the truth.
As far as physical custody, I got primary because I have always been the primary caregiver. He still has plenty of visitation and I can’t control that. Even though I’m a mom, there isn’t much chance of me getting sole physical custody at this point. I would throw all my money at it and still, at the end, most likely still just have primary physical.
I feel horrible reading about this. The children’s best interest is clearly to be with the sane parent and have some kind of supervised visitation with the other one. However, this is one area where attorneys will know better what you can actually get. (I don’t really think any parent can accept that it’s okay that the kids will suffer but turn out all right.)
I would like to hear what others think about managing a narc to get custody of kids, though. I remember reading about the woman whose husband ran off with Tori Spelling to make a reality show about how they were soul mates. The wife wrote a biography where she talks about meeting Tori and being careful about what she said so that her husband would agree to let her – the wife – move with their kids.
So can you use any of the techniques of flattery described elsewhere to get a narc to give you physical custody of the kids? or even full custody? can you get them to let you move?
Can you pay them off? Would your wife take more spousal support or a lump sum in exchange for you getting the kids? Could you agree to lots of child support even with her not having the kids?
Or can you simply agree to 50-50 custody and then be really nice about actually being the one to watch the kids so the narc can do other things?
Can you pay for the kids to go to after-school care or some other program so they don’t spend much time with her?
Can you agree to 50-50 and then try to in a nice way slide into you having actual physical custody most of the time?
Is there any way to cut the knot of money being related to how much time someone has the kids? Can you afford to offer her more child support if she lets you have more custody?
Dear CL and Walter,
I could use some advice on this as well. My attorney also recommended 50/50 FOR NOW. My STBXW got into all kinds of drugs and the people who get into all kinds of drugs are now around my 4 kids. My attorney said that custody is a moving target and can be attacked later. In PA they don’t care about infidelity but, they don’t tolerate drug abuse. They will do a hair test.
Is this good advice or am I just chasing rainbows?
I think it’s good advice. FWIW, my brother got full custody (after a couple years) because of his ex-wife’s drug abuse. She didn’t contest much however. And they keep testing her in court and she keeps failing, last I heard. She’s got some visitation, no custody.
The other thing I would suggest adding to the 50/50 agreement is that the stable parent be the default ‘babysitter’. A lot of narcs or unstable parents will soon unload the actual ‘work’ of parenting to their new partner, or their parents, or a sitter, or the neighbours, or all of the above. If you can get in the agreement that EVERY time your ex wants to leave the kids with someone else (even their new partner!) for more than an hour, they have to call you first and see if you can take them, you can often significantly increase the ACTUAL time your kids spend w/you – which will look good for you down the road as custody might get re-negotiated. (Keep track of every time this happens, how long, etc)\
(Even agree, if necessary, to do the same for her – then just never leave the kids w/somebody else for more than an hour – at least for a good while!).
Then, get the kids to let you know when they spend more than an hour under other people’s care. without her asking you to take them – and document that all too!
I don’t suggest this when someone’s ex is a narc but semi-competent parent – ’cause they’ll take advantage and dump those kids on you constantly, avoiding their own responsibilities and making chaos of your life. But when the other parent is this awful, it can really be worthwhile.
This is called right of first refusal in my state. I wrote it in that we each have right of first refusal when the other parent can’t have their time. I did this knowing that I would never rarely take advantage and she often would. My ex is mentally unstable on an unpredictable basis. In other words, I did it for exactly the reason that Karen E says to be wary of. She is smart enough to know that she is not a fit parent and she loves our daughter enough to let me have primary custody. I am lucky!
As to whether you should fight for more,I suggest you do exactly as is being suggested. Chumpattny, let me put this into perspective for you. As a single father who files taxes as primary household for his child, I am part of the 8% of households who file that way. Let that sink in, only 8% of the households in this entire country are headed by men with primary custody!! You are bucking the odds is you try for more and it would be far worse for your kids if you lose the time that is on the table now.
It sucks, but the reality of the situation often does not turn out to be what you think it will be. She may very well not take all her time and you can document everything for use later if needed. Good luck.
You can take 50/50, if your situation works out typically, that’ll go down pretty quickly anyway. I was terrified that I would be a part time parent all because that dick couldn’t control that dick. The only thing he asked was to take my you gest to her sports training twice a week. So for 10 months he spent 20 minutes alone time with his 11 year old. Sorry, 20 minutes every other week, not during school breaks though and occasionally he couldn’t make it. Then he disappeared 600km away so now its zero minutes. At least this way he can justify not having a relationship with all his children because he lives too far away. If they can’t sustain a marriage, how can we expect them to sustain a relationship with their kids?
Yup. When my ex moved out, and more than a year before he filed, he left me a calendar showing that “His” days would be every Wednesday evening overnight and every other weekend. Just like a joint custody arrangement with me as primary residence. That’s all the time he wanted to be a parent. The rest was all ME TIME (plus the AP) A 50/50 split for a narc is a serious time imposition. They’ve got other stuff they want to do!
The ex was just the best father when they were little kids, but as they turned into adolescents he just couldn’t relate anymore. That makes for boring, awkward visitations for everyone. It didn’t last long, even that meager amount of time.
“If they can’t sustain a marriage, how can we expect them to sustain a relationship with their kids?”
Wow, Nat1, so sadly true.
So right, Nord (as usual!!). One of the reasons I tried for so long to make things work w/the ex was because I thought he would ask for 50/50 custody time, which is absolutely the norm here, you’d have to be beating or sexually abusing the kids not to get it.
I couldn’t stand the idea of their being w/this negative, critical, self-centered guy for half of their time, especially since, in true narc fashion, he had always left most of the actual parenting to me. I waited long enough that the kids could choose how much time to spend w/him (from age 12 here), but interestingly enough, he never even asked for 50% of their time!
The kids and I suggested 2 evenings a week (evenings that I normally worked anyway) plus every second weekend with him. Fine by him. Then right away the weekends got shortened, because he taught a class Friday evenings – became Saturday morning (with even young teens, this means 11 am!) to Sunday evening. Then, ta da, he had to go out of town for work again, didn’t seem to even think about how that might affect the kids (just like he didn’t think about how cheating leading to separation might affect the kids). I cut down on my evening work to adapt to this. He was away from late April until this week, seeing the kids every second weekend only, and sometimes not even that because I was travelling w/them.
Now he’s going to be back in the city, and wanting the kids two evenings a week again. (He especially wants this time w/the kids because the OW is in the other city, where he was working; as my son said last year ‘papa misses us when HE’s lonely’.) But my daughter, who a few months ago figured out that he cheated and hasn’t been getting along w/him, doesn’t want to do that much …. We’ll see how it plays out.
If I had known he wouldn’t even ASK for half time custody, I would have left years ago!! But I should have guessed, he’s WAY too lazy about anything interpersonal to be a half-time father.
I am going through this as well. My virgin bride of 20 years ago turned into nympho to at least 4 guys in a one year period about 3 years ago. All signs of BPD. Don’t get hung up on the personality disorders. Society believes if a man cheats its his fault and if a women cheats it his fault. Its all BS and we know it.
You need to get away from her world and accept the 50-50. Unless you can prove abuse later. Build your own sanctuary of being the great Dad that you are and need to be for the kids. That’s how the law works unfortunately. Being away from her undermining me has allowed me to be a more respected parent of my 7, 10, and 18 year olds. My 15 year son is coming around slowly.
Hey, careul about that word ‘nympho’, TH625! Some of US have morals!!! 😉 Lots of sex, lots of men, but only single ones!
I one of those old fashioned ones who believes love comes before sex. So did she until the spring broke in her head. I’m not here to judge. But if you go into marriage with one personality and turn into another 20 years later, it creates one huge mind fuck.
For 18 years we can’t put the lights on in the bedroom then one day she rejects me and starts going out wearing thongs and miniskirts.
Thank you for this post, CL. I know I want to fight tooth and nail for every minute of custody I can get. But you make some good points. It is probably better for me to take the high road, let the wingnut get 50/50, which they will want to give him anyways, and then let him spoil the opportunity. Who knows, maybe he will come through and be a responsible father. Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.
I believe that it is important to think strategically about this.
Spending time with a nut-case parent may not be good, but it does provide a good contrast! So, as one of the posts above said, be the kids “rock.” Be steady. Don’t lose it. Be patient. Be the real parent. And let the narc-parent show him/herself to the children. I think that, in most cases, that’s probably the best way to go.
Now, on another point, CL talked once about a Chumps get-together. CL, could we ever try something virtual? A meet-up via the Internet? Just an idea. Just a suggestion. I know that you are probably busy, but the ‘net offers new possibilities. Just an idea.
Thanks, CL, for creating this space for us Chumps. Much appreciated by Chump Son!
Again, thank you all for your advice and time. I do really appreciate it. And, thank you CL for posting my question.
Sorry I’m arriving late to the game, but I wanted to chime in to say: You have to take the long-term view here. FWIW, here is the story of one Chump Dad in a nutshell:
PHASE 1: Upon divorce I fought tooth and nail and pay through the wazoo to gain 50-50 custody of my 13-year-old son. I was terrified of my wife’s addiction to World-of-Warcraft, her pathological dishonesty, her inability to hold a job, her bringing strange men she met on the Internet into her house, etc. 50-50 custody (one week here, then one week there) lasted a little more than a year and a half. Lots of angst with each move about which bed/meal options/computer rig/dogs/TV/etc. he preferred.
PHASE 2: I remarried and my new wife and I enforced household rules consistent with what my step son has known. My son bridled at the boundaries and states his preference to live primarily with his mother and her live-in boyfriend, the final affair partner from when she was married to me. Rules about homework, internet use, food, bed time, friends with pending criminal charges—anything—do not exist at that house. My shrink tells me that virtually every teenager given the choice between and environment with rules and an environment with no rules will pick the latter. So, despite my legal right to have him half the time, I permit his choice and only see him every other weekend and special occasions. BIG shit sandwich for me. This phase lasts about a year.
PHASE 3. Ex-wife informs me she is moving 2,000 miles away with her new hubby to San Francisco. Son tells me how wonderful his mom says it will be compared to our dusty little town in flyover country. They will have a fabulous house with a swimming pool, go to high-tech conventions every weekend, and the high school will have cool classes in videography, skateboarding, Frisbee golf, WTF-ever. I am not surprised when my son informs me that he’d really like to make the move for his last two years of high school. Because I see that denying the move will brand me the Bad Guy Forever, I relent and accept that I will only see him every three months. Son moves away over the summer. Biggest shit sandwich of my life. Think: Man Versus Food, except Man Versus Shit.
PHASE 4: On the first day of the new school year, son calls me to ask if he can move back to live with me. They live in a crummy suburb of Oakland, home is nothing special (a HUD foreclosure they are renting), the school is riddled with gangs and strapped by the California budget crises (52 kids in his Algebra II class), and they never go anywhere because everyone is always playing video games. I tell him we have to wait how the school year goes and will talk next summer. A few months into the school year, he tells me of a plan to take some courses on line and graduate a year early so he can get out of the house. He tells me of fights with his step-dad, nearly coming to blows. I tell him he has to keep it civil because they are now family. He replies firmly, “He’s married to Mom. He’s not MY family.” I am skeptical of his plan for early graduation, but he makes it happen. I fly out to him and we visit his first college choice. He applies and is accepted. Phase 3 and 4 combined amount to a little more than a year.
PHASE 5: Son, now 17, visits over the summer, excited about the coming start of college. We get along better than at any time before D-Day. His sullenness and laziness have been largely replaced with affability and interest in WWII history and Woody Guthrie. He makes comments about how important it is for kids to have limits, how boring video games are, and how important it is to live a life of integrity. Also, the chubby kid who ate Kraft Mac & Cheese and Hot Pockets round-the-clock has learned portion control and lost 40 pounds. He looks people in the eye and smiles. Is this my son? I hope this phase lasts forever.
All to say, things look awfully bleak for Chump Dads in the early phases. But if you resist the invitation to tug of war—let go of the rope—the kids have a chance to find out the reality of their situation. Eventually, though as in my case it might take a few years, most make smart choices, choices that bring them back into Dad’s orbit. And once they become teenagers, most courts place more weight on the child’s wishes than everything else combined. And even stories about huge shit sandwiches can have happy endings.
“My shrink tells me that virtually every teenager given the choice between and environment with rules and an environment with no rules will pick the latter.”
Your shrink is dead right.
My grandfather had a wise saying, “Experience is the best teacher IF the lesson doesn’t cost too dearly.” When children are allowed to face the natural consequences of bad decisions when they are young and the price tag is not life threatening, it presents what we call an SLO or “significant learning opportunity”… the child learns responsibility in a way that all our preaching and finger wagging cannot possibly instill. It is the hardest thing in the world to step back ( with empathy) and allow a child to solve his or her own problem. But they learn so much about how to take responsibility when we do that.
Your son obviously had a good foundation given to him somewhere along the line…I expect from what you modeled over time. BRAVO to you for playing it smart, and thank God the price tag was not too high for your son!!
While I’m not a parent, I do have an extraordinary amount of contact with young people your son’s age. The tale you tell is not at all unusual. Teens like the idea of no rules, but then discover that no rules means no accountability, and no accountability means that promises are meaningless. Teens hate unfairness, and broken promises are about as unfair as it gets.
It does, however, take a while, because teens get chumped, too.
“teens get chumped, too.”
So true. I am miles past meh for what my ex did to me. I doubt I will ever reach meh for what my ex did to my sons.
I am so sorry for the heaping bowl of shit you had to eat. You, sir, are a strong, wise, and good man. I’m glad things got better.
I also find CLs advice to be the best you can do at this point in time. Right now your children need a stable presence in their lives to the extent that you can secure it. Damage control is neither fun nor easy but your children are worth it. Pick your battles carefully. A long-term strategy in which you make steady but solid gains as the stable parent may serve your children’s interests better than an all-or-nothing scorched earth policy when you cannot control the outcome. If this woman is as disturbed as you report, she will eventually shoot herself in the foot. It is only matter of time.
chumpattny, I know you may not see this but wanted to drop a note here. I had no children but my parents divorced when I was 11 years old. Mom cheated, divorced Dad and married the guy. I was forced to live with Mom & her husband. My Dad went to the mat for me but he lost & he lost & he lost. Visitations only. Mom’s husband was very emotionally abusive toward me, but Mom wouldn’t allow me to live with Dad. When I hit 13 I made life a living hell for her husband until one day at 14 yrs he told Mom, send D to her Dad or I’m leaving. I went through quite a lot of crazy crap but I did turn out OK, chumpy but fine. A successful professional with lotsa of heart.
My heart is breaking for you, I went crazy just making sure my ex didn’t get my cats, I cannot imagine the guilt and fear you are in when it’s your children who will have to live with a abusive person. I hope you take the settlement and your kids figure out quickly that they want to live with you. ((hugs))
The pains that so many of us have gone through. Thank you for sharing, and the advice. It has been painful, but very helpful.
I started to cry when I read this letter. When there is nothing that you can do to protect the kids from the unbelievable crappy behavior of another parent, you want to just storm the courts and say – look here, this isn’t right! BUT as you said, CL, the courts have seen worse and this is just another day for the judge, the clerks, the attorneys. It fucking sucks. http://dowehavetotellthekids.blogspot.com/