July 31, 2008,
S. asks from Denver, CO on July 28, 2008
How to Handle Ex-husband and Kids
I have been divorced for the past 3 years and have three children. I am now remarried to a wonderful husband. Two of the children are from my first marriage; girls ages 8 and 10. We are having problems with the girls' dad. He has visitation every other weekend. My current husband and I try hard to keep the girls active in sports, school, and friends with the hope that they will keep with the "right crowd" and learn to make good decisions. Their dad doesn't call at all during the week or attend any sporting or school events that the girls are involved in. He is the type that cannot hold down a stable job (he works under the table so his paychecks are not garnished for child support) and he sleeps most of the weekend while the girls are there. The girls sit in his apartment all weekend long sending me text messages and calling me because they are bored. They cook for themselves and sometimes they don't even get three meals a day. When it comes time for his weekend there is always a battle. He doesn't think that the girls should be doing anything on his weekend. I have called him right away when they get an invite or have a game so that he can be prepared for that. I have even tried to have the girls call him themselves when they are invited to a party or if they have some type of activity on the weekend. I was hoping that he would see that they want to be involved and attend these activities. This backfired on me and he sees it as I want to keep the girls away from him. This is not the case! I would love for their dad to be involved in the stuff that they do and support them. I have never missed a game or a school performance. I am at a total loss as to what to do. Any suggestions?
C.C. answers from Salt Lake City on July 29, 2008
Wow, Becki's advice is solid. I love how she just asks are you going to or shall I? That is fantastic. I really am only writing to say good job you on being such a great mom and a positive force in your daughters lives. The fact they are texting you and tell you what is going on it s testament to what a great mom you are. So whatever solution you find, I just wanted to give you a GO MOM! high five...those kids are lucky to have you.
A.P. answers from Denver on July 29, 2008
You can only control your behavior. You can't control your ex's behavior. As long as your girls are safe with him, there's nothing you can do. Sorry. It's important for your daughters to spend time with their father. Even if it's not quality time.
L.M. answers from Billings on July 30, 2008
I am sorry for the troubles you are having with your ex. 2 years ago I went through this with my ex. Our daughter is very active in volleyball, basketball, and track. He kept telling me that my husband and myself were doing this to keep our daughter away from him. He took me back to court to try and get custody of our then 13 year old daughter. The judge didn't not grant him custody. We however had to modify our parenting plan. Our new parenting plan states that his schedule shall go around the childs schedule. If she has practice or games, and it is his weekend to see her then he must have her at the school so she can play in the game or practice. If he chooses to not take her to the school then he is in contempt of court. My ex lives 6 hours from us. So he has decided that yes she does need to do her activities. He has decided that he will exercise his vistiation on her christmas break, spring break, and summer break. He has gotten better about coming to her games and at least making an attempted to not get upset when she is busy.
I think that you really need to take him back to court. Just make sure that if you do you spell out everything for him. That your child's activities come first. This includes any formal dances your child should have. Any sports your child is in, or driver's ed. I wish you the best of luck. If you have any questions please let me know.
R.C. answers from Boise on July 29, 2008
If you don't like the way he is handling your kids, go back to court and do the right thing, have your girls talk to the judge. Don't talk to your ex. Dont try to explain to him what you are doing. Just do it though the courts. He may grow up and start getting involved or he will just not show up anymore. But at all cost don't let your girls forget that at one point in your life you did love him. It just didnt work out.
J.N. answers from Salt Lake City on July 29, 2008
Hold on .... he leaves an 8 and 10 year old to fend for themselves while he zonks out for the weekend???? This is neglect!! Contact your lawyer or DCFS and rat on him! Make sure that you have some evidence - like savig some of the texts they send you - in case he denies it. But I would do everthing in my power to make sure that at the very least visits are for day only and supervised until he can get his act together!!
B.M. answers from Salt Lake City on July 28, 2008
I am also a divorced Mom with 2 daughters. Their Dad has always been involved, however I can relate to the difficulty of trying to keep your girls' lives as consistant and positve as possible even though they live a shared life. First, you know that you are in the right here so don't doubt that. You are responsible for protecting your girls from this chaos. If the girls and you agree that they are going to attend a party or sports event, then that is what will happen. I used to feel quilty when these things ended up on my daughters' time with their Dad until I came to the realization that taking your kids to parties and activities is just part of parenting. Sitting in an apartment and watching TV is not parenting. Be strong and just call him and say, "At 12:00 on Saturday Jane has a party, do you want to drive her or should I come and pick her up?" It really isn't a discussion. If he whines about it, just repeat, "Well, Jane is excited about this party, do you want to take her or should I?" And if the arguing continues just respond with, "This seems like an issue for you, so I will pick her up and take her to the party so you don't have to." Perhaps after a few times of this, he will step up and just do it himself.
As far as sports or ongoing activities, hand him the printed schedule when you receive it and, again, it is not a choice, just inform him that this is happening. Send their uniforms or practice clothes with them when they go, say, "I'll see you at your game tomorrow at 1:00" right in front of all of them and leave it at that. Make sure to have all other conversations with your ex away from your daughters ears. Stay positive in front of them. Kids feel all of the tension and they suffer because of it. If he refuses to be involved in all of this after your efforts, you may have to look into changing your visitation schedule legally. And try to remember that you and their step-dad are giving them a great family life and they know they are special because you are always there for them. Don't even mention their Dad attending an activity unless they ask you if he is coming. Then, your answer is just "I'm not sure" then support them and enjoy them and have a good time together.
I feel for your position. I hope you find a solution.
L.B. answers from Provo on July 29, 2008
I feel for you. I had a comparable problem with an ex and a son who was 17 at the time we had a visitation order in place. Because my son was substantially older than your children, I just had him work out any of his schedule wrinkles with his dad. If he had a track meet or a play performance during a visitation period, he worked it out with his dad. I didn't get involved. As a result, the dad couldn't come back and say that I was trying to keep him from having visitation. My ex unofficially "ended" weekend visitation, when my son began to have 6:30 a.m. track meets every Saturday while he was running cross-country in high school. This disrupted my ex's weekend sleeping habits sufficiently that visitation became much less of an issue. And, since my son was communicating with him, not me, it wasn't "my" fault. Because your children are much younger, you have a much more difficult time with this than I had. You have to take a much more active part in their scheduling. The way Becki has outlined is a very, very good way to handle things.
To be honest with you, the legal system is stacked against you. It assumes two reasonable parents who are interested in the welfare of the children, and is moving more and more to a strictly enforced shared parenting model. The only way you are legally going to be able to help your children avoid this disruption to their lives is to obtain a judicial finding that your ex is a sufficiently unfit parent with the result that he either gets supervised/limited visitation rights or no visitation. The standard for this sort of finding is very high, and calls for some expensive studies and litigation. Mere laziness, slovenliness, and self-centeredness does not usually work to meet this standard. You might want to check with your attorney, though, to see if you have the basis for a modification of the visitation part of your divorce decree. If your ex's lack of responsibility is endangering your children's welfare, you might be able to make the argument for limited visitation.
Best of luck. You need it. Pray hard, too. And keep on being such a good parent to all of your children.
M.R. answers from Boise on July 31, 2008
I love Becki's suggestions. She's right on. This is much what I have done and 9 years later my ex hasn't visited or paid child support for almost 9 years. I tried to take him back to court and officially change the court order to reflect his parenting choice but my lawyer said it would be a waste of time and money as the courts are indeed becoming more strict about parental involvement and would more than likely force him to be more involved instead of letting him off for slacking. So far so good but it won't work that way for everyone. I'd consult a lawyer as it sounds like this has worked for others.
S.M. answers from Casper on July 28, 2008
You can not change him. As far as suggestions, the only thing I can think of is to try the opposite approach and cut off visitation, but you and your daughters would have to be prepared for whatever happens, including dealing with the emotional pain of realizing he doesn't care, if that is the case. It seems to me he is making their lives miserable and they would probably be more happy if they were able to accept that he just doesn't care, and that is not because they aren't wonderful young women, but because he is basically dumb.
As far as actually getting visitation, children need to be fed, that is a basic requirement, so next time they are over and don't get fed, be sure to report it to DFS.
Basically you are being way too nice. Remember the principle of least interest: the person with the least interest in the relationship controls it. That needs to be you and your daughters, at least from his perspective.
P.H. answers from Colorado Springs on July 29, 2008
Becki's advice is solid and worth a good try. That said, I must add that my own experience with an ex who chose to be uninvolved with his children was that he never changed. My second husband sometimes gets angry over this because he feels strongly that any father has a responsibility and my children's father simply shirked off his responsibilities and continues to do so even now that they are grown.
I remember discussing this once with a lawyer friend who simply told me that as my children got into high school, visitation is more a matter of the children's choice than the court order, and to expect the children to simply opt out of visitation because their lives were too busy to want to spend "dead time" at their father's house. He said that's the typical way it goes with these matters, and he was correct about it. He said not to worry about the courts because judges see this happen all the time at that age.
I guess my point is, give it a try to prompt him to be involved, but if you cannot do that (and often enough it is not possible) then go more with the children's wishes than the court order. No judge can order a child to want to spend time with a father who sleeps all weekend.
A.S. answers from Colorado Springs on July 29, 2008
I just wanted to let you know it sounds like you are doing a good job! I wouldn't recomend turning him in to social services because i think that just causes more problems. I don't have much expirence with divorce other than my three sisters have gone through it all. So far all my nieces and nephews have found out on there own how there fathers are, it didn't come from there mothers. I really believe that Becki has the right idea, you should give it a try! Good luck
D.T. answers from Boise on July 28, 2008
WOW..I read this and thought you would have more responses...I can relate to your situation. I like your advice here all ready. Becky has it right on the nose. Be straight forward, and say it like you mean it, and just expect it to happen. You will have to kind of "re-train" his way of thinking because obviously he can't do it for himself. (I swear, I think my oldest daughter's dad is related to YOUR ex......where do we find them???)
You take care of you and your kids, and stick to your guns!
D.K. answers from Denver on July 29, 2008
I learned the hard way that you cannot force the ex into being the parent you want for your children. If they are safe and being "taken care of" then you cannot really do much unless you can prove there is neglect. Ask him why that he spends his time with them sleeping does he even care if they have activities or wants them every other weekend? I know I get disgusted with my ex's choices and his selfish behvior and it breaks my heart with my kids. He is 1,000 miles away, but I cannot do much about what kind of father he is. I just keep the kids away from the stress, reassure them he loves them and have them call him every day. You cannot change your ex and he will resent anything you bring to the table it sounds like. It is sad he cannot see past his selfish attitude and want what makes his children happy! Good luck but it is like hitting a brick wall or so I have discovered.