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Author Topic: Strategies to Protect Kids  (Read 170 times)
UBPDHelp
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« on: June 30, 2020, 06:18:01 AM »

Hello all,

I’m in the early stages of exploring divorce. Such a frustrating situation with the I hate you, don’t leave me (in my case aka you’re a vile disgusting hillbilly slut, I love you and only want our family intact).

Among all of the issues to sort out, I have plans formulating for job, housing, etc., but I’m stuck on kids safety with dad.

He’s never physically hurt the kids (once or twice I’ve seen a restrained response if he gets whacked by our son, something he’s taught him with rough housing).

Emotionally there’s definitely some damage and I fear it (know it) will get worse.

He’s gone from a month ago telling me I can decide custody to last week screaming we’ll split 50-50 and then that I’m a horrible mother and he’s going to take them from me (same conversation).  Super intimidating.

I believe that won’t happen, but clearly want to do anything in my power to ensure it.

That leaves having some concern over when the kids are with him. On one hand he can be great with them but other times he’s short tempered, uninterested, etc.  I also worry as now that I understand much of the vile he spews at me is really about him, his mental state is surely compromised.

I don’t want to highlight this as I have no proof, and it would likely impact work, etc.  I also worry if I’m not there to be punching bag, then his focus could turn to kids.

How can I convey this to my attorney? Should I?

Anything I could have in place to ensure kids safety while they are with dad?  The younger two are minors. The third tends toward the dramatic so while I can give her a phone, etc., there may be a tendency to overreact and she does not like dad.

He hasn’t done anything per se, but I’m still quite concerned.

Thanks all!
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« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2020, 08:48:03 AM »

Hard, hard stuff.

Two prongs I'm seeing here:

One: minimize their actual time with him while "making him think he's winning".
Two: troubleshoot kids' coping skills for actual time with him

OK, so, #1: Your stbxH sounds like LnL's ex -- lawyer, sometimes veering towards psychotic breaks/weird behavior, might talk a lot about "fighting for his kids" but unlikely to follow through. If you haven't yet, check out mama-wolf's thread on "summer child care for S7" (can't remember exact title) and scroll down to LnL's verbatim posts of her ex's interactions with the parenting coordinator (PC) about time with their son. Lots of bluff, bluster, "you can't kidnap my son from me", etc -- but no actual engagement with the practicalities of spending real time with son.

I wonder if your stbx is the sort of person who would walk away from a negotiation or mediation session "feeling like he won and defeated  you" if it "seemed" like he got more time with the kids than you... even if it was all time when the kids were in school. Get what I'm saying? I wonder if you proposed a schedule where most of "his" time was time where the kids were doing something else, and it seemed like he got more time than you, if he would at some level go for it and gloat in defeating you... "I got 60% of the hours, I am clearly superior" but the kids are in school most of the time.

That's kind of an extreme example, and I wouldn't recommend it verbatim, but start thinking about what his currency is and find ways to "pay" him so he thinks he "got more"... but the kids are protected. It's more an example of the out-of-the-box thinking that you may need to draw on in separating and creating a new family structure. This will NOT be a straightforward process and the less time you can spend beating your head against a wall when he won't agree to "reasonable" solutions, and the more time you can spend on "OK, we've proposed standard A, creative B, and out-of-the-box C, and you won't go for any of them... OK we're going to trial and it's on the record that you did not agree to any solution", perhaps the better. Drawing out the negotiation/divorce process typically isn't helpful with a disordered person. Yeah, go through the steps you have to -- mediation may be required -- but be willing to walk away/briskly move forward if your solutions aren't genuinely engaged with.

Examples of out-of-the-box schedule ideas: don't offer this right off the bat, but be really, really open to flexibility about "who gets what holiday". Would he feel like he "won" if he got every Christmas Day, for example? DH's ex gets every Christmas Day... but we get every Christmas Eve. We usually schedule Christmas to be anywhere from 1-3 weeks ahead of the 25th, and it's kind of awesome. The kids aren't all burned out on gifts, and we don't have to "make it work" to get everyone together on one day -- there's flexibility. So, consider stuff like that -- can you "grudgingly offer, after some time" that the kids are with him on his birthday? Strategy: list out days/holidays that you'd "offer, after consideration" (NOT RIGHT AWAY) in order for him to walk away from signing something feeling like "I got one up on uBPDHelp" but YOU ultimately have walked away with more time with the kids.

#2 -- working on the kids' coping skills with him -- is something I've read you're trying to start, so, kudos on that. It's a longer discussion so more on that later  Being cool (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2020, 09:04:47 AM »

Emotionally there’s definitely some damage and I fear it (know it) will get worse.

In what ways do you predict it will get worse?

He’s gone from a month ago telling me I can decide custody to last week screaming we’ll split 50-50 and then that I’m a horrible mother and he’s going to take them from me (same conversation)


It's not going to change. He will scream at you to drop the kids off and then half an hour tell you to pick them up. He'll fight to get more time with them and then fail to take his custodial time. For an hour he'll be the best dad ever and then 10 minutes later he'll ignore them like they aren't even there. He'll scream that you're the worst hillbilly slut mother and then he'll tell them to go live with you full-time because no one appreciates him.

Honestly, even he probably doesn't know what he feels or thinks from what moment to the next.

Married or divorced, it will be the same.

The difference is that the kids will have a safe house to go recover and repair and learn how to become emotionally resilient. You give them a place for their nervous system to calm down.

Kids are incredibly resilient. Especially when we demonstrate and mirror back to them how resilient they are, using a lot of the same skills we teach for interacting with someone with BPD.

EDIT to add: If things get worse after divorce you can always file a motion to modify custody. It's not easy to do but it's an option. You are not going to be locked into something forever, and most of us here find that the battle does continue, it's just that we are living in a separate home and can take measures to care for our recovering selves.
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« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2020, 10:55:55 AM »

Just to clarify...if the two older children are over eighteen, they are legally adults and can't be compelled to go to his house for "visitation." They may need strategies to protect themselves from his emotional abuse and manipulations. Your biggest area of negotiation here will probably be college costs.

 The two younger are the ones you'll need to negotiate more carefully. If they are at least 13-14, in some states they can express their preferences to the judge/court. If your stbx is going to go for 50/50, you may ask for a custody evaluation to include a psychological assessment -- he may not want to do this and may concede. Evaluations are expensive.
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« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2020, 02:13:36 PM »

I'm really sorry you're in this situation. 
Like you, I'm a super-concerned parent. I am facing what is probably the flip side to your situation.  No physical abuse.  My STBX (kids' mom) is very much a passive aggressive blamer, leading to loyalty conflicts and alienation.    I have lost one daughter to alienation thus far.  It hurts. I want to prevent any future alienation.  But, I can't change mom.  Fighting in court won't change her. Therapy wont change her.

I have been advised, at times, to go to court and try to get full custody, but, I think that would trigger such a response in my wife, and in the court, that I'd look like the controlling loon.  I think dads have a generally harder time getting 50/50 custody, so that to get full custody, it would take mom being a star of the Exorcist movies.

I've contemplated strategies and the wellness of the kids.  And in my situation alone, I really think that 50/50 is optimum.  I have to work, the kids need mom time too, they will have to sort out crazy on their own - no matter where they live.

If you get to the point that the abuse is intolerable in your family, it would be best if a third party calls it out.  I'm sure family courts see lots of good-enough parents on their worst behavior such that accusations of abuse and neglect are downsized. A teacher, counselor, witness would carry weight in that situation. 

I think for you, everyone is hurting.  You, the kids, and dad. 

Kind of like self-care is the most important thing, make sure you're building a safe and healthy home for you first, then the kids.  In my experience, I haven't saved my kids from mom's influence, though three of five are seemingly healthy and adjusting to their situation.  Sadly, your kids might be affected, damaged, and it may last a long time.  This would happen regardless of custody.
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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2020, 09:18:58 PM »

Thanks all for the input and great ideas.

Most of the time he’s okay with the kids. A little loud and controlling but does some things that are paternal.

I’m mostly concerned with 1) if I’m not his punching bag, then who and/or 2) when his mood changes and he’s more dark and end of days kind of thing. How do I ensure my kids are safe if he has them and I’m not aware he’s in a bad state of mind?

What do you all do to keep your kids safe when with their BPD parent?

Hope that makes sense...thank you!
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« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2020, 10:13:17 AM »

I’m mostly concerned with 1) if I’m not his punching bag, then who

Probably still you.

I would get emails from n/BPDx during his custodial times that could set hair on fire.

2) when his mood changes and he’s more dark and end of days kind of thing. How do I ensure my kids are safe if he has them and I’m not aware he’s in a bad state of mind?

You cannot ensure they are safe all the time. Not now, and not after a divorce.

Right now, you are probably clipping their wings a tiny bit in order to protect them from the risks of flying. We all do this when someone or something threatens our kids. In a home with an abusive parent, it becomes second nature to protect.

What will change is that they'll likely see the full fury of the abuse and it will drive them deeper into your arms, especially if you understand the healing power of validation and bear witness to their pain. Bessel van der Kolk, a leading expert on chronic childhood trauma, says that the real trauma is when a child's reality is not allowed to be seen and known. Daddy was scary and mean? Let's snuggle here and you can tell me what happened."

"And then what happened?"

"You feel scared? Me too. I felt scared when he did that to me, and I'm a grown up. The way you handled it was really really smart. You took care of yourself and got through that moment. Now you're safe and we're together."

What do you all do to keep your kids safe when with their BPD parent?

You prepare. You train. You hope. You pray. You trust.

My ex had a psychotic break one night and lost his effing mind. Our son, 11 at the time, was with his dad overnight. It started around 6pm and lasted 24 hours.

For a lawyer to send emails, text messages, direct messages, voicemails with the kinds of things he wrote -- it was truly insane. He kept writing, "You'll never see S11 again."

I thought he was going to kill himself and our son. It is by far the most traumatic thing I've ever been through and it took me years to understand the impact it had. It was also the birth of my titanium backbone. I will never be treated like that again.

My son saw that transformation. He doesn't remember much of that night but he does remember that I stood up to his dad -- the details are totally wrong and much braver than what I did, but he's right that it was the end of being bullied.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you have to step into your strength and learn how to pull all of these beliefs and skills together. That is what will protect your kids. That, and your belief that not only can they get through this, but they can learn skills to deal with emotionally unsafe people.

I told my son how smart he was to pretend he was asleep when his dad was decompensating. I told him there was no way he could stop what was happening. How clever he was to do the right thing when no one had told him to do that!

I had given him some generic instructions on what to do if he ever felt unsafe (not directly about his dad, but sort of about his dad). Where he would go, which neighbors to go to, how to contact me. None of that turned out to be possible when his dad was genuinely scary, but my son instinctively knew to make himself as small as possible and that turned out to be the best thing he could do, better than what I had advised him to do.

My ex had some comorbid stuff, including likely bipolar and alcohol/prescription pill abuse. When he was fully lit it was a thing to behold. I'm sharing this not to compare our situations but to give you some hope that you can protect these kids while coaching from your calm, safe home.

When I came here that night desperate for help, it was ForeverDad who, in his wisdom, recognized that things would likely turn around for me in terms of custody and though I couldn't see it at the time, that's exactly what happened.

Sometimes we try so hard to protect everyone that we end up hiding the severity of what we're dealing with. We're good at what we do! When the furies are no longer tightly contained, the true nature of it can be seen and measured, and that can open doors to new kinds of healing and support.
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« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2020, 11:36:18 AM »

I am in a very similar situation to you. I'm in CA and my stbx made the same threats of "taking the kids" from me when I finally got up the courage to leave. Judges are very wary of granting custody to one parent over the other unless there is compelling evidence that one parent is "unfit", which it does not sound like your stbx has.

I initially agreed to 50/50 custody in mediation, just to try to smooth things over, and truth be told, I was still feeling intimidated by his behavior.

Within a month, my stbx wasn't taking the girls as often, saying he couldn't work and handle their schedules (!).

In my case, he wanted 50/50 so he wouldn't have to pay any additional child support ($ is a trigger for him). In our final settlement that is forthcoming once COVID closed courts reopen, I have stated I want 65/35 custody and have told my lawyer if he balks, I'm going to use the $ as a bargaining chip and tell him he doesn't have to pay me the additional child support for 65% time.

This is ideal as he is a decent "weekend dad" when he doesn't have to shoulder any actual responsibility/stress for the girls, he just gets to have fun with them. (I'm choosing to frame it as a benefit to the girls to get a "decent" dad, rather than a win for him.)

The good news is that my lawyer has said if our teenager decides to not go with him for visitation because of his behavior, there is very little that the court will do about it. They will not compel someone over the age of 14 to follow a visitation order. Since my 14yo has become a teen, he has started treating her the same way he treated me--that is what prompted me finally leave for good--he went after her one night the way he used to go after me. My 11 yo still thinks he's great, so I'm letting her feel that way for awhile longer until he turns on her too.

To keep the girls safe when they are with him, they both have phones and know that they can call me 24/7. They are both in counseling and while the counselor has not told them that he has BPD (she says they aren't ready yet), she has taught them about the patterns of a BPD parent and how to deal with those when they are with him.

The girls and I talk, A LOT. My relationship with them has improved dramatically since we got out. I have so much more time now to be a good mom rather than having all my time sucked up dealing with my stbx's behavior. That is a great light at the end of the tunnel.
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« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2020, 11:39:05 AM »



When I came here that night desperate for help, it was ForeverDad who, in his wisdom, recognized that things would likely turn around for me in terms of custody and though I couldn't see it at the time, that's exactly what happened.

Good there is a separate post on this issue.

This is also a "prep or the worst" thing and know it likely won't happen.

To this end, you must realize that courts rarely make decisions based on "anecdotes" or "feelings" or "personal opinions", they like proof..evidence.

Perhaps a good time for LnL to talk about her "book of doom"  that she put together.  (not what she called it...but what I called mine).  Mine was a massive three ring binder organized by issue and tabbed.

So...if I needed to prove "coaching of the children" I could go to that tab.  

If I needed to prove "bad discipline"...I could go to that tab.  

So, some things existed in multiple places.

I also have a fairly decent digital copy of it.

Thankfully that was only about a year of my life that I put that together an updated it.  I felt someone confident having it and I also had feedback from Ls that I trusted about "was it enough".  

In many cases it wasn't (and that's ok).  But having that knowledge will help you put into perspective "today's issue", whatever that is.

Let's say that he has never been physical with the kids, but you can show a pattern of verbal abuse and show that pattern is/has been getting worse and now he "crossed a line" into the physical.  It's very likely your "book of doom" coupled with an expert witness could dispel a claim that some physical thing "was a one time thing" or "didn't need to be addressed".

If you have noticed a trend in everyone's advice...it's about being prepared.

Best,

FF
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« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2020, 01:36:05 PM »

interjecting....
LnL - your story got me right in the heart strings - if that's a thing.
Just pray. 
I feel like I have an automatic bubble I put around the kids whenever I can.  I have to dial it down and let them grow, and I notice when they aren't in the bubble, but, all I can do is let them be them. And pray.
Kids' mom is going to be mom. I might have to damage control later, but I probably can't do it all. All I can do is keep my bubble.
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« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2020, 06:06:10 PM »

I was surprised how little was "actionable" in court and agency scenarios.  DV or Threat of DV was technically actionable by law but (1) its application can be limited by case law and the associated circumstances, and (2) DV is an issue between adults and probably won't have a huge impact on how orders are handled for custody and parenting schedules.

My then-spouse was very emphatic about her Threats of DV (recorded) but when it finally got to trial a few months later the judge used case law to weaken the application of the law and ruled she was Not Guilty since she did not have a weapon in her hands.  The ADA was surprised but I concluded judge silently justified it to himself it was either (1) her first time in court or (2) he didn't want consequences on a Mother of a preschooler.  A few years later she had the entire case expunged.  I was amazed how her case in municipal court, though listed as required to domestic court, was never discussed there.  She actually got a standard default Mother-preferential temp order in domestic court.  With a DV case pending in the other court she got temp custody and temp majority time (about 78%).

With the exception of temp orders — which in our cases last much longer than typical cases, mine was about two years — courts are very reluctant to grant one parent sole or full custody unless there is basis.  Usually that means substantive child abuse, neglect or endangerment.  Even if a parent gets sole or full legal custody (for major issues such as medical, religious, etc) often there is still some arrangement for the other parent to have some parenting time, even if it is limited to supervised.

It's hard to predict in advance how determined the disordered spouse will be to seek custody or parenting time.  Obviously control and entitlement are factors.  In your case it may be that he is triggered by feeling he would have to pay more money if he gets less than equal time.  Frankly, the difference won't be much.  And I don't know whether you can agree to less child support, courts typically don't like varying from the calcs.  It that is allowed, that variance may be limited to a year or two.  Almost all courts allow calc reconsideration every year or two.

In my case, a couple years had passed and when she went from 78% to 50% in the final decree, I had to pay her a higher child support amount.  I think her income was still imputed at minimum wage levels, so maybe my income had risen.
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« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2020, 03:31:53 PM »

The biggest thing for us to protect SD was to insist that H had sole decision making for her mental health.  That means H can take her to a therapist without mom's approval - and to stop uBPDmom from taking SD to a "family therapist" to emotionally abuse her further.  (uBPDmom has filed a motion to get joint rights for SD's mental health but there's no way in heck a judge is going to allow that with the evidence I have.)

We can't completely protect our kids, and that is a very, very hard lesson to accept.  SD13 sees the difference between her life and that of my biokids (their dad isn't disordered and he and I coparent very well).  SD13 is jealous.  She doesn't want her mom to be her mom and she hates going to mom's - but at the same time she loves her mom and wants to have those moments when her mom is normal.  So we take her to therapy regularly, we work really hard to validate her emotions, and we make sure she knows she is absolutely unconditionally loved in our house.  And we have found the line so that we never bad-mouth mom but also acknowledge that some of mom's actions are wrong - because SD needs to know that the emotional abuse is not normal and she does not deserve that.

And we watch and take action when it gets bad.  We blocked mom from texting and calling SD for a year.  50/50 worked okay for years...and then in the last two years we've had to go to court twice to get 60/40 and then  85/15 (with no overnights for mom).  Watching the kids will help you determine what they need / what they can handle. 
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