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VIDEO: "What is parental alienation?" Parental alienation is when a parent allows a child to participate or hear them degrade the other parent. This is not uncommon in divorces and the children often adjust. In severe cases, however, it can be devastating to the child. This video provides a helpful overview.
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Author Topic: Legal questions - married but given silence by wife and kids  (Read 462 times)
JediGuy

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« on: May 10, 2021, 10:10:53 PM »

In a recent post made in another forum, I was advised to check on my legal rights (https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=349173.0)

Here's my situation
  • Married w/ 3 daughters, (2 teens and an 11 yo)
  • Living in finished LL, including cooking separate meals, buying separate food, and working from home
  • Wife currently giving me silent treatment for 4 weeks
  • Kids also giving me silent treatment for same duration
  • Wife thought I was a covert narcissist starting last spring, and still treats me like one despite me seeing several Dr.'s and therapists who have said I'm not one (one therapist suggested my wife may have BPD)
  • When my wife is "open" to me, then my girls follow her lead - those are the times when I'm able to care for them and be part of their lives
  • I am the breadwinner and my wife is a stay-at-home mom

I want to be part of my children's life, and every day I am attempting to connect w/ them, ask about their day, but I'm being ignored or told "no thank you".

My wife takes care of everything for my daughters including homeschooling, cooking, discipline, laundry, etc.  This IS NOT HOW I WANT IT, but I am rejected continuously.  This includes asking how everyone is doing, what's new with them, offering to help or spend time, etc.

Someone raised a question about whether this could be considered abandonment on my part.  Another question was whether my wife is legally depriving me of a parenting relationship.  I think I need to speak to a lawyer to find out what I can do to protect myself should this ever come up.

I can get a free 30-min. consultation, but I've found that those are barely enough time.  My wife controls the finances so she would immediately see any legal bills, so I really want to keep this short.
Other than these items, I have a lot of questions that I could use help prioritizing (or adding something crucial if missing):

1.  What recourse do I have legally if I'm being prevented from having a relationship with my children right now?
2.  Could a court find me guilty of abandonment / how to I protect myself from that conclusion given the silence and rejection?
3.  Could a court find my wife guilty of depriving me of having a parental relationship with our children or at least consider that when determining custody?
4.  My wife shows BPD traits, but hasn't been diagnosed (and refuses to go to counseling).  Her silent treatment and occasional rages could be considered verbal abuse from what I've been told.  Would a court (MN) consider this when determining whether I have been negligent, even if it's not diagnosed by a third-party?
5.  Given my girls strongly prefer being with mom over me (at this moment), do I have any ability to show that my actions were not due to neglect or lack of effort to have a relationship with them?
6.  What would I need to do to at least retain visitation rights, if not joint-custody in a divorce case?

To be clear, I'm still hoping to find a way to work through this with my wife.  This is more for my protection should things not improve.

Thanks for your help.
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GaGrl
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2021, 10:36:25 PM »

It might be time to separate your finances to regain your power in the family.

How might the dynamics shift if you set up an account in your name only, and have your income deposited into that account?I

Please think about this.



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JediGuy

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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2021, 11:36:00 AM »

@GaGrl - thanks for your thought.  I've had this thought as well, and actually suggested to my wife about 6 weeks ago that we consider splitting the finances in half.  The idea at that point was that to take partial ownership over the bill paying, alleviate some of her burden, and stop being in a position of either asking for approval or buying things and assuming it will be OK.

She was not at all receptive to this and told me something along the lines of "if we're going to be married then we're not keeping separate finances" (I don't recall her exact words).  I could make a change to my direct deposit unilaterally, but I am almost certain this would explode.

Right now, she's got a lot of stress with homeschooling and the end of my oldest girl's freshman HS year.  I think I will revisit this topic with her once school stress has subsided in a few weeks.

In the meantime, I am going to call my HR dept. to find out how quickly a direct deposit change can be made effective.

Again, thanks for your perspective.
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ForeverDad
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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2021, 03:54:01 PM »

You have every right to deposit your income wherever you choose.  Here's what happened to me, though I knew full well the marriage was in trouble and getting progressively worse.

My story... .A few months before we split I opened a checking account in a different bank and switched my paycheck deposit there.  Wow, did that earn some rages.  However, there was reason to do so.  I had just bought a good used car and as I had done before, I was going to take a loan out for it from my 401(k).  Well, my ex raged when I asked her to sign the J&S acknowledgement (a form my company required informing the spouse that an outstanding loan could impact inheritance).  Boy was the dealer angry, he wanted his money.  I went to our mortgage bank and got a loan there but to make auto deposits I opened a checking account there.  I used her loan signature refusal as my 'excuse' to her why I changed the deposit from our joint account.
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worriedStepmom
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« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2021, 03:33:14 PM »

So basically your kids are being brainwashed by mom, who controls every aspect of their lives and a lot of yours.

She is already alienating them from you. If you attempt to leave the marriage, she is likely to ramp up those efforts significantly.

Is there any possibility of getting the kids into counseling?
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JediGuy

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« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2021, 07:29:04 AM »

All,

Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who took the time to read my posts and offer helpful suggestions.

Last week, I served my wife divorce papers.  The silent treatment had not improved (went on about 12 weeks, with the exception of moments of criticism), my girls were still acting similarly, and other events had occurred that were not acceptable.  In a clandestine manner, I finally opened-up with my family about what had been going on (as at that point I knew I needed to make a change).  I later met with a lawyer and my therapist, and worked to secure an apartment to move into after serving papers so that I would not need to live in our house anymore (but only after discussing this with my lawyer and making sure this wouldn't jeopardize my custody case).

It's been a hard couple of weeks, and my wife went into panic mode a day after I served her wanting to talk to me and having the kids text me as well.  I was able to firmly stand my ground that I was planning to follow-through with the divorce, though I tried to say it in a non-inflammatory way.  She tried a few more times, before flipping the switch the other direction and now there's been no contact for a few days.

Rationally, I knew that I couldn't continue as it was emotionally unhealthy, and would likely be physically unhealthy if I waited much longer.  Also, I realized that I could not allow my daughters to see that it's OK to treat a spouse (or any human) the way I have been treated.  I worry a lot about them and what their future relationships will be, and I'm hoping that having partial custody where I can be 1-1 w/o mom around will help me repair this dynamic.

I'm very thankful for the people on this community as well as my family who have been super-supportive, both emotionally and financially.  I'm still working through a mix of deep sadness and also anger, which seems common based on posts I've read.  I still love my wife and I'm sad that we weren't able to work things out, but I believe I am making the best decision for myself and for my daughters' future.

Anyway, just wanted to update all of you and express my appreciation.
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GaGrl
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« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2021, 11:11:25 AM »

Thanks for the update. It sounds as if you've been purposeful and deliberate throughout the process. Stay with us -- I'm sure there will be more BPD behaviors that will arise now that the divorce has been filed.

Many people on this forum have come to realize that having a 1-1 relationship with their children, free of interference with the PD parent, provided the opportunity to be a strong and caring parent and role model.  The children will have one healthy and safe household.

Are you going for 50-50 physical custody?
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JediGuy

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« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2021, 11:12:34 AM »

Hi @GaGrl,

Yes, I am going for 50/50 physical and legal custody.  I'm hoping that having some 1-1 time with my daughters will over time allow me to rebuild our relationships.

I've now been in my new apartment for a few days, and it's amazing how much more peaceful I feel.  It is a bit lonely at times and I miss my girls.  However, I don't miss the feeling of not being able to move about in my own home without the anxiety of wondering if I'm going to get cornered or treated in a hurtful manner.
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Sluggo
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« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2021, 08:57:22 PM »

Jediguy,

I am so sorry what you have gone through.   It is very similar to my situation 5 years ago when I chose to move out.  I gave my wife almost total control and she had emotional control over my children. 

I like you felt so much better after moving out, not scared anymore.  It came with a cost though of not seeing my kids during the divorce process. 

I made a stupid stupid decision on preliminary order.  I gave my wife most time with kids as I have 7 kids - 2 were special needs- and I at the time only had a 1 bedroom apartment.  Don't sign a preliminary order that will do that. I would request and sign what you are asking for in the divorce. 

I also started to share my story with my family, close childhood friends both of which I gave up for my 'bettering of my marriage". I shared on this board, in therapy and with other guy friends.  I became stronger, happier and started to be the dad I always wanted to be.  I was an empty shell 5 years ago, today I am so so much better. I'm back to my pre-marriage self.  I was married 18 yrs

The kids relationship was damaged with the alienation.  The oldest 2 (who were 14 and 16)  I still have not reestablished with them 5 years later..  they were older and they did not come over even though court said to and I filed multiple contempts- over 20. 

Number 3 and 4 kids (who were 9, 12)  it took about 4 years post divorce to finally to trust me again..  the youngest 3 (who were 2, 6, 7) were great..  they never saw the dysfunction of our relationship.   

Alienation is evil.  Despite all the above, I would have done only one thing differently- I should have left sooner.  The older kids saw way to much.   I was a doormat and they saw that. .  The bpdmom still has an emotional grip on them and they only see me as that doormat.   I am not that person anymore.

Sluggo
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JediGuy

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« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2021, 11:44:08 AM »

Hi @Sluggo,

Thanks for the words of encouragement.  From what you describe, it does sound like a similar situation.

I had a chance to see my daughters for the first time last weekend.  For the most part, they didn't talk to me, though later in the visit I was able to at least get them to answer a few questions about the activity they were doing.

My parents say I already sound better than I did several months ago.  Like what you said, my biggest regret is not leaving sooner.  I hope to reconnect w/ my daughters but I think I've got a lot of work ahead for that.  I'll definitely keep your tip about preliminary custody in mind.
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Sluggo
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« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2021, 09:49:44 PM »

Jediguy

Glad you got to see your daughters..  sorry the conversation was guarded with them.  That is hard and heartbreaking but glad you are seeing a little glimpse. 

Great news family seeing you perk up to old self. 

Here have been  great resources for me which helped me understand what was going on and not take it so personally

FOUNDATIONS: great book on understanding alienation.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0996114505/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_glt_fabc_NXN67FMD0WXDR2MVTVJ3

SPLITTING:   good resource on strategies when divorcing high conflict person. 
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1608820254/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_glt_fabc_7054NQFR4SAZXQ0JG25N

RYAN THOMAS SPEAKS: great videos on parental alienation from the perspective of a child of alienation now adult and retelling his experience. 
https://youtu.be/jzV1cRw7_MQ

Video lecture with Dr Childress who wrote above book foundations. 
https://youtu.be/brNuwQNN3q4

Maybe you might find them as helpful as I did.

Sluggo
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ForeverDad
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« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2021, 02:31:28 PM »

Wife thought I was a covert narcissist starting last spring, and still treats me like one despite me seeing several Dr.'s and therapists who have said I'm not one (one therapist suggested my wife may have BPD)

One member here stated he knew when his ex-spouse was lying, it was when she opened her mouth. Frustrated/Unfortunate (click to insert in post)  Good that you got solid validation from therapists and other emotionally neutral professionals.

I want to be part of my children's life, and every day I am attempting to connect w/ them, ask about their day, but I'm being ignored or told "no thank you".

My wife takes care of everything for my daughters including homeschooling, cooking, discipline, laundry, etc.  This IS NOT HOW I WANT IT, but I am rejected continuously.  This includes asking how everyone is doing, what's new with them, offering to help or spend time, etc.

It seems that you don't yet have legal protections as father in place.  That's what the divorce process establishes.  However, be aware that many courts still gift preferential default to mothers simply for being mothers.  You have valid concerns about that.  The problem is that many courts issue a "standard" temp order in a brief half hour hearing then take months (or years in our obstructed cases) to reach an adjusted outcome in the final decree.  What if the court's "typical" temp order isn't best for the children or for you?  That's why you and your proactive layer need to do your utmost to get the best (or "least bad") temp order possible.  The problem with my temp order is that it was never changed during the nearly two years until the final decree.

Someone raised a question about whether this could be considered abandonment on my part.  Another question was whether my wife is legally depriving me of a parenting relationship.  I think I need to speak to a lawyer to find out what I can do to protect myself should this ever come up.

No, not abandonment since your spouse and you disagree on the parenting.  How do you "force" compliance with your wishes?  If you tried to do that then you risk her claiming some sort of DV or abuse.  No father wants to be carted off to jail.  I recall my divorce lawyer telling me he was a police officer prior to becoming a lawyer and the policy when responding to a domestic dispute is to separate the couple and the husband/father is always the one load into the police car.  He was mystified why that didn't happen to me.  I explained how they tried but my preschooler was quietly sobbing in my arms and when the officer told me to hand my son over to his mother and "step away" he started shrieking and clung tighter.  The officer stared at me a few moments, said, "work it out" and both officers left.

That week my separation began... and a few months later the divorce because she was blocking access to my child.  That too is a story.  I called the police station in her area and asked them to accompany me to see my son.  They refused, said I needed in hand a court order first.  I asked what would happen if I went to see him without them.  They said they'd come rushing if she called them.  I decided to avoid predictable demanded arrest and waited three months for my divorce's temp order.

I can get a free 30-min. consultation, but I've found that those are barely enough time.  My wife controls the finances so she would immediately see any legal bills, so I really want to keep this short.

So you deposit your earnings into her account or a joint account?  Time for that to End.  Open a personal account in a separate bank (so she can't con a teller into accessing your new account) and deposit your earnings there.  Then you can forward a portion for the family support and reserve some for yourself.  That way you can withdraw cash for confidential and private legal consultations.

Of course doing so will trigger huge extinction bursts demanding you undo it all (that happened to me too) but you'll have to do that anyway at some point.  You're already separated and need to proceed legally to protect your spousal and parental interests.  So why not now?

Remember a vital difference between marriage versus separation/divorce.  If you're repairing a marriage then both spouses sharing is vital to its recovery.  If separating and divorcing then you must be cautious about sharing or the TMI (too much information) can be self-sabotaging.  You do share parenting and housing information but anything more must be reviewed carefully first.  Very carefully.

1.  What recourse do I have legally if I'm being prevented from having a relationship with my children right now?  Without your spouse's cooperation?  Domestic or family court.  You can seek an order via Legal Separation or Divorce.  Separation is a half-way measure, not feasible if there is conflict and struggles with sharing parenting.

2.  Could a court find me guilty of abandonment / how to I protect myself from that conclusion given the silence and rejection?  DOCUMENT how your parenting has been hindered and what/how/why you need to be a very involved parent.

3.  Could a court find my wife guilty of depriving me of having a parental relationship with our children or at least consider that when determining custody?  Courts typically expect heightened tensions and thus ignore much of the conflict.  Courts often assume the conflict will decrease, but sadly protracted cases like ours may take the court months or years to be convinced otherwise.

4.  My wife shows BPD traits, but hasn't been diagnosed (and refuses to go to counseling).  Her silent treatment and occasional rages could be considered verbal abuse from what I've been told.  Would a court (MN) consider this when determining whether I have been negligent, even if it's not diagnosed by a third-party?  Lots of variations possible, may depend upon the local policies and procedures.  I recall when I called my local CPS I was asked if her rants and rages were directed at the child (no, at me, but child witnessed) and was told to call back if she started raging at my child.  Other jurisdictions can be more proactive, mine wasn't.  Following the direction of your lawyer's advice, properly describing and providing documentation of spouse's misbehaviors is vital to a successful custody case.  Hiding information or remaining silent while the other spouse is bad mouthing you is of course a terrible strategy.  An observation: most courts and professionals seem to avoid making a diagnosis for custody cases, nor do they try to "fix" the parents, they prefer to limit themselves to merely addressing documented misbehaviors by setting limits and boundaries in the court orders.

5.  Given my girls strongly prefer being with mom over me (at this moment), do I have any ability to show that my actions were not due to neglect or lack of effort to have a relationship with them?  The children do not decide visitation which is decided between the court, lawyers and parents... however eventually the court may consider their inclinations, often with input from a Custody Evaluation and/or counselors if any.

6.  What would I need to do to at least retain visitation rights, if not joint-custody in a divorce case?  Courts almost never deny at least minimal visitation such as alternate weekends unless there is clear child abuse.  Even with evident abuse they can shift to supervised visitation.  (This is why I previously recommended you try to get the best or "least bad" temp order from the very start.)  My temp order assigned my misbehaving spouse temp custody and me visitation, but my final decree declared joint custody.  After more years in and out of family court I ended up with legal guardianship (custody) and majority parenting time during the school year (school had continued issues with her).

I know you wish to repair the family.  I did, we all did.  But face the elephant in the room... Is that realistic?  We are here to share our wealth of experience and collective wisdom, what usually works, what usually doesn't work, but only you can determine whether the marriage can be repaired.  Problem is it takes two people both sharing the hard work.  Thus far I don't see your spouse supporting that...
« Last Edit: July 23, 2021, 02:50:37 PM by ForeverDad » Logged

kells76
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« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2021, 03:03:51 PM »

Excerpt
1.  What recourse do I have legally if I'm being prevented from having a relationship with my children right now?  Without your spouse's cooperation?  Domestic or family court.  You can seek an order via Legal Separation or Divorce.  Separation is a half-way measure, not feasible if there is conflict and struggles with sharing parenting.

Looking down the road at your questions #1 & #6... if your W tries the tactic of "of course I want the kids to have a relationship with you, but what can I do, I can't make them, they refuse to go, I'm just honoring their wishes and truly listening to them, it's not my fault"...  Frustrated/Unfortunate (click to insert in post)  Frustrated/Unfortunate (click to insert in post)  Frustrated/Unfortunate (click to insert in post)

...consider getting in any court order/parenting plan that the kids will all be in counseling "to help with the transition to a new family structure" or whatever, for -- at minimum -- as long as the therapist advises.

It's not normal, behaviorally, for a child to "want to" cut ties with a loving parent. That signals some serious shut-off in the attachment system which is either (a) organic and then REALLY needs therapy, or (b) induced and then indicative of pathological/pathogenic parenting, which also REALLY needs therapy.

So, as you work with lawyers down the road (after getting your own bank account), emphasize to whoever you retain that you need legal backup for getting the kids in therapy. If your W is anything like DH's ex, she will drag her heels and not support it. So, food for thought.

On a more positive note, counseling really turned around the relationship between DH and his oldest. She was refusing parenting time, Mom was parroting "what can I do, I'm just listening to her", etc, but after a year or two, they regained a really positive relationship that mostly continues to this day. So it can be worth it.
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ForeverDad
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« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2021, 03:48:22 PM »

So, as you work with lawyers down the road (after getting your own bank account), emphasize to whoever you retain that you need legal backup for getting the kids in therapy. If your W is anything like DH's ex, she will drag her heels and not support it.

Typically counseling for the kids is covered as a custody matter, not a standard box on a parenting schedule.  That's why being smart and informed when in the court hearings is vital.  Even if you manage to get joint custody in a temp order, there will be an impasse if you want kids to have counseling and she refuses.

My lawyer told me "Courts love counseling!"  You will probably need the court's support (via specific court order or a clause in an order) since very likely your spouse will object or possibly choose a complaint, intimidated or biased counselor.

To avoid the risk of a gullible or inexperienced therapist, here is a two step process that help avoid your kids getting stuck with a poor counselor.  Courts are pleased when both parents are involved in the selection of a counselor, so... You as the more stable parent can vet and select a few local counselors (therapists) who are experienced with custody situations and have reputations for insight and skills.  Also good if they accept your insurance or accept sliding scale payments.  Then present your spouse with that vetted list for her to choose from.  That limits her ability to willy-nilly choose someone else.  Probably you may have to wait for the right time to do this, another item for your lawyer consultations.

BTW... You can seek consultations with more than one or two lawyers.  Good lawyers will know that not every person who walks in the door will be a client.  In fact, it's okay to ask a lawyer about recommending other experienced lawyers.  One example, "If you were facing a divorce with conflict and obstruction, which lawyer(s) would you choose to represent you?"  Add those names to your prospective lawyer short list.
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