Advice on how to communicate better

evilstepmommy07February 5, 2010

My husband has custody of his two children. However, they have been splitting time 50/50 recently between our home and their mother's home. While I think it is great that they are getting to spend equal time with both parents, some issues have come up.

I will preface this with, I am of the belief that we are in charge at our home and she is in charge at her home.

These are the problems:

1. she has started working at night and cannot take them to sporting events, practices, school activites, etc.

We are expected to take care of all of that even when it is her time. (Don't get me wrong, I am SO glad she is working now!)

2. Grades are slipping. And I mean slipping badly, Fs and Ds are coming home from the weeks they are at her house.

My husband tried to propose a new arrangement to her. They stay with us on school nights and go to her house every other weekend. He only wanted to do this until the end of the school year and then during the summer we could do the opposite. This way she would be able to spend time with them during the day while they are out of school and she is not working.

She really freaked out and would not even listen to him. He tried to explain that he thought it was best for the children, she said that this was about her and that he was not going to steal them from her??? She would not even let him talk to her about it. She said NO and that he WAS NOT going to do this to her and that there was nothing left to talk about. This is the type of reaction he gets from her about everything. She gets very defensive even though NOTHING has ever been said about her, her household, her abilities or anything. She reacts very irrationally and emotionally to everything and makes it difficult to discuss things about the children and their well being.

My questions are: 1. Has anyone out there found any successful ways to communicate with people who don't really want to listen to you?? He has tried email but she says that they cannot communicate through email that they have to talk. We are kind of at a loss about how to deal with her.

2. For us, it is really about the children and what is best for them emotionally, physically, their education, their health and overall well being. How can he get that across to her?

3. Any advice on dealing with the above mentioned problems?

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--"she has started working at night and cannot take them to sporting events, practices, school activites, etc.
We are expected to take care of all of that even when it is her time"--

When do kids do their actual school work? With D/Fs rolling in their grades will likely get them banned from the practices, events and extra after-school activities.

You don't mention their ages. Can they drive? I can see her having some problems adjusting to evening employment and tending to the kids and overseeing teens, but are you and DH jumping too quickly in trying to stop her from her time? I'd get my nose outta joint too if I were approached just after trying to adjust to a new schedule and told I shoud only see my kids 4 days a month.

I have a hunch your approach may be the communication issue. Being a single mom, juggling a new job and being responsible for two busy kids is going to take her time. I guess what I'm saying is if you all have a good relationship and your concerns are indeed only in the best interest of the kids, I would see if DH could not work together with the BM a bit to give her a chance to get into the smooth of it. Can the kids ride with friends? Have a set homework hour even if an event or practice must go?

As soon as DH starts with 'I think you'll only see them 4 days a month, for their own good of course...' I'm sure her defenses clanged and banged.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 6:41PM
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Before suggesting that the custody/visitation times change, were the actual issues discussed? (ie. the grades, transporting to activities) because it would seem to me that if you are transporting to activities... I would first ask to see grades... D's & F's, sorry.. we aren't going anywhere but home to study. When she is working, who is supervising them?

The issue is how the parents can work as a team to help the kids maintain their grades and there should be some sort of balance in expecting your DH to transport them if she has to work... like maybe they come to his house a night or two a week so he can help them with homework.

The last resort should be changing custody or time share just because you believe doing so is what's best. My opinion is that it's best for the children's well being if both parents can get along and work toward the common goal. Now if mom disagrees and sees nothing wrong with bad grades or sticks her head in the sand and refuses to do anything toward co-parenting... THEN seek custody change.

But, it strikes me as odd that your DH would propose such a drastic change in custody. Is child support an issue? Well, he needs to first communicate with her about how to best address the problems the kids are having... not try to learn how to convince her to give up her kids without a chance to work through the problems first.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 9:59PM
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Eight? I just realized from reading a different thread that one of the Sks is eight. Who signed an eight year old up for all the programs that require practices and to what degree should an eight yr old be involved with activities if grades are suffering for it? I will assume that grades were okay until BM tried to better herself by gaining employment and that the grades are a new issue.

I will chance an assumption that the other child is no more than 2 or 3 yrs older than the eight yr old. I will also assume that since these kids seem to be young children that somebody is babysitting them when BM goes to work in the evenings. Who watches them and perhaps a change in sitters who can help with studies could be a solution?

Perhaps also an increase in child support may have to be addressed or state assistance in child care (some states help pay for child care so parents can work), as I caught in the other thread that you seem to think you and DH are better able to financially support the kids. I am not a believer that a single mom trying to be a part of their children's life should be denied her children and allowed only four days a month based on low income.

Once again, if your concern is truly for what is best for the children then all the grades, too many social activities and the like need to be addressed prior to a cease in homing arrangements. I hope that BM is able to work herself into a day schedule eventually at work which would allow her evenings to assist the kids in school work. But as to what is going on now, if I were the BM I'd be working with my social worker for what assistance might be available and a lawyer in helping find a way to enable me to maintain my child custody rights and my rights to having an active role.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 8:32AM
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"My husband has custody of his two children. However, they have been splitting time 50/50 recently between our home and their mother's home."

It seems clear to me that dad does indeed HAVE custody of his children and that this 50-50 arrangement is more of an agreement between the two parents. So I do wonder what circumstances initially prompted the courts to grant custody to the father? That is pretty unusual.

That said, I totally agree with justmetoo that it's not really fair of OP to say that she and DH can better financially provide for the children. Of course they can! This is a single working mom, struggling to raise 2 children, compared to a working dad and probably a working SM with no other children in the home. Ofcourse they have the more financially sound environment. That DOESN'T mean they are better than the mom!

I think justmetoo is correct in saying BM should evaluate an increase in child support and should look into what assistance programs there may be. It's great that she is working and wanting to maintain an active role in her kids' lives and she should definitely not be penalized for doing so. Seeing her kids 4 days a month would be doing just that!

Another idea I had was what about the kids living with dad during the week (Mon-Thurs) and with mom on the weekends? THat would give mom more time with her kids (more like 12 days/month.)

But, like I said, I would like some background as to how and why dad got custody initially.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 9:47AM
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I don't think OP has made clear the custody situation. In the other thread she announces they have 50/50 custody. There's a big difference between having full custody with mutual allowing 50/50 time vistations and having 50/50 custody. I mean, really if the DH has full custody of children why would he agree to himself only seeing his kids 4 days a week during June/July/August. Clarification is needed here, I'm not sure OP is using the term *custody* correctly.

Perhaps OP would like to clear up the actual legal custody and child support arrangement. Until she does I don't think any of us can actually advise her without it just being worthless opinions on whether or not her DH should have any more rights in this than the BM has. What is the court ordered or divorce degree arrangement and why was the now 50/50 back and forth *time* changed?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 11:07AM
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was to suppose to read 4 dys a month, not a wk.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 11:16AM
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If dad has custody but has been going by the 50/50 arrangement, he would not need BM to agree to anything. He would just say "I have custody & we are doing what the order says from now on." and BM would not have anything to say about it.

My suspicion is that dad is paying child support and wants to reduce or eliminate paying mom anything... after all, they have been splitting time 50/50. (I do agree that when parents split 50/50, they should each support the kids when the kids are with them) But that doesn't preclude an order that is already in effect or an order being made against the higher wage earner to even the playing field of both homes.

And I'm really not trying to pick on OP, but I get a sense that money is a big issue here and giving more of it to BM is not even on the table.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 11:40AM
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generally 50/50 is not the best type of arrangement, children go from house to house and carry their stuff around and forget things, plus different set of rules, of course grades suffer, they are too young to be able to manage. living with one parent and going for the weekend to other might be the best solution.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 6:58PM
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Thanks for the comments. Let me clarify a few things.

My husband has legal custody of the children, 8 yrs and 6 yrs. It is by mutual agreement that they have been splitting time 50/50. The idea was they should be able to spend equal time with both parents.

BM is supposed to pay child support NOT my husband. And just to make it clear, neither of us would ever try to get out of paying support if he were supposed. We pay for just about everything and do not even ever ask her for any of the money she owes. She does owe a lot and that is not really an issue for us as long as she is taking part in their lives. This is NOT about money at all.

She has been working these hours for a while now. And there have been many talks about grades among other issues. Even Parent/teacher conferences. The child involved in the activities is not child whose grades are suffering, that child's grades are really good. Although, she does want that child playing sports. My husband said he would rather work on his grades right now and maybe next year he can play ball.

And she is not a single mother, she is remarried and they both work and have pretty much all along. She did have an option to work while they were at school and she did choose these hours.

He had custody because she was not around much at the time for reasons that I don't really think I should post.

To help make this easier for her, he was agreeing to let her have them more time during the summer so that she could spend more time with them. Because she said she isn't getting to spend a lot of time with them right now because she is working when they are at her house. He was only wanting to do this until the end of this school year, not permanently. This was mainly to deal with the grades issue and get that child over this 'hump.' We all feel like this child's issue is something that he can overcome by the end of the year.

The problem is getting her to listen to anything he has to discuss with her. He has never been able to talk to her about anything without her immediately reacting negatively, even if it is not something serious. This is a serious issue and he wants to be prepared to deal with it. I try to stay out of these discussions but I know he is worried about her reaction and I want to be supportive and help him deal with this because it is VERY important to him.

I think that I have answered everyone's questions. I hope I cleared up any misunderstandings. Again, thanks for your input.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 10:36PM
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I should add that we realize she does not have to agree to this. He does have custody and the right to go back to the original legal custody agreement. The thing is, we are trying to do this the peaceful way. We want her involved and to feel like she is a part of their lives and the decisions being made involving them.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 10:41PM
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Thanks for clarifications, it gives a better picture of your situation.

Seems your DH is rather caught between a rock and a hard spot here. He's trying to see BM has involvement and say (even though he has full custody) and he's working with a BM that appears to have mixed priorities. She wants to spend time with her children yet she has chosen to not actually spend the time with her children (self selected work schedule) or seeing to it that the children's needs (education) are taken seriously during her time.

I still think that extra activities whether school activities (sports, music ect) or outside activities (tumbling, scouts ect) should be limited at age six and eight. For me it would depend on how well the kids do with everything else on their little plates that need to come first and take importance.

As far as talking to BM, clear and straight, no beating around the bush, no sugar coating it. With having been given full custody of the children it's his responsibilty to be sure the kids aren't suffering under a mutual desired 50/50 time split. He should be willing to work with BM, suggest solutions to problems, maybe a 30/70 based on her days off, and if that is not agreeable and/or doable, DH has to lay out he does at this point have full custody and while he is willing and trying to compromise he does have the final decision.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 8:38AM
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justmetoo, thank you for your response. I do feel like he is in a really tough spot. BM does send very mixed messages about many things. She will say one thing and then turn around and say the total opposite in the same conversation. I know that she loves her children and that they love her. I think that they should be able to spend time together. The thing is, they are not spending that time together.

The activities are limited. Only the child with good grades is playing one sport. Other than that, a few school programs here and there but nothing long term or overly time consuming. BM wanted the other child to play ball too but that is not happening now. Child does not want to play anyway.

He has proposed that she pick them up from school on Friday and take them back to school on Monday. This really works well with her work schedule, she only works Monday-Thursday now. This would also result in the children having consistency with homework and we could see to it that they did not miss out on anything. A lot of things are overlooked because of poor communication. I think that it seems like the most logical idea. However, proposing this to her was disastrous. We want things to be fair and equal but not to the detriment of the kids.

There has to be a way to communicate with her and them both be able to hear each other out. Do you think this talk is best to have in person, over the phone, in a public place (a park or something), or what? The biggest issue is how to talk to her and have her stay calm and rational so that they can discuss the issues and work something out.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 11:08AM
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I'm sure some of the other parents here that have full custody could likely advise on the actual talk better than I, but my son and his ex wife find that meeting for a relaxing cup of coffee in a cafe is their best neutral grounds.

It's busy enough so that neither feels they can toss a hissy fit (scene) without causing lots of unwanted attention or making the meeting unduly drawn out , comfortable setting and run to be able to write and/or show papers (example school reports), and not too busy or too much noise so that they feel rushed or distracted. The son has found it's when the ex is texting/emailing that he's uncomfortable, it thinks it's better they meet face to face and the appointment is set for when they both have time to really discuss.

In my family's case (I'm grandma) son and ex have joint custody and they work hard together to make spliting the homelife for what is best for GS8. Time wise across the year GS does spend more time with his dad, it's about 64/36 across the calender year. Son picks GS up Friday at 2pm and takes him to school Monday morning. He has him every day during the school year that school is not in session for that day and for all breaks and holiday vacations and has him all summer except one week a month. The ex travels during the summer so it's her doing the desire to have her summers free. Ex also wants weekends during the year free to fly off when she wishes to go with her SO (a businessman who has to travel)

My son pays for a college girl to babysit evenings Monday thru Thursday while GS is at BM's if BM wants to spend the evening out. He does this instead of having a HS neighborhood girl sit as GS8 was having 3 or 4 different sitters and the younger girls were not helping GS with school work or wanting to take him to activities. Money is not an issue for BM but son feels since it's his doings to have the older girl and give her more responsibilites during her sitting time , he pays the cost.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 11:39AM
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