New to stepparenting... is there anything I can do?

riznahJune 28, 2010

I've been with my fiance for almost a year, and a week ago the inevitable happened. I have become the subject of the BM's distaste (new to the forum also, can someone direct me to where I can find out what all these acronyms mean? ;)

DH has the children every other weekend and spoils them silly, taking them to amusement parks, the beach, tourist attractions all around our area. He's a great father and very dedicated to making sure their time here is filled with good memories. Three times a year he takes a vacation on his own or with me, usually adult stuff like hunting and fishing or camping with his adult brothers - he doesn't get that much time off either because yes, he works very hard and has a very stressful job! But, almost always, the BM calls and screams at him because according to her, he never takes the kids on vacation.

What is aggravating is that she doesn't work - she can't because she was arrested at work for selling drugs and has a criminal record for shoplifting. Of course his child support is based on the fact that she is unemployed. Now, she's engaged to a very wealthy fiance... and has made it obvious that she sometimes loans the child support payments to her mother. She has even hired a nanny because she apparently can't handle being a mother to the girls 24/7. She doesn't work! (do I sound bitter?). Am I wrong in thinking that with no job and ample funds, she is in a better position to take the kids on vacations?

What's worse is, she's now turned to me as something that is "getting in the way" of the children's time with their father. I'm in a very demanding nursing program and don't get much time with DH, much less the kids. Last weekend we went downstairs and left the kids (SD11 and SD7) upstairs alone for 10 minutes so we could talk to eachother alone after my 12 hour shift - SD7 ended up telling BM. That coupled with the fact that we are missing BM's birthday celebration for SD11 in order to go on a vacation together (I get one 5 day break until November - this program is INTENSE) has made BM livid. Yes, DH usually even attends BMs birthday parties for the kids, even though her and her friends will sit and talk negative loud enough for us to hear! This time - DH has promised to be there on SD11s actual birthday and yesterday we made our own celebration with a cake, pizza, and gifts.

I am so frustrated that this woman has any influence on how we live our life, our vacations, or the time we spend together. She's completely unreasonable and while I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt I'm starting to believe that her one goal is to try and make DH miserable (maybe I'm a bit naive in this realm?). She loses it on the kids and thinks it's ok to slap SD7 on the face with an open hand - which as you can believe leads us trying to undoing 2 weeks of damage every time they are with us. I'm not sure what to do, other than seek some counseling on how to not be influenced by her tirades. Is she jealous? I don't understand why she even cares what we do? Are all BM this crazy?

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She's a drug-dealing thief and she assaults her children?! There is no reason to slap a child in the face - ever. Is there a reason that your FDH has not tried to get primary custody? Or has he tried and so far been unable? And why is she "unable" to work - is she on house arrest? If not, she is perfectly capable of finding a job - she might not like said job, but that is one of the consequences of being a criminal.

If I were you, I'd be trying to get everyone, especially the step-kids, into counseling ASAP. FDH needs to man up and stop allowing her to influence your lives, first of all. If she calls and screams at him he needs to simply hang up. Secondly, I really think he needs to contact a good attorney about getting custody; this does not at all sound like a good environment for kids to be in. And you need to consider how you would feel about becoming a custodial SM. With BM's record it sounds quite possible that your FDH might get a phone call from CYS one day that they have removed the children from her home.

And yes, as you've learned, some BM's are this crazy. I think it's very likely that she may be behaving this way not out of jealousy per se, but rather anger at starting to lose her hold over her ex-husband, if that makes sense. It sounds like he's been asking "How high?" when she says "Jump" but that that might be starting to change.

Welcome, by the way!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 5:02PM
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Here's a posting on the abbreviations/acronyms commonly used.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 6:08PM
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Thank you for the advice! BM has "cleaned up" in the past 5 years, but I worry that things will regress if things don't work out with her current BF. I personally think she is incredibly lazy.. hence the terrible parenting "techniques"... but I really doubt there is anything *we* can do to get her to go out and look for a job! I could never not work, personally! It would drive me crazy...

BD has threatened repeatedly to take BM to court to gain custody but I do definitely think there is way too much submissiveness on his part towards her, for no reason. He's never done anything wrong other than had bad taste in women! SHE left him after HER infidelity. He doesn't let her tirades affect his choices per se, but he is emotionally torn up afterwards, because he feels like he is being pitted as the "bad father".

As things have progressed with what we've learned from SD7 I am becoming more and more adamant about the fact that we advocate for custody of the youngest who has behavioral problems independent of everything else (ADHD, OCD). The BM has said in front of SD7 "You guys sure you don't want to keep her?" during a tantrum, which is incredibly damaging in and of itself... SD11 is well adjusted but just misses her daddy and has begun to resent SD7 for the negative attention tantrums...

Once I graduate and get a job, we will be in a better position to take her in, or both... something that I am fully prepared to do. It's just unfortunate that we will spend years undoing the damage that has been done by BM...

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 7:46PM
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Ok, well first off all, I love how this woman is using her past criminal history as an excuse to not work. Yes, her record will certainly make it more difficult to find employment but not impossible. What did she do prior to all this?

That said, if for whatever reason she can afford to not work, as long as she's not stretching her CS and depriving her kids, then there's not much you can do. Trust me--I know how irritating it is. My DH's ex hasn't worked in probably 8 years. She lives off the state---food stamps, stade med. insurance, cash assistance---refusing to work. She just had her THIRD child a month ago. DH & I found out recently that in our state, if you are caring for a child under the age of 1, you are exempt from working/looking for employment while on assistance. She also lies to the state and says she lives at home with her parents.

It can be so frustrating!

I will tell you--this mantra has helped me over the years: what she does doesn't matter, what she says or thinks doesn't matter.

Keep telling yourself that. Your DH takes a vacation by himself and BM doesn't like it? TOO BAD. You guys are going on an adults-only trip and she's mad? TOO BAD.

Now--the issues with the children--slaping them, etc. are serious and DH needs to figure out how to handle this. He needs to document and this might mean going back to court at some point soon. Even THAT probably won't happen overnight...for the time being, tell your fiance to document anytime he hears something from his kids, anytime something happens, etc.

SAVE voicemails. This helped DH so much when he was in court! He had saved a few of BM's angry tirades and he played them for the Guardian ad litem. The GAL was NOT amused and really frowned upon BM after hearing a vmail where she told DH she was going to "make sure he had a crappy relationship with his son."

BUT--for you--try to put this woman out of your mind. What she thinks doesn't matter to you. Don't give her a second thought.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 9:15AM
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You might tactfully suggest to FDH that he say as little as possible about you, and anything the two of you might be doing together. My DH tended to be like this (and sometimes still is) where he confused trying to be civil and polite with divulging (in my opinion) too much personal information. This is his EX, and, assuming that you are both responsible adults, she has no reason to know anything about either of you except as it relates to the kids. It's all well and good to remain friendly with a nice normal ex; unfortunately it does not sound like this one is.

So, where/if/when/why the two of you go on vacation is none of her business. Where/when/why/how long you are going to school - none of her business. Where/when/how you met - none of her business. You should try to have as little contact with her as possible; make yourself scarce for pickup/dropoffs if you can, don't answer the phone if you see that it is she, and especially don't say anything negative about their mother where the kids can hear (and if they are in your house, always assume that they can hear). Make sure that any social networking sites that you are on have privacy settings restricted to friends and are not viewable to the public. The less she hears of you, sees of you or knows of you the less the chances that she will decide that she is in some sort of competition with you.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 6:07PM
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Okay, well there is more to this story that what I said initially and why she CAN get away with pulling the control thing.

My SO and the BM came to a "verbal agreement" (BIG MISTAKE from everything that I've been reading...) to the amount of child support a month, $1000 for both kids back 6 years ago. This is turning into such a nightmare. She called us today again, threatening to take him to court. According to all the information I've found online, in the state of CA she can sue up to 3 years in back child support, even though they had a verbal agreement because it's a he said/she said situation. What I'm not sure about, is if the court would set up the payments based on their income now or then, because if it's now... and she sues for the last few years... that's a LOT of money with interest.

Her current fiance is very wealthy... and whatever goes on in their relationship is obviously not our business, but that is how she is justifying demanding more for her standard of living. She wants my SO to pay for expensive 40+ person birthday parties and vacations and gymnastics for the SD11, which are all luxuries he can't afford!

It's so hard to see how drained this whole thing makes him.. he doesn't deserve it and is such a sweet guy. I don't use the "C" word often, but I tell ya....

Regarding not telling her, often my SO tells the kids what we're doing, and feels like not telling them is lying and he doesn't want to be caught by the children or their mother not being honest because then, well... the phone will ring.

We've emailed a lawyer for advice... because living under this woman's thumb is driving us crazy, but in the end we might be totally screwed.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 8:20PM
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He has no record of paying $1000 a month for the past 6 years? No canceled checks, etc.?

I don't agree about not telling BM when you are out of town and how long you're going to be gone. He has children and responsibilities and unless he is only gone on the days he does not have visitation, then she and the kids will be affected.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 10:04PM
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He has financial records of everything he has paid (bank records of course, checks) her and there is a record of consistent payment of the same amount. I'm not sure, legally, if that'll stand up in court in CA because she can claim a whole slew of things including that he has pressured her - although he has emails going back and forth of her giving her reasons for wanting more money - ie gymnastics.

The more I think about it... the court may end up on his side given her criminal record, etc. Document, document, document.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 10:30PM
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Talk to an attorney. Even if she can get three years of back child support, he is going to have to bite that bullet at some point anyway - does he really think that otherwise she won't just wait keep demanding more and more until the older is 17 or so and file then anyway? I've got to think if she actually explains that she needs more child support to keep up with the lifestyle of her new rich fiance that that is not really going to work for her. CS is usually set from a fairly standard guideline; is the $1,000/month in the standard range for their situations?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 8:54AM
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EXACTLY. She needs the money to keep up with her new lifestyle, it has nothing to do with the children.

Before she lost her job, she made good money. So did he. So yes, $1000 was pretty standard according to the California calculator. Through discussing this the past two days, he remembered that there IS a legal financial arrangement (I don't think the court would grant the divorce without it anyway), so all she could do is up the child support amount if she could prove there is a need.

Nonetheless, today he found out that she hadn't been telling him about a medical bill for SD7 from last year... they'd been calling BM, her moms house, her new house and finally they found DH's number and were threatening to send him to a collection agency.

He finally told her, "What are you trying to do to me? Did you do this on purpose?" and told her that she needs to leave us alone.

She started to cry, which makes me feel bad... but she said that she would never take DH to court, that she would never screw him over like that, etc etc etc. It just seems that she has NO CONTROL AT ALL over her anger OR emotions. And she is feeling trapped by her lack of finances in comparison to the new fiance..

I mean, would she really want all of those things to come out in front of the kids? How damaging would that be? The criminal history and drug use? It would be stupid to take DH to court and say, "Yes, I need 1k more a month because my eldest daughter NEEDS gymnastics and I can't afford to help pay for it because I lost my job for selling meth."

I think at this point, she'll leave us alone for about 6 months, but in the meantime we are going to continue documenting what we can. What a frustrating co-parent. Until next time.. thanks for all the advice.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 8:16PM
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