What's the point of it all?

mattie_gtJune 22, 2010

We are now under a temporary court order where BM gets 48 hours visitation every three weeks (still no idea when the date is for the arbitration). This was the one where the judge "threatened" BM that if she no-showed she'd get less visitation, so now there's not much chance of that happening until after the next court date, when I have no doubt it will start all over again.

SS8 returned Sunday night, as usual, exhausted, hungry and filthy. Also as usual, he was apparently ignored almost all weekend except when he was being told that he was stupid and rude, and that DH and I are vile and malicious. His activities when visiting consist of being allowed to either watch TV or a DVD with whomever is currently staying over there and/or BM, or going outside, by himself, into the shadeless area around her trailer. He has no toys, games, books, clothes, room or even bed of his own up there because there is "no room" for any of those things. So the only things he has to play with are what he brings from here, and he won't bring his favorites because he is always worried he'll forget them and they'll get "lost" or broken (it's happened repeatedly before.)

He was allowed to stay up until after midnight (until 2:00 AM Saturday!); he has said that she yells at him when he gets up in the morning around 8:30 or 9:00 because she wakes him up, so presumably this is in the hopes that he will sleep in until noon or something.

He's been going to see a counselor who has been helping him work on speaking up for himself. That apparently has been a mixed-blessing - he is indeed speaking up for himself by all accounts, but then BM starts yelling at him when he does. This was confirmed by the fact that during one of his five calls home during the 48 hours he was there, he called in tears because BM was screaming at him. In the background I could hear a relative's boyfriend saying "She's your mom, she's allowed to yell at you." DH has said that while they were married she screamed at SS17 as well - except DH was there then to stop it. And SS8 is a very good, very bright, well-behaved little boy - not some kind of brat who doesn't listen unless voices are raised.

SS just seemed so angry and disgusted. He said his mother was a "liar, liar, pants on fire", pointed out several discrepancies in her various stories, and said again how he wished he didn't have to go. He asked again about his going to court. He knows that the arbitration is coming up because DH had to explain to him why visitation was suddenly switched with almost no notice. He asked us then if he could talk to the judge. When we asked why he said that he wanted BM to not be able to yell at him or to say bad things about the two of us in front of him, which really upsets him. We gently told him that these were both things that could probably get put into the agreement (it's kind of hard to refuse to agree not to yell at your own child) but that if she violated it it would have to be him, my eight year old stepson, who would have to go to court to testify against his own mother, and, according to the attorney, probably in open court. His only concern was that when, not if, she violated it and he went to "talk to the judge", what would happen if his mother started screaming at him in court? We explained that the judge would not tolerate that, and now SS is adamant that this is what he wants.

I don't know why she wants him there at all, ever. He's made comments before about how it seems like she doesn't even like him. Supposedly in my state everything is about the "best interests of the child" yet this has been going on for almost his entire life, and I don't see any end in sight unless and until the poor kid goes to court to "talk to the judge", and possibly not even then. At least when she had her random every other month visitations she was sometimes half-decent; now that she cannot miss without the fear of all visitation being cut off it seems to be even worse than it was.

I'm sorry for the long rant. I am just so frustrated, angry and tired of having to send this very sweet little boy off to be tormented and not being able to do anything to prevent it. I wish that there was some way for there to be a visitation schedule where he got to decide; that way if BM was behaving civilly he could go to see her if he wanted, but would be protected from having to go through this the rest of the time.

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OMG this is just terrible...I would be heart broken if my DD was yelled at, mistreated, ignored, (not fed???) at dads. i would probably go out of my way to make sure there are no unsupervised visitations and maybe no visitations, period. But that's easy to say, i see that it is hard to accomplish ...

I really have no experience with this, how does one stop visitations? could yelling be considered abuse? probably not. plenty of intact families scream at their kids all day long, not enough basis for removing children. i doubt judge would stop visitations just because of that...But if SS explains how he is treated and maybe if counselor contributes his views on this, it could be accomplished..poor child...

when is the court date?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 6:14PM
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That's so sad Mattie...

But you know, I can also see how things might look to a skeptical court. (Remember, my Ex was a sicko in the other direction and would coax DS to lie about how 'terrible' things were here so he could spend more time over there playing with his brand new gaming system, pool table, or swimming pool and not having to obey a curfew or eat vegetables.)

So to a court that's inclined to suspect parental alienation tactics, the more DS says he doesn't want to visit his mom (without any evidence to back it up), the more time the judge may give his mom to form a closer bond. And the more Dad tries to assure DS doesn't have to go visit his mom, the more the judge might be inclined to suspect that's the case...

You might want to seek strategic advice from your lawyer about how to convey your message (that life at BM's is lousy) without having it backfire on you. Maybe DS could take a cell phone with him and take pictures of 'his room' at BM's house and the 'yard' where he plays. Maybe he could text you at midnight or 2:00 am? And maybe he could ask the judge to have BM visit him in your town so he can still see her but not have the kind of problems there are at her house?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 7:44PM
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This is a terrible situation. I think there is a fine line between helping child present his own case, and directing him what to say. Can DH speak to his own lawyer and see if a Guardiam Ad Litem can be requested for the boy? I would also ask DH to ask his lawyer about what can be done. I dont think a kid staying up late on a weekend night is going to be a problem (although I agree the total lifestyle is a problem, imho). Where does the boy sleep if he doesnt have a bed -- sleeping bag? This should be mentioned in court. How far does dad live from X? If this were me, even if I had to do all driving I would see if I could deliver child there sat and sun mornings and pick up in evenings.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 10:13AM
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I feel really sad for the little guy and I know it breaks your heart to know he's miserable during his visits with his mother....but Sweeby is correct that you may be viewed as trying to alienate child from mother. Yeah, it sucks and seems sooooo unfair to child to subject him to the rotten parenting skills of his mom.

Unless you are under ordered supervision visits where it's monitored, the courts are highly unlikely to give a child decision powers as to if he wants to visit (visitation is not optional) nor under what conditions he'll stay the entire 48 hours.

Unless real physical abuse, severe neglect or extreme verbal behavior that could harm the child (and that is up to the laws and courts to decide the terms that qualify what is and what is not actually defined by the accusation), a judge will not excuse or change visitations based on not enough fun, activities, nobody to play with blah blah. The judge does not attend the 48 hours and has only evidence to base his decisions on when presented. It would be nice if BM was court ordered some parenting skill classes.

You may want to start sending a backpack full of inexpensive items for him to play with. Some reading books, play dough, printout some kid crossword puzzles from online...simple stuff that can be replaced cheap and easy for each time he goes knowing the stuff may never be seen again. Take him to the dollar store to pick out some boxed puzzles and the like. If the few bucks every few weeks helps to keep him entertained and out of his screaming mom's way it'll be worth it.

I know, why take the child if you're going to ignore them all weekend? Who would not have enough sense to give the child a shower? Feed his hungry tummy? And it has to be incredible hard to send the child knowing he will be miserable, have no fun, and not be treated as he is in your home.

In a sad round about way, the judge may limit Dh/child's contact during the plan's 48 hours visitation with mom. He may say the calls are encouraging the child being miserable during the visit. KWIM? No, I'm not saying you or dad are encouraging, but a judge might see it that way.

I really hope your next court hearing can make things better for your little one. It seems so wrong to send such a sweet little one off to such a b*tch of a mom, but unfortunately children don't get to pick their parents.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 10:41AM
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Thanks for the support. It's difficult because I know people who grew up with parents who sometimes screamed, very cramped living quarters, not always enough food and ragged hand me downs who had perfectly happy childhoods (most of the people I know in families with a lot of kids grew up like this). And there is no smoking gun, so to speak - a lot of people have yelled at their kids on occasion, or had them up late, or cannot spend that much time with them - and that doesn't necessarily make them bad parents at all. But in this case there doesn't seem to be any good times to off-set the bad ones, and I think that that is one of the problems.

We are seeking another opinion from a supposedly really good attorney. So far what we know is that in our state, visitation is almost never ended unless parental rights are terminated. Supervised visitation is very difficult to get and tends to be for the short term; it is reserved for physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or cases of parental kidnapping, or sometimes "the best interests of the child". But without a very strong case built on outside witnesses, which is probably not going to happen since they almost never go anywhere except sometimes to her family's, it would have to be SS who testified as to why this was so upsetting to him to fall under "best interests".

The other concern is that DH strongly feels that if she did get supervised visitation she might just stop seeing him entirely, ever. It would be horribly unfair to SS to allow him to testify thinking that what he was going to get was to have his mother not yell at him or insult us, and instead end up just never seeing her again. We know that that is not what he really wants at this point; he wants his mother to love him and talk to him and play games with him. But no one can force her to do so.

I honestly don't think she cares at all what is best for SS; at this point I really think, as paranoid as it sounds, that she only has him up there to torment DH. She almost never calls him (twice in the past year), has never attended a school activity, including when he's received awards, has not attended a doctor/dentist/counseling appointment since DH left her (I include the recent pediatric cardiologist, she said it was "too early for her to get up"), and has forgotten his birthday!

finedreams, we don't know yet when the next date is. It's with the arbitrators and they are supposed to schedule it. We are really hoping that they take their time; we absolutely don't want him to have to go there for an extended period over the summer. Last year he was sent home early because after a few days he wouldn't stop crying and told his mother he felt like he was "dying inside".

sweeby, I think that's why the counselor has been so helpful. We've thought of that and absolutely don't want to come off sounding like we're trying to alienate them. So when he comes home and says his mother is a liar we cannot either confirm nor deny (because he's right, she is); I don't know what the counselor is saying/doing but he seems to be more confident in his opinion that he is not being treated properly. I talked to my mom last night and she reminded me that anger on his part is a lot better than pre-counseling, when he'd come back depressed and silent.

kkny, he sleeps in bed with his mother. There is a couch that he used to sleep on, but he began sharing her bed after her latest boyfriend was sent to prison. I am totally serious; it's like Jerry Springer up there. I will suggest the Guardian Ad Litem idea. It would probably be really good because we know that what SS wants (his mother to treat him better) he is very likely to never get. A GAL would know if it's better for him to be able to maintain hope, or whether it would be better to try to just try to do whatever it took to stop her behavior one way or the other.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 11:35AM
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"kkny, he sleeps in bed with his mother."

huh? 8-year-old boy? why can't she buy fold up bed or something? I would address it in court too, sleeping with his mother? at 8?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 11:42AM
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My DD8 will sleep with me any chance she gets. Her biggest treat is getting to come into our bed with us and snuggle and fall asleep. If we have guests over and she is having trouble "going down" I will tell her she can lie down in my bed. Works every time. She also sleeps on the couch in our room on occasion.

She has her own bed in her own room :)

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 12:10PM
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Silver, I think there are a few differences in your DD sleeping with you sometimes vs Mattie's SS sleeping with his mom.
- Gender (at 8, he's still a little, but what's BM's plan for when he's 10?)
- You don't verbally abuse your DD.
- Your DD wants to sleep with you because you are "safe". I sincerely doubt Mattie's SS wants to snuggle up to his mom because it's a special treat.
- Your DD has her own bed but is choosing to sleep with you sometimes because of a secure attachment to you. SS doesn't have that option.

When we dealt with a bunch of renovations due to a broken water main, my SS didn't have a bed or bedroom for six months of his visits. But every night that he was here, we set up an air mattress in the dining room, with his own bedding. He had a stool as his night-table for his book, lamp and water bottle.
You don't need a bedroom for a kid who isn't at your place 24/7, but you need to have a consistent place for them to sleep and some sort of bedtime routine.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 12:56PM
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exactly, ceph, he sleeps in mom's bed because he has no bed not because he loves his mommy or is not mature enough to sleep in his own room or there are renovations. His mom clearly does not care enough to even think twice where is he going to sleep, easier just shove him in her own bed.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 1:13PM
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I agree Ceph. There are a lot of differences. I just don't think sleeping with Mom is such a bad thing.

Mattie's SS doesn't live with mom, right? So unless he is upset about having to sleep with her I don't think it's a big deal. But then I grew up in a different culture. I slept with my parents long after most children stop. And still I'm ok with sharing a bed with just about any relative. My Stepmother won't sleep with my dad in the same bed, (or anyone else) and on one occasion we (the three of us) ended up not having two rooms reserved at a hotel... I said no big deal, we can sleep in the same queen bed. She was livid. I ended up having to sleep on a cot. 6 months pregnant. The bed would have been a lot more comfortable!!!

Mattie said there was a couch he used to sleep on. I assume the couch is still there, but after BM's boyfriend vacated the premises there was room in the bed again. When DH goes out of town for business DD and I have a sleepover in my bed nearly every night.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it would be difficult to force a child 8 to sleep in the same bed as the parent if there's a couch available. SS8 is still a very young child who probably wants his mommy even though she is not very nice to him. He might like the closeness (and quiet) of sleeping with her.

I'd pick my battles.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 1:13PM
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SS loves to have someone sleep with him or to try to sleep in our bed. And so it's one of those things...nothing wrong with sleeping with Mom as a special treat, or when sick, or after a bad dream, or when relatives are visiting - but it just doesn't seem appropriate on a regular basis.

justmetoo, we've tried sending up inexpensive books, games, etc. I'm not sure why but that doesn't seem to work. SS is very sociable and can be a little chatterbox; he has a very hard time being in a room with someone and not talking to them for more than 15-20 minutes or so (like when we're all reading or something). I have a feeling that he makes it about that long, decides that he should be more important than a TV show, starts talking to BM while she's watching TV, and then the situation deteriorates into yelling. But that's just a guess. I also wonder if in some unfortunate passive-aggressive way SS is trying to create conflict, either out of boredom or in hopes that she won't want to see him.

I don't think BM even knows about the phone calls, with the exception of the last one. He was outside while talking every time so I think she just figured at least he wasn't bothering her.

The most discouraging part is that BM has three siblings; including her, three out of four have lost custody of their children to either the dads or CYS. This explains why she really believes she is a good mother; she has said this often. We thought of parenting classes for everybody (it seemed like that might go over better rather than pointing fingers at her) but she's not listened to any advice from anyone (including the judge) before.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 1:22PM
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"kkny, he sleeps in bed with his mother."
huh? 8-year-old boy? why can't she buy fold up bed or something? I would address it in court too, sleeping with his mother? at 8?

"My DD8 will sleep with me any chance she gets"

LOL, DS7, really 7 1/2 still makes the trip down the hall to sleep with me and DH whenever he can! And, if DH is out of town that is a guaranteed visit!! Off Topic for sure but common and no biggie.


I haven't been in your shoes at all so I won't offer advise. Good luch in court. What would happen if you just plain stopped sending SS to BM's house? Does she have the gumption and resources to take you to court? Of would she whoop, holler, scream and do nothing about it?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 8:31PM
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Thanks lamom. That's why we're on the temporary court orders now. She doesn't/didn't need any resources to take DH to court; it's really easy to file for contempt or modification here. You don't need to have an attorney, and if you are low-income, you don't even have to pay the filing fees. If SS stopped going, she'd file for contempt in a heartbeat... and win.

What is so frustrating is that if a parent violates the court orders regarding visitation the sanctions are usually to remove part of the visitation as punishment. This is why she had such limited visitation to begin with; and she still skipped most of those. But, apparently, you can just let a bit of time go by (as in a few months), go back to request modification, and then it basically re-sets back to the beginning again.

I guess it sounded logical because no one wants to punish a parent (and child) indefinitely because the parent made one or two mistakes. But the system seems to make the assumption that both parents are normally at least semi-sane, reasonable and considered about their child.

BTW, I tend to agree with finedreams and ceph on the bed thing. In this case it's not out of any regard for SS whatsoever; it's just easier for her. And this past weekend she told him that since he had been "hogging the bed" she had to stay up until four am instead of sleeping herself! (Which is why she "had" to sleep until noon, and he was supposed to tiptoe around all morning.) So now it's his fault that she "had" to stay up late? And who stays up that late anyway; by 4 AM I'd have fallen asleep at the kitchen table.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 8:40AM
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That's silly, if child were really hogging bed, why did she not just sleep on the sofa then? Lady screams and blames just to scream and blame. I'd wager the 4am to 12pm is pretty much her usual routine.

Where is the brother in all of this? He lives with BM if I remember right (isn't he the one who misses so much school and she would not take him to dr?). Does he have his own room? Does BM rant on the brother like this all the time?

Sends chills to hear BM's BF was sent off to prison. The crime I hope was not one where BF would have all kinds of shady creatures hanging around or sneaking by for a revenge drug deal gone bad scenerio.

One of the things on behavior of parent going with 'best interest' that can be considered in my state is if that behavior could inflict harm or influence the child in a harmful way.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 9:48AM
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It sounds like she's not taking responsibility. I was having trouble sleeping the other night and I slept on the couch in my room so I didn't bother DH...I suppose I could have gone to DD's room and slept on her trundle, or the guest room, or the couch in the living room but for some reason it didn't occur to me. Anyway, I woke up with a sore back because the couch in our room is not that comfortable for sleeping. I still woke up in time for work. Also, often DD will go to sleep with me, and wake up on our couch in our room. When she asks what happened I tell her the bed is not big enough for two or three (depending if DH is there!) and I needed my sleep.

Like most kids...She sleeps like a windmill in high winds.

The bed is an excuse. I guess my question would be; does SS want his own bed there, is he uncomfortable, is he getting flak for ruining her sleep.... etc. If any of those are true, then not having separate sleeping arrangements is to his detriment and worth bringing up in court. If not.... I don't think it's the hill I would die on. JMO.

(as an aside)

It sounds like this woman is a train wreck. I can't imagine having to send a little person to be (un)cared for and know that s/he would be coming back to me dirty/hungry/scared/unhappy. It hurts my heart.

I used to do financial administration for a private preschool. The tuition was over 8k a year. The teachers would show me the lunches sent by some of the mothers. Hardly any food in some of them, kids showing up who hadn't been bathed, in dirty clothes... And these parents HAD the finances to care for their children. Pure neglect. I still think about some of those little ones.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 11:23AM
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Yes, SS17 is sometimes still there. He graduated from high school (yay!) and is apparently going to move in with a friend and friend's parents back where he grew up (about an hour away), and work to save up money for college. (Yay again, about the college plans!) He's very close to being 18 now and as a high school graduate can pretty much do what he wants regarding his living arrangements. SS17 does have his own room there...with bunk beds. And remember that for a while when SS8 was there SS17 was here so his whole bedroom was available; SS8 was still put to bed with BM.

From what BM has said while complaining about it, SS17 would just walk out of the door when screaming at him started and go to a friend's. While he is not protective of his younger brother, apparently he has not been joining in the name-calling or insulting either, and is just distancing himself from all of it.

The crimes committed by the BF over the past twenty years involve lots of thefts, DUI's, resisting arrest, etc. And there again we are stuck - he's not living with them and will not be for at least another year. While nobody would argue that he is a bad influence, he's not there. BM has no record herself.

You know, I read my own posts and it sounds like it's some made-up talk show story. It just doesn't seem like things like this could really happen. It's all so completely different than our home.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 11:50AM
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silversword, SS doesn't really seem to care much about the sleeping arrangements one way or the other. So it probably won't be brought up; it doesn't seem to bother him or be harmful to him.

Sometimes I feel sorry for her. SS is such a sweetie; he picks wildflowers for me, and surprises me with hugs and kisses, and the other day while I had big band music on, he came in and danced me around the living room. He's such a great kid and I feel lucky to get to have him in my life, and I suspect a lot of these things she'll never know or get to see. Maybe she doesn't understand that all the lovable and cute things that kids do are not command performances and her attention span is too short. I have to make it through a lot of knock-knock jokes and discussions of dinosaurs to get to the special times!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 12:27PM
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--"He graduated from high school (yay!) and is apparently going to move in with a friend and friend's parents back where he grew up (about an hour away), and work to save up money for college. (Yay again, about the college plans!)"--

Super congrats to this son on his recent graduation. Getting out of BM's house, working towards school...I wish him all the best.

No, I don't think anyone thinks you're making up stories. My oldest daughter clear back in 1st grade went to school with a little boy that had no parental supervision in the mornings before school. DCFS finally stepped in the day the boy arrived at school on his bike, dirty, no shoes or shirt on and had packed his own lunchbag: a thermos of beer and a couple slices of buttered bread with the beginning of mold. The child then went to live with his father.

Years later this same boy now grown was living with a GF with this GF's two little boys. One night drinking they tried to fix supper for the boys, the apartment burned , with one of the little boys found burned to death in his bed which was directly above the kitchen and stove. The child had went up stairs playing and when the smoke came he hid under his covers not understanding what was happening. My youngest daughter was in the same class as the burned to death little boy and it was extremely heart breaking for the kids when the news of this fire and the loss of their classmate came in.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 12:56PM
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mattie I see such families every day, and even worse, so I wouldn't think you made it up. Stories similar to what justmetoo told. Heck, years ago I had a student whose parents threw him out the window (high up, don't remember now what floor) in a drunken or drug induced frenzy, he was 14-15 but very tiny, he broke every bone in his arms and legs, but survived. He of course was taken away from them. 15-20 years passed, I remember him clearly. I better shut up now. Too much.

Congrats on SS's graduation, big step.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 1:19PM
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What awful stories. It does put everything into perspective though.

I just hate that SS has to go through what he is. But (as for now) it's 48 hours every three weeks, we do our best to make sure he feels secure, loved, taken care of and happy here, and he's still seeing the counselor. And I'll just try to remember that it could be a lot worse.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2010 at 8:11AM
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