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WHY ARE CHILDREN NOT GIVEN A VOICE DURING CUSTODY DISPUTES???

Posted by on Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:17 PM
  • 16 Replies

I have been going through a two year divorce process.  I have four children by this dude, ages 11-21.  He started drinking heavily when i was pregnant with my last child and although he has periods of sobriety, his thinking, his behavior has never been sober.  HIs anger and blame towards me for all the bad things happening in his life, including his relationship with his kids, is indicative of an addict who is far from sober.

Three of my children, all girls, have cut off all contact with him.  My two oldest are of age and are not involved with the custody dispute.  My 14 year old son, awash in a sea of estrogen (besides 3 sisters and me, even our dog, three cats and a bunny are girls, poor dude) is wary about having a relationship with his dad and wants it on his own terms, but his dad and apparently no judge will ever allow that. 

My youngest, my 11 year old daughter, refuses to have any contact with him but in spite of spending obscene amounts of money on a custody counselor to prove to him that I wasn't alienating the kids from him (he ended up showing up smashed at her scheduled home visit), dragging them to yet another counselor, a reunification counselor who also made it clear that he is responsible for his poor relationship with his children, and his own children making it extremely clear that I have nothing to do with their decision to cut him out of their lives, I have been told that no judge will agree to my daughter's request to have no contact.

The worst is when the reunification therapist, who I know was just doing her job in spelling out the reality of the court system, made it clear to my daughter that if she refused to go with her dad at the scheduled times, I could get in trouble. My daughter sobbed hysterically, the entire way home, curled up in a fetal position.

My kids' dad's repeated relapses, hundreds of pages of notes where all four of my children were interviewed and expressed their concerns about his behavior, the fact that three children, all very different and a wide age range want nothing at all to do with him and my son isn't far behind-  all of this is apparently meaningless.

I get that courts are faced with He said, She said in virtually every case but there are at least 3 counselors as well as my children that can document my kids' very real concerns and the fact that there is not one bit of evidence to show that I am alienating them from him.  In contrast, he bad mouths me to them constantly but of course, it comes back to bite him.

Before he started drinking, he was actually a good dad.  My oldest two have memories of this and it almost makes it more painful for them.  I would love nothing more than for him to finally "see the light", have the fog clear from his brain, say Oh My God, what I have done! and find his way back to being the dad that he was so many years ago.  The odds of this happening are probably about the same as my odds of making it as a rap artist (refer to my first post).  I have made it clear to all my children that they can see and contact their dad whenever they want, but after his latest relapse, i will never force them.  I feel that children (of a certain age) should have control over their relationships with their addict parents, not the other way around.

While I can understand that the overriding goal in family court custody issues is to maintain parent/child relationships, the idea that the courts are literally ignoring the cries of children, especially those who are old enough to be able to articulate exactly what they want and why, to enforce relationships, including some very sick, unhealthy relationships over the child's protests is sickening. 

My daughter is feeling hopeless and helpless.  My father was also an alcoholic and the idea of being forced to be in contact with such an unhealthy individual, whether I wanted to or not, makes me crazy. 

For so many reasons, the courts suck.

by on Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:17 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Robsessed98
by on Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:42 PM

I don't know what state you're in, but in OK kids do have a say. If they aren't allowed to speak in court where you live, your attorney can have a Guardian Ad Litem appointed to speak for them. If you have documented proof or other witnesses to his drunkenness around the kids, you have a shot at supervised visitation.

dawncs
by on Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:49 PM
1 mom liked this

Your 11 year old is near the age of decision herself either a year away or a few years away. If he shows up again drunk at the exchange, call the police and report a drunk driver. It is the best thing you could do to him because he is placing himself at risk, your daughter at risk, and everyone else on the road at risk. You might want to get your children invlolved with Alateen.

idunno1234
by Member on Feb. 1, 2013 at 1:10 PM

Regardless of his sobriety (he's going through all the motions such as attending regular AA), or lack of it, his current and past behaviors have made him an extremely difficult person to be around.  Sometimes he seems okay, then suddenly his mood will do a 180. 

My 11 year old doesn't want supervised visitation.  She wants NO contact at all because every attempt at contact has ended badly and he has let her down more times than she can count.

He knows enough to be careful about drinking around me, especially when driving the kids (driving them while he was DUI was a constant in years past) and because my youngest two have several times reported their suspicions about him drinking when with him, he tries to be careful around them as well.  Unfortunately, drugs are involved as well.  There is supposed to be random drug/alcohol testing in place, yet nothing has been set up.  There are such severe trust issues because of his repeated letdowns, outright lying, constant berating of me to the kids and unpredictable behavior that sobriety in itself, isn't enough.  He has to truly start working the program for there to be any progress.

My 11 year old admitted to cutting herself last summer, over some email conversations she had with her dad.  The courts insistence on allowing an addict (whether or not he's in recovery) to have control over his relationship with his kids who's lives he has totally screwed over, rather than the other way around, will have life long affects on this child, as well as her brother.  She wrote her dad an email a while back explaining why she no longer wanted contact and described being in a room with him is like being in a cage with a hungry tiger.   I feel awful for my kids and yet helpless to really be able to protect them.

victoriahearts
by on Feb. 1, 2013 at 2:00 PM

I'm sorry that is such a horrible situation for your children, is there any way that you can request a mental health test on him? It's worth a shot to see if his moods are linked to more then just alcohol, if it isn't at least you been able to delay having to have your children take visitation with him, at least in NY if a parent is being tested for mental health visiting rights are put on hold. Don't have too much advise for you, I'm truly sorry for your children.

Luv.My.Kidz
by on Feb. 1, 2013 at 2:03 PM

Here in Ohio after 13 the kids are given a voice. My now 12 yr old was talked to and the Judge took his words in account when he made a decision with the custody. I talked to the Judge after the custody hearing and he said that my son flat out said "My dad buys me things, he does take me places, but my mom is there when I fall and get hurt, she helps me with homework, corrects me when I'm wrong, shows me what family is, traditions, and love. My dad just buys me. My mom Loves me!" 

proudmother5946
by Member on Feb. 1, 2013 at 2:57 PM
My dd's father is an alcoholic also. He will never admit it though. Even when he's sober he's a "dry drunk". You would never know when he'd flip out over something stupid, like tin foil. I bought the wrong tin foil.
I feel so sad for your little girl. She must feel that the courts aren't listening to her and hearing her pain. Why are his "rights" so much more important than hers?
steviechick
by Gold Member on Feb. 1, 2013 at 4:05 PM

I never did get a mental evaluation done on my ex.  My DD was 17 when we divorced and my ex was deployed.  He did a lot of strange things prior to our divorce (had a three year afffair, fathered two kids, snuck furniture out of our house, embezzled money from me and had other various money problems).  Wasn't sure if my ex is considered evil personified, but definately a sociopath.  He also suffers from severe anger management issues and actually having a normal relationship with our DD.  She is almost 19 and hasn't spoken to my ex since December when he literally ravaged at her for forgetting his b-day.  I had to block him from calling her or texting her.  I was too concerned for her well-being. 

I'm a firm believer in the wellfare of a child.  Had my ex been evaluated and my DD had been still a minor I'm sure he would be close to losing visitation rights with her.  Just a guess, but I'm sure a pretty good one. 

I would think your atty could get involved with the visitation rights.  And, since your ex is a raging alcoholic, my bet is that your ex loses visitation rights until he seeks AA counseling. 

lydi
by on Feb. 1, 2013 at 5:16 PM

 i am so sorry. i truely feel for you and your children. my dd is almost 8, and without me saying anything bad about her father, has said she wants nothing to do with him because of all the disapointment and pain he has caused her. (he has not been in her life since he decided to not be a part of her life (about 2 years ago) but if he comes back it will crush my dd) it is such a painful situation and i wish the other parent would realize this and not put the kids through it, unless they have shown they have changed. hugs!

idunno1234
by Member on Feb. 1, 2013 at 5:21 PM

In NJ, parent/child relations reign supreme, sometimes against all logic.  Unless it can be proven that a child's physical safety is at risk, that child will, one way or another, be forced to have some sort of contact with the parent.

The only thing I can do at this point is go through the motions of the custody agreement but since a child cannot be physically forced go, I made that part clear to my children and have to leave it up to them to make that decision.  It sucks, it puts them in an awful position but they know that I have to go through the motions of telling them they have to go or i will get in trouble.

My ex is attempting sobriety but not yet anywhere near approaching being sober, even if he isn't drinking or using and unfortunately, because he seems to be doing the right things and has absolutely denied his relapses, and the courts are so overwhelmed and bent towards maintaining the parent/child relationships, kids in this situation get screwed.

 

rmathews
by on Feb. 1, 2013 at 5:54 PM

i thought at a certain age they were? my ex hubands kids were ages 6, 4 and 3 and we went to mediation appointed by the judge. then the mediator made house visits while the kids were in both homes. he was able to see where they slept and played and he asked them questions in their own environment where they were comfortable to talk. he was  a retired family law judge. i thought that was a great way to go about listening to the children and their wants rather than in a cold courthouse. in some situations, the other parent can influence the child to say certain things, we learned that early on thats why we faught and faught for home visits. we had nothing to hide and welcomed it, she on the other hand was the type of mom who would make them scared of their dad or our house. push for a mediation or home visits to talk to the kids. we did have to pay 100 per meeting with the mediator but when he made home visits that was on his own time. but when the paretns all had to sit in a room together without kids we had to pay for. maybe something you could try so your child can be heard.

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