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

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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
Replies (11-16):
brieri
by Platinum Member on Feb. 1, 2013 at 5:54 PM

 I  don't know the answer.  I am on the other side of the fence.  I say courts suck when they will not allow the children to have contact with the other parent (me) in this situation, because what I did - as a parent  does to take care of underage children, I went out got their haircuts, for which they balked about, because they knew dad was going to yell at them for having it done.   But  they didn't take care of their hair and it shows much of it to this day. And now they are of age, which I cannot do anything about.   Apparently they told a psychologist back when I was going through a custody case who didn't appear to understand what parents do.  The psychologist undermines me as being a bad parent and the father a good parent.     To this day looking at my children in pics make me darn sick.   But its because of the father's way.

tyfry7496
by on Feb. 1, 2013 at 7:05 PM
No child gets a say in custody matters but they get a voice, only a judge decides what happens.

Ask for a different judge. If you have that much PROFESSIONAL opinions that visitation isn't a good idea, the majority of judges will listen. Ask for supervised visits. If a parent shows up to any legal proceeding or any child's activity it should be automatic no visitation until the parent PROVES absolute sobriety.
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idunno1234
by on Feb. 1, 2013 at 7:19 PM

Thank you so much for all your replies.  The frustrating thing is that the kids, while not assigned a GAL, were interviewed by a custody counselor, a huge expense to both their dad and me, who verified everything that the kids and I had said and made it abundantly clear that their dad was solely responsible for the poor relationship he had with all of his kids.  She was the one he showed up drunk for during her home visit. 

Then a reunification counselor said the same thing, but because of the pressure of the courts to maintain parent/child relationships at all costs, my kids are having to pay.

This is not a He said She said situation because between four children ages 11-21, and three counselors, the situation is crystal clear.

It just doesn't matter in NJ where parental rights reign supreme and probably like all the rest of the states, the courts are insanely underfunded and overworked. 

LifeCafe42
by Nora on Feb. 1, 2013 at 11:58 PM
Great idea

Quoting dawncs:

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.

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allwritenow
by Member on Feb. 2, 2013 at 9:21 AM

I am in NH, and kids get NO say. My oldest is almost 15, and he still HAS to go with his father (as per the courts), even though he doesn't want to go.

We had a GAL. She spent hours with my children, talking to them, observing them in both my custody and his. She saw exactly what was going on. She watched the kids scrounge for food when they were with him. She watched him ignore the kids during his custody time. She recommended I have full legal custody. Pompous a** judge said, "This is just a dispute between the parents. Everything stays as is."

Seriously, STAY AWAY FROM THE COURTS if at all possible. They SUCK; you lose enough money to pay for a college education and the kids have to endure way too much scrutiny and questioning for zero result.

idunno1234
by on Feb. 2, 2013 at 9:54 AM

Boy do I wish I could stay away from the courts.  I have been screwed at every opportunity starting with the very first court date two years ago where I tried to get him out of the house; judge ordered a surprise drug test on both of us because of charges being lobbied back and forth (I LOVED this judge and I'm convinced I would have been divorced a long time ago, with money still in the bank and my ex paying support if he was still the judge but he got bumped up to Superior Court) and my ex FAILED for opiates, something I had never even known him to partake in before.  My attorney was ecstatic, the judge made it clear that if the sample was verified positive, he would immediately have to leave the house but unfortunately, he apparently had a right to get the sample "verified".  For some reason this process took two weeks.  When we showed up two weeks later, we found out the sample had been lost.  For the next year, I had this a**hole living with me and the kids, until the house was sold, a little over a year ago.

My attorneys never set up an interim support agreement, I've been unemployed most of the time since we moved, have no other income at all and my ex, knowing I haven't been able to pay the rent, that the kids are cold because I have little heating oil left and can't pay my bills, said he wouldn't pay me until I agreed to his terms.

The judge we have now knows all this but we are one of far too many cases she has to deal with and although I filed a motion in October, delays and forcing repeated attempts at negotiating with an angry, addicted psychopath have meant that I am in this awful situation and he has been allowed to do this to our kids.  We have basically settled everything but one issue (he refuses to pay his half of my daughter's college loans we took out on her behalf- she has an equal amount of her own loans) which he is forcing us to go to trial for and therefore, until the settlement is signed, he can choose to pay me any amount of money he wishes, or not, although he acknowledges that he owes me the money.

I was actually thinking of starting another thread about alternatives to divorce, rather than being in the court system.  A collaborative divorce is great, if both parties agree to stuff and get along.  That would definitely not have worked in my case but paying attorneys a year's worth of rent plus just to be in the situation I am now is unconscionable

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