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hunterbolt's avatar

Do you have any advice for a single mother whose daughter is starting overnights stays at her father's?

Asked by hunterbolt (130points) September 14th, 2014

I’m a single Mum, my daughter is 3 and we live in Australia. She’s started overnights with her Dad, who lives 3 hours away (his choice), so I have to take her up once a month for her overnights. When she gets back from those she starts telling me that I’m not her friend and only daddy is her friend, and that she wants to go live with Daddy. Her Dad doesn’t pay child support, left me for another woman, and is very rarely there for her. I am not going to share this info with my daughter at all, and I always have encouraged her to have a great time with her Dad. He and I are good face to face, so she has (I hope) no idea that the relationship between her Dad and I is tense. Her Dad also is with the same woman he left me for and she’s awful to me and sends me rude and nasty emails all of which I just ignore. How do I deal with this in the right way in front of my daughter? It’s heart breaking to hear her say these things, and I normally end up leaving the room to have a cry. He has his ‘family’ and I don’t have anyone. I’m finding it a bit tough at the moment so I’m coming here for support. Thank you.

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49 Answers

syz's avatar

“I’m sure Fluther will probably deny this question” Why?

Take the high road and never talk crap about the other parent. But ask for a meeting with the judge or whoever decided the on the shared custody and see what options you have.

In the meantime, have a prepared, calm response ready and then let it go (“You know that I love you and that’s not nice to say. Now let’s go have dinner/take a bath/read a book.”). You’re going to get much worse from her as she gets older, and it will have nothing to do with her dad. It’s a right of passage to tell a parent that you hate them.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Can you talk to your ex?
And tell him if he doesn’t want to start paying child support,he better lay off trash talking you in front of your kid.
and that goes for his new woman as well.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

He has the best world, can spoil the kid rotten,trash talk you, then hand the kid back and let you raise it,
You need legal advice, and he needs to be put in his place.

hunterbolt's avatar

This is a ‘court order’, so I“ve sort legal advice and we’ve been through the court system.
I can’t talk to him.
I have in the past and his response was – ‘why would I bother to even talk about you?’
I guess I’m wondering if this is just a phase my daughter will go through until it all settles down?
She is always a bit ‘off’ when she comes home… tired, grumpy and then after a day or two she’s back to normal.

hunterbolt's avatar

I thought Fluther would delete it as my
and punctuation are normally terrible. ;)

ibstubro's avatar

You will probably have edit your question, as “staring” in the title makes the question unclear as posted.

Why does the father not have to pay child support and why are you the one required to drive your daughter 3 hours to visit him?

Sounds to me that the trouble is likely coming from the step-mom. I would question your daughter when she makes these statements, and try to draw her out to specifics. :’How is daddy your friend?’ ‘Don’t I do that, too?’

Perhaps you need to speak to someone with the court.

hunterbolt's avatar

oh gosh, I re read and still make mistakes thank you. I can’t edit it now.
I am actually meeting a new lawyer now as my last wasn’t great. It’s every fortnight, he does one drive I do the other. Of which I can’t afford, more than the practicality of it, it’s more how to deal with the emotional side for her – and if it’s normal – if this happens initially and then it settles down?

KNOWITALL's avatar

I’d ignore as you have been & focus on keeping your relationship with your daughter healthy & fun.

CWOTUS's avatar

In your shoes, I think that I would learn to game the system, as he no doubt has. I expect that this advice may go against your grain, as it would normally go against mine, too, but your circumstances argue in favor of keeping them apart, forcing him to go more than halfway, and keeping your daughter from becoming a way for him to deliver more hurt to you.

For example… when your next time to make the trip comes up, make sure that “something comes up” to prevent the trip. You’re a mother; you can think of dozens of things that could happen. If you claim, for example, that your daughter has had a night of illness – as many children do at that age – then no reasonable person would expect you to make a three-hour trip with a sick child. It wouldn’t be in the best interests of the child. Of course, children get over those things quickly, too, so by the time anyone in officialdom wants to check, she’s pink-cheeked and merry again… but the time for the trip has passed.

In addition, as a young mother, I’m sure that you can think of all kinds of things that could interfere with your health on those certain days, and gosh darn it, the trip just had to be postponed… again.

Another example: “No funds to make the trip, so just can’t go.” When this is investigated, you should be certain to mention the problem that you have with child support from the sperm donor, etc.

Don’t involve your child with these schemes; she should not be coached to lie, for example. This is just you and your own ability to play within the legal lines, in ways that will be difficult or impossible to find against you when investigations occur, if they do. You should also keep from her the fact of what you’re doing, and prevent her from realizing that she’s “missing out” on anything, which would cause her to ally against you in your gamesmanship.

In other words, and to put it very bluntly, find ways to cheat him out of his visits. As you must realize, despite your laudable intention that he maintain a relationship with his daughter, and that she know him, your good intentions are being used to harm you, and the “relationship” is doing harm to your daughter, too, even if it’s not yet evident.

hunterbolt's avatar

@CWOTUS – I hate to say this, but you’re unfortunately right, but I dont’ want to play those games though.
I want her to have a relationship with her Dad, but I am absolutely seen that way – as holding him back from seeing his daughter!
It’s a catch 22 situation as the primary parent, and to put it in the most laymen of terms possible – it sucks balls.
There is nothing you can do to protect your child from change – I understand but I do see these overnights hurting and confusing her more than when he’d just come visit. I wish she didn’t come from a split home but she does – and now here I am… I need a coffee.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I agree with @KNOWITALL in that the best option is to ignore it or play it down. She’s three. He may very well be manipulating the situation but by the sound of it, he isn’t ever going to get full custody. My experience is that children eventually work out for themselves what’s going on. You have to be the grown up.

If she talks this way perhaps say you’re glad she had such a good time with her dad. That you’re happy for them both and that you’re her friend too. Isn’t she lucky to have a mummy AND daddy who are her best friends. Just turn it around in that sort of way and then distract her. Now… how about we go and make a cake.

Don’t play the game with him. Yes, get legal advice but if you do have to keep driving her to see her dad once a month, see it as for her benefit. Try to disconnect child support from her right to have a relationship with her dad. I know how hard it is to do that and I personally don’t think I managed it too well, but that’s healthy for both you and her.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’ll be it’s his wife doing that. Would your ex feel it is bad as you do? Would he put a stop to it?

This kind of stuff just breaks my heart.

hunterbolt's avatar

It breaks mine as well. It’s awful.
His lawyer is also a bulldog lawyer as he earns more than me and can afford a ‘great’ lawyer so I’m struggling a bit.

hunterbolt's avatar

His girlfriend, ‘fiance’, is definitely is not a nice woman. Definitely not to me. To be expected I guess.

JLeslie's avatar

Completely understandable why it hurts your feelings.

We don’t know what he and his girlfriend are saying. Words like, “daddy is my friend,” sound like 3 year old words, and she might be twisting things up in her mind. The girlfriend might be saying she wants to be her “friend.” Your ex an his SO probably are all fun and games for your daughter, so she likes the visits, while you actually raise her, discipline her, and make her wake up and go to school, or whatever routine.

I think it is good to be civil when you are around her father, and because of her age I understand why she doesn’t need details about his cheating ways, but I see no reason to lie as she gets older if it comes up. “Daddy left to be with Sally, he left you and me, and that is why mommy is a little angry about it and has a hard time dealing with him.” That’s his truth. He did it, and if he didn’t want people to know, including his daughter, he should not have done it.

A close friend of mine was very upset her parents got divorced when we were in jr. high. She was angry for years her mom kicked her dad out of the house. Finally, during a bad argument her mom said, “your father cheated on me over and over and finally one day when your sister came home and found him in bed with a woman I had enough.” In that moment the divorce became ok for my friend, she no longer was angry or resentful and she was freed from the tension she had with her mother and instead felt empathy. She still had a good relationship with her father and his new wife. I’m not saying you should tell your kids everything, they eventually figure out the deal on their own usually, but the whole idea that parents have to lie to protect an asshole parent I am not completely on board with. Again, she is too young now, but just something to keep in mind.

He better be paying for your gas at minimum. Does he sometimes come to pick her up? Or, drop her off? I would tell your ex his SO had better be civil to you, congenial, and fucking smile at you in front of your daughter or your child will not be visiting. Who the hell is she to be obnoxious to you? Seriously, the nerve is incredible. I hope she is at least good to your daughter. It doesn’t sound like your daughter is upset about going to visit, so I guess that is good.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

He earns more than you, and NOT paying child support scumbag is this guys middle name.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Stay positive, explain good people don’t say bad things about others, and if you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything. Then hire SQUEEKY2 to run over them with his 18 wheeler. Twice.

ibstubro's avatar

“how to deal with the emotional side for her – and if it’s normal – if this happens initially and then it settles down?” @hunterbolt

Consider you are there for her 24/7 and the ex/SO only have to playact twice a month. I wouldn’t count on it correcting itself.

Let us know how you like the new lawyer, please?

Understand that most of the comments here are coming from the U.S., so the laws and circumstances may be different.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

This is a VERY serious issue. The advice given here thus far is uneducated about Parental Alienation Syndrome. This is no joke. Stop it now. Document everything and take that father to court without warning. Make every excuse to not allow your daughter to see the father. He is poisoning her mind, with the assistance of his girlfriend. This is a serious psychological disorder similar to the tactics that cult leaders use to enforce stockholm syndrome upon their victims. It’s extremely serious. The perpetrators are suffering from narcissistically organized borderline personality disorder. It’s extremely dangerous. It’s referred to as the worst form of child abuse, emotional hijacking. The longer you wait to address it, the harder it will be for deprogramming exit counseling to work.

Do not ignore the emails. Gather them for evidence, secretly. Refuse to allow your daughter to see the father until there is a court order in place mandating such. Get a counselor that specializes in Family Systems Therapy, and one who understands the serious nature of Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Watch every one of Dr. Childress presentation about Parental Alienation Dynamics to get the full scope of what’s going on. Watch Steve Miller MD and Linda Kase Gottlieb LMFT share the horror stories with the courts.

There are 25,000 videos on youtube about Parental Alienation. If it scares you, good. It should. It is dangerous to your relationship with your daughter, and even more dangerous for your daughters mental health later in life. Good that you see it now before it has a chance to take full hold. It is nearly impossible to cure after the alienation has taken place.

Also consider the dynamics at play which feed this beast. This is going to be a very tough time for you. You must educate yourself about who you are dealing with. See if your X fits any of the Narcissist Personality Disorder symptoms. See if he fits any of the Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms. And then, see if you fit any of the Codependency symptoms that actually act as a narcissistic supply. Yes, your personality may actually be contributing to the narcissist motivation. Tough swallow.

Ross Rosenberg can lead the way to Codependence Recovery. You will need that to stop feeding the narcissist. But the narcissist still needs a supply. Since you are unavailable, then he may be cultivating your daughter to provide that. They are emotional vampires.

Get your daughter on video tape detailing what her father tells her about you. Take that video and the emails to a family lawyer who is well versed in parental alienation syndrome. Get a referral from a Family Systems Psychotherapist. Don’t use any other type of therapist other than Family Systems.

To your benefit, your intuition recognizes that something is wrong. Trust your intuition and take action immediately. It is fantastic that you caught it so early. This will be scary. But you caught it early and it will be comparatively easy to overcome with intelligent effort.

DO NOT discuss this with your daughter or her father, or anyone who might give clues to them. This is not a matter of Taking the High Road. This is a matter of Planning a Smart Course of Action.

Good luck. Keep us updated. It’s going to be alright. Get your evidence in place… Then make your sudden move to end it all.

DO NOT try to “work it out” with the Father or his girlfriend. That only feeds the narcissist. This is how you deal with a narcissist.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Get a recording device for you cell phone.

Record everything with a smile. Gather evidence. Use it.

hunterbolt's avatar

oh dear, I was hoping that everyone would just say, ah that’s just how it is, but my instincts, of which I trust, tell me that it’s not right.
However, where I am, they still let a child stay with the other parents unless there is ‘real’ evidence that the child is being abused in some way – given I can’t ‘prove’ that her Dad is saying these things to my daughter I don’t have much of a leg to stand on. Also… it’s so easy to make me look like the over controlling paranoid mother and given ‘simon’ studied law for a year (my daughters dad) he’s pretty good at controlling an argument and coming off as an extremely educated man. He is narcissist – funny you mention that – my mother told me as soon as I started dating him that that is what he was.
His girlfriend is on medication for bi polar, however you wouldn’t know it and she’s also extremely successful.

If I move forward here I would have to tread very lightly, and I am an enabler… I know that already in regards to him and his controlling manipulative ways.

Why can’t parents just do what is best for the child?
I did see a lawyer today and she told me that if I don’t find work soon he could ask me to move to where he is, as there is no reason why I should stay 3 hours away from where my daughters DAD is – unfortunately the courts are not as child friendly over here – I have family here, my mum etc… so small steps I guess and finding the best lawyer possible on legal aid.

This is a long post – I do record everything and none of it could be used in the court room.
They didn’t care that he didn’t pay child support, or that he moved away from where we were.
It was the worst experience of my life to date and it will not happen again like that.

As to the behavior on his end, how on earth do you prove that someone is telling your daughter or brain washing her to believe that they are the better parent and the other isn’t?

I don’t want to ask her to the point of manipulation where she figures out what I want her to say – you know what I mean>

Gosh, next time, I’m making my new partner sit tests.
I“m so scared how this might impact her but feel at a loss to do anything about it.

hunterbolt's avatar

If i were to take him to court under what bounds?
It could end up just making me look like I“m losing my mind, or desperate.

hunterbolt's avatar

You know what, he doesn’t exhibit narcissistic behavior as much as his girlfriend does… He almost seems incredibly insecure, yet incredibly entitled but after reading up on Narcissism his mother definitely is that way inclined.
Maybe I should go see a child psychologist and see what they think?

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@hunterbolt, I’m in Australia and they most certainly do care if partners don’t pay child support. In fact, they care very much. If he doesn’t pay, the debt accrues and when he lodges a tax return or even if he dies, they will take it out of any rebate he might be due or out of his estate. Have you contacted the Child Support Agency? They will chase him for any outstanding payments and he is required by law to submit evidence to show how much he’s earning. I’m not saying people receive cash payments and don’t declare them, but he does have to put in an annual tax return even if he’s self employed.

I know the CSA isn’t perfect. I dealt with them for many years but they don’t give up. It’s the one thing you can’t escape. If they decide he owes $xxx per month, that’s what he’ll have to pay. The downside is either one of you can keep applying for an alteration to the amount which then requires you both to fill in mountains of paperwork. Frankly, that element of the system can become a form of abuse. But the CSA want partners to pay CSA if only to reduce the burden on the State.

As to making you move because you’re not working, I’d be surprised if the court would do that. Did you move or did your former partner? If you deliberately moved to avoid him seeing his child they might, but if he moved, I’d be stunned if the court expected you to move to follow him. Do you rent or own your home and do you have family locally?

Do you have any actual proof your partner or his new girlfriend are trying to manipulate your child’s feelings towards you? Or are you assuming this based on what she said?

Sorry for all the questions, but some of what you’ve written doesn’t make sense to me. I’m trying to understand your situation.
How long have you been divorced?

hunterbolt's avatar

no it’s fine, please ask away.
He moved, I didn’t, I came home with my daughter to visit my sick grandma and he txt saying don’t come back. – charming.
He then moved back 10 months later 3 hours away from us, as his girlfriend lives there.
I have phoned Child Support and they have said he hasn’t paid and they are chasing him – doesn’t hold up in court though.
let me just say – I am not against my daughter spending overnights with her dad, she clearly loves him, it’s just little things she has started saying once home that worry me.
‘I want to live with Daddy, my house is Daddy’s house.’
‘Daddy can look after me, Daddy is my friend….’ all these things seem a bit off to me.
However I have no idea if it’s him saying them or not.
He never calls MY house HER house – he always says… Mummy’s house, he’s very good at making sure he never uses a possessive pronoun to her – that bugs me, but we’ve only been apart a year – so I’ve let it go and always say ’ our house honey,’ after he says – ‘I will come visit you at Mummy’s house!’

Picky maybe?
Paranoid… maybe.
concerned definitely.

hunterbolt's avatar

We were both overseas together – she was born in England.

hunterbolt's avatar

and we were never married… That doesn’t change anything, he’s on the birth certificate etc.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

While the court might look unfavourably on non-payment of child support, no, they won’t stop a father from seeing his children because he hasn’t paid. They’re considered separate and I feel that’s right. Money is an issue between the parents and access to children shouldn’t be used as some sort of ransom to force people to pay.

So he didn’t move? You went to visit a relative and he told you not to return to the house you both shared? And he then moved away? If he moved away and has chosen to live three hours away, there’s no way the court will tell you to move. They’re much more likely to tell him to move closer if he wants more access.

As to your daughter’s comments, even with real evidence he’s manipulating the situation you can’t do anything about it. It’s not good if it is happening but at this point you really only have your ‘feeling’ that something’s going on. All you can do is make sure your home is a happy, safe place for her.

hunterbolt's avatar

no we were both living in London together, I came home for a visit with my/our daughter.
He txt me from London saying – don’t come back.
So I stayed in Australia – he moved back to Australia after 10 months ;)

hunterbolt's avatar

yeah I think I may need to keep looking for lawyers…. so hard to know if your lawyer is right, my first one wasn’t – thank you so much for your support.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I still can’t see a judge telling you to move. Your ex could have moved closer to you and chose not to.

Perhaps call the law society and find out who else is in your area. You can meet with someone for 30 minutes at no cost. If you have friends who’ve been through a separation/divorce ask them if they used a lawyer who was particularly effective. Good luck with it.

longgone's avatar

“She has (I hope) no idea that the relationship between her Dad and I is tense.”

Oh…she knows. She definitely knows. At that age, be assured she is watching you. She sees your face tense up and your posture change, she notices the pitch of your voice. She most certainly knows something is wrong, she just can’t understand what, exactly.

Whether dad talks about you or not – the real problem is the resentment between your daughter’s two most important adults. Read something by Jesper Juul if you’d like to learn more about this.

In addition, I’d get a therapist. A good one will be able to help you truly understand your daughter. And if that is the case, dad can call you whatever he wishes – the bond between your daughter and you will be strong enough to simply let that stuff go.

ucme's avatar

In the words of Depeche Mode, Enjoy The Silence.

JLeslie's avatar

My SIL never said to her kids, “your father is horrible,” and she always tried to be calm and civil around him in front of the children. She really cared about the kids being able to see their dad. She would let them go visit out of the country while her own mother sat in panic days leading up to it and the entire time they were gone, fearing he would never bring them back. He always did, and he was not a horrible man, although he did take up with another woman during the marriage and that was what finally led to a divorce. My SIL left with the kids, left the country they were living in, and came back to America.

Here’s the thing, my SIL, the mom, never said bad things about her husband to the kids, but they said negative things about him. They knew he upset their mom whether she said it or not, and so they absorbed that. Your ex’s girlfriend might have said nothng directly to the child, but if she doesn’t like you the kid might pick up on it. It can be very subtle and very tricky. My SIL felt proud she did the “right” thing and never talked badly about him, but it was obvious she hated him without her saying those specific words. Your child will most likely know there is tension. She will know you don’t like her dad and girlfriend much, even though you never say a negative word, and vice versa.

I don’t see how they can make you move if he was the one who moved far away. That would be dreadful. In America the unwed father has no righs to see the child in most of our states, unless he goes to court to get them. He is obligated to pay. If he doesn’t pay, he can be arrested.

@Earthbound_Misfit You say money and seeing the child should not be tied together, and I understand why you say that, but if no one was paying to care for the child and she was being neglected because of it, not properly cared for, wouldn’t the state interviene? Not being fed and clothed? Not having money is a form of neglect, because unfortunately in our societies money is what keeps you alive and healthy. Unless the parents live on a farm and the land supplies them with nourishment and shelter. Plus, he is seeing her, so he should be helping to care for her.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I didn’t say I don’t think people should pay child support. I do. I’ve been on the receiving end of being owed thousands of dollars in unpaid child support. However, I don’t believe the court should make seeing children dependent upon paying child support. That punishes the child as much as the parent for non-payment. The relationship children have with both parents is important and children won’t necessarily understand their absent parent isn’t there because of a court decision. I’m pretty sure it would be unusual for the court to tie the two things together here. If they’d do it at all. We also have a much better welfare system than you do over there. Or we do at the moment. This government could put paid to that.

Plus, there are other systems in place over here to ensure people pay monies they owe. It really is one of the only debts that are not extinguished by debt or (I think) bankruptcy. The government determines how much should be paid and they will take care of the collection of the money. I am now owed nothing but my youngest child was fully grown up by the time his father paid off his debt. It was infuriating that he didn’t pay and he went to great lengths to avoid it. In the end, he had to pay.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Document, document, document. Keep a journal of everything she says when she comes back from her visits.

It’s easy to say, “Just take him to court!” but nearly impossible to do if you don’t have the money.

snowberry's avatar

Agreed with @Dutchess_III In fact, rather than just writing down what your daughter says, record her. You can get one of those little pocket size recorders and keep it in your shirt pocket. Start recording just before you greet her (she doesn’t need to know a thing about it). That way the conversation will remain natural and there will be no doubt what is being said. Store the labeled tapes in a secure location.

In my area it’s legal to record a conversation as long as at least one person in the conversation knows they’re being recorded. Find out what the laws are in your area. If it’s legal in your area, you can also record his girlfriend as she greets you.

longgone's avatar

^ Why record what the little girl says? What does “Only daddy is my friend” prove?

Dutchess_III's avatar

What does that sound like to you @longgone?

longgone's avatar

^ Sorry, I don’t understand what you’re asking…

Dutchess_III's avatar

What does her saying, “Only daddy is my friend. You’re not my friend,” to her mother when she comes through the door after visiting them, sound like to you? What conclusions do you come to?

snowberry's avatar

@longgone Just my opinion, but if I have a recording of my child’s actual voice (personally I’d prefer video), nobody would be able to say I made up the stuff she said. A steady stream of that stuff coming out of her mouth every time she visited her dad might be of interest to a therapist, especially if her behavior started to turn.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@Dutchess_III, we don’t know what the child meant by that or what inspired the comment. Perhaps her dad and her had a conversation where he said they were best friends. The child is three. We have no way of knowing what happened or how she’s interpreting it.

The reality is, even if the mother records these conversations, she still has no proof the father manipulated the child. She only has her interpretation of the child’s conversation. Even if she did have proof, what do people think the court will do? I’m pretty sure they’ll do nothing.

We don’t know enough about either parent to make determinations about what the other parent is or is not doing or why the child said what she did.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s just so sad that this kind of manipulating does go on.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

It does. We don’t know that it is here though. I haven’t seen anything that provides concrete evidence that it is.

Hence, I think it’s better she focuses on making the child’s life at home supportive and manages what she can see and deal with.

longgone's avatar

^ What she said.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Children can adjust to the attitudes and expectations of different households, and they can do it fairly easily. At least you have her the majority of the time, so you’ll have the most influence.

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