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Question for divorced/divorcing parents

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Amazonia posted 6/13/2013 09:40 AM

One of my coworkers, who I'm pretty close to, is contemplating divorce. No infidelity, just a depressed husband who has completely checked out the of marriage in favor of watching tv 10 hours a day and is addicted to sleeping pills. According to my coworker, the full extent of his parenting is that he drives their daughter to preschool in the morning - she gets her ready, feeds her breakfast, etc. and then they leave at the same time, her for work, him to drop the daughter off (he works part time from home). Aside from that hour or so in the morning, she says he is not involved with or spending time with his daughter - certainly never without my coworker there (ex: family dinner).

Anyway, so she's now talking about divorce, and I've been listening and giving some advice where I can. (I talked them into seeing an MC for at least 2 months, which was a pretty big "win" IMO.)

She talks sometimes about co-parenting. Her ideal co-parenting situation involves him maintaining his current role, but not living with them. Basically show up every morning and chauffeur the daughter to school, and that's it. He gets no say, no opinion, no influence on the daughter's life. My coworker feels entitled to this arrangement because she is the primary caregiver and the primary breadwinner (she's going to be paying him a ridiculous amount of alimony). In her words, "it'll be fine as long as he does what I tell him to."

It makes me wonder, between everything I've seen on these boards, whether a "healthy" co-parenting situation really exists, anywhere. Or are the ones that people claim are healthy really just one person letting the other push them around? Is there ever a situation where the power struggle doesn't exist, where a divorced couple can legitimately both just act in the best interests of their children and leave the past out of it?

Or is my perspective skewed because so many of the exes I read about here on SI bring their same issues to parenting that they brought to the marriage?

Just processing, I guess. It makes me sad to see her marriage ending, and that they've lived in strife and frustration so long that neither is willing to see the others' perspective anymore. Just so much anger and resentment.

Nature_Girl posted 6/13/2013 09:54 AM

The legal system will never let her have her ideal co-parenting scenario. Never. Since he's not an abusive whatever, the court is going to presume he's a fit parent and award him 50/50 custody, most likely. She'll also be paying him child support as well as spousal support. Is she prepared for this reality?

Wouldn't it be "cheaper to keep her", as they say, only actually cheaper to keep him around for free childcare one hour a day?

I suspect that there are some fairly healthy co-pareting situations out there in the world. Possibly not here on SI since this board is populated with the fall-out of infidelity, so there's already animosity between the partners.

Dreamboat posted 6/13/2013 12:06 PM

I agree with Nature Girl. Her ideal parenting plan is a total fantasy. First, no court in the land will take away a parent's legal custody (the exception is when adoption is involved), so it is a guarantee that they will have 50/50 legal custody.

Unless her H agrees to be only a chauffeur then he will get at a minimum every other weekend and 1 overnight a week and if he asks for it, he may (depending on the slant of the courts where he lives) get 50/50 physical custody. On her days, it will be her responsibility to bring her child to school.

She will owe him CS and potentially SS. And she will no longer have the right to tell him what to do.

There are healthy co-parenting going on. We don't hear of it much on SI because people post when things are going wrong, not when things are going right.

7yrsflushed posted 6/13/2013 12:08 PM

The legal system will never let her have her ideal co-parenting scenario. Never. Since he's not an abusive whatever, the court is going to presume he's a fit parent and award him 50/50 custody, most likely. She'll also be paying him child support as well as spousal support. Is she prepared for this reality?
^^^This, what she wants and what she will get via the courts are 2 completely different things.

If she divorces him then she no longer gets ANY say in what he does or does not do involving the kids that isn't in a written agreement or court order. That is as long as he is a fit parent of course and the definition of fit is subjective barring documented abuse and such.

There are healthy coparenting relationships out there. I really dislike my STBXWW but both of us put the craziness aside when it comes to the kids. Our issues are not their issues and we are trying our best to make sure they get the best that we can offer as parents even if we won't be together.

it'll be fine as long as he does what I tell him to.
Does he do what she tells him to do today. I am assuming she has voiced her discontent with the fact that he is a couch potato all day yet he doesn't change from what she said. Why would she think that is going to change once she is divorced?

[This message edited by 7yrsflushed at 12:10 PM, June 13th (Thursday)]

Crescita posted 6/13/2013 12:14 PM

Perhaps a trial separation might be in order? It sounds like he is struggling a lot, and while things aren't changing with the status quo, that's not to say he won't come out of the depression and be more involved down the line.

Nature_Girl posted 6/13/2013 12:27 PM

Perhaps he needs to realize that if they divorce the court is not going to award him enough SS and CS that he will continue to be able to lounge around, depressed or not. He'll be forced to return to the work force whether he wants to or not just so he can keep a roof over his head and some food in his belly. And trust me, I speak from experience, it ain't easy to re-enter the work force these days.

Perhaps your friend needs to realize that if her future-ex-husband is forced to return to work - which he will be - he probably won't be around to drive their DD to school in the morning, he'll be busy getting himself to work on time. So she'll be stuck figuring out how to get her DD to school like the rest of us. Walk to school alone? School bus? Before-school childcare?

Your friend is living in total fantasy land.

roughroadahead posted 6/13/2013 13:00 PM

The person with primary custody does not pay CS. He would owe her CS. CS is his contribution to raising his child, regardless of the income disparity. SS is a separate issue, and it is possible that she would have to pay it to him.

It is likely he'd get 50% legal custody, but it is entirely up to him if he chooses to participate. He can also be awarded all this visitation in the world, but it is up to him if he takes it. Courts would not give a crap if he agreed to chauffeur every morning, as long as both parties agreed.

She would need to be prepared for him to take all the visitation to which he is entitled, as no court would award the chaffeur scenario.

Amazonia posted 6/13/2013 13:05 PM

I know she's not going to get what she wants. She knows it too, on some level. And I am in no way advising her on the legal ramifications - she's actually an attorney.

Just seems like co-parenting is by definition messy and uncomfortable.

caregiver9000 posted 6/13/2013 14:24 PM

First, no court in the land will take away a parent's legal custody (the exception is when adoption is involved), so it is a guarantee that they will have 50/50 legal custody.

weeeeeellllll.... I have this. Our court decree as mediated by the court says that we have "joint physical custody" where I am the primary and he has EOW, an agreed upon split holidays (not the every other year thing) and he has 2 non consecutive weeks in summer... which he has not scheduled for this summer.

BUT I have sole legal custody. The exact language is that we confer on educational, religious, etc, but that the mother has "sole determinitive decision making rights." It was explained to us both that we should try to discuss, but that if we did not agree, I had the tie breaker vote. The exact language though is "sole legal custody."

But my other observation is that he sounds depressed. If they can address his lack of motivation, sleeping issues, then perhaps she can keep on living the fantasy she HAS where he does the shuffling in the AM and she can maintain influence and supervision of the parenting of their DD... which will NEVER happen in even the best of co-parenting between divorced parents. And remind her that eventually her ex will date and she won't influence or choose that person either.

I don't know your friend, but I'd encourage her to come and read here about some of the realities of life post divorce and the "co-parenting possibilities on the other end of her "fantasy."

Sad in AZ posted 6/13/2013 14:57 PM

Of course there are plenty of divorced parents who co-parent successfully. (I'd like to think I would have been one of them...whoo boy! but yes, it happens.)

Your description of her situation was hard to read; I went through a lot worse after the X was injured and had to retire. During that period (long before any whiff of an A), I felt my vows bound me 'in sickness and health' but it was really difficult. Her sitch doesn't even come close,; she sounds somewhat spoiled and selfish to me, but we all have our breaking point.

I hope she finds a way to successfully co-parent for the kids' sake, and I hope he gets help for his depression.

Runningaway posted 6/13/2013 15:01 PM

I have a pretty good parenting arrangement with my ex. It never went to court. We don't have anything formal written in regards to "visitation" he is free to see them whenever he wants, we have an agreement between us that school nights are always at my house but that was the only issue that I ever brought up.

You have to know who you're dealing with when you decide how big of a deal to make things. I knew if I made a fuss over wanting custody of the kids or insisting on a visitation schedule or in anyway tried to influence how or when he saw the kids he would fight me. Its just his personality. So I didn't make a big deal about anything, we have joint everything and he spends as much time with the kids now as he did when we were married and living together if you catch my drift. But that's just what worked for me. I knew he wasn't a danger or any kind of threat to the kids, he really does love them. And I'm willing to bet it never becomes and issue in the future.

FWIW I think it would have been harder if they were younger. Right now my kids are 12, 14 and 16.

million pieces posted 6/13/2013 16:59 PM

My SO and his ex have a good coparenting relationship. And there was infidelity involved, just about as bad as it comes. Now my SO does go over his ex's house every day and gets their son ready for school, because he loves his son and wants that time with him. Not all spurned husbands are like that. You think a clinically depressed person is going to wake up early every day and go to her house to watch their kids? How reliable would he be?

She is delusional on many different levels.

Weatherly posted 6/13/2013 17:34 PM

she sounds somewhat spoiled and selfish to me, but we all have our breaking point.

That's kinda what I thought too, sorry Ama. I mean, sounds like she wants to eat a lot of cake.

She wants a divorce.
She doesn't want her schedule to change.
She doesn't want to take the daughter to school.
She doesn't want his opinion or input on their daughter.
She wants to tell him what to do.

I don't see how that is "co-parenting". She wants him to have the same relationship/influence on the girl as the school bus driver. Really?

I don't know that there are many co-parenting relationships that work. I think, even the ones that look like it may not actually be so, you know? I mean, you know quite a bit about the situation between x and I. And, people have told me MANY times they are so impressed with how well we get along and how well we parent the kids. They don't see ALL the other bullshit I deal with. But, it looks good from the outside.

AppleBlossom posted 6/13/2013 21:17 PM

I believe that my parenting relationship with the kids' dad is actually better now than it was before we divorced. As I have said here before, I hate him with a deep and fiery passion, but my love for the kids and my need for them to develop a strong and healthy relationship with their father is stronger.

I will never understand why a parent feels the need to control children in this way. It only damages the kids in the long run.

Amazonia posted 6/14/2013 05:57 AM

I don't disagree with those who are criticizing her, and we have been having a lot of tough conversations lately.

Bobbi_sue posted 6/14/2013 07:39 AM

I divorced my XH in 1992-93 and NEVER once involved the courts. As for custody, I was awarded primary physical custody with him liberal visitation. Not ordered by a judge, but something we both agreed to, and this is what was drawn up by the lawyer. In reality, though, I think it was as close to joint custody as you could ever get. I let him have the kids almost every weekend, and he got them during a lot of vacations. I remained flexible and we never had even one of those arguments about who gets the kids when. The kids are all grown and doing well on their own now.

When they were in school, they used to tell me they appreciated the fact that even though their parents were divorced, we did not put them through the hell all their freinds from broken homes seemed to go through, with the parents constantly fighting over custody, child support, money, and such issues.

We agreed to the amount of CS he would pay (considerably lower than what the state would order according to their formula at the time). Against my lawyer's advice, I asked for no alimony even though I was left as a single mother with three young kids. He did have to pay our house mortgage though (until I either remarried or the youngest turned 18...I remarried in 1995 and gave him back the house) so I guess that was a form of alimony.

He did pay the agreed upon amount faithfully throughout the entire time. He also knew if he did not, I had the power to take him to court at any time.

Anyway, my X also did not spend much time with our kids when we were married. He was a truck driver. On the rare times he was actually "home" he was working on trucks or doing something else, not home spending time with family. This was part of my final decision to go ahead and divorce, as our kids were a huge consideration. I thought, what difference will this make? He never spends any time with them anyway.

But you never know how these things will go. I can honestly say my XH became a better parent after we divorced. He had the kids almost every weekend, and did spend time with them on those weekends.

Once in awhile I come in this forum and talk briefly about my experiences. I have not yet met even one other person who agreed with my stance that it was better for the kids to "get along" than to haul him to court because I didn't think he was paying enough. As far as money, I felt it more important they had a roof over their head, the basic necessities, clothes, etc, and food to eat. I feel my XH was fairly generous with the kids on his weekends and I sense this would not have been the case if I squeezed as much money out of him as I could have for CS.

I know there are lawyers likely reading this and they won't like my stance here but I don't see most lawyers as truly having the kids's best interest in mind, encouraging people to get along, etc. The first one I approached absolutely would not hear me when I said I didn't want alimony and wanted to make it as painless as possible since he was my children's father.

The one I went with agreed to do whatever I wanted, but advised against many of the things I wanted.

I have some friends who basically told me they were going to "go easy" on their ex when they divorced but then when the lawyer got to talking to them, they changed their mind. I have one friend in particular, who has four grown chidren. She waited to D him until the youngest was a senior in high school. CS was not going to be much of an issue but I think she wanted him to help with college for the youngest. She was going to leave him the home, which his family had given them when they married years earlier. She did not realize she would have any legal right to that home, apparently.

Well, the lawyer "enlightened her" that she could take half or more of the value of that home, and guess what? Her XH had to borrow a huge amount of money to keep his home.

Perhaps that is only fair, but the price this woman paid was none of her four grown children speak to her any more! One recently got married and she was not invited to the wedding.

Money and fairness in splitting marital assets has NEVER been worth much to me as compared to having happy healthy children who get along with both parents.

I should add here that I realize this takes some cooperation of BOTH parents and I know that not everybody could have my situation even if they tried. I know some non-custodial parents would do anything to try to get out of paying anything at all. I am not talking about such cases, but whenever there is a chance for compromise, getting along, etc., that would be what I would recommend.

[This message edited by Bobbi_sue at 7:49 AM, June 14th (Friday)]

tesla posted 6/14/2013 08:29 AM

I work with a guy that's divorced (don't know how long) and seems to have a good co-parenting relationship with his ex. I don't know the circumstances regarding the divorce. He remarried and has a step daughter now but seems very tuned in to not forcing the 2nd wife or step-daughter on his high school aged boys. He started coaching the girls cross-country team so that he could see the boys' race (both his boys run CC) and spend more time with them. The ex-wife comes to meets...she will come up and talk to him...he will go talk to her. They discuss the boys and how the boys are doing. Both go to dr. appts and college visits. Co-parenting can happen...but it really helps when both parents set aside their agendas and put the kids first.

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