10-yo daughter does not want to stay with father


Hi Erin,

My ex and I do not have a custody agreement or a consent order in place. Since the day we separated 2 years ago, I have been the custodial parent with their father having every-other-weekend visitation with an occasional overnight during the week. He has never paid child support and I have never filed for it as I make substantially more than he does.

My 10-yo daughter does not want to go to her father’s. He is emotionally abusive, has age-inappropriate expectations, constantly criticizes and rants and raves at the slightest infraction. She has an intense fear of him and cries all day at school on the Friday before he picks her up and has anxiety and sleep disturbances prior to the visits. Her pediatrician and sleep specialist have her taking anti-anxiety meds so that she is able to sleep. She begs me not to go and has attempted to run away to avoid these visits. There have been 2 occasions (that I know of), where he has hurt her physically. One where he picked her up in anger and put her in her room on the floor in front her dresser so hard that it left a large bruise on her back (I have a photo of this). Another time he picked her up angrily around her waist and she told me that it hurt.

He has told her that “what happens at daddy’s, stays at daddy’s” and she’s been afraid to confide these extent of these issues and fears to me. I now have her seeing a counselor and she has finally shared some examples of his behavior with the therapist. The counselor met with her father a few times with the intent of helping him find ways of parenting without anger. The therapist called me to say that he is very resistant to her viewpoints or advice. She said that she was going to document the fact that she was recommending to me that my daughter “take a break” from visiting her father and that in absence of an agreement that I should communicate to him that she doesn’t wish to see him until he is able to demonstrate a change. She also requested to meet with my 3-yo son to assess the situation through “play therapy”

I am reluctant to file for full custody because I worry that the evidence above is not enough to “win” custody, and then the judge would institute a visitation schedule that I would be required to follow. At least now without an agreement in place, I can limit their visists.

From your experience, how much do judges take situations like this into account when determining visitation schedules? I’ve heard that unless children are in a severly abusive situation or are in danger, that judges make every attempt at continuing the visitation patterns that have been set. Are ther any statues I can read that outline what NC considers an inappropriate environment for a child? If I limit their visits and he files for custody, would that negatively impact my case? What should I be doing/not doing at this point in preparing for a possible custody claim while at the same time being an advocate and protecting my daughter?


Judges take allegations of abuse very seriously and will do their best to find the truth in order to protect the children. If you alienate the children without just cause, the court will not look kindly on that behavior, unless your keeping the children away from him is found to be necessary for their well being.


Is the therapist’s documented recommendation enough to show just cause? My plan would be to limit contact to visits of dinner, lunch, soccer games, afternoons, etc rather than a whole weekend. I would not attempt to stop the visits all together as I don’t think that is in anyone’s best interests long term.

2nd question - I had an affair and am now dating the guy I had the affair with; he is currently separated and we plan to marry next year when his divorce is final. I’ve not yet introduced him to my children as I want to make sure this relationship would not look unfavorably upon me if a custody suit is filed. From your experience, would this look bad? He is a solid and upstanding person and would be a great role-model and father-figure for my children (or I obviously would not be dating him). Is it safe to openly have this relationship from a custody perspective?


I am not a lawyer but from what I’ve seen, adultery is not heavily considered in custody trials (as it is relatively common). It would be a big factor if your boyfriend were some how deemed a threat to the children (sexual predator, violent, drugs, crime, etc) . So long as your dating does not cause you to neglect your children then it seems like a non-issue to me. However, dating can cause the other spouse to become hostile and disagreeable. I do see marriage as a positive action, as it would make your relationship appear to others as stable and not some wild fling.


I cannot say how much weight any one judge would give to any one piece of evidence.

Your relationship should not affect your custody case so long as this man does not present a danger to the children, although again, different judges perceive situations differently.