My husband and I are separated. I hired an attorney to draft a separation agreement for me. I presented it to my husband 3 weeks ago and he states he will not sign it until there is consideration given to more financial support. My husband was physically, verbally and emotionally abusive towards me. I escaped the home, leaving him with my two children because they refused to come with me. Initially, they would come stay with me overnight and on weekends. Now that they have been in the home with him, he has completely brainwashed them to the point now where they will not take my calls, hang up on me and won’t visit me. While they are in the presence of their father, they leave me hateful messages, using swear words and calling me names, insisting that I have broken up the family. I’m at a loss as to what to do. I have an appointment with another attorney next Wednesday. My husband feels I should be paying half of all of his household expenses because the kids stay with him. I still want to pursue joint custody because I want the kids with me and don’t feel I should have to contribute to the household financially as I used to, since I now will have my own household to support and maintain. I feel like I’m at a standstill and things are getting worse with my children. Any thoughts?
I would first ask you the ages of these children. You must keep in mind that they want to stay in the home where they are comfortable. Change is stressful, even if it’s a good change and it can affect children regardless of how much we do to protect them.
Your stbx should not allow the conduct that you have experienced, but I’ve seen it often in this situation. The most important thing for you to keep in mind is that they LOVE you regardless of what they are actually saying. Don’t take everything they say personally. Children do not understand and they want to make the parent happy, often that is at the expense of the other parent; but they do not see that. What they see is that when they leave those messages for you, it pleases their father and this makes their life in the home with him easier because he feels they are “on his side”. It’s wrong to encourage this type of behavior but unfortunately there are quite a few parents that do and it’s unlikely that this will stop. The best that you can do is NOT to do the same thing to them. Do not put them in the middle. Do not make them choose.
Legally, you have a right to at least have visitations with your children and your ex can not keep that from happening. It is the custodial parent’s responsibility to make sure that the visitations take place. Once you have a schedule set up and have regular visitations with them, make sure that they know you love them and are there for them. Leaving the marriage does not mean you left your children. Make sure they know that they would be welcome should they change their mind about staying with you. If they continue to suggest that you don’t care about them, ask them specifically why they believe that. Do not talk badly about their father. Make the conversation about you and them, not about the divorce. You do not have to give all the gory details of the demise of your marriage, most of it has nothing to do with them and they should not know about it.
If your stbx was a dependant spouse then it’s possible he could ask for alimony, but otherwise, your financial responsibilities are only for the marital debt that was incurred prior to the date of separation. Any debt after the date you left, it considered separate debt. While you still may be financially tied to the home or vehicle…it is only a matter of removing your name from the deed or title. The household expenses; grocery, utilities, are no longer your responsibility. There should be some support going to him, since he currently has primary custody, and you can run the child support calculator to see what a reasonable amount is. You need to get this custody schedule worked out quickly, so that it does not become permanent. You are entitled to 1/2 the marital assets and until determined by the court or agreement, you have equal access to the children. If you have neither at this point, you could pick the children up from school or whereever and have them with you. When you speak with the attorney you need to schedule an emergency custody hearing and get those visitations taking place again as soon as possible. Since there was abuse involved, you may have a better chance to gain custody. You need to see where you stand legally with the children and what can be done to get this behavior to stop.
Get a recorder for your phone and record the calls that you have with him… you may never need this but it’s a good idea to have it for possible court proceedings.
Thank-you for that reply. I have tried not to speak negatively of my husband to the children. I try to acknowledge that I understand they are hurt and angry and want their family back together, but that it’s just not possible. I insist, as you said, that I did not leave or abandon them, I just left a difficult situation. I have told them that they have two parents who love them, no matter where they are and that they shouldn’t feel as if they have to choose between them. My children are 12 (soon to be 13) and 10. The 10 year old is completely taken in by my husband. The 12 year old, I believe, understood that what was going on was wrong. However, the longer he is with his father, the more be sounds like him, blaming me for breaking up the family. From the moment I left, I purchased a tape recorder and have been taping the calls they have made to me. There are many calls where my husband can be heard coaching the children in the background. The children have sworn at me and called me names, with him in the background, and then him getting on the phone to make his point to me. I pray that the appt. I have with the attorney Wed. will be successful. Thank-you again for your advice - it was very reassuring and hopeful.