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1/2timemom 07-30-2010 09:35 PM

problems with the 'step'
As my username suggests, I have 50/50 custody of my two boys ages 11 and 13. My boys have a step parent who seems to be under the impression that she has as much influence in their lives as their dad and I do. They've recently moved 20 minutes out of the city and she has started to put pressure on the boys to think about high school in their 'district'. My oldest son is a high achiever and is seriously thinking about the IB program, which is nowhere near where they live. It seems like any productive correspondence between their father and I has completely disappeared since they got married (1.5 years ago). I have tried to talk to him about it and he calls me 'crazy'. It's very frustrating to have to deal with the stuff that comes home with them ie: she tells them they will never be allowed to ride a city bus because that's just for 'wellies' (people on welfare), and that some of their friends are not acceptable because they 'are going in a different direction in their lives', she is trying to dissuade my son from his chosen high school with comments about the weirdo's that go there and that if they go to school where the ex lives that they will get a car. She has taken them over the border without my consent. She tries to set up doctors appointments. She has talked my son out of getting his lifeguard certificate, because she told him working at Tim Horton's is better (it's close to their house). These are just the things from the last month, the list goes on and on. I have always believed the saying that the more people that love a child the better and I believe she does definitely have a vested interest in them but we have completely different morals. I never bad talk my ex and I've had lots of reasons to, but this absolutely sends me over the edge. She is extremely materialistic, and superficial. I feel like she takes every parenting stand that I've committed to and makes a mockery of it. I'm pretty sure she runs the whole show over there and that my ex is actually afraid to make her angry. She brought a lot of money into the situation. I do not have the money to retain a lawyer, and they do. We had a legal separation from the initial separation that gave us plenty of space to do what worked best for the kids but one of the conditions of their marriage was that he take me to court, which he tried to do but when it all came out they were actually worse off as far as the money thing goes. So now we're strangled by this order that she refuses to allow any flexibility in. The kids are scared to even mention any change because it ends up with a lot of nasty things being said about me. I had to block both of them from my cell and email because of the horrific language that was used. Now I feel like I'm up against a wall. Do I have any legal recourse? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I am also remarried but my husband understands his role in the boys life is to be a good friend, to always be on their side and to support my parenting philosophies. He is also terribly frustrated by the situation.

Mess 07-30-2010 09:51 PM

Legally she has no more authority than a babysitter. In practice, if the father backs her up, then she can say what she wants, he is putting his authority onto her words. If he gives her permission to cross the border with them, then she has permission. I realize it's annoying but there is little you can do about it.

In terms of legal recourse, if you can't afford a lawyer your options are limited. Are you considering self-representing? You could do this with plenty of research and practice. You need to know the forms and the rules inside out, and you should go to the courthouse and sit in on court cases as much as you can. There are lots of resources and people here can help, but it is still a difficult task, and it is a full time job while it lasts.

Regarding things like choice of schools, you should set up a meeting with you and the father at their current school's office. You should discuss it there and go over all the options, without the step. If your ex does not agree to this, at the very least you need to have a heart to heart talk with your child and explain that the step is neither there parent or guardian, and they are giving bad advice. Ultimately they will choose to work at Tim Hortons if they want to.

As much as you feel that the influence is all coming from the step and not the father, it is equally unfair if all the influence come from you. Some decisions won't go the way you want, and your children will make up their own minds.

If you have evidence that she is seriously undermining you or engaging in parental alienation, you could have a case but it is hard, long, you would need a lawyer and expensive assessments. If it is not that extreme, then it is just a difference of opinion and you really shouldn't think the courts can settle that for you. I can't advise you on this, you are there, we are not.

1/2timemom 07-30-2010 10:04 PM

Their dad is not interested in any parenting issues unless it is something that makes him look good, or makes life easier or less expensive for him. I do not expect it to go my way all the time. The boys and I have open communication about these issues and the things I've talked about are one's they've brought up because they are distressed with the situation. Yes I have until very recently been the only invested parent, so their views are more to what I've taught. They feel they have no voice. Their dad puts on a good show about being 'respected', he is a member of our federal law enforcement and his mentality displays this. The boys fear his responses, which have become much more severe since he has married. This being said from your response it sounds like unless I can quit my job and commit to this full time, we're pretty much screwed. He is not interested in any meetings. Thanks anyways.

1/2timemom 07-30-2010 10:25 PM

one other question... I realize that his time with the kids is his to do what he pleases, but there are many occasions throughout the year where he goes away for extended periods of time (like weeks). On these occasions he does not give me the option of having the kids, instead his wife and her extended family provide care. (which is when she took them out of the country with no legal documentation) Do I have any legal recourse to stop him from allowing this?

tugofwar 07-30-2010 10:47 PM

Do you have documentation of him saying no to your requests to have the children when he is away? Unfortunetly I don't think there is much you can do. I wouldn't think there was an issue if the children actually enjoyed being around his new wife and family. It's sad if they do not enjoy being with her and family and would rather spend the time with you :(

1/2timemom 07-30-2010 11:10 PM

As he does not inform me, until after he's gone I have no documentation... I totally agree, but the issue is that they would prefer to be with me. Don't get me wrong, her family is really good to them. I do have documentation of my responses to the extreme texts and emails I get while he is away, from the last time. Does that help me? She goes nuts when I even call the house, so he gets it from her and then he passes it along. The thing is that while I have enough of a hard time letting it go to him, because of things that he's done, it's especially hard to not even know who or when someone is picking them up from school etc etc. I've received phone calls from them at school wondering who was coming because 'whoever' was late. It breaks my heart, especially because I feel so powerless to do anything about it.

Great Dad 07-31-2010 04:48 PM

This post is from Bonus Mom - wife of Great Dad,

As a long time bonus mom, it's my opinion that the biological parents should be making the decisions of children's education. If the step parent wants to talk to her husband and give her opinion that's one thing, but the two biological parents should be making the choice in the best interest of the child.

As that is said, I talk to my bonus son often about his future and what he wants to do with his life. I offer him insight into different careers to open his imagination and to find out his interests.

mamabear23 08-06-2010 02:22 PM

If you can't afford a lawyer, I would think it might be worth trying to represent yourself on this matter as it seems extremely obvious.

You share custody with HIM, not HER or the HOUSE they live in for pete's sake. If he is going to be away, there should be NO reason why you should have to send them. If they want to go, I suppose that's one thing to consider. Wouldn't he want "make-up" time with them when he goes out of town anyway?

And unless SHE has an agreement with YOU to take them out of the country she should not be able to. Border patrol really didn't do their job on that one. If they were younger, what would stop her from taking them and never coming back? It happens!!

I took my kids on a road trip to see my sister in Montana. I had a notatarized letter from their dad (we have no other documentation as we've never been to court). Their birth certificates proved I was their mother even though we had different surnames. At the time, passports were not required for ground travel...

The border officer gave me the third degree about where I was going, who I was seeing, what my ex does for a living, etc...THEN he gave the KIDS the third degree, asking them if their dad knows I'm taking them out of the country, and if they wanted to be with me, etc! I don't think he wanted to let us in, but decided he didn't have enough evidence to stop us!!

But, I thought if that's what they do to keep kids from being abducted then I don't mind at all. But WOW... I can't believe your children's stepmother could take them without such a hassle!! Maybe because they have the same last name?? Even then, their birth certificates would show she is not their mother...that is scary! Your kids are a bit older, so can you explain to them that she does not have permission to take them across the border? If she wants to take them somewhere, she can PAY for a notarized letter of permission from you. Unbelievable!

BonusMom...there is a big difference between encouraging the kids to look at various options, and belittling what they choose...most of us 'bio-moms' don't mind input from a 'bonus mom' (I like that) or suggestions even.
But when it is condescending to the child, it isn't welcome...but, you sound like a positive influence on your stepchild(ren). Of course sometimes it goes the other way around where the bio-mom is belittling the bonus-mom's suggestions, which is equally wrong...

Pharah 08-06-2010 03:28 PM

By the sounds of things you have a parallel parenting arrangement that you don't much agree with but unfortunately your ex does not have to tell you whether he or his spouse is caring for your children at any given time. The Judge in my case has made that perfectly clear to my ex, she only cares whether my son is looked after. What I take from this is that you have a difference of opinion with your ex's new family (regardless of whether it's him or her) and you can't stand her but that is just to bad.

You could request the right of first refusal but I am not sure that would included the kids stay with your ex's new spouse. I think it's unrealistic to think that the court would say he cannot leave them in her care not matter how long it was for. They live together and are a family regardless of whether the new spouse is their stepmom or whether they are just common-law.

I really don't think this has much to do with your concern for the kids as it is does with this stepmom's influence over your children. What does it matter that they travel out of the country with their stepmom? Do they come home? Does it affect your access? How does any of this affect your children's best interests?

I think you are losing focus on this a bit and need to step back and take a breath. I understand you are protective our your kids but from what I can see the stepmom is not doing anything to hurt them. Sorry to disagree.

mamabear23 08-06-2010 04:39 PM

Nobody should be allowed to take any child out of any country without BOTH parents' knowledge and consent!

If I got the third degree about taking my OWN children out of the country, why should it not be the same for a stepmother?

I can see her making an appointment for the kids to see a doctor for something simple like a cold or toothache, or taking them to a walk-in clinic for stitches, or xray if they've hurt themselves etc. You should be notified however and medical decisions (including medication) should not be made by her alone whatsoever.

1/2 timemom didn't say she wouldn't have consented to the kids going across the border, just that she should have been consulted, which is perfectly reasonable. She also admitted that the stepmom likely does have a "vested interest" in the children, but seems to be taking advantage of the situation, rather than remembering who the parents are and is forgetting that they have a mother who's beliefs, opinions and authority regarding the raising of the children precedes and supercedes hers as a stepmother.

That being said, there are bound to be clashes in beliefs and parenting styles between parents and step-parents. I do believe that step-parents are parents too, but its too bad that some of them seem bent on being a "better" mom instead of supporting the kids and providing them love and nuturance. She will have an influence on the children whether its good or bad and whether we like it or not. Just make sure you keep your side of things neutral, so the kids don't feel they are being tugged at from both sides...

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