AIBU about Parental Responsibility?!(59 Posts)
This is a long one...
Here's the back story: I left ex 5 years ago. He was mentally, physically and financially abusive, and generally a class A dickhead. We have 2 DCs, now aged 10 and 8. He pays regular maintenance and buys things for the children (overly elaborate Christmas/birthday gifts) but shows no interest in seeing the children or in having any say in their education, welfare or general upbringing. I used to take them an hour on the train to see him every other weekend. They would see him at work for around half an hour, he gives them some pocket money and we go on our way. To me, this isn't meaningful contact, but it's all they could get because his days off are spent playing Xbox, drinking and smoking weed with his friends (they are all in their 30's and single, surprisingly)
Recently DCs have become less and less interested in going to see him, so it's now more like once a month. He has decided this is me 'refusing to allow him access' and obviously kicks up a stink about it, but still makes no attempt to come and see them.
I met a wonderful man a few years ago, we live together, we're getting married this year and in every way other than biologically, he is a parent to my DCs. He does school runs when I'm at work, helps with their homework, shows an interest in their education, health and wellbeing. Despite saying for the whole of his life that he didn't want children, he has wholeheartedly embraced the step parent role and he's bloody good at it. If I sound like I'm gushing, it's because I am. I do get a bit teary eyed sometimes when I see DP playing lego with DS or reading DDs latest science magazine with her. His parents are fantastic, they dote on DCs too, and treat them exactly the same as their biological grandchildren.
Here is my AIBU. Even once we are married, DP will have no parental rights whatsoever. I asked their dad if he would consider agreeing to a legal Step Parental responsibility order. This takes no rights away from him, and his rights as a biological parent will always trump DP's. Not that it will ever be an issue because he literally doesn't give a shit about anything. Obviously he said no, because he's an utter twat. They're HIS children, and no man will ever replace him blah blah blah. And while that is true, the point of this isn't about replacing him, it's about allowing my husband the same legal rights as me with regards to DCs upbringing. God forbid, if we were in an accident and I was unconscious, DP wouldnt be able to consent to medical treatment for them and they'd have to wait until they could get hold of their dad. Which is tricky because he NEVER answers his phone. While I accept this is an unlikely scenario, it's just an example. It also means that, if something were to happen to me, their dad could take them to live with him, and DP and the rest of our families would have no legal right to see them ever again.
So AIBU in asking him to allow DP to have PR?
Any experiences of this? Anyone been on the other end and refused PR to a step parent? I'm fairly certain that if we were to go to court about it, they would grant PR to DP once we're married without ex's consent, due to his lack of any fucking interest whatsoever. They will always act in the child's best interests and anyone with even half a brain can see what would be best for my DCs. If you were to ask them both about their family, their dad wouldn't even get a mention. They don't even speak about him or ask to see him. But I don't want it to have to come to that. It's a long and expensive process, and while it's fine as a last resort, I just don't see why it has to be that way. It's ex's last ditch attempt at trying to control our lives, and I'm not having it!
That was longer than I expected....
YANBU. Go ahead. Your ex is just flexing his muscles because he doesn't want another man to be the dad he never was. Tough. He could have done something about it but obviously doesn't give enough of a shit to do so. I wouldn't even bother taking the DCs to him. If he wants to see them, he can bloody well make the effort.
You can apply to the courts for it. Ex won't have to agree if judge deems it applicable and beneficial to your dc. . Which has it will be given he has day to day responsibility for them. See a solicitor for free half an hour. .
It looks like we will have to apply through the courts, which was what I wanted to avoid. I spoke to a friend recently who was in a similar situation but a bit more extreme (her ex didn't pay any maintenance at all) and her solicitor advised her to go the whole hog and allow her husband to adopt her children. Her ex H tried to stop it but considering he'd shown no interest for 8 years, he didn't get very far. They're begininning the adoption process now which strips exH of all responsibility. That's not what we want, we just want DP recognised legally as a parent, but my ex cannot see reason. So courts it is!
YANBU - the PR for your partner sounds like a sensible provision.. I would start telling him (via email, so you have it documented) that the children are available on x day at y time and he is welcome to come and see them. You do not need to drive them to him. Hopefully that will go some way towards proving his lack of interest when you make the PR application.
Incidentally, it's not a given that the children would go to him if you were to pass away. They are at an age at which their wishes would start to be listened to. Do you have a will stating your preference and the reasons why you would prefer them to stay with your partner? (Consistency with schools, home etc)
No, no will at present, that's something else on the to-do list but DP and I spoke about it last night and we're making it a priority. Ex is spiteful and would make no effort to allow my mum/sisters and especially not DP any contact should something happen to me.
YANBU! I'm in a very very similar situation and am planning on doing the same when fiancé and I are married next year. For exactly the same reasons, sporadic maintenance payments, sees DC once a month, makes zero effort. He doesn't even know where DC goes to school!
Like your ex I doubt very much that he will agree to allowing DP parental responsibility even though like yours he does every aspect of parenting! But I fear for things like accidents, like you say, or heaven forbid I'm no longer here, his family play a major role in DCs life and I can't bear to think about them no longer being in their life and ex taking them. I've gotten very upset about this in the past.
Hope the court process goes well for you. Did they give you an indicator as to how much the process may cost?
im interested in how it works out op as my dsis is in the same situation
i didnt even know u could get a step parent order-hope it works out for you
No idea as to cost yet. I've been building myself up to ask Ex to allow it without having to go to court. So it's only really in the last few days that DP and I have spoken about going to court for it. I just keep hoping ex will change his mind. He's single and runs a business so money isn't an issue for him, and while DP and I aren't poor, we don't have bottomless pockets. I'm going to look into it this week so will post back with an update 👍🏻
Watching with interest.
I have it in my will my wishes for DD2 to remain with my husband (my parents would want this as well) but we can't afford court.
Her dad was massively abusive and isn't allowed unsupervised access which I hope would go in DH's favour if the worst was to happen.
Glad I've not had any 'YABU' as yet. I read a thread
on netmums which was basically the reverse of this and the poor wife who was applying for PR for her husbands children got absolutely slayed.
I don't think PR would make any difference in a medical situation as doctors would do what is in the child's best interests, and as they get older, they will have more say anyway.
It might help if you died and they wanted to stay with your DP/husband rather than their DF, but as they get older, this will be more their choice too.
If you died, it does not give them rights of inheritance from your DH like being adopted would - it is a bit one-sided in that respect. So if you die, pass your assets on to your DH, none of these assets would go to the DC, unless he made a Will saying that. It is worth looking at that with a solicitor before you marry.
Giving him PR would cause you problems if you later split.
Link to the form for step PR. As far as I'm aware, you can't apply unless you're married. Our wedding is in June so not sure if we'll be able to get the ball rolling yet or whether we will have to wait.
If you see a solicitor I'd get them to write to your ex in the first instance, setting out the position-that you intend to apply for the order, a brief explanation of what it means, and telling him to seek his own independent legal advice. This may not make him change his mind, but if he hears what it means from an independent solicitor of his choosing, he may decide to consent. If not, when it goes to court you have evidence that you tried to sort it out in a reasonable manner. Good luck
I have similar-ish experience but my ex is not a hopeless parent but one who has decreased his engagement slowly over many years but I think does not want that to be acknowledged by allowing step-parental responsibility..
In case it's of interest/help - our situation is that my husband has lived with me and DS1 since DS1 was 17 months old. At that age DS1 saw ex 3 times a week. Ex dropped this to twice a week when he moved in with his girlfriend when DS1 was 2 and when DS1 was age 4 he moved 100s of miles away (minimum 3 hour journey) and initially saw DS1 once every 3 ish week which decreased over the years.
Over the years since DH started living with us, we have got married and had further children. DS1 has always lived with us and DH treats him exactly the same as our other two children. From taking him to pre-school boosters to cycling and camping w/e just the two of them/with the other kids but without me, to parents evenings, wiping up diarrhoea and vomit, taking him on rugby tour with his team (without me) and hell driving an 8 to 10 hour round trip six times a year to enable DS1 to see his 'dad' and encourage him to go see his dad whilst DS1 cried and sat on DH's knee, sitting with him through geography homework - everything - DH has been there. In all meaningful senses, DH is DS1's dad (and I regret out of respect for ex not allowing DS1 to call DH 'dad' when our second was born and he wanted to be the same as his (half) brother).
Whilst DH has been parenting DS1 alongside our other two, ex has had decreasing contact with DS1 - especially after the birth of his new kids 6 years ago. DS1 's contact reduced to half-terms and holidays with weeks and months passing with no contact from his father and DS1 having no interest in contacting him when I suggested it to him. DS1 has also had increasing reluctance to visit his dad over the last 3 or 4 years and although we continue to take him up there regularly, his father has not engaged at all with helping DS1 want to visit him or listened to why he is reluctant to come and engaged with any alternatives/counselling we have suggested. After my complaining last year, ex is mostly back to skyping DS1 weekly but the reality is he hasn't parented him in any meaningful way for 6 or 7 years although he has seen DS1 6 times a year for 'his' time with him.
So - in this context - we asked ex for step-parental responsibility as DS1 moved up to secondary school last year and school wanted it for the online parent portal. Ex refused. We have sat on it because we want to make sure we do what is best for DS1. Disagreement between us and his DF would likely distress DS1 because although he doest want to go and visit him much he still has love and guilt and complicated feelings bound up in his dad but we are also considering pursuing it through court because in parallel there is also a strong sense from DS1 that he does not want to be 'lesser' in any way that the the other kids and he wants DH to equally be his parent. In an emergency situation, any medic would act in the child's best interests but it is the annoyance of day to day things (routine doctor's/audiology appointments, waivers for all the climbing/paintballing/laser quest parties etc that technically DH cannot sign). From my perspective, I feel that ex has let DS1 down badly over the years (in the first instance by showing him clearly he wasn't a priority and choosing to move so far from him) and has never prioritised his needs and this is another example of his doing so. DH parents DS1 practically, emotionally and financially and I feel too that that should be recognised legally after a decade of parenting DS1.
Sorry, after my massive self-indulgent post, I meant to say, YANBU at all. Your DH sounds like a fantastic parental influence and it is farcical that a man like your ex retains parental responsibility really but step=parental responsibility takes nothing away from him so he is just being a selfish twat refusing. I think it is different if the dad hasn't left such a parent-shaped hole which these wonderful step-father's fill - but no one makes these dad's neglect their kids and their and it is spiteful that they do so and simultaneously don't allow step-parental responsibility!!
Thanks Bythebeach It's so sad when a parent can't put their own feelings/wishes aside to act in their child's best interests. A decade is a long time, I would definitely want DP to have some kind of legal recognition after all that time.
I hadn't even really thought about the financial support that DP gives to us, but before we were together I worked full time. Since he has moved in, what he brings means I only need to work part time and he has adjusted his working hours so that he can do school runs on the 2 days I work. Just another example of his commitment to our family, and another thing I assume the court will take into account.
I think considering the scenario of what happens if you pass away is sensible. Sadly i have seen this scenario happen, family split up... Just awful. Your children are still very young. Please seek legal advice, if you are worried about money, just be open and clear about what you can afford, any decent solicitor will be open and transparent about costs.
And I agree, if ex was a dad who was involved in their upbringing etc, it wouldn't be such an issue. But he's just not, never has been and probably never will be.
Your point about emergency medical treatment is wrong. In an emergency, the doctors will do what they need to do. They don't hang about waiting for anyone to answer the phone.
Your point about what would happen to the children if you die is also not true. Even if your ex did try and stop your family from seeing them, your family are able to apply through the court for different arrangements. The court actually prefer the status quo, so you'd probably find that your DP would have a fairly strong position if anything happened to you.
If you want your partner to have PR, you would need to prove to a court why it is necessary for him to have it. How would it enhance your children's lives. I actually doubt it would make much difference tbh. He doesn't need PR to play a role in your children's lives (as already demonstrated). If he doesn't have PR, what is he prevented from doing?
Just a thought. Could you get a free hour of legal advice as I'm wondering if the children views would be taken into account should something bad happen to you?
Also I'm thinking their stepdad would have the right to consent to medical treatment as he would be in loco parentis just as a childminder or teacher would be by being left by their parent in a chosen persons care.
So maybe you don't need anything official after all.
Or for an extra £25 see here
No Isadora Step parents can't consent to medical treatment without PR.
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