To deny my mother access to her grandchildren? What would a court say?(50 Posts)
I have a twenty month old son and am due another baby in November. I haven't seen my mother in nearly a year - I've told her she's not welcome to visit us until she acknowledges and confronts her mental health problems / changes her behaviour. So basically I'm 'denying access' to her grandchildren.
My reasons are many; I posted a thread when DS was 11 weeks old that contains some of them. Her behaviour has always been odd and unpredictable, she has an unaddressed paranoid personality disorder which dictates most of it. When I was a child she was extremely loving and nurturing (hence my feelings of doubt and guilt now) but there was a lot of instability - periods of homelessness (actual roaming of the streets and living in tents etc when I was six); constant moving around, taking me out of school; lots of changing of names; lies about my paternity. We were always on the run from something. I admit I carry resentment about a lot of this (in particular the dad thing), but had never intended to let any of it interfere with her relationship with her grandchildren.
It's the continuing low level mad and unwelcome behaviour that has led to me pulling up the drawbridge. She got worse when DS was born (see previous thread), and I suppose I still feel pretty personally pissed off by how much she let me down since I became a mother - I could have done with some support and instead got unhinged behaviour, vanadlised mail, laptops in the bath, and then just a long and dreary refusal to acknowledge any of it, or take steps to change, despite my pleading. I think becoming a parent myself has made me far, far less tolerant of her behaviour too. Situations I previously would have considered my duty to manage for her soon came to appear ridiculous. Our last meeting ended in a row in a car park about private detectives (with me holding DS throughout - a ground rule I'd attempted to lay down was no discussions of the paranoid stuff in front of him), after which I put her on a train home. Instead of going home she went to live in Victoria bus station for a few nights before ringing my husband to ask for her bus fare the rest of the way. Her casual way of normalising this sort of behaviour is amazing and always makes me doubt myself a bit - I'm often left thinking that perhaps I'm overreacting and that going to stay in bus stations is actually a perfectly valid detour (she said she as 'people watching'). All of her visits have involved me treading on eggshells, being pounced on with accusations of conspiracy against her, and just bucketloads of tension; and she'd wander the house a fair bit at night, which drove me particularly nuts because I would be up half the night myself feeding DS, and it was very distracting and unsettling. She also has a lot of pseudonyms/aliases and doesn't like it when anyone questions this. They are 'precautions'. I'm not able to write to my grandmother for any reason, as she intercepts her mail. I'm however continually suspected of conspiring against her in this way (which is how she justifies reading any letters). I don't think my last birthday or Christmas cards to my grandmother got through my mother's firewall.
She's never offered any practical or real emotional help to me in my adult life, apart from for a few weeks after my c section with DS when she stayed and helped with the laundry. She had a selfish reaction to my wedding announcement (also the wedding itself), wasn't really interested in my PhD while I was doing it or once I got it (when she asked if I ever wondered what the point of it was), I didn't go to any of my graduations because I had no parent to invite, and she helped to derail my early career in London by turning up homeless on my doorstep and expecting me to house her in my sublet room, then disappearing onto the streets when I couldn't. She was missing for many months before turning up at her mother's, where she has lived ever since (13 years or so). She's never held down a job or had any friends or a partner, all because of the mental health issues she refuses to acknowledge. She is entitled to a state pension now, but isn't claiming it, because of paranoia issues.
Occasionally she asks to visit. Occasionally she says I'm blackmailing her. I'm mostly NC with her, have blocked her number, but I did write to say I'm pregnant again. The very sporadic contact I do make with her always consistently asks her to consider putting us first and see a Doctor so that we can be a family. I say that the door is open if she can just take that first step. She calls these 'nasty letters' and says it's blackmail.
AIBU? I don't think she's aware that she could pursue this matter of access legally, but what would a court say, I wonder?
One additional factor is that I can't physically be around her now, the thought makes me feel very sick and anxious. So contact with her grandchildren would have to be without be there, with my husband. I'm obviously keen to protect them from any unpleasantness and confusion, and to me that means no contact with her.
Long post, extra fries to all those who got through it
She has no legal rights to have access to your children. So a court probably wouldn't say anything.
I don’t think I’d be able to let her near my children, and I don’t think the courts could say anything... I could be wrong so wait for some more advice.
Where are you? I think in the uk grandparents have no legal rights of access so don’t worry. I think you are making the right decision for you and yours. And I am a nanna.
Congratulations on your many successes despite your upbringing! You sound great.
I agree that a court wouldn't have the slightest interest in forcing contact between her and your DC. Please breathe more easily and don't feel guilty about having reduced (or zero) contact with her. She can't be the parent you want.
I know there are moves to support grandparents rights, but I do think the grandparent would have to do all the leg work and pay the solicitor. So I think much depends on whether the OP's mother would actually do this.
Nothing has changed yet wrt the law.
I have a similar MIL, with a long history of mental health issues, unstable behaviour, disappearing and having to be reported missing. She also emotionally abused my DH throughout his childhood, and continued to try and exert her authority over her adult children through a bizarre divide and rule tactic.
We went NC just before we conceived our first child. I'm pregnant with our second. DH, his words, 'doesn't want her anywhere near them'.
Yes courts might be changing to allow grandparents access but NOT in situations like these. Your DM has no rights over your children whatsoever, and neither does my MIL.
Don’t worry about Court forcing you to let your mother see your children. Currently, grandparents don’t have “rights”, children do. Parents have responsibilities and it sounds as though you’re meeting those brilliantly.
In the other unlikely event of your mother making an application for contact, your description of her behaviour suggests she’s unlikely to succeed, or see any application through.
Emotional distance from your mother sounds the way to go. Look after yourself, your children and your relationship.
Surely she is unlikely to take this to court? Has she threatened or suggested this?
I think the facts of the case you lead to a decision in your favour.
I am sorry you didn't get the mother you deserved and I am sure from what you have written that your children will have a better mother. Becoming a mother does bring our own childhood into sharp perspective.
Grandparents have no rights to access at all. The only circumstance where access may be granted would be where a grandparent has had significant input in to raising a child.
Unfortunately women like Gloria Hunniford are under the impression that all grandparents are living, caring, supportive and wonderful and as such are pushing for grandparents' "rights". They are wrong. Really really wrong (although I understand their issue when children are withheld due to acrimonious divorce).
Op don't worry, your mother has no rights at all to your children.
I am recently in the courts for this. The person in question is not even blood related to my child yet I am having to fight for it in court. . I am England.
It sounds like you have an obligation to protect your children from her.
Don't worry about the courts, if she's too paranoid to claim a pension then she isn't likely to want to go to court.
If she’s too paranoid to claim a state pension, I imagine she wouldn’t see through a court case demanding access to her grandchildren (which is currently not a legal right anyway).
You’re right to protect your children from her chaos and paranoia.
She has no rights here - and on a practical level, any sane person in authority is going to think that her having access to the children is more likely to end badly then her being completely cut off.
I'm so sorry that you are going through all this at such a tough time and hope you have some good support.
My grandmother has similar health issues and it was always surprising to me how many people around us just couldnt conceive of a parent acting so extremely and would always prefer to imagine a more standard family falling out and tell my mum to keep the door open etc - if you are hearing this, rest assured that your DCs will know the truth and will be grateful to you once they are older! My siblings and I certainly are x
Of course your first priority is to protect your children from contact with an unhinged and potentially dangerous grandmother, and I fully understand that you do not want to be involved with her.
I just can’t help wondering though, given your description of her, whether she is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and could benefit enormously from a psychiatric referral and possibly antipsychotic medication? Just a thought, and I do see it might be hard to persuade her to present to a doctor for assessment.
She would have to pay to go to court and be organised enough to arrange it. Even if she managed all that the court would be incredibly unlikely to grant her any rights.
Please don't worry.
I think grandparents have the right to apply to court for permission to apply for contact and if permission granted it proceeds to court?
Don’t know anyone this has happened too but do know lots of people seem to have serious concerns about relatives along these or similar lines.
Hopefully someone else who has experinced a court application will come along with more advice or Verity will say a little more about how she is in this position.
A court would likely see that she would be damaging for your child.
Clearly she is delusional, but it’s very very difficult to persuade someone who is delusional accept help. Unless she becomes enough of a danger to herself or others that she could be sectioned the reality is she probably isn’t going to get the help she needs.
I am so sorry - please protect yourself
YANBU at all, you sound as though you've been very forgiving over the years but now you have to put yourself and your babies first. No court would agree contact with the litany of issues you've described and current UK law gives no rights of contact to grandparents anyway, regardless of what the daily mail says
Grandparents in this country have no automatic rights of access to see their grandchildren. I would not worry myself unduly about this; the onus is also very much on her to prove that a relationship with her grandchild is beneficial to the child (not her) in question.
She was not a good parent to you when growing up and she has not fundamentally changed since your own childhood. Your obligation here is to protect yourself and your children from such malign influences. You would not have tolerated this from a friend, your mother is no different.
You may also want to read and or post on the "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on the Relationships pages of MN.
Well done, you! You've accomplished so much, despite your obstacles. Don't doubt yourself.
I don't remember where to find it, but there's a really good article about living with a [narcissistic] parent - the analogy was of a hearing child growing up with deaf parents: they obviously are exposed to and incorporate daily habits that are outside the norm, even though they're not wired that way.
It's something like that that makes you doubt yourself - you've managed to break free of the abuse (and, yes, however much it's an illness, foisting it upon a vulnerable child and taking no steps to get treatment is selfish and abusive) and build a healthy life for you and your children. KOKO.
Babdoc did you see that the op's mother has refused to go to a doctor due to paranoia? The op has promised an ongoing relationship as soon as she does this, which I think is extremely generous.
Op my Dh was the gentlest man alive when he was stable and on meds, and a lovely father. When he came off his meds he was completely unpredictable and had he refused to restart meds I would have left him and kept ds away from him. Ultimately he harmed himself and only by luck and some frantic phone calls did ds not witness his death.
Protect your children and trust your intuition. You know your mother is unwell and has poor instincts for keeping children safe - none better. In the extremely unlikely event that she starts a court case, get yourself a solicitor specialising in family law and let them advise you. There are no 'grandparents rights'. I would consider writing a factual chronology of your childhood with any periods spent homeless etc, and email yourself so you have it time and date stamped.
I hasten to add that it's you NOT incorporating your mum's madness in your daily life is remarkable and praiseworthy.
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