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Helping someone through separation/divorce/custody battle

(18 Posts)
WattleOn Sat 21-Nov-20 22:33:26

My friend is going through a messy divorce. He cheated, she did the pick me dance and lost. 5 years on, he is happily living with the OW and she is bitter and depressed.

He has now lodged a petition for 50/50 parenting (it has been eow until now) and wants to finalise the financial settlement. She has shown me the documents and he has suggested a 70/30 split in her favour.

He has accused her of child neglect and possible child abuse. Social services have been involved.

She is depressed and his allegations of child neglect are not completely unfounded although he has dramatised things somewhat. This is taking its toll on her and on then kids(issues at school etc).

However, she is insistent on fighting this, particularly the custody issue.

I don’t think it is a fight she can win but I want to support her.

If you have been in my friend’s situation, what advice could I give that will actually get through to her? She really doesn’t want to listen to anything that isn’t 100% in agreement with her own opinion.

I want to be supportive but am I being unreasonable to tell her that her parenting isn’t perfect and he should do 50/50?

If I do that, how can I continue to be supportive?

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WattleOn Sun 22-Nov-20 00:30:01

Bump?

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Holyrivolli Sun 22-Nov-20 00:39:56

If her depression is affecting her ability to parent properly then surely it is good if the father steps up.

To be a good friend I think you’ll need to gently help her get the assistance that she needs to be a good mother. It is not in the kids best interests to be stuck in the middle of their parents at war in court. A 70:30 split with 50:50 access seems fair in the circumstances. What does she want?

WattleOn Sun 22-Nov-20 01:17:08

She is happy with EOW. I think it would be good for both her and the kids for it to be 50/50.

70/30 is, I think, possibly on the low side as she has paid the mortgage and bills on her own since he left. The house has gone up in value considerably in that time period. I don’t know what she wants other than ‘more’. To be fair, I don’t think she knows what she wants either.

She won’t listen to anyone - her parents, me, her brother - about custody. She has just cut off contact with her mother because of this.

I think that her depression is clouding her judgement. But I know I can’t make her ‘snap out of it’.

I’ve tried to gently point out that 50/50 is good for everyone but she won’t accept that.

Should I be blunt? (Didn’t work for her mum).
Should I smile and nod knowing that his barrister can and will rip her to shreds on the stand?

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Fudgsicles Sun 22-Nov-20 01:34:30

I wouldn't engage in this chat with her. Personally I couldn't support a friend who was neglecting her children and expected to have them all but EOW. If she can't be bothered with them why does she want so much custody?

CloudyVanilla Sun 22-Nov-20 05:58:00

It's such a difficult situation. As a mother, the thought of having my children only 50% of the time makes my heart ache.

I don't think being an inadequate mother makes that desire to be a mother all the same go away.

So I don't think she will ever stop feeling this way. What she needs is support in taking accountability for herself and addressing the reality her kids are living in.

What kind of neglect are we talking about here? Is she struggling to do things like get them to school on time, get them to appointments because of her depression? Or are they coming home to no dinner, no clothes that fit, no heating on for long periods etc?

That would make a difference in my attitude too

gmailconfusion2 Sun 22-Nov-20 09:28:21

My ex aunt has depression, she's been absent for 480 days in the last two years, including when the kids grandfather died and birthdays, with my uncle doing all of the care as she just wasn't there. She's got custody with him having every other weekend despite him having logs of when she was absent, the church and schools support, child wishes and counsellors! Judge still gave them to her.

WattleOn Sun 22-Nov-20 09:45:10

HolyRivoli - thanks for responding earlier. I’ve directed her to the freedom programme a couple of times but after an initial spark, she seems to have dropped it. But I think that is characteristic of depression.

cloudyvanilla - thanks for responding. her depression manifests as difficulty in getting the kids to school on time, difficulty in keeping appointments, sleeping a lot (one of the ex’s allegations) and she has either allowed or asked the eldest (her DS11) to look after and feed the younger children.

gmailconfusion2 - she will find that encouraging, thanks. Any idea why the judge ruled that way?

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LemonTT Sun 22-Nov-20 09:46:46

After 5 years of she is stuck in a fog of depression, bitterness or anger then she needs professional help.

There are separate issues here as well. She needs to consider what level of shared parenting is best for the children. School and work usually reduce the possible permutations people can arrive at. How old are the children.

70:30 is a fairly standard split all things considered. If she lived there for 5 years then she would be responsible for the living costs (if she got child support from him during this time). If she didn’t want his stake in the property to grow then she should have reached a settlement years ago.

RolandSchitt Sun 22-Nov-20 09:55:44

You can quietly remain in the background while this plays out. And then be there for her however it ends up. I don't think you necessarily need to be explicit in your feelings, as the courts should (hopefully) do their job. I would think 50/50 would be good for the children if she is struggling - that isn't intended as a slur on her, anyone can suffer with MH difficulties, and I can see why she wouldn't be able to acknowledge what might be best for the children right now.

You say social services has been involved, is she engaging with them and seeking help for her depression?

gmailconfusion2 Sun 22-Nov-20 10:44:38

@wattleOn we have no idea, there are no concerns with him,, no abuse, he was the sole provider, she moved on with someone has a problematic record

Pea1nAp0d5 Sun 22-Nov-20 11:22:56

50/50 childcare isn't that so that one parent doesn't pay any child maintenance
Each parent pays for the children when they live with them

Ultimately, it is better to get the divorce finalized and both people can have a clean break
Although they will be connected due to the children

CarolinaPink Sun 22-Nov-20 11:29:37

Whether 50/50 is reasonable will depend upon the detail of their respective circumstances.

What isn't reasonable, though, is for anybody to decide to fight matters involving children simply because they want to have their say, or their day in court, or as a matter of principle.

I used to work as a lawyer dealing with these issues, and my heart always sank when clients would try to brush aside sensible advice because they just wanted to fight things out. Those who are already on bad terms with their ex have no idea how much worse things definitely get after they've spent time in a courtroom slinging allegations around, and ultimately it will always be the children who suffer as a result.

I think good friends would remind parents that the needs of the children have to come first, and that they should listen hard to the advice of an experienced family lawyer.

MitziK Sun 22-Nov-20 12:08:06

Being late for school, missing an appointment and being tired (because she's been working to pay the mortgage when her ex wouldn't?) and asking an 11 year old to put some bread in the toaster, for example, doesn't sound indicative of neglect severe enough to remove the children from her half the time.

She does sound exhausted from the stresses of being messed around, probably at least partly emotionally abused and manipulated, and is now expected to hand the kids over once they're a bit easier to look after and there's some money to be made from the house.

I think that as long as she is aware that he will use her tiredness as a weapon against her, the best position is to be blandly supportive and make sure she gets a great family law solicitor, not the cheapest one she can find. And to try her best to hide the anger at his treatment of her, as it's all too easy for somebody to capitalise on a snappy response to say 'See how unstable she is? Told you she was mental'.

CodenameVillanelle Sun 22-Nov-20 12:12:42

MitziK

Being late for school, missing an appointment and being tired (because she's been working to pay the mortgage when her ex wouldn't?) and asking an 11 year old to put some bread in the toaster, for example, doesn't sound indicative of neglect severe enough to remove the children from her half the time.

She does sound exhausted from the stresses of being messed around, probably at least partly emotionally abused and manipulated, and is now expected to hand the kids over once they're a bit easier to look after and there's some money to be made from the house.

I think that as long as she is aware that he will use her tiredness as a weapon against her, the best position is to be blandly supportive and make sure she gets a great family law solicitor, not the cheapest one she can find. And to try her best to hide the anger at his treatment of her, as it's all too easy for somebody to capitalise on a snappy response to say 'See how unstable she is? Told you she was mental'.

You're downplaying what the OP said - why is that?
Sleeping late regularly so the children don't get to school, sleeping after school so an 11 year old has to parent their siblings and failing to ensure children receive medical attention IS neglect.
It wouldn't meet the threshold for removal under public law (social services) but given this is private law and is one parent looking to assume greater care because the other parent is neglecting them, it absolutely does meet the threshold.

OP you're unlikely to get through to her but equally it won't help her to collude with the idea that she's going to 'win' in court. I'd say take a step back and support her if you can when she's ready to accept it.

MorningNinja Sun 22-Nov-20 12:17:01

I'd support her with her depression but stay away from divorce discussions. The DC sound like that will be far better off with their DF. Who knows, perhaps she might be the one with the less time with them.

WattleOn Sun 22-Nov-20 21:48:48

LemonTT - she has said she is seeing a therapist but I am not sure how often and I get the impression I they talk more about her family of origin rather than the family she has created. She isn’t working (gets disability benefits for depression rather than jobseekers) and the kids are 11/9/7/6.

RolandSchitt - I think she has had limited involvement from social services and I am not that it is ongoing involvement. She has been investigated and spoken to regarding the lateness to school, for example and she is doing (slightly) better now.

CarolinaPink - I agree 100% but think I have had a bit of a cop out. I have asked what her lawyer has said but she brushes off anything that doesn’t fit with her own works view. As a result, I am not sure if her lawyer really thinks she has a chance or if my friend is only hearing what she wants to hear.

Being late for school, missing an appointment and being tired (because she's been working to pay the mortgage when her ex wouldn't?) and asking an 11 year old to put some bread in the toaster, for example, doesn't sound indicative of neglect severe enough to remove the children from her half the time.

MitziK and CodenameVillanelle - I do think these things, over a period of time rather than one offs, constitute neglect. And it is indicative of a chaotic home environment. At the same time, I don’t think they are, in themselves, reasons to take the kids away from her 50% of the time. But she needs to prove that it is better for the children to have her as the primary carer rather than go 50/50 and in current circumstances, I don’t think she can do that.

There is no doubt in my mind that 50/50 would be a good (best?) option for everyone.

MorningNinja - I suppose that is the crux of it - how do I support someone with depression that is completely tied to her divorce? I don’t think the two are divisible at the moment and other than ‘there, there’ I don’t know what to say. Depression isn’t something you can snap out of or be talked out of and I feel really frustrated because I just don’t know what to do to help her.

Getting the divorce over with would help her but at this stage I doubt it will cure her.

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WattleOn Sun 22-Nov-20 21:49:18

Posted too soon - thank you all fir your advice.I do appreciate it.

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