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Shared Parenting: getting me down

(104 Posts)
MakingAMess Wed 06-Oct-10 08:19:48

Is anyone out there doing a shared parenting agreement with their ex?

We have two kids (DS - 4, DD - 19 months).

We have 'agreed 'a 50/50 split as this is the only way we can avoid ending up in court.

The kids seem fine so far (has been in place since August). Very little anxiety / crying etc.

However, I feel dreadful. Feel guilty for 'abandoning them' 50% of the time and terrified that the long-term effects of this on their emotional development will be negative. Particularly on the little one as she is at a critical age for identity forming etc.

I spend every other weekend without them in tears. I don't have any relatives or close friends in the area. Moved here 9 years ago because of ex-husband's job but have never worked in the area and only have friends through baby groups etc. Don't want to see them at the weekends because they have their kids, and I don't have mine.

There are two reasons why I am not applying for residency. Mainly I don't want a messy and expensive legal battle as that's not in the children's interests. Secondly, the kids seem to be ok with this arrangement...

Just wondering if anyone else has been there with kids this age, and how they got through it.

Niceguy2 Wed 06-Oct-10 09:06:04

Hi

When I first split with my ex, we started with a shared agreement. Like you I didn't want to fight it out in court. My kids were similar age, slightly older.

I think you need to look at this less as you "abandoning them" but more as they get to spend quality time with their dad. And what can be more natural than that?

I assume then that your ex can take reasonable care of them in which case as long as you can put your differences to one side and work in the interests of the kids then both kids will do fine.

The key thing is that they are happy.

Lastly the upside of a 50:50 split is that you can put your own life back together easier. It may seem a million miles away right now but at some point you will want to venture back out into the real world, get some friends and in time meet another man. It's hard to do that with 2 young kids hanging around all the time.

Hope that helps

MakingAMess Wed 06-Oct-10 09:29:09

niceguy2 - thanks. you are right that the key thing is that they are happy. and they are. in a way that almost makes it harder for me, because i am so unhappy. at least if i felt they were unhappy, i could apply for residency... but they seem fine. and you are right - they do need their father. i suppose it's all very 'woe is me' and i would rather they needed their mother more than they appear to!

at the moment, i don't want to make the most of my 'freedom' at weekends because i am too miserable without them. and i don't want to have free time. i don't want to have lie-ins at the weekend. i want to be woken up by them at stupid o'clock and put them to bed at 7pm and spend the next hour picking food and play-doh out of the carpet.

cestlavielife Wed 06-Oct-10 10:10:08

does sound a fantastic arrangement - as niceguy said "The key thing is that they are happy. "

so now to make you happy. usual stuff - get a hobby, spend itme in the garden if you have one, take up jogging, cycling (phsyical exercise good for endorphins) etc . voluntary work?

and maybe ask for some counselling sessions thru GP just to get you thru the "bereavement" and move forward.

MakingAMess Wed 06-Oct-10 10:56:57

cestlavielife - i already run 40 miles a week wink

you are right though - it is like bereavement. and i physically crave them when they are not with me. i am already only anti-depressants and have had a tonne of counselling (pre- and post-split). i just need to get used to the separation from them, i guess. much as i do not want to.

Niceguy2 Wed 06-Oct-10 12:30:52

Hi again

Right now what you are going through is very much akin to a bereavement. As such you are perfectly entitled to feel unhappy, cry etc.

This right now will seem unbelievable but one day these emotions will pass. You'll start to enjoy having some "me" time.

I remember getting counselling too. Heck i remember calling the Samaritan's a few times, not because i was going to kill myself but just because I was so lonely and just needed someone to talk to.

I don't remember exactly when things started to change for me but the key was to push myself to go out. Do new things, never turn down an offer. As scary as it was at first and as much as it would have been easier to wallow in self-pity, i made myself go out. One day I just realised that I was happy.

colditz Wed 06-Oct-10 12:32:17

just a warning, if you don't apply for residency, and your ex does, he might get it and then could decide to stop the shared care agreement and keep full residency, in which you would get 2 weekends a month.

MakingAMess Wed 06-Oct-10 12:46:05

yes, colditz and that is my fear. although we are doing this through mediation and will have our child contact arrangement formalised through our solicitor and ultimately it will be presented at our divorce etc, so it is as formal as we can make it.

but if, in the future, he decides to go for residency, would the court not think 'you allowed your 18 month old baby to be with your husband 50% of the time. what mother would do that?'

my solicitor thinks i should apply for residency and would get it. but it would not be uncontested and there would be a hairy fight. and it is not as though i am denying his right to substantial contact. but the 50/50 split is corpsing me, and i don't ever want to get used to it.

of course i am gutted that, for the last 4 years, he has barely lifted a finger and been the workaholic father who can't get home until 2 mins before bedtime (if indeed he makes it back then). but now that we are separated he is claiming 50% of them. having contributed so little, he walks away with so much.

cestlavielife Wed 06-Oct-10 12:55:07

i dont get it though - if you have 50/50 and it all going well - why would there be any reason for a switch to not 50/50?

if 50/50 is working for the children, why change?

colditz Wed 06-Oct-10 12:59:14

Ahhhh. Workaholic turned Angeldad.

he doesn't pay you any maintenance, does he.

CostanzaBonanza Wed 06-Oct-10 14:04:04

You may well be entitled to legal aid if it does end up in court.

How does you 50/50 residency work?one week with you one with him and they attend the same school?(is the 4 year old at school yet?)

CostanzaBonanza Wed 06-Oct-10 14:05:38

i only ask because once the children are at school full time it may be disruptive for them to switch homes every week

MakingAMess Wed 06-Oct-10 15:55:47

no he doesn't pay me maintenance and unfortunately i'm not entitled to legal aid. our earnings are on a par - i suspect he does bring home more than me but he claims not to know how much he earns, never opens bank statements and has on-line payslips which he never checks...

all of this will come out in the financial disclosure when we divorce anyway. i have certainly earned FAR less than him in the last 4 years as i have had two periods of maternity leave and have worked p/t since the kids were born (and still do).

yes - angeldad has now dropped one day a fortnight at work so that he can have a friday off when it is his turn to have the kids on a friday. because friday was my non-working day and he wanted to have the same access to them as me...

constanza - DS has started school (just). we are doing 2, 2 and 3, so mon-tues with parent 1, weds-thurs with parent 2, fri - sat - sun with parent 1; then repeat. so we each have them for 7 days out of 14 and alternate weekends.

to-and-fro in the week is managed (to a large extent) by the nanny, who looks after the kids in both our houses depending on whose day it is.

kids don't seem at all bothered by the to-ing and fro-ing. DS is delighted to have 2 lots of toys; two bedrooms; two sets of bedding etc... DD is too young to notice (yet).

MakingAMess Wed 06-Oct-10 16:04:07

and yes, cestlavie - it is working for the kids. but it isn't working for me - at the moment. and i know that's really not what matters, but it is hard...

so i was wondering if anyone else had done what i am trying to do and how they got through it.

Niceguy2 Wed 06-Oct-10 16:16:23

Who gets child benefit? Do you get tax credits?

MakingAMess Wed 06-Oct-10 16:18:13

the child benefit is in my name because i applied for it but it goes into a joint account. he has said he wants child benefit for one of the kids... (not that it will matter anyway after 2013 as we won't qualify!). i don't plan to contest that. what's the point?

no don't get tax credits.

colditz Wed 06-Oct-10 17:07:53

Er, because the child benefit receiver is THE parent, in the eyes of the law. If he is receiving child benefit for one of the children, you basically don't get a say in where that child goes to school, whether that child is innoculated, or where that child lives. he could pick her up and move her 300 miles awyay and not bring her back. There would be nothing you could do about it - chi9ld benefit = residency in family courts.

Currently you have it. Fucking hold onto it.

Niceguy2 Wed 06-Oct-10 17:56:15

CB is classed as the passport benefit and whom the CSA will take as the resident parent (in the absence of a court order).

The part about school is incorrect. Since you are married, he has PR. By extension he has a say on school and can at any time pick the kids up from school without your permission.

What you need to do is make sure its in your name.

I do wonder why a workaholic dad suddenly has become happily 50:50. Could it be an attempt to avoid paying maintenance? Perhaps I am too cynical?

Either way, even with a 50:50 split, under the rules, he should still be paying you child maintenance. With 2 kids it should be 20% minus a half cos he has them 50-50. Therefore he should be paying around 10% of his monthly net salary.

I urge you to get the ball rolling with him. He doesn't have to like it, he just has to pay it. This may trigger a court case but at least you then realise his true motives.

ChocHobNob Wed 06-Oct-10 18:17:36

If they both earn the same and have 50/50 care, why push for maintenance? Do you pay the majority of the costs OP or are they shared? If they're shared, applying for maintenance seems quite petty IMO. To use it as a tool to see where his priorities lie is hardly fair on the children who are happy spending equal time with both their Mum and Dad.

It is very cynical to think he's only cut his hours down at work to avoid paying maintenance. Why can it not just be that he doesn't want to become an Every Other Weekend Dad and he loves his children as much as his ex does?

This does seem like an issue you need to address OP. Your children are happy. That's the main concern. You need to find a way of making yourself happy.

I think it's quite sad that this has turned into advising someone to cut down the amount of time a child spends with their other parent when they are very happy with the situation at present. It's normally non resided parents who are not interested or living up to their title of "parent" that are being criticised on here. This parent is and is being criticised. Seems like some can't win.

MakingAMess Wed 06-Oct-10 19:11:43

interesting re: child benefit. my solicitor told me it didn't really make any difference and was just a technicality.

chochobnob - not interested in maintenance. i probably do pay more out for the kids than he does, because i do more of the organisation / writing cheques / paying nanny her fuel / organising things for DD to attend etc. i don't want his money though. and i don't need it either.

the point of my original post really was to see if others had felt the same as i do in a similar situation. i have trawled the internet and there is lots of stuff on how joint residency is good for kids and can work as well or better than other residency scenarios. and there is lots of stuff about how it affects them at different ages etc. but there isn't much out there (even on shared parenting support websites) about how it affects the parents. again - not the primary concern because clearly it is the kids that matter. but on the days i don't have the kids, i feel like there is no point to my life. and it's what to do about that really...

ChocHobNob Wed 06-Oct-10 19:46:45

If you're feeling depressed maybe an appointment with your GP?

I've not been in your situation but I can completely see where you are coming from. It must be awful spending so much time apart from your children, but the emphasis is always on what is best for the children and the other parent having to put up with it. If a father is complaining he wants to see his child more often, the normal response is, well it isn't your wants and needs that are important.

I also don't think you need to be concerned about him applying for sole residency and getting it, with you becoming an Every Other Weekend Mum. The courts like to keep the status quo for the children if they're happy, your ex would need a very good reason to change it.

I hope you get some words of advice and/or encouragement from others who have been in your situation and managed to overcome the emotions regarding being apart for so long.

jumpforjoy Wed 06-Oct-10 20:01:08

Making, I work in a secondary school, and I know this is a long way off for you at the moment, but the children I know who have shared parenting are a little confused at times, with PE kit or homework being left at one house or another.

Your seperartion is in the early stages still and it will get easier letting the kids go to their dads. My Ex was like yours, coming home 2 mins before bedtime, and leaving for work before they got up, only to be the perfect exciting dad when it was his weekends.

As a previous thread said, accept all invitations on offer, however hard it is, as it is all part of the healing process.

Niceguy2 Wed 06-Oct-10 20:25:50

Chochobnob. I hope you weren't implying I was advising OP to cut down access to the other parent. I haven't. All I have done is question his motives. Yes I hope I am just being cynical but then if he's always been the work all hours and never do much with the kids type then all of a sudden is angeldad then it is a valid concern.

Re: CB, your solicitor probably means it in the context of residency. In that case it is a technicality.

However, in terms of benefits and CSA then its not a technicality. It's also a symbolic thing. You may feel you don't need it now but honestly do not give it up. Take the cash and transfer it if you must but keep it in your name.

You may feel you don't want maintenance now but again I'd suggest you think about asking for a bit. Even if its only as a symbolic gesture. This is what I get. In the 8 years I've had the kids, its never gone up a penny. But if we ever had to go back to court, its one of the things which builds a picture of who is the primary carer. Ie. she's giving me maintenance....therefore she's accepting the fact I am primary carer.

At the end of the day, there's nothing wrong with 50:50 as long as the kids are happy and not confused. I agree with jumpforjoy that it can be confusing and certainly the kids adapted better at school when we changed to a every other weekend routine with their mum. BUT I'd never suggest that alone is a valid reason to switch.

NoelEdmondshair Thu 07-Oct-10 12:32:33

Mess - I would be more upset about a nanny looking after my children whilst I worked if I had shared residency. Can't you reduce nanny's hours, thus reducing costs, work less hours yourself, claim maintenance and have the children during the day on ex-H's residency days, then hand them over when he gets home from work.

Don't know if I've expressed the above very well confused. It's not an attack on working mums or employers of nannies but this just seems to be tearing you apart sad

MakingAMess Fri 08-Oct-10 08:56:06

thanks all.

NEsh - i really can't reduce the nanny's hours. that would be unfair to her. i do WFH as far as i can on the days that i have the kids, so at least i get to see them quite a bit on those days. there is no WAY i would risk trying to see them on a day when they are with my ex. even though i live 2 mins from the school (and ex lives 9 miles away).

at the moment the kids are fine with it, but the older one did get a bit anxious this morning about when he would see me again (sun 6pm) and asked why i couldn't walk him to school this morning. 'because it's your daddy's day' (his dad had come to get him at 8am). sad

it is so funny hearing about your ex - jumpforjoy. my ex has turned into superdad at the weekend. packs the days FULL of activities - too full in my opinion for a 4yr old and 1yr old. welsh heritage museum in cardiff in the morning (an hour's drive away); then home for 1yr old to nap for an hour; then medieval ship in the afternoon and a trip on the transporter bridge before home for tea. then i ask the 4 yr old what he has done that day, and he says 'i did colouring' (at breakfast time...)

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