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Bad situation with FIL – do grandparents have a right to see their grandkids?

(26 Posts)
ScarlettCrossbones Wed 13-May-09 16:36:30

Would be grateful for some opinions, thanks. I'll try and keep it brief!

DP and FIL have had a major fallout and it looks as if it's the end of their relationship. FIL has lost his nasty temper with him once too often and refuses to accept responsibility for, or apologise for, the verbal abuse and violent arguments between his parents that DP had to experience when he was growing up. They didn't finally split up until DP was something ridiculous like 25.

At first, DP didn't want to allow his father access to the kids again, but I managed to persuade him that this punishment didn't really fit the crime and that would mean the kids were just being used as a weapon between them. I think FIL is entirely in the wrong here, has done DP a lot of damage over the years, and would be perfectly happy if I never clapped eyes on him again, but I think it's probably wrong to deny him access to the kids. Is it? DP will not communicate with him again so it's up to me.

The only possibility I can see is for FIL to come to the house and spend time with the kids downstairs while I bugger off upstairs. I really have no desire to sit and exchange pleasantries with him as my opinion of him has plummeted from slightly flaky and unreliable to fairly unhinged, possibly psychotically so. I'm not happy with him taking DS (4) out again, as he used to do maybe once every 5-6 weeks, although I don't know if my feeling here is valid as I don't think for one second he'd do anything to harm the kids. He's just not particularly intelligent (sorry if that sounds arrogant) and thinks that problems should be resolved by shouting and swearing. (He's sent abusive, aggressive texts to DP since the argument saying things like "CALL ME IF YOU DARE AND I WILL WIPE THE FLOOR WITH YOU!" Nice.)

Has anyone else been in a similar situation, or can anyone else see a way forward?

Oops, sorry, that wasn't brief!
TIA! xx

Littlefish Wed 13-May-09 16:43:57

I think that given the on-going abusive nature of their relationship, I would not be happy for him to spend time with my children.

If I were your dp, I would feel quite hurt that you are facilitating the relationship with a man who is at best, abusive and bullying. Why do you want your dcs to have a relationship with him? What do they gain from spending time with a man who has no respect for his own son, and is prepared to shout at and bully him?

MsHighwater Wed 13-May-09 16:48:09

Rather than ask if grandparents have a right to contact with their grandchildren, ask yourself if your children's right to contact with their grandparents outweighs the potential for harm (of any kind) coming to them through continued contact.

If you consider that question honestly (and are prepared to re-consider it as and when required) you might find the way forward easier to see.

Good luck.

SarahL2 Wed 13-May-09 16:48:17

Why would you want this man near your children?

You say he's "fairly unhinged, possibly psychotically so" and "thinks that problems should be resolved by shouting and swearing" and nothing winds even sane people up like children can!

I would be petrified of what he would do to my child. After all, if he can abuse his own son to the point that he doesn't want anything to do with him, why would he care about someone elses kids? - especially the kids of the son he thinks he has a right to abuse!?!

But then I admit I am biased. I was brought up in a house with a physically and emotionally abusive father and my parents didn't split up till I was 21. I haven't spoken to him in 13 years and no-one in my faily thinks it's strange that he didn't get invited to my wedding and will never see my children. I am petrified of what he might think he has a right to do to them. This man thought it was OK to hit and shout at his own daughter after all!

I would cut your DH's father out now before he has the chance to let your children down too..

Indiechick Wed 13-May-09 16:51:55

I don't get why you would want this guy near your children, he sounds awful. Think you should respect your dh's point of view and stay away.

ScarlettCrossbones Wed 13-May-09 16:59:06

Thanks, Sarah, maybe I'm being too liberal, and I really am considering cutting him out if I think it's the right thing to do. But I've got no doubt that FIL loves the kids and I honestly can't see him losing his temper with THEM – because they're not DP! He thinks DP is selfish because he never phones, it's always the other way round. But that's because they have (had) a crap relationship anyway, and he never particularly relished talking to him! Plus, he's never been physically abusive to DP.

I don't know, I really don't. I just don't know if it's morally right to say "You're not seeing the kids again because you lose your temper with DP, even though I'm pretty sure you never would with the kids ..."

charitygirl Wed 13-May-09 17:01:40

MsHighwater puts it well. You need to prioritise the righrs of your children over those of your FIL - are they very close to him? Would they be devestated not to see him again?

If those questions don't help you decide, then the next person whose rights come before those of your FIL are those of your DP to your support.

I would say stop worrying about this nasty old git. But if your DCs will miss him VERY much then perhaps you could look at some supervised contact.

controlfreakythecontrolfreak Wed 13-May-09 17:08:04

? definitelt is "is it in children's interests to have contact with him?" rather than anything to do with his "rights"...

my own view would be why should he expect to be a proper part of your family life if he behaves like that towards your dp?? why would you want someone so emotionally crap around them?? how will dp feel if you invite him round and into dp's home given their unresolved conflict and his appalling behaviour towards dp.

i think ball is in fil's court. if he cant acknowledge the problems and at least show a willingness to work to sort them out he can feck off imo. let him make the running.

ScarlettCrossbones Wed 13-May-09 17:08:35

Thanks, I really appreciate all these opinions so far.

No, they wouldn't miss him – they're only 4 and nearly 2 – it just seems such a HUGE step to say "You will never ever see them again for as long as you live. Because you were a rubbish father to DP."

crokky Wed 13-May-09 17:11:53

I would not leave my DCs downstairs with a man like that! How long before he loses his temper with them?

I think it is FILs responsibility to patch things up with your DP. I think you should try and keep out of it and keep your DCs out of it. Unless FIL could behave decently with DP, I would have no further contact.

GPs don't have a right to see GCs (I think).

controlfreakythecontrolfreak Wed 13-May-09 17:12:09

well you dont have to say that do you... he needs to ask to see them in the first place and when he does you (or better dp) can say that until he sorts out the difficulties in his behaviour towards dp you dont think it is in children's interests to see him as he is not welcome in dp's home / dp doesn't want to see him / you dont want them exposed in any shape or form to the upset and conflict he has caused. ask him what he proposes to do to sort things out.

SarahL2 Wed 13-May-09 17:14:12

He may be fine with them now because they are so young but how will he react to them when they are older, say teenagers who are naturally self-centered and busy with thier own lives....

How will be cope/treat them when they no longer worship him?

ScarlettCrossbones Wed 13-May-09 17:19:39

Controlfreaky, that makes sense. He has asked to see them and I've been mulling how/whether to reply ... I think I'm getting somewhere with that, thanks for helping to sort out my muddled thoughts ...

spookycharlotte121 Wed 13-May-09 17:20:08

Im in a similar position. Exp's mum is what i can only describe as a bitch..... she is a total nasty piece of work. She constantly uses fowl language and have been extreemly abbusive to me on more than one occasion. I left ds with her for a few hours with exp one day whilst i was at uni and he dumped him with his mum, this caused a huge argument and some unforgivable things were said by her. I came to the conclusion that I didnt want this woman around my children because I think she would cause them emotional damage, she has certainly caused exp terrible problems and issues in his life.

I think you have to think about what is best for the kids and if there is any chance of him being abbusive to them or trying to turn them against their dad then dont let him hgave access..... i dont know what the law is tho.

my exps mother has never seen my dd and has only seen ds a few times. I know i will have to explain my decission to the kids one day as to why i have kept them from her but i personally think i have made the right decision.

meemar Wed 13-May-09 17:21:06

I agree with controlfreaky. It's not really about his rights. Imagine this was a friend your DP had cut off not a relative - would you consider letting the children see this person?

He is someone who you and your DP do not want contact with because he is bullying and abusive. He has no right to your children simply because he is related to them by blood.

If he truly loves them he will sort his behaviour out and change in order to see them.

SouthernLights Wed 13-May-09 17:22:51


We had a similar situation, and I would say your FIL needs to know that his behaviour is NOT acceptable and if he treats his son like that then he forfeits the right to see the children.

I do think you need to respect your DP's feelings on this - he has the right to choose to cut his father off if he needs to, and if you insist on maintaining contact for the sake of the grandparent-grandchild relationship, it takes away any semblance of control he has and reduces him to the status of a dominated child again, which he's probably had quite enough of. It doesn't sound as though the man is such a positive influence on your kids that you can't afford to lose him.

Littlefish Wed 13-May-09 18:31:44

Very well put Southernlights.

controlfreakythecontrolfreak Wed 13-May-09 18:44:19

he has no legal "rights". he would need the court's permission to apply to court for a contact order (ie, he cant even make that application as of right...). if he got permission the test would be what was in dc's best interests. you and dp would be parties to any application and could have your say.... but i doubt it would come to that...

MollyPapa Wed 13-May-09 19:11:46

Hello Scarlett

I'm a bit late to this thread but would agree with Southernlights.

I'm in a similar situation as your DP with regard to my own father. After years of what I would have to call emotional neglect problems started when my first child (DS now nearly three) and his mum and I decided he would have her surname (as we were not married and she felt strongly about it and I didn't really care one way or the other). My father took great exception to my DS not having his surname. Matters have been compounded due to a very complex situation with my daughter's mother (DD only 16 months) as my father has decided to back her in a very damaging and complex case.

I'd agree with Southernlights in that your DP's relationship with your children is of far more importance than your FIL's and unless there were very important and positive reasons for doing so, you could find yourself undermining your DP, and as Southernlights says, placing him in that role of dominated child.

Perhaps there may be a way forward in the longer term if there is any chance of getting your FIL to understand his behaviour towards your DP is unacceptable, and that an improvement in his conduct and relationship with your DP may result in a better relationship with your kids.

ScarlettCrossbones Wed 13-May-09 21:18:14

I just wanted to say thanks for all the input. I've texted FIL back tonight making it clear that the onus is on him to make amends. DP thinks he's in total denial about his temper and DP's childhood, and won't think he has anything to make amends for, or face up to. He was reluctant for me to become involved by texting FIL, and I didn't relish doing it(!) but I thought hearing it from someone else just might do something ...

MollyPapa Wed 13-May-09 21:43:06

Hello Scarlett

I think you've been very reasonable in texting him, though I fear you may not get a positive response. But it might so good for you for trying... if it doesn't then I think you can honestly say you have done all you can, for the moment at least.

Good luck with it.

ScarlettCrossbones Tue 16-Jun-09 16:16:49

Sorry to dredge this up again, but I got such good advice before that I hope you won't all mind.

Situation now is that I've said we will sort something out wrt seeing the kids, but that I'm extremely busy atm. (True.) So he emails back and says cockily "You can't be that busy Scarlett, sort something out, the ball is in your court." I just despise the man. I was stalling for time I guess, but kind of wish I hadn't said that.

I totally understand some of you saying "Why on earth do you want your children near this man?" etc ... but I genuinely don't think he would ever lose his temper at them. Unfortunately, in a way, because if I did think that, it would make things much easier! I almost wish he would do something really bad or confrontational, just so I could justify the kids never seeing him again. He really hasn't made more than the slightest admission that he was any way at fault in DP's childhood – it's always blamed on someone else.

But morally, I just don't think I can say "You're not seeing my kids because I don't like you" ... can I? And also, saying "You're not seeing them till you sort out your problems with DP" doesn't fit either, does it?



kitbit Tue 16-Jun-09 16:26:27

He is foul to you, abusive to your dp and has no sense of how to relate to people by the sound of it. He might not shout at your children, but do you want them near him when his whole attitude is a world apart from your own?

Morally - why not? You need to put your children first, not pussy foot around your very thick skinned FIL. You need to be strong and insistent. Do you want your dc to come back to you in years to come, as damaged as your dp is now? No doubt everyone thought he loved his own son, too.

AMumInScotland Tue 16-Jun-09 16:34:35

Hi, I think you have to step back from the idea of him "never seeing them again", and move back to "not seeing them at the moment" because of the pain and hurt that he has caused your family. That doesn't have to be permanent, and you don't have to definitely cut him out of your and their lives permanently.

But until he can behave in a civilised and caring way, arranging for him to spend time with them does not seem appropriate to me.

There is also the issue of supporting your DPs wish to have nothing more to do with someone who has caused him great pain - as others have said, you are really side-lining his feelings in all this, and behaving as if they were not relevant to how you raise your (joint) children. Which is unfair to him.

You clearly want to avoid confrontation - rather than tell him that he could not see the children because of the way he has behaved, you made a (lame) excuse, which he has called you on.

Now you have to decide whose "rights" you care most about.

Does he have a right to spend time with the children of a man he has harmed?

Do your children need to have a relationship with a man like that?

Does your partner need you to support him in a difficult decision?

You say earlier that you don't want to use the children as a weapon against FIL. I think by allowing him to see them in the current circumstances, you are allowing FIL to use them as a weapon against you and DP, and to cause strife in your relationship.

I would either
A. ignore his email - he's right, it's in your court, you don't have to arraneg a visit

B. email back and tell him the truth

BarrelOfMonkeys Wed 17-Jun-09 17:21:21

Scarlett Going back to something you said earlier... You said it would be a big step to say "You will never ever see them again for as long as you live. Because you were a rubbish father to DP."

He still is being a rubbish father to DP. This problem is not in the past. DP is still, to this day, being hurt by this man from what you say. Keeping FIL in your DC's life is only in your FIL's interests at this point unless you truly believe that a beneficial long-term relationship can be built between your DC and your DP. Your DC will pick up on the vibes between DP and FIL as they get older.

Although I agree with AMuminScotland that it doesn't have to be an 'ever again' situation, unless there is some recognition of the problem from FIL, and some effort to change his ways, then I don't see how anything good will come of it. It all sounds very much on his terms - his response to your text as an example shows no recognition that you are actually doing him a favour by letting him see the kids, given the circumstances. Just plain arrogant.

Also Sarah's point about how the DC and FIL will relate to each other as they get older is worth considering. The "I'll wipe the floor with you" text he sent to you DP is just nasty and bullying, and obviously a form of behaviour ingrained into his character at this stage. I suspect it will just be a case of waiting for the DC's to press one of his buttons inadvertently for it to spill out towards them too - when the children are older and have their own opinions, strops etc and he's not the one calling the shots. At that point, if FIL has a meltdown, then they have a lot more emotionally invested in the relationship and will be much more vulnerable and hurt. And can you be sure that FIL won't denigrate your DP in front of them? For instance, when the kids are old enough to pick up on the atmosphere between FIL and DP and ask FIL either why that is or (if they ask you/DP and you tell them the reasons) ask FIL why he was mean to their daddy, what's his response going to be?

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