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Strategies for keeping sane when dealing with an abusive Ex with regards to contact with DD

(31 Posts)
Isetan Tue 09-Aug-11 14:27:17

My counsellor had updated me with some information from my Ex in relation to contact with our DD and although co-parenting has mostly been combative, I now acknowledge it will probably always be combative.

Brief back story:
Ex strangled me and was arrested and convicted for attempted manslaughter ( 3 year sentence with 1 year suspended). I take our DD to visit him once a month on special "father/ child visiting hour" (300 KM round trip), he petitioned for a change in prison because it was more important that he be closer to his parents then to DD), I have not seen him since sentencing a year ago.

Currently going through a sole custody petition and as upsetting as his lazy and and entitled attitude is to having contact with DD, it probably works in my favour because what he says he wants (contact with DD) is very different to how he behaves.

In a few days time he will be moved to an open prison and will be granted day release, this does make me apprehensive (putting it mildly) and I know that he will have more of an opportunity to pressure me once he moves.

How do I balance my DD interests (having contact with her father) and my sanity by keeping my distance from the violent idiot?

DutchOma Tue 09-Aug-11 15:50:00

Sorry love, but that seems to be fairly incompatible: serving dd's interest by having contact with a "violent idiot" who has been to prison for strangling you.
I would say: hope that your petition for sole custody will be granted, comply with minimum requirements for contact, but no more and try to get him out of your life and that of your dd.
What interest can she possibly have in having contact with somebody who SAYS he wants contact but does not act as if he wants to?

Isetan Tue 09-Aug-11 16:23:23

I am indeed conflicted by his attitude towards contact but at least while he's in prison there is a certain amount of control. I have become more exasperated by his lack of drive when it comes to seeing DD but in the end it will probably work in my favour as his lack of effort will be in my favour.

I suppose I have been trying very hard to separate my relationship with him from that of DD's (luckily she only witnessed one act of violence), whereas I get the feeling he sees having a relationship with DD as a way to get at and control me. I have decided that my effort begins and ends with me taking her to the prison, I'm no longer going to be the one who has to make the requests.

Fingers crossed that my petition will be successful, but you never know, I am trying to be positive but my position in general is precarious (emergency housing awaits).

neuroticmumof3 Tue 09-Aug-11 18:21:26

I'm glad you're seeing a counsellor, sounds as though you've been through some horrific experiences. Applying for sole custody is a good move too. Is there an injunction in place to prevent him contacting you once he's out of prison? My advice would be to ensure that you're not directly facilitating contact once he's released, ie you shouldn't be doing the handover and collection of DD as you would then have to be face to face with him. Your housing situation sounds pretty grim, hope it works out for you soon.

babyhammock Tue 09-Aug-11 18:40:54

I hope I don't get flamed for this.... but having an abusive parent, who isn't really interested in the child (except as a means of getting to the other parent), around is not in the best interests of the child.

I would go for sole custody and the bare minimum contact you can get. Children deserve to have loving people around them and not ones who have tried to kill their mother.

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 09-Aug-11 18:45:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Isetan Tue 09-Aug-11 22:08:30

You lot talk a lot of sense which has contributed to a lightbulb moment. I haven't dealt with the attack because of the many pressing issues which have, understandably taken precedent; housing, finances, getting DD into school etc.

Rationally I know the attack wasn't my fault and I know I can't stop him being a dick when it comes to contact with DD but I wish it was in my power. I feel like I have let her down.

I need to be a better advocate for myself, I'm not superwoman and I should stop pretending that I am, I've just e-mailed my lawyer to get her to apply for whatever the Dutch equivalent of a prohibitive steps order is.

A lot of the uncertainty is that the system here seems to be geared towards everybody holding hands and making nice, DV is labelled as "family dramas". The Dutch equivalent of a contact centre, as a condition of using their services, will expect me sit down with my Ex and "work through our issues". Navigating the system is a job in itself.

Thank you, I am listening and getting angry at him, at me and at my situation.

DrCoconut Tue 09-Aug-11 23:58:45

I have to agree that contact with a violent parent is not a good thing. If they can flip and hurt you what is to stop them from flipping and hurting the child, especially if it will get to the other parent, which clearly it will? People who cannot control their temper are a poor carer for a child IMO. My ex was abusive (verbally very nasty, shoving and pushing, breaking furniture, controlling, freaking out and going ballistic over breaches of random and ever changing "rules" such as serving coffee in a certain cup, hit me twice, threatened to kill me and threatened to really hurt DS1 at which point I left) and has no contact with DS1. That was his choice as it happened, but if he had pressed for access I would have fought it. If I had been forced to let him see DS1 I would have gone for minimal, supervised and not involving me directly. Hell will freeze over before I put myself out for him in any way if I am ever asked to and I consider my son to be better off as things are. My DH is a normal stable man and a much better father figure. (I get no money from ex either just in case anyone is considering flaming me for contact blocking, treating him as a wallet etc as has unfortunately happened before).

cestlavielife Fri 12-Aug-11 12:00:03

in uk it would be residence order (not called custody)

i think you need to get your solicitor to make it clear to the system that while you may facilitate contact with DD at a contact centre, you as his victim (he tried to KILL you!!) should have the right not to have to sit down with him.

in what other circumstance in netherlands would a victim of strangulation attempted mansalughter be expected to sit down with their attacker in dutch law? it makes no sense at all.

even tho you are both her parents - you should not be expected to have contact with him on any level - and maybe if dutch "law" says you should - then your solciitor should ask for dutch law to be changed. speak to domestic violence organizations. they may be able to campaign for change in the "family drama" view espec when he has been charged and convicted for attempted manslaughter agaisnt you.

dont lose sight of the facts here - he tried to kill you. somewhere along the line this is being minimised and wrongly so....

that is a big thing. no one should be forcing you to sit and talk to him.

contact with DD - if that is something she wants. as others said tho i would be trying to cool it off - letters yes and contact centre only strictly supervised. til she much older. you need to be pretty sure he aint gonna strangle her....or you again. i would be asking for an injunction against him approaching you or contacting you at all.

repeat to yourself - this man tried to kill me and i have the right to not have to ahve any contact with him at all.

my dd has the right to know who her parent is but shoudl only see him under strict supervision for many years.

you have rights too here - to not have to have any kind of contact with your attacker. you cannot realistically co-parent her day-to-day life with someone like this - you cant ignore the history. all you can do is agree to striclty supervised occasional contact. sad for dd but that is life.

cestlavielife Fri 12-Aug-11 12:01:52

attempted mansalughter cannot be considered "family drama" surely?

cestlavielife Fri 12-Aug-11 12:11:17

i think you can keep sane by being very clear to yourself to solicitor to everyone involved with him -

that he has no right to contact with you

that you ahve a right to no direct contact with him

and to be clear that all arrangements to see his dd at a contact centre should be made thru a third party.

you have every right to do this because he tried to kill you.

if you begin having direct contact with him to make arrangements - you coiuld be sucked back in.

stay strong,. dont start having contact with him. third party only. if dd too young for phone of her own then letters only to her.

. he is the guilty person not you.

Meglet Fri 12-Aug-11 12:20:57

I'd be keeping my DC away from him until they turned 18.

The child has a right to a safe, kind, loving parent.

The father does not have a right to see the child regardless of his behaviour.

IMO no dad and a loving family is better than a violent dad.

springydaffs Sat 13-Aug-11 10:45:54

thank God for the common sense on this thread - I was worried everyone was going to support you in moving heaven and earth to keep a relationship going between your daughter and this nightmare.

Of course it is not in her best interests to keep up a relationship with a man who tried to kill her mother; and, yes, you are right: he would use your daughter to try to control you, is very probably not remotely interested in her for herself (I'm sorry to be blunt) but only as a means to get at you.

I'm not clear on the law these days, certainly not in Holland, but I would have thought you could legally apply to leave the country to get as far away from him as possible. If you want to that is - I'm assuming you're british but of course I could be wrong.

Get away from him OP.I would suggest you sneak away, crablike, to the best of your ability; because if you lock horns with him he will rise to the challenge and make life hell for you, using your daughter as a pawn.

Good luck in all your efforts to entirely cut your lives off from him. Your daughter can make her own choice when she is 18.

squeakytoy Sat 13-Aug-11 11:09:25

I agree with the others who have said do what you can to STOP him from seeing your daughter. I honestly do not see how it can be beneficial for any child to be in contact with a parent who has physically hurt the other parent to such an extreme that it warranted a prison sentence.

It is very sad that the man who is her father is such a horrible person, but I am sure that once she is old enough to understand what happened, she will not blame you in any way for keeping him away from her.

SaffronCake Sat 13-Aug-11 14:37:04

Stop making undue effort, let it fizzle out if he's not booking the contact centre or asking for diary dates. Don't be the one who calls up and says "do you want her for an hour on 18th?" If he's as self-centred and self-serving as I think he sounds he wont keep it up and slowly slowly you have let him slip from your life painlessly and with no friction. Attempted murder is no small matter. He tried to take her mother away from her. Forget that it is you a minute, think about someone else, me, I'll do... I'm SaffronCake, I've got 2 daughters aged 11y/o and 9m/o. Now... How much do you think they need me? Apply it back on yourself. The attempted murder was not only a crime against you but against her too. And now he commits a moral "crime" in not making the effort to see the precious gift of a girl life had given him. Let him slide off quietly. And keep your mobile phone on you and topped up, battery and credit.

Spero Sat 13-Aug-11 14:44:37

Indirect contact only unless and until he has proven that he understands the enormity of what he has done and will take steps to change: counselling, therapy, whatever.

Trying to kill your child's mother is a massive failure of parenting.

ShoutyHamster Sat 13-Aug-11 16:27:02

I'm sorry but there is not even the beginnings of a reason why her life would be enhanced by having him in it - on the contrary, this is one of the rare rare situations when I would think that your duty as a parent would be to keep this maniac out of her life until she is an adult and can make her own choice.

He tried to kill you - i.e. he tried his best to destroy her life before it had barely begun. I'd move heaven and earth to keep a monster like that away from my child. It goes without saying that the likelihood is that he will continue to make you and thus her life a misery if he is able to stay within it. Please protect her from that.

Are you Dutch? It reads as if you are British- would you consider leaving? The good thing is that he is relatively disinterested - for goodness sake, go along with that. Do not encourage contact. Hopefully he will leave your lives. Do this NOW while he is still within the system, and contact can lapse while he is unable to really put pressure on. Get a restraining order, or the Dutch equivalent, NOW.

To answer your initial question - how do you go about it all - your use of words really struck me: 'co-parenting has mostly been combative, I now acknowledge it will probably always be combative.'

- the answer is, you are no longer co-parenting, and never will again. This man is a dangerous criminal who is able to attempt to kill those he professes to love: you are going for sole custody as a result. This is the right thing to do. Co-parenting means just that: both having responsibility for your daughter, a responsibility which is based on the assumption that both of you have her best interests at heart. You know he does not and you are seeking to remove this responsibility from him for your daughter's safety. The future is you as the parent, and him as an entity whose existence should only be acknowledged in the sense that one day, your daughter will need to explore the idea of her father and make her peace with it. You do not need contact to continue throughout her childhood in order to fulfil this obligation to her. My advice would be the same as others on this thread - I would suggest that you try and get him out of your lives for the duration of her childhood, for the duration of her vulnerability. Just what makes you so sure that a man who has attempted murder would not do so again?! - what makes you so sure that this monster would not seek to hurt her? He clearly doesn't care a damn for her!!

So I would say that your use of the term 'co-parenting' is quite insightful: it seems that (understandably) you have not yet properly processed the enormity of what has happened to you and its implications for your daughter. I am glad to hear that you are getting angry - please, whilst being gentle on yourself, carry on getting angry, getting advice on how to continue to protect yourself from him, and stop facilitating any sort of contact.

Good luck.

QueenofWhatever Sun 14-Aug-11 08:25:06

I'm finding this thread really interesting and certainly don't want to hijack it from the OP whose experiences sound awful.

But I'd be interested to know at what point do you stop trying to co-parent with an abusive ex? My ex was not physically violent towards me but I did end up hospitalised for a month, he was very manipulative and controlling and I experienced years of emotional, psychological, sexual and financial abuse.

I got away two years ago and have since been diagnosed and treated for complex PTSD (which I think it is likely the OP has). I've always been a strong advocate of a child's right to have a relationship with the other parent, but the price is high. He still hassles me all the time, criticises and tries to control. He's also very much a weekend Dad, buys her stuff but takes no real interest. But he still sees her regularly as it's a way of getting to me.

I took her to a child therapist earlier this year as she was conflicted about things she had seen him do to me but also loving her Daddy.

So my question is, at what point do you say enough is enough, he's a crap parent. Physical violence only or is it a question of degrees?

Spero Sun 14-Aug-11 21:22:58

So much depends of the circumstances of the case, the resilience of the child etc, etc.

But there are some useful pointers in the report of Drs Sturge and Glaser in 2000, I will link to the relevant case, but if you don't want to plough through it the precis is that they researched the impact on children who had seen/heard/experienced violence and concluded in such cases there should NOT be a presumption that contact was in the child's best interests and in fact contact was highly likely to be harmful unless the perpetrator could show an understanding of what he had done and its impact, a willingness to make reparation to the child and apologise.

That would be my bottom line. to have continued contact with someone who can't accept what they have done or be sorry about it and who will probably go on blaming everyone else, is likely to be really hurtful and confusing.

The best and clearest point they make is that being violent is a signficant failure as a parent. So however 'great' they are in other areas, this failing is a a very serious one and probably outweighs any other parenting strengths.

[http://www.familieslink.co.uk/pages/law_dv_contactorders.htm] For some reason I can't find the 'official' report, but this is a good precis if anyone is interested.

Spero Sun 14-Aug-11 21:26:45

And although the law doesn't restrict the definition of 'violence' to simply the physcial, I agree it is an added layer of complication if what you are worried about is the less immediately obvious types of violence such as extreme emotional abuse.

I think all you can do is your best. I think most children do need to have some opportunity to know their absent parent, in case they end up either idealising or demonising him or her. But if that parent's behaviour is having a detrimental impact on the physical/emotional wellbeing of either the child or the child's main carer, I don't see why that relationship has to be maintained by direct contact. Cards, letters photos etc until the child is older and more mature/resilient.

babyhammock Sun 14-Aug-11 21:32:36

Thanks so much for that link Spero. I've been wondering what the responses were going to QueenofWhatever's question.

springydaffs Mon 15-Aug-11 00:30:05

Because of my experiences with a very controlling ex (that so doens't sum it up, that little phrase..) I have reached the conclusion that continued contact was of detrimental effect to my kids and I regret that I, like you OP, not only heavily promoted it but did all I could to facilitate it. I think I made a mistake. He made our lives a living nightmare - not that the kids knew it was him because, 'good parent' that I am, following to the letter the current trend on non-resident parents, I didn't tell them. The result was that the constant turmoil was (and still is) put down to me - flakey mother - and I am struggling with my kids now who are in their 20s. I feel very ambivalent about continued contact with an abusive ex and intinctively recoil when I hear endless women towing the 'good parenting' party line on this. In our case it wasn't physical violence but appalling psychological, emotional, financial etc etc (many etcs) abuse and, as he was probably the most charming man on the planet, he looked for all the world like the most wonderful person and dad, successfully charming (almost) every judge we came before. He certainly wasn't wonderful, it was all fake, a facade; and yes he did use our kids to constantly control me. They were the perfect vehicle to control and abuse me and there was very little i could do about it. I was a sitting duck. My kids have suffered very much because of it imo.

QueenofWhatever Mon 15-Aug-11 21:36:03

I think that's where I am with it at the moment. I'm so busy being the better person and never saying anything negative and doing everything I can to encourage more contact that DD isn't seeing what her Dad is really like.

From the outside it all looks good, he turns up on time, does lots of fun things with her. But the price is that he plays lots of games with me and I still find myself trying to guess his reaction before I do anything and I'm still scared of him. One thing to my advantage is that we have a legal agreement (which he doesn't always stick to when it comes to minor details like maintenance) but nothing court ordered.

I always remember what Women's Aid said to me, who just kept telling me how dangerous and extreme he sounded and that was 'you know him better than anyone, always trust your instincts'. Every time I thought I was overreacting and being overly suspicious, I was proved right over and over. And that's the thing, I don't have anything tangible to prove that my ex is detrimental to my DD, but I know what he's like and the slow fury that burns in him. He will never let me get away with leaving him and DD is all he's got left as a way to get to me. It's difficult.

Spero Mon 15-Aug-11 23:35:23

Its really hard. All I can suggest is that you organise contact in such a way that you have the least possible interaction with him or you get as much support as you can to manage it. Have a very strict timetable and don't encourage flexibility.

springydaffs Mon 15-Aug-11 23:45:52

Isetan and Queen - have you done the Freedom Programme? I would highly recommend it - please sign up to a course at your earliest. I say this because the brainwashing you/we were exposed to from our abusers takes a while to dispel. Programmes like the Freedom Programme go a long way to shine light on the strategies of an abuser. imo the more we are exposed to the truth about the brainwashing, the less hold the brainwashing has. Sounds obvious doesn't it but imo the brainwashing had a tremendous hold on us, really quite profound, and you have to attack it on all sides, consistently, to get free.

You say, Queen, that 'it's difficult' - but from the outside it isn't difficult at all. I appreciate, having been in your position for a long time, that when you are in it it appears very 'difficult' but the reality is that it is very straightforward: get away from them. Don't expose your children to them. I very strongly believe that our abusers don't love or care for our children. They look like they do (love them) because they know how to keep the act going. My ex is dead now but as my dd got older and was becoming a woman he began controlling her in similar ways to the way he had controlled me. At one point he said she had to learn 'subservience' and I was so shocked I thought I must've misheard (that's a legacy of being with an abuser too, not believing yourself and your own instincts) but it was precisely the word he meant to use and what he firmly believed.

they also know how to hang over us accusations that we are keeping the children from their father. They know this is a sore point, a soft spot: they know how to milk it. If you plead with them to spend time with their children they drag their feet; if you then lose interest in pleading and begin to back off they suddenly become the dad who is being separated from his children by their evil mother. They aren't interested in the children, only in controlling and punishing us.

I hate to say it but men like this, particularly a man who has been violent or has a conviction of violence towards the mother, often harm the children as a means of punishing the mother. We've all read the news reports (on page 5 of the newspapers - it happens too often to be of frontpage interest).

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