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Parenting With A Controlling Ex(15 Posts)
I think I need some support during a particularly difficult time.
There's a long history, which I won't go into in my first post, mostly because I've just finished a very long email to CAFCASS about my concerns and I'm so very tired of being worried and not being taken seriously.
Briefly, after keeping my child (as per PR) because I felt they were at risk due to neglect, my ex went to court for a Prohibitive Steps Order. As I intended to go to Court for a Residence Order, the whole process has basically gone ahead with each of us putting forwards our sides (I believe you'd call it a Child Arrangements Order). Most of his requests were denied, contact centre for one, but I was asked not to take child out of England and Wales until it was all resolved. He was awarded temporary residence as was status quo at the time whilst safeguarding was done, and she isn't at risk of immediate harm. However a Section 7 was ordered to look at the neglect issues.
Fast forward and we're pretty much through the CAFCASS process, and I am pretty unhappy with how it's been managed. I didn't feel listened to, and there was a lot of focus on my mental health, which is not currently even needing medicated or managed by CMHT, basically I see my GP every so often and we decide I am okay to continue as I am. The only thing affecting me right now is all the stress of feeling very impotent to protect my daughter.
She told me I needed counselling because I explained why I had mental health issues (childhood neglect, a recent abusive relationship, a number of family bereavements, homelessness caused by landlord wanting home for a family member), despite my telling her I had had counselling, attended CBT, and was well able to manage my mental health recurrences with a WRAP (wellbeing recovery action plan) in place. This was in response to an emotional reaction to her suggestion that contact be reduced in frequency from fortnightly to once a month (whilst increasing time spent together in the holidays).
Fast forwards again and I arrange to do a meeting with her and my child so she could see our interaction. After which she thought it would be a good idea to place myself and my ex in the same room side by side. This showed she had not listened to me as I had told her about him intimidating me, threatening violence, and telling me he'd make things up about me to ensure I don't get care of our child back. I told her I was scared of him. I'd explained we couldn't mediate because he gets very loud and difficult if he feels things are not under his control, I walk on eggshells trying to discuss things with him, and if any suggestion comes directly from me, he immediately refuses to entertain the idea.
The outcome was that she wanted to try to find a way of improving contact between our child and myself as she felt she would recommend our child stays with dad as per status quo, that changing her residence would be too unsettling. (child has lived with me for five years previously until homelessness, stayed with father for almost three because after I was sorted he refused to return child)
The thing is, he is very inflexible. I got a lot of abuse for taking child for a haircut, despite him saying he was going to do it and it not happening. Because I didn't get permission. He will neglect to answer the phone during organised contact time, but then cut the call off at the moment it hits the end of the organised period (so not answer until five thirty, despite my contacting at five, then cut it off at six even though it was a delayed start, or organise trips out or serve dinner during that time, and still cut it off at six). He will follow the Court Order, but not deviate in the slightest, even if it means things are worse for our child, like when I was able to return child to him via car instead of train, he insisted on collecting child in the city centre train station, rather than allowing us to drive to his place on the outskirts of city (adding almost two hours to her travelling time).
He gaslights. I've returned the child early before as they were ill and running a high fever and I was in a hotel room and unable to treat it. I felt they'd be more comfortable at home, after spending the night awake with a damp pillowcase trying to control the fever (with paracetamol also). When I texted to check how the child was, he said they weren't ill. Except I'd just spend almost 24 hours seeing they were ill, and mother (who works with children in a health and safeguarding role) noticed immediately on collection she looked unwell and felt feverish (hence having the paracetamol to treat). If anything doesn't make him look good, he denies it's existence. I could try to raise an issue and he'll just reply "no it doesn't, no I don't etc". If I try to be firm, he'll then raise his voice louder and louder until I cannot be heard.
I could list so many instances of controlling behaviour it would be an epic post, but what I really want to do is discuss how on earth do you co-parent with someone so controlling. All the signs of an abusive man and coercive control are there, and I think that I am not going to be able to get the Courts to see that unfortunately as he is very good at appearing to be the epitome or reasonable in front of others, and likes to use the old "she's paranoid" excuse to deflect my concerns. He's very careful to only be extremely difficult when it's not something I can produce as evidence, so not through texts but over the phone, or in person but only when there are no witnesses.
When it was just a boyfriend being controlling, I could leave him and cut him out of my life. I can't do that here, and I need to learn how to cope with this until I can finally prove his neglect of our child and controlling/threatening behaviour towards myself.
Just in case noone saw this. I'll bump.
Have you contacted Women's Aid for some support? It's not only people fleeing they are able to offer help to, also years down the line.
I didn't want to read and run.
Could you not do mediation I agree with a lier and controlling ex it is a waste of time but you will have ticked the box for court and you could then hopefully put a plan in place to increase contact via the courts ?
What a horrible situation. I've heard that courts can continue the suffering of abused families: it must feel like there is nobody to turn to.
How does DC seem when you see them?
DC used to talk about coming back to stay with me and ask when that would happen. They have a sibling (different fathers) a couple of years older (both under eleven) and miss them a great deal as they were inseparable as little ones.
DC did mention that their dad said I wasn't able to care for them (due to disabilities) and that he said they could come and stay when they were eighteen. I've always been capable of caring for them and when I've been very ill, arranged direct payments and my own carer so that they never missed out on essential care and fun times. They also felt that they'd been sent to stay with dad because "they were too naughty" and I never ever said anything of the sort, I did need support as DC has behaviour issues but they went because I was losing my home and didn't want to drag them through the rehousing process as I felt it would be unsettling.
This desire to come back to me stopped after the court proceedings. DC seems scared to discuss what they want now so I don't push it and ask questions. I reassured them that talking to CAFCASS was private and they could say how they felt without worrying we would know.
DC gets anxious about her dad not liking things I've done, like when he kept missing hair appointments I took them instead and let them choose what they'd like and on the hairdressers recommendation what would look good as it was very damaged. He was raging with me for not getting permission and I could tell when he collected them from the car. Poor DC was white faced and silent after laughing and joking in the car with us and I had to contact school next day to ensure they were okay and not upset.
He doesn't hide it from DC like I do, and says things I think a young child shouldn't hear about myself and court. If I behave (do as I am told by him) he doesn't do this. It feels like DC gets punished for my own behaviour. He doesn't want me to stand up for myself or our DC.
It makes me worry. If I don't stands up for DCS needs then I let them down. If I do, they suffer anyway because father doesn't like my not doing as I'm told.
Our separation isn't a new thing, it's been all of DCS life as he left me while pregnant. But my standing up for myself is new as I've learned to recognise controlling behaviour.
Women's Aid are aware but don't seem to be able to offer much advice. As (forced) NRP I have very little ability to change any behaviour of his towards our DC, and the only way he'll stop being difficult is if I fall in line. But then I'll allow neglect to occur.
Court has been very poor at seeing the neglect as it's not high level. But it is to me at an unacceptable level. DC is being treated like a low priority since he moved in with new partner and her children (was left to sleep downstairs on sofa for two months despite being youngest and scared at night while everyone else had a bed and their own room).
If any of my story sounds familiar, it's because I name change regularly so that I can't be easily found. I also try not to share too many details that might make me or my DC recognisable.
Hi OP, that sounds like a horrible situation. I don't have any magic advice about fixing it - all I can say is to keep your eyes on the main long-term goal, which is keeping a loving relationship with your DC. You can aim to have a high-quality relationship even when the quantity isn't what you would choose.
It sounds like your ex is keeping you off-balance and feeling a sense of grievance - all you can do is try to sidestep all these little power struggles and try to make your time with the dcs as peaceful and loving and calm as you possibly can.
I'm waiting to go on the Freedom Programme with WA, so maybe that will help. I've also spoken to Relate and they've given me some numbers to contact. They want me to MASH the situation and are going to check if I do or not, which I'm a bit uncomfortable with.
I have to go collect my child today. I'm pretty anxious about that, although I know I am safe because I go to a major station in a big city.
He tried to insist I had to go to his private residence, but I knew I'd mentioned to my barrister I don't feel safe doing that alone, so she'd have put something in the court order giving me a choice. I asked first anyway to see if he might do it without a fight, but his immediate response was that he doesn't have to drop her off anywhere, only collect. So I checked and it was right there in the schedule, so I pointed him at it and he agreed I was right.
First time for everything, I was pretty shocked to hear it coming from his (text) mouth. I have to say I felt a little bit of satisfaction knowing I was correct and had managed to note down him being unreasonable for a change.
Unfortunately, I think it may now be unpleasant when I collect her. And I'll have my other DC with me, so I'll be on the lookout for some transport police and do the exchange close to them. Do you think I could mention it so they keep an eye out? He always brings his girlfriend and her older children, and sometimes his own adult children, so I'm always outnumbered and feeling vulnerable (this is only since court proceedings began, he used to do it alone).
Yes, I think it's worth mentioning it to the transport police if you see them. Do you have a friend you could bring?
Unfortunately my friend has a hospital appointment today or I'd have brought her and her daughter and done something nice together. I've been getting a few shirty texts because I couldn't make it as early as the order stated. It's something that will need to change as I do all the travelling and am on trains for hours, I couldn't afford peak travel, it's twice as much at sixty pounds return. I'm disabled, my income is limited, even my free bus pass is limited to after 9:30.
That all sounds so difficult. I hope collecting DC went OK.
KOKO. The times you and DC spend together will be little beacons of light in their life.
Your Ex not wanting to deviate from the contact could work to your advantage, as you know what to expect. How detailed is your contact order? My Ex is an arse and to avoid more contact between us than was strictly necessary, I drew up a (Parallel) Parenting Plan which was quite detailed and covered everything from illness to social media protocols (I even insisted that hand over took place outside of a Police Station). Would SS help with a Parenting Plan? Even though I presented my Parenting Pan at mediation, it was still hard going and the mediator was inept. However, I knew exactly where my boundaries were this time (terrible mediation experience four years previous, where I nearly agreed to leaving my daughter temporarily with Ex) and Ex behaved exactly how I expected but my Parenting Plan helped me kept me focussed.
I understand you want residency but as you've experienced, baring abuse, the courts will favour the status quo and missing hair appointments won't be seen as neglect.
I'm sorry you're going through this but if contact with him remains stressful, do you have anybody who can act as an intermediary?
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