There is one playing field that pretty much levels us all. … media to proclaim that she can be both a hard-working entertainer and a great single mother.
This is a guest post from an anonymous author who wanted to share her struggles about her ex.
“Daddy, my other name is Johnson.” (Names changed to protect the innocent) My 4 year old son blurted to his dad on the phone the other day. You could hear a pin drop on the other end and quickly my ex rushed to say, that is not y our last name, you don’t want a name like that. If you remember that character “Anger” from the Disney movie Inside Out I could tell that Anger took over and was in control at that moment as I quickly picked up the phone and a small petty argument ensued between the adults on the line while my son continued scribbling and coloring in his notebook. After an abrupt phone call end (I miss those days of slamming the phone) I felt like a jerk for allowing my emotions to get in the way of my son’s phone call with his dad.
The Last Name Saga
When my son was born dad has already vanished with a truck in both of our names to go live his life in another state about a 19 hour drive away. Finally relief that the abuse was over and even though my family and I had to endure a barrage of voicemails filled with profanity and name calling, he never came around. So my son took my last name and there was no dad on the birth certificate. Why would he put his name on the birth certificate? He didn’t believe his son was his and after dealing with voicemails of him claiming our son was the “son of a wetback” I just stopped listening to the voicemails and kept them all for the future. So my son grew up with his last name.
Custody Battles and Name Changes
Fast forward two years later and the stress and toll of single motherhood, not getting child support and managing a career were too much for me. My ex claimed he could provide a better life. He had a new girlfriend (fiancée) who was a doctor and she had a nice home etc and I had a nervous breakdown. So my son went to live with him (Something I did not agree with) and the judge ordered a name change. The change in last name bothered me but I had no say on that point because I’d rather pick my battles than spend a big amount of money fighting something like that. So the court ordered a name change. Then things changed and I went to therapy, regained my footing and had lots of support from my friends, family and my employer. Things really looked up and I went back to court since I rarely got to talk to my son, when I asked about preschool or who was watching my son my ex gave vague answers. When I asked about where my son was living I got no definitive address either and the address my ex gave to the court was wrong. I showed up there multiple times and the residents inside didn’t even know who my ex was. This was not cheap since I had to travel and pay for all of that travel for not just myself but also my daughter yet I feel like it was all worth it. So fast forward and that original court order gets thrown out (Including the name change) and here we are today with my son back and thriving with school, speech classes and friends. While at school, the school kept calling him by his last name (My name), Johnson and he kept answering to that. I didn’t notice it until a few days had gone by and I realized people kept calling him that at school. I corrected everyone but I realize he would answer to that and it stuck. I got upset that my ex would accuse me of coaching our son.
How I should have handled things differently?
There is not much to a name since my little boy is the same little boy that is full of life and loving as he always is. Apparently a name is a big deal to my ex and after listening to him talk about courts and legal stuff to a 4 year old on the phone while my son is trying to get a word in edgewise about his day at school it’s time I say enough is enough. If he can’t keep the conversation with his son about his son then he no longer has anything to talk about.
Three Responses with different outcomes
- Be hostile – This does nobody any good since all it does is further break down the communication process. Understand your worth and with another hostile person such as the ex, less communication except what is important is key.
- Be weak – This also serves nobody because it doesn’t give children or the other party proper notice about boundaries and acceptable behavior. It leaves the responses open but isn’t firm in stating what you are or are not willing to put up with.
- Be cordial – The courts can’t force you to get along but you save a lot of grief just being cordial but firm. Name calling, vulgarity and bad language should roll of your back. Stick on headphones and don’t mind any of it. Set the example to your child of how to behave and reassure them that you will be there to keep them safe and secure.
How could the above phone hostility been handle differently?
Don’t react to it. Politely let dad know that the conversation disparaging mom is inappropriate and if he doesn’t stop the conversation will have to end. When he makes promises like he usually does without the intention on keeping them, explain to your child it is not their fault if mom and dad fight or if one of the parents doesn’t keep their promises. Then leave it at that. I think all the energy spent being angry served nobody. It can be normal for me to automatically get anxious and hostile when hearing my ex’s name or seeing it pop up on the caller ID but I have to get over that and let cool heads prevail.
Taking a single parent vacation as a family IS a luxury. It’s a luxury I work hard to be able to afford and so I don’t take the decision to go on a vacation very lightly. As a blogger I am very blessed and fortunate to be able to have parts of the vacation sponsored and it makes the whole ordeal much more palatable. This particular road trip has been a good metaphor for life. It was a trip that was emotionally filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, and laughter and stress. Physically I felt it in my body the toil of driving the Lincoln Navigator that Ford Motor company graciously allowed me to use on this trip. This particular trip was bittersweet for me. Grandma (my mom) went, along with my son and daughter all piled into the car to begin a journey that midway would be a bittersweet goodbye. We were returning my son to his dad which is always hard for me. His dad and I are in a custody battle that doesn’t seem like it will end anytime in the near future. We have joint managing conservatorship but his primary residence for now is in North Carolina. A decision that most in the courtroom at the time couldn’t believe was happening.
One can only imagine the tears that flowed down my face that day when the judge made the decision to send my son off with a man, his dad, whom he had never met. I understand my fault in all of this and took responsibility for it like salt in a wound. Afterward, I had to explain to my daughter, who I have full and sole custody of, that she will no longer be living with her brother, her playmate and best friend. My daughter suffered a lot with extreme sadness, pulling out her hair, lack of sleep and she was just 4 years old. We took her to therapy and she clung even more to my side. She manifested physically what I was feeling on the inside. The unknown has a way of haunting you with thoughts so unimaginable that the vice grip you have on who you are has no choice but to let go. If you try to hold on too tight, you will go insane and you must think about not just the other children you have to take care of but also yourself. It’s what allows you to have hope and faith. To put life in the current reality of your life – no matter how much you may not like it. There is man’s law and there is universal law.
Currently and temporarily my son is living with his dad in North Caroline while my daughters and I are here in Texas. It’s not the norm and it’s not ideal but custody battles never really are and I have often found that the people that suffer the most are the kids. What you think you know about family court, you really don’t know. There are no assumptions and no norms. I travel to visit my child monthly in North Carolina or fly him back home to Texas to visit. It’s unusual for a mom to not be the primary conservator and I firmly believe this is just a temporary situation. While not divulging details I have come to grips with the reality of the situation as it exists TODAY. Life is fluid and it changes quickly and I wouldn’t continue to fight for his return if I didn’t have HOPE for the best outcome for my son. I am also thankful that because of all of this my ex is involved where he wasn’t before. I can see the happiness in my son’s face with a man he didn’t know before but it also tears me up to see him emotionally torn between his two families. God will make things right on a timeline that is not ours to own.
I mention this experience because for anyone contemplating divorce with children, this is just a small sliver of my experience. I hope divorce is something you think about seriously rather than look at with rose colored glasses. This is not for the faint of heart. One bad decision could have you in the abyss of courts for a very long time. Most times divorce is just a result of a series of symptoms and bad decisions lacking in respect, loyalty, commitment and communication in the relationship. My son’s ex and I were never married but had a relationship after I was already divorced. I thought marriage was the problem and have vowed never to be married. I was wrong. Marriage is not the problem, people and their untamed egos are the problem – and then they procreate. Even if you are in family court battling it out for your children to a man you never married it is still a contentious experience. I think I’m in a better position to truly appreciate the concept of consequences.
Reserve the judgments for another time because I have heard it all so anything said now is old news the goal is to move forward. Argue less and accomplish more is what Pope Francis reiterates. So as we rolled through Arkansas, Tennessee and made our way to North Carolina our little family became more cognizant of each other’s habits. We hung on to the memories we were making along the way and we were preparing for my son’s departure. Something that still stings in my heart each time I have to let him go. The long ride back home was even tougher seeing his empty car seat without his sleeping face in it. This has become the routine and my daughter took his departure a lot easier than I did. We made our way back through the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and back to Texas. We stopped at some Civil War sites along the way.
Unfortunately my grandmother in Hawaii also ended up in the hospital and my family and I got to FaceTime with her while making our way through Alabama. She eventually died this past Monday evening at 91 years old. She had lived a very long life and I can say without a doubt that the strong spirit she exhibited as a survivor has been passed down to my mother and now to me. I am sure she had regrets, just like I do but I can assure you that when it was time to be called home, those regrets didn’t matter to her anymore. While driving back home we played Broadway show tunes from the Amazon Prime Music playlist. Tomorrow from the broadway musical Annie began to play and it was so fitting for the mood of what was happening around us: “The sun will come out tomorrow, so you gotta hang on til tomorrow, come what may . . . When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely I just stick up my chin and grin and say oh!”
Do you have a story about your own custody battles? How do you manage co-parenting with your ex?
This story I received from Cosmopolitan highlights many of the misinterpretations that go on in family court proceedings. Single mothers that try to get a better education and obtain a better life are often chastised for doing so.
“My Custody Battle with Bode Miller”
Sara McKenna’s son was 2 weeks old when she learned that her ex,Bode Miller, had filed for custody. McKenna had moved to New York to attend Columbia University two months earlier and gave birth to Samuel Bode Miller Jr. there. Unbeknownst to her, Miller had already filed for custody in California and sent the papers to McKenna’s house in California.
Though McKenna had filed for temporary custody in New York three days after Sam was born, a judge volleyed the case back to California, claiming that McKenna had displayed “unjustifiable conduct” according to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which allows courts to refuse jurisdiction if a parent took a child from one state to another improperly. The judge said that McKenna’s “appropriation of the child in-utero was irresponsible, irreprehensible.” This outraged women’s rights groups who filed a joint “friend of the court” brief on McKenna’s behalf. In it, they state that the judge misinterpreted the UCCJEA, which applies to born children, not those still in-utero.
“It was unprecedented to have a judge basically accuse a woman of running off with her fetus,” Sonia Ossorio, the president of the National Organization for Women-New York City, said in a statement. “The constitution grants adults, including pregnant ones, their right to liberty. This never was just about a custody case, it’s about pregnant women’s rights.” The appeals court agreed, bouncing McKenna’s case back to Manhattan.
Read more about what happened at Cosmo “My Custody Battle with Bode Miller”
I can’t help but recount how often family court systems across the US, have rogue judges that break up families and then just tell everybody, “Sorry you have to suffer.” There have been times when parents drum up faulty lawsuits and parents go days, weeks, months not seeing their children and effectually break up families. I’m not sure anything constructive can be done besides actually paying attention to the judges that get elected to their posts.
‘Every other weekend,’ ‘alternating holidays,’ and ’’ are all familiar terms for divorced parents and children navigating their custody arrangements. Co-parenting with your ex-partner can provide your children with their desired stability and close, loving relationship if done well, but it’s hardly ever easy.
Here are some practical tips (from personal experience) for managing the transition and making things easier for the co-parented children and yourselves:
A fresh slate is not likely attainable, but it’s still advised for you to start thinking of your relationship with your ex as a completely new one. As co-parents after divorce, not only are priorities exceptionally different, but the emotional tools needed for a cooperative relationship are also entirely different.
Signing divorce papers can be a liberating feeling, but it doesn’t erase any anger, resentment, or hurt that you may also be feeling. Of course, it’s fine to be hurt and angry, but it’s best if you figure out how to not let these feelings dictate your behavior. Building a cooperative relationship with your ex-partner and custodial co-parent will likely require to you to manage your anger.
The most important emotional advice to be offered, in this sense, is to get your feelings out somewhere else. Venting to your child is an absolute ‘no go.’ Likewise, blowing off steam at your ex is a waste of the little time available for you and your ex to communicate about important parental logistics. Seek out good listeners, lawyers, therapists, etc., and exercise as much as you need to in order to communicate effectively as a co-parent. Don’t shy away from setting a business-like tone of cordiality and neutrality because you’re setting a communication pattern that is going to be necessary for the length of your children’s entire childhood – if not longer.
Establish a Routine Early On
Although your children are bound to adapt relatively quickly to the changes in their family setting, establishing clear rules and routines early on can really help your child’s acclimation run smoothly. Waking up in different beds on alternating weeks can be disorienting regardless, but if the rules and boundaries are clear within each house, there’s an immediate orienting effect. And it’s certainly not overkill to ink out rules or schedules. Now that you’re living separately and there’s less time for negotiating parental and logistical plans, don’t be afraid to put things in writing for the benefit of your child and your own peace of mind.
Web Tools to Manage Shared Custody
When you reside away from the other custodial parent, a plentitude of logistical nightmares can emerge related the financing and scheduling your parenting duties. Aside from paid shared custody tool websites, of which there are many, you can also utilize existing free web tools to manage the complex logistics and tasks of co-parenting from a distance.
Try using Paypal to manage fund transfers for everything from child support to sharing your child’s medical bills. It’s quicker than most other options, especially if you don’t live close to your ex, and it records every transaction in order to keep both parties in the know about your child’s expenses. Likewise it would be even clearer, with long chains of transactions, to log expenses in a spreadsheet on Google docs. Set it up to allow both parents access to update and try this template for starters. A similar spreadsheet could be utilized to track visitation hours with as much transparency as possible.
I realize that managing joint custody can be overwhelming emotionally and physically. When I walked out of awith signed divorce papers in my hand, I thought most difficult part was behind me. It turned out to be much more complicated than I had anticipated. I learned from many of our mistakes and you will too. But most of all, I hope these tips empower you to take an active role as a parent.
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This is a guest post by freelance writer Kate Simmons for Richard D. Palmer Law who can help you with marital and family law.
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This is always a tricky subject and I have often thought about what I would disclose to my child when it came time to discuss why her father and I divorced. I have run the scenario in my head almost a thousand times and while she is only five and has never asked about it, I have often wondered how I would handle telling her. While the best course of action would be for the “ex” and I to come together and agree on the best discourse, the reality is that we can’t even agree on when our daughter should be brushing her teeth, let alone me telling her about how her dad was cheating on mommy! So what do you say to your kids and how do you tell them if you have an ex who is less likely to communicate anything at all to your child?
Here are a few things I have learned when it comes to discussing uncomfortable subjects with my child:
1) Be Honest – Conveying honesty is going to be the most important part of your conversation. If you have an ex that never gave you honest answers with regards to why they did anything that they did in the demise of the marriage, your best answer will be “I don’t know.” Be honest about the events that caused the divorce. Discuss the bad choices and mistakes that you made so that your kids can come to terms that not everyone is perfect and mistakes are often made. Most importantly don’t bad mouth your ex no matter how tempting it is.
2) Don’t assume the thoughts and feelings of your ex– don’t assume what your ex was thinking at the time. You really don’t know nor will you ever know. Conveying to your child what you thought your ex felt or meant is oftentimes and inaccurate description of actual events. Just discuss your own thoughts and feelings before you assume your ex’s.
3) Convey your feelings – Be honest about how events made YOU feel. Convey emotions such as anger, sadness, despair and grief. Oftentimes, kids are also experiencing these feelings about your divorce and it’s sometimes helpful that they are not alone in feeling those things.
4) What is in their best interest? Many people feel that you should not tell children about why a divorce happened if the purpose for telling them is selfish or with malice. For instance if as the betrayed parent you are telling your child to get sympathy from them or turn them against the other parent, then that is not in your child’s best interest. If however, you want to tell them so that they can move forward with you and your ex, then the intent is for their growth. My personal opinion is that it is hard to separate the hurt from the reality and the more you wait, the more your children will resent you. If that is the case, I really wouldn’t wait no matter how I feel. However, I would keep the conversation short and to the point.
5) Consistently Reassure – I constantly must reassure my child that I will always love her and that will never change. I however, do not make excuses for the ex or try to assure her that he loves her. Many will disagree with me on this but his behavior has not shown to me anything that justifies why I should make excuses for him or make him seem better than what he is. At first I used to make her believe that but I started to truly doubt that about him. If honesty is going to be important, then he must accept the consequences of not picking her up when he is supposed to and not providing for her. Since I’ve gone this route I’ve had to doubly reassure her of my love for her.
Whatever your situation is, these are general guidelines if you must parent with a difficult or non-existent ex. This is not the life we chose, this is the life choice that is sometimes thrust upon us. Many of us are in a tug of war with our ex’s and while we all know cooperation and communication is the key to healthy co-parenting we still need tips when that is not the case in our reality.