Co-Parenting with a Hostile or Abusive Ex

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Dealing with a verbally abusive non-custodial parent

Nov 2012

Hi! I am the parent of a wonderful, compassionate, smart 7.5 year old. I have sole legal and physical custody of my child. My childs father, in addition to being a severe alcoholic, was physically and emotionally abusive to me-- he served time for domestic violence towards me. I have been separated from my son's father since that arrest, even moving 400 miles away 1 month after my child was born after his verbal abuse began again--he and his family even threatened to ''take my child if I ever called the police''. My son's father, to this day, doesn't believe I had a right to move and doesn't think he did anything wrong when he punched me in the face 8 years ago in a drunken rage.

In the years since, my son's father has used the pretext of calling to talk about our son as an excuse to harass me, scream at me, call me horrendous names, etc. He continually makes vague threats such as, ''just you wait, next month things are going to change and our son is going to be with daddy now''. Just enough to scare me, but not enough to get himself in trouble with the law.

The issue I am having right now is with visitation. He has court ordered once per month visitation in my home (unbelievable considering the domestic violence history) supervised by me, and my parents, with home I have lived since my child was born. In the past 3 years, he has visited 8 times and missed the past 11 consecutive months. I was on the verge of filing abandonment as I had had no contract from him in 6 months, however, he just called up out of the blue and said he's coming up in 3 weeks. Suddenly, it's back to the same routine, calling me up screaming, hate filled e-mails, and vague threats. I can't take this anymore! Does anyone have experience with something like this? I'd like to stop ALL communication with him, I don't feel I should have to take the abuse. I also feel there should be some sort of consequences for such long absences for which he refused to give any explanation. Any advice??

First, good for you for moving. You are right; you don't have to put up with this treatment. I'm not sure where you are located, but try online at (Women Escaping a Violent Environment) or (CA Partnership to End Domestic Violence). I feel certain that they will be able to advise you on your legal rights that may be able to end the visitation once and for all. anon

I am sorry you are going through this. First, you need to build a firewall between yourself and your child's father as soon as you can, by changing your phone number and keeping it unlisted, and changing your e-mail address. Don't allow him to contact you directly. Set up a formal intermediary through a lawyer. If he needs to arrange a visit, it should be done through that intermediary. No phone conversations or e-mails with him. This will be inconvenient for you (you will have to contact your friends and relations and businesses and...) but it will be worth it. And keep in mind that the new numbers should not go out to anyone who is likely to give them to him.

Second, go through your existing e-mails and print them out. Then try to write down, to the best of your ability, specific threats and insults and give the closest approximations of the dates you can. Make a file. Take it to a lawyer. Demonstrate that a relationship with this man is untenable for either you or your child. Your child does not need a relationship with a raging alcoholic who occasionally hints that he will kidnap his child. If he stops drinking (it doesn't sound as if he has) and stops insulting and threatening, then maybe. I would continue to appeal this, because it is vital to your child's welfare. Try to find a lawyer who can do this for both of you. daughter of an alcoholic

Hello, I am sorry your ex is threatening and continuing to abuse you. My advice is to contact the Family Violence Law Center immediately and ask them for help. They can be found online at Let them know what is going on, what your visitation arrangement is, who is attorney is (if any), etc.

In the meantime, document every phone call, email, text message--any and everything he does should be documented for your case. If you feel unsafe, report it to the police. If he threatens to do anything that makes you fear for your safety or the safety of your child, call the police (and document it as best you can).

I'm so sorry this is happening--I hope this helps. Concerned

The key word about him is ''non-custodial'' thank god! Don't answer ANY calls without screening and have ZERO spontaneous live conversations with him. Let him leave messages and tape them. Save the recordings. Document all visit dates and no-shows. Hopefully the dates are pre-set, however many years until the child is 18 X 12 months on specific dates or first Wed of the month, so you don't have him looming on the horizon ready to drop in or pressure you at any time. He misses the date or doesn't miss the date, period. Save all emails. Document all conversations - going into the past the best you can with approx dates, documenting threats. Added to the documented pattern of abuse he inflicted on you in the past. Hospital records, photos, whatever - the law is idiotic on this point the last I heard, considering spousal abuse a separate issue! Stone age.

Do not give him any chance to say anything to you live, do not engage except for logistics by email but with the right court orders you won't even need to do that. If you accidentally pick up the phone and it's him, say breezily ''Oh darn, someone at the door, gotta go.'' Don't make exceptions or changes. Don't give an inch, he can't be trusted with it. There's a good chance he will just fade away if it's been 11 months. Whatever triggered him again will fade away and his pattern may just be absenteeism. If necessary, take your documentation into court again to argue for even less time, but you may not have to go that far. Someone else in this same bunch of posts said something about ''abandonment'' - I don't know if that's a legal term but 11 months and a pattern of abuse may constitute that. Time to consult with a lawyer?

I hate to say this because I've been there and struggled financially to raise my child with an abusive ex. If there is a way you can drop child support fights, do so. That's a big part of it for most woman-hating deadbeat cowards who behave the way your ex does. It will never ever be fair and it might be incrementally less unfair if you force a few piddly thousand out of him over the years, but the cost more than wipes out the benefit. He ''wins'' in a way but you've learned a huge lesson and enhanced your character, some would say soul, if you stay intentional and conscious and respectful in dealing with him, take care of yourself in every way you can. Bravo for taking your parents' help. Bravo for assessing the danger correctly and acting on it at the beginning.

You're doing something worthwhile and hard, raising your child on the razor's edge where he or she needs to love or at least idealize this dangerous person who hates you. I did it with much outside help and support. It does end sooner than you think. - good luck

This is hard. Do not tolerate being abused by this jerk - verbally, via email, or text message. Is there a way to have a neutral third party handle the interface?

There are facilities (I think the Oakland police department used to run one) where supervised visitation can take place away from the mother's home. It would be good for the kids to see their father on neutral turf, given the history.

Do you have a very nasty lawyer? Such a person would cost money, but it might be the best thing for putting yourabusive ex in his place. anonymous

So sorry you are having to go through this process.

It is time to go back to court and get a change of parenting plan if it currently requires you to speak with him on the phone. I am sure your parenting plan does not say you need to put up with verbal abuse or violence, however. If the parenting plan only says that you need to communicate, but does not outline how, then refuse to take any more phone calls and demand that all correspondence be by email. They are much easier to print out for documentation for court and if he is (blessedly) stupid enough to say the things in email as over the phone, then you will have that much more physical evidence to present to a judge backing up your request. Keep a detailed log of each call and what he said, including the length of the call and the date he called. That way if he tries taking you to court or when you go to court, you will have detailed documentation of why you cut a call short or refused to continue verbal contact. Make any email contact with him as BORING as possible; ie, do not address accusations, put downs, or outrageous claims he makes. Stick to the facts and keep your wording neutral and focused on information about your child. He wants a fight and a victim. Disappoint him.

I personally would also start the process of asking that supervised visitation be done at a professional facility that can catch any weirdness in his interaction with your child or at least give you some relief from what sounds like a stressful situation.

I found Patricia Evan's book ''The Verbally Abusive Relationship'' to be helpful in dealing with my verbally abuse ex. I refused to speak to him on the phone and his numerous abusive follow-up emails got me a court order that required all of our communications to be in writing and that they be brief, peaceful, and focused on how to care for our child. I've not had to motion for contempt of court, but I've ended up with powerful documentation that has helped make the situation better.

You don't have to put up with it

Leaving abusive husband, worried about joint custody

March 2011

I'm preparing to leave my 7-year marriage to a verbally and emotionally abusive husband. Our son is 4 and our daughter is 2. While my husband's schedule may not allow for 50/50 custody, I know he'll have the kids for as much time as he can, and I'm worried about my son spending lots of "unsupervised" time with him.

My husband is often a good father, but he is also childish, impatient, and easily angered. At those times, he thinks nothing of yelling at our son, criticizing him until he cries, and physically controlling him (e.g., holding him while my son screams "let me go!"). I am always the one to put a stop to this behavior, but after our divorce I think he will enjoy slamming the door in my face and treating the kids however he wants without my interference. (Just yesterday, I was trying to get him to stop yelling at our son, and he told me angrily to "never f-ing talk to me about these kids again.")

I have spoken with lawyers and others familiar with CA family law, and my understanding is that my husband's behavior is not abusive enough to affect his right to joint custody. So there's no point going to court, spending thousands of dollars, and ramping up the bad feeling to where he hates me and doesn't let me influence his parenting at all. Instead, I plan to settle out of court and cooperate with him as best as I can, with the idea that if we remain on somewhat friendly terms, it will be better for the kids.

It's very painful to see my son hurt and confused by his dad's behavior, and awful to think that I won't be around to help him. Has anyone dealt with this, and if so how? Can you raise a happy, confident boy despite his dad's verbal abuse? Any advice much welcome. Sad Mom

First let me say that I am sorry that you have to go through this, and that I have some similar experience. My ex-husband thought it quite all right to yell, slam things, and call our son names. He did this when I still lived with him, and of course it didn't stop after I left. But my son told me about some of the problems, and I insisted that my ex come with me to speak to our son's therapist, without saying beforehand that this would be my topic. In front of the therapist, I repeated what our son had told me. When it was just myself and my husband, he never listened to my objections and was dismissive and contemptuous. But when I repeated what he had said to a third party in front of him, he had some shame. He denied to the therapist that he had done the things my son described, but guess what? He stopped doing them. For a time, anyway. The next time he did it, I did the same thing, only this time the therapist was a woman, and he refused to listen to her (woman issues, anyone?). He slammed out of the session. But... he toned down his abuse of our son. And now that our son is a teenager, the boy defends himself. ''You can't talk to me like that. Stop cursing, Dad.'' There were times when my son walked away from his Dad's house, came to my place, and refused to return until his Dad calmed down. Part of this has to do with the power I got when I left his Dad: I stood as an independent person, saying ''People shouldn't talk to each other like this. That's no way to behave,'' and so on. While I was still married, I felt complicit, but now I can present my own views and give my son backup. My son knows that I will protect his right not be abused, and that he has that right. So if you teach your son how he should be treated and attend to how he is being treated when he is at his Dad's, you should be able to help him learn to defend himself. And, I have to say, even given the fact that my son's Dad can be abusive, he can also be supportive and helpful to our son. Our son does have a Dad, and I think that this is good, as long as the Dad's abusive behavior is understood to be Dad's problem. divorced mom

my ex broke up a marriage when my kids were 13 and 15. it totally screwed them up... and we (me and kids) are dealing with the feelings of abandonment the kids felt by their mom leaving... in our case, she has continued to be elusive and noncommittal in her support (flaked on promise to pay college tuition, blah blah blah) i am curious why you hardly mention to younger kid in your posted question. a dad on his his own (yet happy)

Sometimes the problems in the marriage trigger abuse. In our case, my husband was explosive, and could be verbally abusive to both me and my son. Once we separated he became much more nurturing to my son, and no longer abusive. I think he was extremely jealous of my attention to our son, and once I was out of the picture, he could fall in love with his son. So you never know how it will turn out. I was terrified of separating too in part because I was so fearful of leaving my son with him and not being there to protect him, but my not being there has been helpful to their relationship. I think my son is so much better off without all the anger in our home. Good luck. anon

Sorry to hear about this. Scary to not know if your kids are safe. Two things come to my mind. One is to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. I suspect they can either give you some advice, or refer you to someone local. The other is to look into Hand in Hand Parenting ( It is a place where you can think out loud, with excellent support, as you navigate this situation. It will also give you some techniques to help you help your children if their father yells at them unreasonably, etc. Good Luck! Meg

I wanted to tell you that I truly admire you for the journey you are taking, however difficult, for yourself and for your son. You will certainly find some resources through (CA Partnership to End Domestic Violence). You can also call the anonymous hotlines at either the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center, based out of Woodland, CA, or WEAVE (Women Escaping a Violent Environment), based out of Sacramento. Both anonymous hotlines have trained folks who can discuss options with you, no matter where you are. If you don't have a safe computer at home (i.e., one that your husband can also use, and see your use history), you can use the public library. In case you can't access those, here are the numbers and Websites:; 800-799-SAFE (7233) to be connected directly to your local DV resource center; or for info on local DV resources throughout CA; (530) 662-1133 (24/7 crisis/info line); (916) 920-2952 (24/7 crisis/info line) be safe; you deserve it, and so does your son

Co-Parenting with a hostile father

Nov 2007

As a single mother of a 4-yr-old daughter, I am finding it increasing difficult to co-parent with my daughter's father. We were never married and have a co-parenting agreement in place which states that co-counseling is mandatory. Recently, he is displaying behaviors that are in line with a bi-polar disorder that runs in his family. The catch is that earlier this year he accused me of abuse (completely unsubstantiated and ubsurd) and reported it to CPS. He forced my hand and when my atty and I came to the table with his counsel, I agreed to sharing custody and completing anger mgmt classes. I did this (mostly because he motivated my anger and) because I felt it was in my child's best interest (shared custody) and (anger mgmt) would serve me well as a single, custodial (80%) parent. Now he continually thwarts any progress we make in our sessions by threatening not to continue co-parenting therapy and also seeking legal and police action. I am financially not in a good place to call his bluffs and seek legal counsel and subsequently feel helpless. I am a good mother . I work part-time and am in school to insure our future. I am tired of raising two children (the DAD and my daughter.) Any insight or recommendations on affordable legal counsel would sure help. BTW, I am in therapy for myself which helps ground me quite a bit but nonetheless, feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks and Namaste. Distressed Single Mom

I could have written your letter, and after dealing with this for almost 4 years I have created a structure that works fairly well. First, establish a strict ''email only'' policy of communication and stick to it. All discussions or agreements need to be emailed and saved. If this doesn't cut down on the abuse, it does allow you to document it. Do not respond to any abuse or false accusation sent to you by him. Filter in only the parts of the email that have to do with direct and immediate co-parenting issues, and respond only to those issues. Do not get sucked in to responding to anything else, no matter how badly your buttons are being pushed. All of your emails to him should be business-like and should stick to the point of co-parenting only. Do not write anything sarcastic, funny, friendly, angry, etc. Just think of what it would look like in a co-parenting session or in court if all of your emails are straightforward and focused, and his are all abusive and accusatory. It won't take them long to figure him out.

Next, do not answer your phone. Get rid of voice mail and get an answering machine that you can screen. Don't answer your cell phone either. Never pick up the phone when he calls. This takes some practice, but I promise your life will improve a great deal once you do this. If he calls and leaves a message, respond via email: ''I got your message...'' If there is an emergency with your child, he will say so on the message and you can act accordingly. You are not breaking any ''rules'' by doing any of this. No one says you have to answer your phone (I haven't in 3 years). Stick to ''yes'' and ''no'' responses during drop off and pick up, or say ''I'll think about that. Why don't you email me and I'll get back to you.'' Also, look into the possiblility that he has NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). What you describe seems to fit that. Good luck. anon

In my unfortunately similar situation I have found it extremely helpful to have good boundaries, including as little communication as possible with the other parent. I asked the court to assign a ''Special Master'' (aka ''Referee'') who makes recommendations to the court when we cannot agree. So we only communicate by email and then only to make agreements (no discussion, no complaints, no explanations). Those issues which we cannot resolve on our own go to the Special Master. His harrassment will worsen, so establish the boundaries asap. Read ''The Sociopath Next Door''. Protect yourself

How to get Ex-Spouse to go to Co-Parent Counseling

April 2005

I share halftime custody with my ex-husband of a terrific 6 year old boy. We had a difficult marriage (verbal and emotional abuse) and contentious divorce. We were ordered by the court to attend co-parenting counseling. This was the one and only place that I was able to address parenting issues and there would be some accountability to this third person. We did this for about two years. We have been out of the courts now for some time and he refuses to go back to counseling with me. By way of background, he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder exacerbated by alcoholism. I caused him great ''injury'' by leaving him 4 years ago. Every communication since then (via email since we don't talk in person or phone) is filled with blame/accusation, assertions that he is the better parent, and a whole bevy of delusion/projection/condescension. It's taken a long while but I am able to be fairly nonchalant in my reaction to this communication. 

However, it is impossible to have a normal conversation about sharing cost of an expense for our child, or negotiating vacation time, or getting him to do homework, or sharing the responsibility of taking our son to the dentist and doctor, etc.) He stretches the confines of our custody agreement, sculpting whatever is convenient for him in any gray area. I am at wit's end. I can't use the courts to sue him to go to counseling. He hasn't done anything inappropriate in front of any witnesses (though plenty without witness). Our son is doing well in school, appears to be able to adapt to the two different cultures he is exposed to but I do have major concerns about how long my kid will do okay with the unacknowledged, un-dealt with heavy hostility from dad towards mom (At three, my son was coming home saying ''daddy says mommy is a bitch'' and a year ago he'd say stuff like, ''I hate daddy cause he says mean things about you mommy'' but I haven't heard anything like this for awhile and he does genuinely love his father). Has anyone else tried to get a co- parent into counseling so that other basic parenting and custody issues and changes can be discussed? I'd appreciate any legal or practical advice. Anonymous

Lie, and tell him that yes, he is a great dad, but that going to the counseling is for your CHILD's benefit, noone else's. Phrase a question to say something like ''Wouldn't you do anything you had to do, in order to give your son the very best? I know you resent me, and that's okay, but this is not about you or me. It's about us being bigger than the problems we had together and doing something that benefits our son, even if we don't personally enjoy it.'' Then also mention in there that co-parenting counseling will help you two to be consistent, and help YOUR parenting skills (and roll your eyes while you type it, so you feel better). anon

im sorry, i dont have any advice for you - its just when i read your post, i was compelled to respond because it sounds like my situation, only at the beginning stages. ive recently separated, and am thinking about next steps. i would love for you to contact the moderator if you are interested in talking- anon

My short answer is this: If your very young child comes home and tells you ''Daddy says mommy is a bitch'' and ''I hate daddy because he says mean things about you'' is pretty strong stuff. I'd consult a lawyer and try to keep Daddy away as much as possible.

Your child is only going to become angry, resentful and very confused if this continues. You state that the father has Narcissistic Personality -- is that diagnosed by you or a physician? If it's a real diagnosis, and your child is telling you the nasty things the father is saying, you do have a leg to stand on in court. You might also want to talk to your pediatrician about this, as your child's future emotional health is at risk.
-- My son's father is crazy, too

Sharing custody with a hostile, aggressive co-parent

April 2004

I am mother to a wonderful child whose father and I are no longer together. We were never married so we have no custody agreement. My child lives with me and spends a few hours a week with my ex, who does not provide any financial support for our child. He now wants to start having my child sleep over on a regular basis.

My child's father was diagnosed manic-depressive several years ago, and I am now seeing signs in him of narcissistic personality disorder. His behavior toward me is sometimes hostile and aggressive, and I have had to ask him to stop sending me hostile emails. He refuses to take any medication for his manic depression, and the result is a person who is very unreliable and erratic.

What am I to do about my child spending time with his father, now and in the future? I have spoken with lawyers about filing a petition for custody/paternity, but I'm afraid this could backfire and result in 50/50 custody; I also would like to avoid the cost and ugliness. I would love to hear any advice in dealing with this kind of person, as well as what legal steps people in my shoes have taken. I feel I need to tread lightly, but at the same time I feel terrified that my child and I are so unprotected. Anon

This is a hard one. I have a co-parent who suffers from depression that became much worse when I left him. He always denied that he was depressed when we were together, but then when I left he actually had to be hospitalized for a short time because there was a fear he would commit suicide. This is very tough on a child, and we have 50/50 custody. My son, who is sensitive to his Dad's moods, often worries about him and begs me to come back so that Dad won't be sad. When I left my marriage, I worried about giving up half-custody of my son in this situation, but because his Dad was at that time not seriously ill, there was no argument against shared custody. And even now his father denies that there was anything seriously wrong -- it was all a mistake that he was hospitalized, he claims. So it is hard. I would consult with a lawyer, perhaps, in addition to the mediator. The mediator has to work with both parents, and that is a good thing, but you also need to know your rights in the case of more severe mental illness. Good luck in your struggle for your child. wish I had more custody

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. I have a sister who has narcissistic personality disorder and my experience is that there is no way to reason with someone like that. And for my situation, trying to reason with her just feeds her need for anger, resentment and blame. I understand your hesitation with hiring a lawyer, but I really think you should. And get a good lawyer, preferably someone who has dealt with something like this. Hopefully you will get better legal advice from people on this list than I can give you. But really, really do not make this mistake of thinking your ex-partner can be reasoned with. You need to take every step possible, legally, to protect yourself and your son, and do it sooner rather than later so things do not get out of hand. It is your primary responsibility to protect your son, so please do everything you need to to that end. Good luck! anon

My husband is bipolar and we went through a very rough period in which he blamed me for everything and said nasty things to me. So much of what you said sounds familiar; luckily my husband started treatment and things are a lot better now. It's true that there is no way to know what the outcome would be, but in your shoes I would definitely go to court trying to win full custody. If your ex has been formally diagnosed but won't take medication to stabilize his condition, it seems that with the proper court-ordered evaluation he would be determined to be unstable. When I was considering divorce, I thought a lot about this, and I would definitely pursue that course of action, with as much evidence as possible to prove that the dad is unpredictable. I would push for some sort of evaluation or mediation prior to each visit with the child, too, but I have no idea if that's something that actually happens in the real world. It's your responsibility to protect your child as much as you can, and in this situation a good way to do this is to go for broke and get as many legal rights with respect to your child as you can. I know you said you want to ''tread lightly'' but I don't think you can finesse your ex's reactions on this one anyway, so you might as well throw the book at him. Maybe he will realize that he needs to be treated, or maybe he'll freak out on you and you'll have to get a restraining order, which would also work to your advantage in court. wife of bipolar

Please, please get a court order! Your post really upset me because you seem to have done everything to avoid going to court. DO IT! Based upon what you have said, I doubt you will get 50/50 custody, but even if you did, anything is better that the chaotic and unstable arrangement that you and your child are living under. Everything calms down once there is a court order dictating the structure of a co-parenting arrangement, I promise. Somehow you have the wrong idea about how things work in family court services. You mentioned that you have not gone to court because you were never married. Being married has nothing to do with custody issues between parents. Forget a private mediator - Run, do not walk, and file an ''Order to Show Cause'' and get that court order now! The court will appoint you a mediator for free. They will even deal with child support. Please stop hoping that he will be reasonable and agree with you. You seem to have a lot of flimsy excuses not to go to court. It will stop the craziness and offer you some peace and stability - Please do it tomorrow! anon

Shared custody with hostile and abusive dad

July 2001

Can someone give me advice, direction, on what agencies or groups can assist a single mom who is struggling with the dad of her teen son, a dad who harasses the mother at work when he's angry and likes to humiliate her in front of their son.

My son is a teen and is shared between me and his dad, so my son lives with me as well as his dad - but, his dad puts him in the middle when he's angry at me, last incident he removed my son's belongings from my apt., has my son and is effectively holding him until I succomb to his verbal abuse. I am not allowing it, filing a restraining order, etc., but my son needs help; he loves his dad, but receives verbal abuse from him as well, he suffers when it's happening but then forgets about it and doesn't understand why I can't forget it (now that dad isn't angry anymore), and why it can't be the same anymore.

My son is not the kind to open up or agree to any kind of outside involvement, and he will be furious with me when his dad gets served with a restraining order, and ordered to court, reads my declaration. I cannot call my son now without the threat of his father getting on the phone and doing his ugly tirade, he can talk normal tone but say the ugliest most horrible things to embarass me in front of our son.

Although he is a good dad in some senses, he's terrible in others, and I am figuring out a way to put a stop to his dad verbally abusing him - saying thngs like f****r and I'm going to smash your dreamcast, etc. It's one thing to be angry, but it's another when you're that ugly to your own son.

My son loves his dad very much, he also loves me, but it seems he is very protective of his dad, possibly because he's been brainwashed into thinking that the most horrible thing I could do to him is to make it a court action. I have to do that and I am so afraid my son will not speak to me, and his dad will keep him longer than he should on his turn now, and make it impossible for me to contact my son without confrontation and possible physical threatening from his dad if I go to his dad's place - it would become any ugly scene, something I am dead set against happening to my son every again, even at the expense of not seeing my son for days. I am trying to get it all resolved right away court-wise, but my son needs an outlet, peers or something - soon - when I am able to get him back. I am living paycheck to paycheck and can hardly make ends meet, and for that reason I find I have very little resources. I can't even afford an attorney - not even for 1 hr., I make too much money to get low-cost, nobody cares too much about the effects of verbal abuse/harassment and the illegality of it, it's only physical abuse that seem to get everyone's attention.

This is a dreadful situation you have to deal with. Don't believe the abuse your husband throws at you--it's not true--let it roll off your ears. Don't get sidetracked by that. Do let your son know that abuse is unacceptable and no one deserves to have to deal with it.

I had decided to use the court as a last resort since I didn't want to get into psychologists, etc. Surprisingly, each time I decided that it would be worth it, he changed his behavior (without my ever going to court.) It must have been my attitude.

My son decided that he didn't want to live that way and refused to go to his house. Since it wasn't I who was preventing my son from going, the dad had no legal recourse. He got so that he would hang up on his father. We put a service on the phone where after the first abusive call, we could refuse further calls from his phone number that night, then give him another chance the next day. He'd never say anything negative about his dad, but did use the phone service.

I went for counseling instead of sending my son. That way I could learn ways to help him and myself. And finally, things change. They will not always stay the way they are now. Take care of yourself and your son.

Try the Family Violence Law Center in Berkeley 540-5354 (they may be able to represent you in court, or at least counsel you or suggest legal counsel) and the Berkeley Community Law Center 548-4040 and maybe the Parental Stress Service 893-5444 (more of a crisis line, but may be able to refer you to resources). If you want to contact me about my experiences with filing a restraining order, feel free.

Bad news: You need to either go ahead and get as nasty as it takes -- including restraining orders, court, jailtime, incurring debts for legal help... whatever it takes (I would consider leaving town with your son and disappearing for 3 years...) OR, you need to completely give up and let your husband raise your son without your input. Maybe that's the only solution, if you can't do anything else... it sounds like in your absence your husband is only verbally abusive...and with you there its even worse. At the moment you are teaching your son that a) you are powerless and b) evil wins, c) some things are more important to you than he is. Good luck, I'm sorry you have to go through this, and I know it must be hard for you, but I urge you to stop even LOOKING at the reasons you can't do anything-- and DO IT anyway -- whatever it takes. You are raising a man, and have the opportunity to send him a clear message on what a man is like, and that you can't tolerate and don't expect anything less than that for him. Heather

I am going through a difficult divorce myself right now and I have found Alanon to be invaluable in helping me deal with all aspects of this process. (See Alanon for the rest of this message.)

You probably know this but Nolo press is a good source of help with the legal aspects of divorce...they have many excellent do it yourself books and a low cost service of some kind. I send my best wishes to you. Hang in there. It will get better.

If you haven't already contacted STAND, they are the formerly Battered Women's Alternatives agency and they can offer you help both emotionally support wise and also give you legal advice and depending on your situation find you a pro bono (no charge to you) attorney. You can reach them at 1-888-215-5555 24hr/7days.

As you can see from the thread, teen-age boys are quite a handful and they do reach a point where it is really important that they separate from their moms (on some emotional level) as they seek to learn what it is to be a man. Oftentimes, they turn to their dads and it is difficult when a parent is both a loving and abusive parent. It is tough enough when the parent is mostly loving and making the usual list of mistakes that parenting brings. It is so confusing when they send both love and rage at the same time. I have two sons, 14 and 15 years old. On a good day :)), it's great to see them struggle back and forth as they choose between who they are and what they want to be whether it's with me or their dad or their friends. On some days, I don't want to even own up to the reality that they are my children!

Even though your expectations are that your son will be upset with you and furious if you take action against his dad, he probably will be more relieved that an adult has stepped in to put some boundaries on out-of-control behaviors and inappropriate actions by another adult who is important in his life. Much as they rebel against it, children want structure-- if nothing else than to bounce off of as they search for their own identities. When abuse is present than if someone doesn't stop it and/or confront it, then children involved receive the message that it's okay to do this and can/do start acting with similar behaviors.

I really hope you are able to contact STAND. They are incredibly helpful and can probably give you some advice with your son as well as with practical stuff. Shirley

Hello, You sound just like me a few years ago! I can refer you to a lawyer who helped me sort of Pro Bono. I owe her alot of money, but I can take time to pay it back. I was in and out of court for 10 years. I had to prove to the court that the skeletons in my closet were dead. My experience is probably different than yours in some ways, but I had to reply (even though I'm too busy). I found that nobody, not even my family, wanted to get involved. There's a tendency to think both parents are crazy. (We were crazy to be involved with these horrible men in the first place, but the crime doesn't fit the punishment or vice-versa.)

You love your son. He will suffer if you say or feel negative things about his father. For your own sanity try to understand that what his father is doing to you is not about you. Never trust him, but leave the anger behind. Fight for your son's well-being; not to win. Your son needs to be safe. You must decide if the verbal abuse merits ending their relationship. Your son will be angry if you take away his father, but maybe he'll get over it. I don't know what your particular situation is. If at all possible let the court mediator (mine in Alameda County was Narvelle Handy and she was very good) help you come to an agreement. Whatever they say goes in the courtroom. Court battles can be very costly especially if you have a good lawyer; which you'll need.

My heart goes out to you. I know what a horrible nightmare you're experiencing. Make it clear that you are not under his thumb. Be strong and clear, and consistent. Take good care of yourself so that you can take good care of your son.

My situation is in a way similar to the previous posting about this issue. However, my son idolises his father, and wants to go and live with him. His father is still in England, and if my son leaves now he will not get a green card. I've been trying to persuade him to wait until the green card arrives, as then if he does go to live with his father, it will be a reversible action. Otherwise, if he doesn't like it there, he will be stuck in England and I wouldn't be able to help him.

My son is now fourteen, and has stopped working at school completely in an effort to 'get back to England'. This is self-destructive behaviour; he's been threatening suicide as well.

It's a horrible decision; his father has a drinking problem, and was abusive - violent - but also emotionally abusive both to me and the children. Also my son idolises his excessive drinking behaviour (even though on an access visit last year he had to carry him home from a festival on his shoulders.).

His father refuses to visit him in America (says it's a disgusting place) - and my son makes excuses for this, saying he understands how his father feels.

His father has been complaining that I will not let my son see him, going to agencies in England etc... but on a recent visit he refused to return my son to America, made him miss the flight at Heathrow...I have told him that he can visit here any time, and even offered to pay his fares over. He refuses to come. I feel confused, upset, hurt by my son's reaction to his father. I try to overcome my own feelings, to look at it objectively, to try and see what is best for my child. My gut instinct is that it would be wrong, damaging, for him to live with his father - but then I would expect myself to feel that on some level, even if his father was great...

The history makes this all very ironical; I was a single parent in England, when I struggled through college, with no child support; the father then took out a custody case when I had just finished my finals and was starting postgraduate work. My son was three at the time. An elderly English judge decided that the children 'needed a parent', not to be in nursery school (it was a great school!). It took me two years to regain custody of my child, and during this time he formed an attachment to his father. I am trying to deal with my own feelings over all this - as I still haven't recovered from it.

When we moved to America, his father wrote a letter to my son saying I can only say that I hope everything goes terribly wrong. I face a difficult decision - I'd appreciate any thoughts on this...I have other children, including a seventeen year old daughter who has decided, after a similar crisis last year, to stay in America.

I'd like to commend those who are recommending taking a stand, albeit difficult, against an abusive parent of their children. It is important to set a clear example for our children that abusiveness is not acceptable. Deep down, I would expect your children to be relieved to see you take a stand against the inappropriate behaviors. Hopefully your situation will find resolution. The words were very true that: When abuse is present, than if someone doesn't stop it and/or confront it, then children involved receive the message that it's okay to do this and can/do start acting with similar behaviors. Not only do the children involved receive that message, but the victim of that abuse can herself start to believe she deserves it, and lose her self-esteem. Years ago, I saw the following, which I hope is helpful to you:
Your Basic Assertiveness Rights 1. To act in ways that promote dignity and self-respect without violating the rights of others. 2. To be treated with respect. 3. To say no and not feel guilty. 4. To experience and express one's feelings. 5. To take time to slow down and think. 6. To change one's mind. 7. To ask for what one wants. 8. To do less than humanly possible. 9. To ask for information. 10. To make mistakes. 11. To feel good about oneself.
Good luck to you. Carol