The heat is on (Part 1)

The laundry I hung an hour ago is waving, shock-dried on the line, the whole city sighing in the evening wind, hoping for a thermal breeze to make its way down from the cool, clean mountain tops.

I am standing on the balcony, watering dessicated plants, trying to think rationally: What represents your children’s best interests? How can opposing interests be reconciled? And where do parental interests fit-in?

Yup, we’re talking about something a notch more serious than the current heat wave today: Child custody is full of fascinating theoretical stuff to debate over an apéritif with your mates… Honestly, try it: Everyone suddenly has an opinion, which usually turns out to be quite passionately loud, and judgemental after a few Pastis.

The latest episode in my personal soap-opera is that T is asking, scratch that, stating that he will have shared custody of our less-than-two year old daughter every other week, and no custody of my son, as soon as he gets a space at the hospital’s nursery. This latest development came as a sobering slap, one that made me let go of the ridiculous power-struggle over our divorce date, one that made my blood curl and my motherly protective instinct go on red alert.

So here’s the plot, for newbies and those whose neurons have melted in the heat (that includes me):

  • I have a nearly 8 year old son, whose dad has never been overly interested, or involved in his life, even though there has been some recent progress. Currently resides in Austria and sees our son about twice a year for a day or two (details here and here)
  • I have a nearly two year old daughter with T, who was my partner for two and a half years
  • Ten months ago,  T talked about adopting my son
  • Eight months ago, T left me, a decision largely aided by someone who very rapidly became the New Ms T
  • When he left, T naturally got custody of the two children who had always been treated equally, and whose bond was a great source of comfort to each other
  • Six months ago, shortly after the New Ms T officially became the New Ms T, T started rejecting my son (details here)
  • Four months ago, we verbally agreed in mediation that he would have custody of our daughter every other weekend and half of school holidays, and of my son one weekend a month as well as on demand for “boys times”
  • Today, T has moved in with the New Ms T, no longer wishes to have any custody of my son, and wants shared custody of our daughter every other week.

My overwhelming gut-reaction to this new demand oscillates between “No bloody way”, and “Over my dead body”, although if I’m honest, I’m not 100% sure how useful my dead body would be to the children… And actually, in theory (we’re talking about apéritif-time, not-my-children-not-my-problem theory here), I believe that where practical, shared custody is the fairest solution for the children, who get to live equally with both their parents.

So when it comes to the crunch why am I so reluctant to put theory into practice for my daughter? How do I sort through my emotions to see clearly where the children’s best interests lie? And at the heart of all this, what constitutes a child’s best interest?…Haha, I’ll let you rack your brains and discuss all this over some Pastis (G&T also works): Cheers!


15 thoughts on “The heat is on (Part 1)

  1. The ‘non-alcoholic reality’ you have pointed out is that T has no blood connection with your son. Hence, regardless of what you believe and what might be objectively best for the kids’ well-being, I assume no court will impose a custody requirement on T that he continues to see a son that is not his. Conceding that point to yourself is surely painful…but necessary. [ Allow some Quality Time for squealing and for stamping of feet 🙂 ]

    The argument you do get to contribute to is the frequency of visitation rights for your shared daughter. What do you think is the best solution for this: For T to see her less frequently than every other weekend? Not at all? What about significant holidays (like Christmas)? What about vacations away somewhere?

    When you have good and reasonable answers to these, please let me know…I published my own post with similar questions. 🙂

    • You’re right in the sense that no law can force custody of children (whether they are blood-related or not actually), but legal systems as a rule avoid as far as possible splitting siblings.
      As you said, I only get a say in custody of my daughter, but this say will take into account the existence of her brother. I need to talk to a lawyer before I have better answers to your questions, they are difficult ones aren’t they?
      Good luck with answering your too!

  2. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with his craziness. Do you have a lawyer? I don’t have a clue how divorce works in France. You need time to breathe and sort through all his rush, rush plans. I’m thinking your attorney could help you slow it down a bit, if that’s what you want and need.

    Good luck.

    • Thanks Pat, I do not yet have a lawyer but have been recommended one so will hopefully get that moving soon. You’re right, at the very least, they should be able to slow things down and give us time to think carefully.
      Things do feel surreal though right now, and I am struggling to keep up with the pace of all the change.
      Take care x

  3. My heart just goes out to you. This is a wretched situation and one you could well do without. Being rash for a moment, he seems to be acting like a pig andhis varying approaches to your son are not at all helpful. I can offer no advice of any use but my thoughts are truely with you

    • Thanks Ducks…The virtual support is appreciated. As for his behaviour,…well, I’ve heard that in separations, people often behave appallingly out of guilt and/or anger, and that the more people have loved each other, the more they have to tear everything apart when they split. This sadly seems to be verified here. Regarding custody, I have hope that he was calling my bluff to get what he wanted (unPACSed), and that it won’t get to an all-out court battle. Let’s wait and see…x

  4. Best interest of children in most cases is that they have close relationship with both parents. You can’t do anything about T refusing to have relationship with your son so this is a very difficult one for you, you will have to somehow patch up the wounds this will cause…
    YOu are not in an easy situation, that’s for sure. I hope things will work out somehow with minimal hurt for the little ones. 😦

    • Hey there Surrey Gal, you are right of course about children needing a close relationship with both parents. In practice I guess the question is how much custody is needed for a close relationship? Would you say your girls have a close relationship with their dad seeing him once a month? For me, the emotional practicality of having to deal with separating my kids, and not seeing one of my children every other week, while seeing the other one all the time is a very difficult one to work through as a family unit. I really do not believe it would serve the children’s best interest.

      • Of course it is not, and it would be best if both were treated the same way, especially providing the situation (their close relationship before) but you cannot force T to look after your son too. Even if he finally agreed, he might mistreat him in favour of your daughter and that would be awful too… that’s why it’s such a difficult situation.
        As for close relationships, each family is different, one of my friends sees his daughter once a year (mother doesn’t allow more ofthen) but he calls her every day and they are very close together.
        My girls are also very close ot their dad even though he doesn’t call them that much. But they love him and I never allow them to feel guilty because they do. this may change, I don’t know, but for now they are close.

        • I see what you mean, and agree, I would never try to force custody of my son, as you said, it would be a terrible idea.

          What I have leverage against (hopefully) is to decide how much time my daughter needs to spend with her dad so that she can have a close relationship with him, without jeopardising the relationships between her and her brother, and me and my children too much. It’s a really difficult balance to find, but I am hopeful we’ll get there eventually!

          Glad to hear your daughters are close to their dad, it’s great. I hope my children can both have that too.

  5. I think you are quite right to slow things down. After all what’s the hurry. The children need the right solution for them and you need to feel comfortable with that solution for them as well. Never mind dealing with your own emotions.

    It sounds to me as if T is emotionally weak – and weak men run! And don’t like dealing with the consequences of their actions – after all dealing with the fallout in a rational and manly way means they have to be strong! And if he’d been strong he would have stood by you and worked out the issues he felt he had. So now he’s in a rush to get himself out of his ‘self-inflicted’ hole!

    My heart goes out to you. Good luck and I hope the debate on my blog is helping.

    • Dear Caroline, I think you are spot-on, and T is probably a weak man, like many of our rogue ex-spouses. I also think he is having trouble liking himself, and so runs away from any situation which does not make him feel so great about himself.

      On the question of custody, the children’s psychiatrist I have been quizzing about this is adamant that the single most important factor for the children is that T and I get on well. The rest is not completely irrelevant, but almost. All sorts of custody solutions work and have to be fitted to each individual situation.

      Again, you’re right, I have to feel comfortable with the solution, so that the children also feel comfortable with it. And T also has to feel comfortable with it because it will impact on our daughter.

      The discussion on your blog is a tremendous help, not for my custody questions, but for all the deeply personal, absolutely fundamental stuff around healing form a broken heart. Go check it out everyone!

      • And it’s still going! There is a time zone issue as one ‘participant’ – Stephen – is in the UK and the other is in LA so the debate only continues for fairly small time frames twice a day!

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