Co-parenting with an abusive Ex

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  • #863927 Reply


    I’m legally separated (in the process of divorce but he refuses to come to any agreements) for 3 yrs now and we share 2 children. He was only physically abusive to me after our son (2nd child) was born, but was emotionally abusive for years.
    Anyways, he’s extremely hot and cold, at visit exchanges, as odd as it sounds, I can tell if I’m getting the nasty one or nice one the moment he pulls in my driveway. But when the nasty, name calling, acting like he’s going to run me over, scary one comes (it can be as often as every few days, to twice a month) IN FRONT OF MY KIDS, I get shaken and scared and stumble on my words, because I just don’t want my children seeing this, but he does it over and over in front of them.
    I have full surveillance cameras set up, the local police have his info and all the police reports from the domestic violence from my old town, so they drive by often, but I don’t know what else to do.
    He knows how to put fear in me, and his girlfriend sits in the truck and laughs as he verbally abuses me in front of the kids.
    Should I ask the cops to drive by specifically when he comes?
    I’m sick of being abused, I’m sick of my kids seeing it, I left him to get away from it, but I still can’t escape it.
    Any advice appreciated. I’m still shaking from today’s encounter and crying from seeing the looks on my sweet kids faces as their Dad called their Mom horrible things in front of them.

    #863949 Reply

    Liz Lemon

    Ugh, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Would it be possible to do the custody exchange in some public place– a train station, drugstore, Walmart/Target– somewhere where there would be lots of people (and cameras)? Do you think he’d behave better if there were witnesses around? I know folks who have had this type of thing written into their custody agreements– that the exchange of the children can’t happen at each others homes, but must be in a specific public place. Just an idea. Again, this sucks, you really have my sympathy.

    #864286 Reply


    You have my utmost sympathy. I went through this exact same thing. You are going to need to stay very, very strong for your kids and be the bigger person as much as you can. If you don’t have a custody order in place, you need to get one. Kids need stability even through divorce. Make sure in the order that custody drop off and pick up is in a public place. Mine is currently at the local gas station/convenience store which is half way between both of our homes.

    If your ex is anything like mine, he will do anything and everything to get a rise out of you. You need to stay calm and not let it effect you. Cry when you get home and the kids are gone, vent to a friend, but in front of him… give him nothing. He’ll try even harder to get something out of you because it gives him a power-ego trip. Remaining calm, cool and collected without rising to his bait is what will give you your power back. Eventually, he will give up and move on to tormenting the new girl.

    #864763 Reply


    He was supposed to have the kids tonight but changed his mind half hour before pickup. Then 20 minutes later he said he’s coming to pick up the youngest (5) because he says so. I said No, you said you weren’t coming, so we went out (to the park with friends) and I will not force him to leave because you ‘changed your mind’.
    Idk why but I get so shaken when he pulls this crap, and I feel like he knows that and expects me to give in to his unstable demands.
    How would you handle this / respond?
    He’s a malignant, vindictive, physically abusive narcissist

    #864766 Reply

    Liz Lemon

    Do you have a written custody agreement? You should stipulate that all your communication about the children should be over email. Written, so there’s a record. No calls, no texts. Only email. If he can’t pick up the kids–send an email. If he’s going to be late or needs to tell you something– email. If he sends abusive or threatening messages, you have it in writing and can show your lawyer. People are generally a lot less likely to act like a$$holes when they know there’s a written record. And it will lessen the expectation on his part that he can just call you up & demand to see the kids– it formalizes things. If he backs out of a visit, that’s it, he can’t come back later and demand it.

    I know people who have it set up that way (same people who exchange the kids in a public place) and it cuts down on a lot of the bull$hit.

    #864785 Reply


    How you get so shaken and scared is disturbing. I don’t know you, so I can’t give you a concrete solution other than…Girl, get your power back. Find a way to do so for the sake of your kids. Don’t let him put your kids through the pain of seeing their mother being abused. Even if you have to involve relatives/friends in the meetups. Hell, stand up to him. Even if we point out men for being monsters in domestic issues, sometimes I see that it’s women who put themselves in such situations over and over again. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different outcomes is insanity. You are an insane woman (sorry). You have no choice but to do something to not relieve this again. I hope the next time you type here, you will talk about some progress. You can accomplish anything if you want it so bad & put your mind to it.

    #864917 Reply


    Ess- Stop victim blaming. That doesn’t help anything. It seems like you have no idea what it is like to worry that your ex could kill you or hurt you in front of your kids. It takes a long time, lots of therapy, and a great deal of time to ever be able to stand up to an abuser. How dare you call her crazy? She IS doing everything in her power to protect her kids. That’s why he is an ex. But since he is the father, he has rights and depending on what state she is in that could cause even more complications with domestic relations.

    Queenie- I know how hard this is for you. I was in your shoes. Please, please, get a written custody order in place. Make pick up, drop off at a public location and at set times. It gives the kids stability and he will have to honor it. Also what Liz said but I believe text is okay as well. Be overly polite- yes, thank you. no, thank you- in your responses. Do not engage further. If he calls, don’t answer. Let it go to voicemail so he can leave a message there. This way you have recorded evidence if he is rude/belittling/etc. Do not let him play these games with you. He knows it gets a rise out of you and gets your attention. Please see if you can talk to someone at women’s resources in your county. They are very, very helpful in filing out paper work, therapy, and helping you get recovered from abuse. Sending you lots of love and light.

    #864932 Reply

    Liz Lemon

    If you can move your communication to all written (email, maybe text), you literally don’t have to speak to this person anymore. Like Gaia said, don’t engage beyond anything directly relating to the kids, and be formal/polite in your responses. The people I know who are doing this literally have not had a conversation in years. They exchange the kids in a public place without a word, and all arrangements/discussions about the kids are made over email. Sometimes it just has to be that way. Gaia made excellent comments about reaching out to women’s resources (domestic violence support groups, for example) for support. Good luck.

    #864939 Reply


    One thing I want to say as I’ve read all of your other posts is to never speak badly about your ex- to anyone that could possibly say something in front of your kids. No matter how awful your ex is- he is still your children’s father and that’s how they look at him- as their dad. Don’t make him out to be a monster to your kids- because like I said they look at him as dad. Also, I would really focus on your kids instead of meeting men. They need calmness and consistency more than ever and if your ex is trying to screw things up purposely, you need to be the anchor. If you have a date planned and he messes that up by canceling or not showing up, you will be upset and it will show to your kids. Take the time now to care for them or you will be taking care of it later in one way or another.

    #864945 Reply


    You’re well within your means to get a restraining order. I would also make a move to have him barred from accessing the kids as well until he goes for counseling for his issues.

    His behavior is not only abusive to you, but to the kids as well and this will cause them trauma in the long run. He is failing to act within the best interests of the children by verbally abusing their other parent in front of them. He is a threat to their mental health ave well being. He shouldn’t be around them.

    Shame to the the woman who finds it funny to see him abusing you and laughing, she is his next victim.

    Get a restraining order and report him to the custody court. We can’t have abusers going around unchecked. We can’t have kids who will grow up into broken adults because of things like that.

    #864952 Reply


    Queenie not sure if your the same person who has been posting in the past, but I feel this is an issue than needs to be addressed with the courts/attorney. You say he was physically abusive has this been addressed through the courts? I have no idea how the court system works for child custody but I am a single mom who had to deal with a difficult person. We had our arrangement and in the beginning he gave me a hard time with pick ups. He would cancel and wanted custody of the kids just out of spite. I dealt with it as best as I could but I was also worried whenever I received that text or call not knowing what he was going to say or do. Over time things did get better between us. He is a narcist as well and would do things just to get a rise out of me. I suggest communicating by text or messages like someone else stated, if he cancels text ok and if he calls to say he is coming text back that you are not home. Do not argue or give him the benefit of showing emotion. Please consult an attorney who can give better advice on how to deal with this. Unfortunately these are the consequences we have to face with people who are unreasonable and do not care about how this affects the children. My GF’s son has a similar problem with his ex-wife and my GF now drops off and picks up her grandchild to avoid their interaction. If you arrange to have a pick up spot/person and they witness his behavior they can support you in this ordeal you have to deal with.

    #864956 Reply


    How old are your children?

    Have the drop off at the local police station. Or have a family member, such as your dad, mom, brother, uncle, cousin (male preferably) do the exchange at the closest police station, so you, nor your children, have to deal with it.

    #864975 Reply


    Ess, in another thread, you said you’re 22. You’re very fortunate that you have never experienced anything close to the situation that Queenie has described. If you ever do, or ever know anyone who has, you might have different advice.

    Queenie, like others have said, this is in the Restraining Order Zone. And Lane’s suggestion is very good. If a relative can handle the pickup, that takes away more opportunities for him to torment you.

    I know someone who experienced this kind of thing decades ago. She was meticulous in documenting every interaction in a diary and keeping a paper trail. She hated it – named the diary the same thing as her ex because she despised it. But she needed that diary, because he kept trying to gaslight her and pull stunts to try to gain full custody of their children. Years later, all that meticulous work did pay off. It allowed authorities to see a pattern of abuse and lies on his part. That eventually led to his conviction. He served a prison sentence and is gone from everyone’s life (now on the run because of tax evasion, go figure).

    Anyway, all this is to say that years later, she said she had find strength early, for the sake of her children, because that strength protected her and her children, and helped put it all behind her years later. Unfortunately she found her strength due to an incident where he hurt her youngest child. It was similar to other incidents but that just caused her to snap and say “I cannot fail my child anymore.”

    I hope that you are able to hold onto your strength and that it doesn’t take an incident to get there – but believe me, that strength IS worth something and it WILL be worth EVERYTHING someday.

    She’s remarried, happy, and is currently enjoying retirement with her husband. Her kids grew up, and turned out okay. I know this because I’m married to her youngest.

    Oh she also said “If you’re smoking to cope, quit it.” That’s one of her big regrets – she smoked like a chimney during the worst years to cope.

    #864997 Reply


    Queenie, I’m sorry you and your kids are going through this. I understand that you like to post here for support and you’ve gotten some good advice except for one person who means well but clearly has no experience or understanding of domestic violence and abuse.

    However, this is a serious legal matter that involves the physical and mental well being of you and your children. Strangers on the internet are not where you should be taking advice on how to handle this. You need to talk with your lawyer to create a plan for documenting all of these incidents so you have as many legal options as possible for protecting all of you. No one here is a lawyer, you shouldn’t be making decisions based on what anyone here says. You also need to get yourself into counseling to get the right support and your children might need it too.

    I will say this much – I’d take professional advice and think long and hard before you start making visitation exchanges at the police station. I had an ex who was doing that because the divorce was that bad and it caused significant damage to the children in several ways. They thought they were doing something wrong. The youngest one became terrified of police officers. And to top it off one of the older kid’s classmates at school had a father who was a cop and happened to see them at the station while visiting his dad at work and then told everyone in that child’s class that she was in trouble because she was there and it took intervention from the principal to stop the kids teasing her. It’s not my life or family, it’s yours so I can’t tell you what to do. All I’m saying from having seen that situation is think carefully about it before resorting to that, although I can see it might be necessary from what you’re saying.

    #865010 Reply


    I did law for 14 years, including family law, and the local police station, or fire dept. was a good option for these type of hand-offs. My brother was forced to use it, to protect himself, and his child from further alienation, court battles, and hand-over drama.

    I don’t disagree that you should be discussing this with your attorney, and guardian ad litem, if one has been appointed by the court. I know they are super expensive, and why you are probably reaching out here for solutions, but they should be aware of it, at a minimum.

    I know many mom’s who have control issues, especially when it comes to the kids. I don’t know if you’re one of them, but mom’s can be just as bad, if not worse, than the fathers. I’ve witnessed enough times to know, which is why I offered a ‘neutral zone’, to protect both of you, and the kids during this very tenuous and difficult transition, especially when emotions are at their highest.

    #866152 Reply


    Thank you for the support and advice. I have been keeping a log of all instances like this, and recently started audio recording during exchanges. My attorney is aware of the toxicity, and has been trying to get his attorney to settle outside of court with us (to be less expensive), but him and his attorney have downright ignored all communication from my attorney. I talked to my attorney again this week, and he fears that this will be a long, and expensive battle because the Defendant is unwilling to discuss any terms (forcing everything to trial). He also said I absolutely have a case for an at fault divorce due to abuse (multiple police reports of abuse), but again he said that is a definite trial, because the ex will fight tooth and nail not to be marked (even though he already is in the law enforcements eyes) as an abuser.
    Talking this out online with you all helps me to come to realize more options, so I appreciate you all being here for support. And thinking more about it now, I think if we take him to court and show that we won’t back down (my attorney is a known longtime shark in the area, that’s why he’s so expensive), maybe he’ll realize it’s time to shape up and settle up, because it will get expensive, fast (neither of us have a lot of money, but we’re doing ok).
    I did like the idea of exchanging at the police station, but on the same token, it only takes one child or parent to see us locally, and my kids may pay the price at school (they’re 11 and 5, the station is 2 blocks from the school and we exchange soon after school let’s out).

    To Ess, you’re lucky you’ve never been in a domestic violence situation, and I hope you never do. The trauma that comes from it is painful and lasting. This man is 100+lbs bigger than me, and during the last physical abuse incident (when we were still living together, and I say last because he went to jail and I eventually had the courage to finally leave him for good, as this wasn’t the first display of physical abuse) he was on top of me trying to choke the life out of me, after having thrown me threw a wall. When he gets that “I’ll kill you” look in his eyes, my adrenaline starts pumping and those horrible memories come flooding back. Be grateful that you don’t have to cope with the fact that you have to see someone who literally tried to kill you, multiple times a month, and have to put on a non-reactive, not affected persona so your children can feel some sense of normalcy and stability. Which is what I try SO hard to always do because I don’t want them to EVER see what went on behind closed doors for years, or feel unsafe, EVER.

    Unfortunately, both of my parents have passed, and the rest of my family live hours away. So I’m still trying to figure out the best way to handle things during exchanges. For now, I will just say goodbye inside, and stand inside the door. I did text the ex that if he wants to discuss something it needs to be via text or email, and never in front of the kids. I’ve done this before, and it worked for a short time, but he eventually came to the door, saying he needed to talk, I said no not now in front of them, and he exploded (while kids are right there in the car, doors open to hear) calling me expletives etc. So I suspect this won’t last long. Maybe we exchange at a gas station or McDonald’s type place? I just don’t know that it will stop him, he faked like he was going to run me over in the school parking lot with no shame.
    Ugh. I have an appointment with DV services next week, so my hope is they can help.
    Thanks for listening to my vent, it helps me more than you know.

    #866174 Reply


    I really feel for you Queenie, this is something out of a Lifetime movie. Doing the exchange at the police station may well be for the best – just explain it thoroughly in a way so the kids understand it’s not about them and it doesn’t frighten them. Again, get your lawyer’s advice. If your ex’s lawyer isn’t responsive and is deliberating stonewalling and feeding the problem, your lawyer may have grounds to file a complaint against that lawyer with the state bar association. But it sounds like he’s good, so I’m sure he knows that’s an option.

    #866179 Reply

    Liz Lemon

    What about getting a restraining order? Coming to your door and exploding when you explicitly asked him not to, pretending to run you down in the school parking lot (!)– these sound like grounds for a restraining order to me. Once that’s in place, you can carefully dictate things like the exchange of children, i.e. it has to happen in a defined place, and he can’t approach you or speak to you.

    About going to trial– when I got divorced my ex forced everything to trail, and he was such a nutty, entitled jerk in court that everything went in my favor! Some of the stuff he said in court had the judge’s jaw dropping, I kid you not. I’m not saying this will happen in your case, but your ex sounds like he’s unstable and has a short fuse? Who knows, maybe he’ll lose his temper and say something in court that will ultimately turn things in your favor…you can’t count on it, of course, but it sounds possible.

    Like AngieBaby said, it sounds like your lawyer is sharp, so I assume he knows all this stuff. It’s enraging to think that there aren’t more ways to protect women from a$$holes like this. I’m glad you’re seeking out DV services, I hope they give you lots of support.

    #866194 Reply


    We’ve been to court a few times already and the judge couldn’t believe the things that came out of my Ex’s mouth. It always went in my favor, and I’m not trying to brag, but the judge saw the Ex for what he is. The evidence is there, and the way he talked only buried him deeper.
    I hate to have to go this route.
    This hurts.

    #866289 Reply

    Liz Lemon

    I believe it. I can just imagine it. My ex was a piece of work and made a fool of himself in court, lucky for me.

    I know it hurts. It sucks. You have to find the strength to do it. I was shocked when you said this has been dragging on 3 years. I don’t know your personal situation or your finances, but given what you’ve said, I think you should take the plunge and take this guy to trial, if he won’t settle out of court. It’ll suck, yes, but it’s better than being in limbo for years. Just get the divorce and get it over with. Kind of like ripping off a painful Band-Aid– it just has to be done. You know he’s going to dig his own grave with his mouth in front of a judge, so let him do it.

    Again, this is just my opinion based on your posts, and my own experience with an a$$hole ex who forced me to trial as well. You and your lawyer know the best route.

    #866296 Reply


    I agree with Liz and a few others here. You definitely have grounds for a restraining order. My ex was the same way and really screwed himself over during our custody hearing and child support hearing. He asked the mediator for child support how many payments he would have to miss before going to jail. She said “4, but I see hear I have your information so I’m just going to garnish your wages now so that won’t be an issue.” Guys like this open their mouths and make their own graves.

    I’m proud of you for how far you have come. It may seem hard today but tomorrow will be a little easier. One day before long, you’ll be doing something mundane and all of sudden it will hit you that you can breathe again without fear.

    #866304 Reply

    Liz Lemon

    LOL Gaia– Years ago I had a hearing with my ex about child support after our divorce, which he of course was not paying. (And the amount he was ordered to pay was minimal, because he did not have steady employment). My dumb ex actually admitted to the judge that he was spending a couple hundred dollars a month on marijuana, which cut into his ability to pay child support (this is before weed was legal in most states). These guys are sooo ridiculous!

    Queenie, you can do this. One day you’ll look back like me and Gaia and roll your eyes and tell stories of your crazy/stupid ex. But you won’t be afraid or drained. It’ll just be a ridiculous story from your past.

    #866723 Reply


    Oh my LOL- Liz- That’s hilarious!

    Definitely have the stories. It’s been 6 years since I split with my ex and now we can finally have civil conversations regarding our kids. Of course, they are adults or almost adults now. And they see and know even when we try to hide it and shield them from the turmoil. I learned that keeping calm in the face of the storms that my kids found solace with me and saw for themselves who their father really was with his own behavior.

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