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I'm really upset right now. My blood is boiling.

ExW just emailed me saying she's changing the schedule & childcare during her weeks. We had an arrangement where I would care for the kids before & after school (I work from home whereas she has to go in) as well as Fridays (I have a 4-day work week), so essentially I spent time significant time with them on 12 days in the two week cycle. We've been in this mode for over a year and it's worked fine - I've made myself 100% available. Instead she stated her parents will cover different the days of her week while she's working, essentially blocking me from seeing the kids...even on weekdays she's working and I'm not.

I reached out to my attorney, but don't know if there's anything to be done. We worked in a "right of first refusal" into the agreement, but not sure the terms help me in this case due to the time period and "relatives" factor. I was afraid she would change things like this...

I'm feeling hurt and angry right now, and grieving again the loss of more time with my kids.


Me:39 Ex-W:37
M:7 T: 9
S:6 D:3
BD/IHS/Confirm EA/PA: Feb '20
OM1 affair ends: May '20
W/OM2 & moves out: June-July '20
W files for D: Jul20
OM2 confirmed: 9/2020
Divorced: May '21
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BL42, aww, I feel you. smirk The year COVID shut down schools, I encountered a similar loss--I temporarily stopped seeing my kids daily, something I had previously been accustomed to. If this new schedule gives you less than 50/50, or your Right of First Refusal terms are written just right, you may have recourse. I'll leave that to your lawyer who knows your state and agreement.

Assuming you still have 50/50 and Right Of First Refusal does not apply--I assume her parents are not "bad" for your kids and this is mostly about your feelings. Which are important. During COVID I began calling my kids more during my ex's custody time. Is that a possibility? My ex actually had no issues with that and we've shifted much more to a co-parenting mood over the last couple of years.



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Hey BL!!!

I am so sorry for what the exW pulled. I totally get your feelings of being angry and hurt, and grieving the time that you had cultivated with the kids which is now getting cut short. What's appalling about this is the unilateral move on exW's part and not consulting you on this.

One of the things that still grates me to this day is my time cut short with the kids. Even though we have 50-50 custody, I still feel that I am missing out. This feeling has dissipated over time, but what's been required is time and a shift in mindset for it. But first a few questions:

1. What is your custody split?
2. How are your ex-in-laws with the kids?

I know what I am going to offer right now is going to be difficult for you to see and digest, but having been longer in this game, my perspective has had time to marinate.

First and foremost, your feelings are valid. This seems like another stab to your heart and it is painful. I have no doubt about that. But as CW said, this is a lot about your feelings and grieving another loss to what you have already lost.

But here's the thing - think of this change as a positive move for your kids as they get to spend more time with the grandparents, assuming the relationship with them is good for the kids and they are caring and wonderful people. I have no family here and I have gone out of my way to strengthen my kids relationship with my ex-in-laws to create a sense of a larger family for the kids. My kids see my side of the family maybe once a year, with COVID it's been nothing for the last 18 months. So, to have connections with the larger family is going to be important for the kids. They will have more family stability in the future.

The other thing is, and I am completely speculating here is because I don't know your exW, that maybe she feels guilty about you bearing most of the burden for childcare. Especially when she needs to shoulder her part of it and if she's unable to, then make arrangements that will suitable for the children. That she shouldn't have to rely on you and it would be unfair in the co-parenting arrangement. I know it's hard to see her side of this, and maybe this perspective, but it's very possible that this could be her thinking.

Now the most difficult perspective, the one that took me a very long time to come to terms to. This additional time that you don't have the kids is the time for yourself. What are you going to do with this time? What opportunities might be now open to you in terms of work, GAL, dating etc because of this? I know it seems like a selfish perspective, but it's not. It's about recognizing that YOU are also important and this time could be well used for that.

Initially I just sulked around and didn't do anything. But after that got tiresome and predictable, I started thinking of how I could use the time to further myself as a person and as a father. I had to get past my emotions and feelings first and you have the full right to grieve this for some time.

The most egregious part of all of this is that you were not consulted and there was no amicable conversation around this change. But remember, it might be difficult to have this conversation on her part. It doesn't excuse it and she should've taken the responsibility to address it with you, but she didn't. Until you and her can get to a place where you can have conversations about such things, you'll have to remember that she's going to take unilateral decisions. And the unfortunate part about it is that you won't be able to control it, unless it violates the separation agreement or it is something that is not legal.

I am really sorry for what you're going through and I feel you on it. Take some time to take care of your heart and grieve.

The ultimate question I always ask myself - Is this better for the kids?

Sometimes the answer is not so clean and black and white, but it at least allows you to remove yourself from the equation and look at it with a bit of distance.


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So I'm inclined to wonder if this is a money move. If you have hands on/face time with the kids 12 days out of 14 if it's broken down into hours there's a chance you could demand child support. Some places it's all about the over nights, some places it's actual hours with the kids so I'm not 100% on that but I'm always kind of expecting the worst of the parent who has less face time with kids. And it's something you should check in with your lawyer about.

But, and this is a big but, if the order is 50/50 and it actually means 50/50 you have to understand this isn't her taking away the kids from you, but actually holding up her end. I know it doesn't make the blow any softer, but it's what you're working with. And if that's the truth here it's a waste of your money to get your lawyer or the courts involved. I'm sorry.

There's a very fine line in co-parenting where you have to ask yourself if you're co-parenting well and sharing responsibility or you're using/being used/relying too much on your ex(and vice versa) to do things you really need to figure out yourself.

You're a hands on dad. Your littles are still really little. I totally understand why you feel like they are being snatched from you. This could've been handled better than kind of bomb dropping it in an email, but I have to agree with Maika sort of. I'd reverse the question. Not "is this better for the kids?" but "is this harmful to the kids in any way?" Because that answer is clear. It's either a yes or a no, and if her parents are stable and sane people you know the answer to this.

I know when this is all still fresh every step of the way feels like another step on broken glass, but you have to understand it's really important for her to be responsible for the child care on her weeks. Just like you should be responsible for yours. You two should only rely on each other in emergencies. You have two separate household, and two separate lives now. Both of your lives should be minimal contact with each other outside of trading the kids off, or kids updates/emergencies. Healthy happy co-parenting relies heavily on the clear separation of your lives in the early years. Eventually it can lead into trading days, and more lax versions of your court order, and if you're really lucky someday co-parenting with bonus parents in a healthy, mostly happy, integrated way. But most couples aren't lucky enough to make it to that top tier. And until you guys have done this co-parenting thing post divorce for a few years it's best to parallel parent.

Problems happen in the future if the laissez-faire custody happens. There will come a day when she dumps the kids off unexpectedly when you have plans since it's not your week. And I'm not insinuating that your children are a burden in any way, however, when you sink into your life with 50/50 most people arrange their lives based on the week with their kids and their week without. The potential you have here is you planning a week long vacation and her saying she doesn't have a sitter and has to work and now you're losing money and time to yourself. It leaves room for her to do something like that out of spite, or simply because she knows no matter what you're just going to take the kids. And she'll walk right through boundaries if she knows they're permeable. It could even end up where it's expected that you pick up the slack when she can't and then when you bring up the fact that it's not your week and that she does that, she can turn it around and make it a you don't want to spend time with your own children thing. There is a lot of messy messy things that come with not establishing boundaries and rules early that will put the kids directly in the middle of your D for the foreseeable future. That's not good for you and that's really not good for them.

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I didn't think of the money angle - good point wayfarer.

I'll add to the laissez-faire custody thing that wayfarer brought up. We had a fairly strict 50-50 split and schedule that we didn't really deviate from in the beginning. 4 years out now we are able to have much more flexibility. Also, in the beginning she didn't want flexibility as she was out on the town sleeping around etc.

The other point around boundaries and the schedule is that this new arrangement might reduce your contact points with her during the week - which is a good thing. The less you see her and stay dark, the better.


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CWarrior/Maika/wayfarer,

Great appreciate your support and input. I was really worked up yesterday, very upset. I didn't sleep well last night, but have calmed down a bit today with a feeling that after compromise it's not as bad as it initially presented and also there are "pros" to mitigate the "cons" of the change.

Fortunately after a few back-and-forths emails it sounds like we've come to a sort of compromise agreement. I still won't have the kids in the mornings on her weeks, but will see S6 a few afternoons before activities / my off-week evening for dinner, and she's agreed to let me be with them on my off-Friday days. So I'll still miss out on the mornings - walking S6 to school each day had become one of our things - but will see them more than her original stance.

To your points, I need to change my mindset and get over the loss of potential time with my kids (which unfortunately is not in my control) and instead focus on the positives (more sleep/less hectic mornings, more time for regular workouts, golf, skiing...etc.)

Originally Posted by Maika
I am so sorry for what the exW pulled. I totally get your feelings of being angry and hurt, and grieving the time that you had cultivated with the kids which is now getting cut short. What's appalling about this is the unilateral move on exW's part and not consulting you on this.
Thanks. It's infuriating. It's like they're being torn away from me again.

Originally Posted by Maika
One of the things that still grates me to this day is my time cut short with the kids. Even though we have 50-50 custody, I still feel that I am missing out. This feeling has dissipated over time, but what's been required is time and a shift in mindset for it.
It grates me as well. However, it's been mitigated by our arrangement where I essentially spend time with them for several hours most days of the two week cycle. This declaration by fiat was essentially removing that mitigating and extra connection with the kids.

Originally Posted by Maika
1. What is your custody split?
Our legal agreement is joint 50/50 custody, but in practice we've had an arrangement under which I've been spending an hour or two before and after school with them as well as every Friday (regardless of week), as well as afternoons with S6 when he has an activity. So I've been spending as much time non-sleeping with them in some respects on her weeks as she has. This informal/non-legally binding arrangement is what's she's changing.
Originally Posted by Maika
2. How are your ex-in-laws with the kids?
The ex-inlaws are good with the kids. They're loved and cared for. I am concerned about Ex-MIL manipulation, but no indication whatsoever the kids are harmed in any way.
Originally Posted by Maika
The other thing is, and I am completely speculating here is because I don't know your exW, that maybe she feels guilty about you bearing most of the burden for childcare
I don't think this is the case. I highly doubt it. It's not about her spending more time with the kids, it's her work schedule shifted and she doesn't want to get the kids over to me earlier - it's easy for her this way. Also concerned with Ex-MIL now in town there's a sense of me and my family see the kids too much and they're going to put a stop to that. ExFIL has warned my family repeatedly of what's to come with ExMIL, based on his experience through their D and kid manipulation, and I believe him.
Originally Posted by Maika
This additional time that you don't have the kids is the time for yourself. What are you going to do with this time? What opportunities might be now open to you in terms of work, GAL, dating etc because of this? I know it seems like a selfish perspective, but it's not. It's about recognizing that YOU are also important and this time could be well used for that.
I agree, and need to get better in this area. I've put a lot of the weight on myself about being there for the kids in every way possible, which is good for their needs from a "father" perspective, but a "pro" of this change could be better self-care for me and my priorities. I'll be able to sleep in alternativing weeks now and it'll ease the extreme flexing/juggling work for the kids, plus maybe I can establish a gym workouts in the mornings.
Originally Posted by Maika
I am really sorry for what you're going through and I feel you on it. Take some time to take care of your heart and grieve.
Thanks.
Originally Posted by Maika
The ultimate question I always ask myself - Is this better for the kids?
I'm not sure. Who knows. On the one hand I thought it was good they had a regular starting point to get to school every day - consistency - and now it'll be changing day by day, but on the other hand they'll be able to sleep in more.

I need to let go as I can't control it.

Originally Posted by wayfarer
So I'm inclined to wonder if this is a money move. If you have hands on/face time with the kids 12 days out of 14 if it's broken down into hours there's a chance you could demand child support. Some places it's all about the over nights, some places it's actual hours with the kids so I'm not 100% on that but I'm always kind of expecting the worst of the parent who has less face time with kids. And it's something you should check in with your lawyer about.
Originally Posted by Maika
I didn't think of the money angle - good point wayfarer.
I don't believe it's about money. Our state is based soley on nights, which is why I give her a large amount of child support even though I care for them a good bit more than her (they ultimately end up at her place at night on her weeks). She gets paid regardless, which in a sense benefits me because she's less likely to prevent me from spending more time with the kids, at least from a financial perspective.

I think this is about convenience for her - it's easier to have her parents come over than the kids come to me - and also maybe a bit controlling of her and Ex-MIL in town whispering in her ear that me and my family see the kids way more (I know ExMIL used to do that when we lived far away, well before BD).

Originally Posted by wayfarer
But, and this is a big but, if the order is 50/50 and it actually means 50/50 you have to understand this isn't her taking away the kids from you, but actually holding up her end. I know it doesn't make the blow any softer, but it's what you're working with. And if that's the truth here it's a waste of your money to get your lawyer or the courts involved. I'm sorry.
You're right. Our arrangement was not legally-binding and I was running on borrowed time in a sense, but it had been operating smoothly for over a year so maybe I was niave enough to think I'd have the opportunity going forward. The thing is about holding up her end...it's not about her spending more time with the kids - she's still relying on others to take care of them - it'll just be her parents (their grandparents) instead of their father.

Originally Posted by wayfarer
There's a very fine line in co-parenting where you have to ask yourself if you're co-parenting well and sharing responsibility or you're using/being used/relying too much on your ex(and vice versa) to do things you really need to figure out yourself.
I think I was being used/relied on too much previously, but it was a role I happily accepted because it led to more involvement with the kids than I would've had otherwise.

Originally Posted by wayfarer
You're a hands on dad. Your littles are still really little. I totally understand why you feel like they are being snatched from you.
Thanks. I take pride in that.
[quote=wayfarer]"is this harmful to the kids in any way?" Because that answer is clear. It's either a yes or a no, and if her parents are stable and sane people you know the answer to this.
No, it's not "harmful". Not sure it's the best for the kids either, but can't say it's harmful.
Originally Posted by wayfarer
I know when this is all still fresh every step of the way feels like another step on broken glass, but you have to understand it's really important for her to be responsible for the child care on her weeks. Just like you should be responsible for yours. You two should only rely on each other in emergencies. You have two separate household, and two separate lives now. Both of your lives should be minimal contact with each other outside of trading the kids off, or kids updates/emergencies. Healthy happy co-parenting relies heavily on the clear separation of your lives in the early years.
Thanks for the perspective. It is fresh and therefore "broken glass", but understand your point on her taking on more, except she won't be doing any more...she's just offloading it to other people instead of me.

That said, it will lead to less contact with each other which is fine by me at this point - so that's another "pro" of the change.


Me:39 Ex-W:37
M:7 T: 9
S:6 D:3
BD/IHS/Confirm EA/PA: Feb '20
OM1 affair ends: May '20
W/OM2 & moves out: June-July '20
W files for D: Jul20
OM2 confirmed: 9/2020
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Just want to clear up a couple things, when I say holding up her end I don't mean taking on more with the kids. It's her taking care of her side of the street with her support system and not relying solely on you.

Her carrying her weight on her weeks isn't more face time with the kids. And keep in mind moving forward, how much time she does or doesn't spend with the kids isn't really your business unless it's affecting them enough to carry over into your home. But that also means it's none of her business what you're doing with your time on your weeks. What she's doing know, and I know it hurts, is establishing her own routine, her own child care system, building the boundaries you guys should've had over the last year. I totally get when the pro is "I get my kids more," and when they are as little as yours are I understand how easy it is to think she's either pawning the kids off or taking them. But right this second she isn't and there doesn't seem to be a nefarious motive. She's just doing what should've been done a year ago.

Also, I want to touch on why I never ask what's best for the kids. I worked in child welfare for a decade. What's best for the kids isn't an answerable question. There are so many variables in any given situation even if you were an actuary by trade there's no way to know that unless it's a completely black or white situation i.e. "is it best to let kids play in a busy street kind. Nuanced things like this, this isn't answerable. It's why I frame the question in the way "Will it harm the kids? Yes or no." It's a long road to learn how worry only about your side of the street. It's a longer road when you have an ex that wants you to mind your own business but will do everything in their power to try to muddy up those sides of the street. Building and maintaining clear, consistent and healthy boundaries with and for each other is the only way.

Tell yourself over and over again if you have to she's worrying about her side of the street and I'm going to worry about mine. Two households. Two lives. Please trust and believe what Maika and I are saying about this because we've been there. You should be parenting side by side right now. There will be a time when you can parent in a way that's more co-parenting together than next to each other. Now isn't that time.

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wayfarer,

Thanks for sharing your perspective. It does hurt, because it feels like I'm losing special time with the kids (walking to/from school became our routine). While the changes won't do direct "harm" to the kids, I was able to provide a reliable launching point to & from school, whereas it sounds like ExW's schedule will be changing week to week so I'm concerned they'll be unsettled and wondering who is taking them to school, who will pick them up, where they'll be going...etc. (D3 is already asking those questions a lot). At least my weeks will be very routine and organized so they'll have a sense of comfort and consistency. But perhaps in the long run it will be for the best and will help establish those boundaries. As I mentioned, one of the pros will be more self focus (more sleep on "off" weeks, less stress in the morning w/school prep vs. work calls, and maybe implementing a regular workout schedule).

Also wanted to circle back on the D3/OM2 topic from before I got waylayed by ExW's schedule changes...

Originally Posted by wayfarer
The point here is kids can dislike the dynamic for a plethora of reasons. Maybe your ex behaves differently when OM is around. Maybe D3 just isn't a fan. Maybe D3 isn't getting the attention she wants. Maybe when OM is around they do what OM wants to do and when he isn't your ex let's the kids do what they want to do. I'd keep and eye out for obvious signs, but make sure you keep in mind 3 year olds don't prescribe to logic yet. They still live in the realm of magical thought. And at that age developmentally speaking they are all essentially tiny sociopaths that lack empathy. Not to defend OM but he could be a perfectly acceptable bonus parent and D3 could just like things they way she likes things, in the same manner she probably has a favorite cup.

I've heard OM2 never wanted to get married or have kids, and more recently ExW was upset he was waffling about whether to go on vacation with her, the kids, and her family, but I had not had any indication he was mean or nasty to the kids or that they were upset about him. My parents and I really don't pry - not wanting to get kids caught in the middle of a spy game - but we do let them talk and listen if there's something they want to discuss and encourage them to share their feelings. This comment D3 made to my mom about not liking when it's "me, mommy, S6 & OM2 time" was the first indication either kid was upset about OM2 in the equation. It could be just a passing feeling and completely innocent, but want to keep my eyes open (as you mention) to make sure it's not anything more serious over time. Also, I don't bring this up with them obviously but do wonder how they feel when during my time I'm 100% focused on them whereas ExW has other priorities to balance.


Me:39 Ex-W:37
M:7 T: 9
S:6 D:3
BD/IHS/Confirm EA/PA: Feb '20
OM1 affair ends: May '20
W/OM2 & moves out: June-July '20
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OM2 confirmed: 9/2020
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Don't let the pain of not seeing them as much as you want stop you from getting everything out of your time together with the kids. It could be worse - they could die and you could never see them again! Or it could be even worse than that!

So cherish what you do get and don't let the negative emotions bleed into your important time with the kids. Good luck.


H 34
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BD 3/12/18
Divorce Busted Spring 19

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I'm with wayfarer on this one - kids will dislike things for any number of reasons, especially at that age. But it's always good to keep an eye on what's going on with them and just let them talk. Your kids are not old enough yet to try this, but one of the things I do is have family meetings every week. Kids really enjoy this 'formal' process and making an agenda and them taking turns being the 'chair'. I learn a lot about what's happening at school and at the other house without asking prying questions.

Because they're little, they don't have the range to articulate how they're feeling if your exW is all over the place and not spending as much time with them as you would etc. It'll come out, but it won't be sophisticated thoughts. Just keep your observation skills up high and you'll see how they're doing over time.

One of the other things I've come to realize is not the quantity of the time with the kids but the quality. Am I being present with them? Are we doing things that they enjoy? Even little things like taking a walk or lazing out in front of the tv etc is just still great quality time. So, I focus on what I am doing with the time I have with them rather than thinking the time I don't have with them. They'll remember the quality when they're older not how much time you spent with them.

There was a time when the schedule was a bit chaotic with the kids a while back. One of the ways I dealt with it so that kids wouldn't be anxious was to let them know who's picking them up that day and who's dropping them off etc. This way they knew beforehand and weren't left guessing. Just giving them information so they have control over the day and certainty. You're probably not in the communication space with exW to mention that, but hopefully she does that if her schedule is going to be unpredictable.

And I 100% co-sign on the parallel parenting that wayfarer talked about. I still parent that way even though now we have a bit more communication between us. It's a lot less stressful and you can make decisions without worry.


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