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Advice Needed Regarding Abusive Biological Parents

dougrama81's picture

Not sure if this is the right place to post this, but I'm desperate for feedback/help!

I'm stepdad to 2 teenagers (aged 14 & 16), who still see their biological dad on a regular basis.

Their dad and their mother (now my wife) broke up 11 years ago.

Their dad was abusive to my wife while they were in a relationship (both mentally and sexually), but my wife has always done her best to maintain the relationship between the kids and their dad, as she wants them to have a healthy view/experience of both parents.

Their dad started a new relationship about 7 years ago, and lives with his partner and her 2 children from a previous relationship.

The kid's spend 2-4 days per week at his house on a rota basis.

Their dad has always been controlling and emotionally manipulative towards the kid's, however it has become worse/more obvious as the kid's have got older.

Last year social services became involved following my step-son informing us that his dad had been emotionally abusing him, however we've also had issues with their dad's partner being emotionally abusive towards them as well.

The final report from social services concluded that my wife should go to court and lodge a revised rota for access, based on the evidence and testimony they'd heard.

Despite their dad making it as difficult as possible, the kids finally got him (with my wife's help) to agree to a new rota, though it wasn't entirely what they wanted, they felt they goy the best arrangement they could "without dad kicking off too much".

Both the kids are saying that as soon as they turn 18 they don't want to spend as much time with him, but they don't want to change things now as their scared of the repercussions and what he might do or how he might treat them.

Essentially, they're counting down the days before they can reduce their time with him.

Both kid's fully recognise how destructive both their dad's and his partner's behaviour and treatment of them is - but they don't feel empowered to change things, despite both my wife and I encouraging them to make decisions for themselves and doing what they feel is best for them (which we've also made clear we'd support them in doing).

This is due to their dad and his partner constantly emotionally manipulating them and making them feel guilty if they try to make any decision that goes against what they want.

As their step-dad, I feel completely powerless to protect my family.

Whenever I've got involved in the past, their dad has acted as a victim who is being 'picked on', and he's desperate for the world to see him as some kind of martyr.

I feel like whatever I do, the kids will get the brunt of his anger, which will then cause further pain for my wife. It feels like he holds all the cards because there is literally nothing he won't stoop to in order to get his own way, and he has no issues with taking out his frustrations on the kids.

This has been a fairly constant issue, and it feels like he's playing by a completely different set of rules to everyone else. Because if this he has free rein to act how he wants, no matter how destructive, manipulative or petulant it might be.

My wife is trying her best and the kids are adamant that both my wife and I shouldn't intervene as "it will make things worse" for them - so we're stuck in the limbo of having to watch the kids be miserable at times, with no ability to help or change things.

I just don't know what to do to help both them and my wife, and I'm desperate for any help or advice anyone might be able to give?...

Elea's picture

Listen to the kids request, don't intervene. Who else to know better how to handle the situation than those living it. They are the ones that have to go over there, not you and your wife. 
Make your home a refuge for them. One day soon they will age out of the system and be able to make their own decisions. 
Contrary to what is often posted on this site, Dad's have more rights in family court than children, especially abusive Dad's willing to lie through their teeth about how much they love their kids while simultaneously making false allegations against the Mother. These types of men see their children as property and have no problem using the kids to maintain control. Unfortunately I have a lot of first hand experience and know that winning safety for kids being emotionally abused by their Father is nearly impossible. 
I would get the kids into therapy if at all possible. If their Dad won't allow it then have them speak to a school counselor about it. If you can get a letter from the school counselor that the children want and need therapy then you can ask the court for an order to allow it despite the Father's objections. Keep all therapy attempts and request for Father to allow it documented in writing. Good luck. You are a good man to stand by your wife and these kids. You will be the hero at the end of this story and bio Dad will have to step up or lose out. 

dougrama81's picture

Thank you, really appreciate it and giving the kids the space to make their own decisions makes sense.


It's tough to watch the kids have to go through this right now, and deal with the effects that it's having on them and my wife - but we're hoping that by making things as 'normal' as possible with us, it's giving them the best chance possible to come out of this we'll adjusted and happy!

The therapy idea is one we'll definitely explore and thank you again!

Elea's picture

Yes, it is heartbreaking to watch. My guess is that is so often the case, the kids learned that children's services involvement was stressful and made things worse for a time not better and did nothing to help in the long term. Kids are smart and adapt to how things are not how it *should* be.

dougrama81's picture

Absolutely - the social worker that was assigned to the case seemed to be very inexperienced and under a heavy workload, which meant that she often got facts and details mixed up in her reports, so both my wife and I were having to correct even basic information like the kid's dates of birth.

That's not a slight on the social worker in any way, they do a tough job in difficult circumstances with little funding - but it didn't leave either of the kids with much confidence.

To make matters worse, the we're still spending 50% of their time with their biological dad at that point, so when she went to visit them there, the kids were being put under immense pressure by him to lie and minimise the issues (it also didn't help that he has most rooms in his house hooked up to CCTV, so they knew he could hear everything they were saying!).

The social worker also visited them when they were at school and at home with my wife and I, which helped them to feel like they could open up, but both kids found the whole experience hugely stressful due to amount of pressure they were put under by their dad and his current partner.

Winterglow's picture

So she didn't take him to court to modify visitation? They just sorted it out between them? 

OK, your SKs are 14 and 16  and you live in the UK. It's worth going to court over this. My brother divorced his ex a number of years ago and the judge ruled that his daughter was old enough to decide whether to see her father or not. She was ELEVEN. At least talk to a lawyer. Your skids might not have to go back there at all ... Just sayin'.

Elea's picture

If you do go through the court system I would recommend finding a divorce coach that understands domestic violence issues and how the courts operate. It seems that courts frequently bungle DV cases all over the world, including in the UK. (And yes, emotional abuse often rises to the level of domestic violence especially since this guy has a history of sexually assaulting your wife)

dougrama81's picture

Eventually, yes. The issue we found with court is that as the kids still regularly visit their dad, he will regularly manipulate them with guilt trips, 'love-bombing', threats that he will get angry, etc (when he loses his temper with the kids, it's always their fault that they "made" him do it, which his current partner will also tell them - which has left both kids feeling like they're 100% responsible for his mood).

In short, bitter experience has taught us that there isn't anything he won't say/do to get the kids to do what he wants, particularly if a court is about to be involved.

It reached a point where both kids had an idea of what they felt they were most likely to be able to get him to agree to (not that they were 100% happy with the proposal, just that it represented their best chance of getting a change made with the minimum of fallout for them), so my wife arranged a meet with their dad and the kids there and he eventually agreed.

My wife (who has, over the years, been amazing with both the kids) is understandably worried that if we go back to court then the pressure will again be applied to the kids by their biological dad, and there is a real worry about the effect that will have on their mental health.

I completely understand what you're saying (and in most cases I'd be saying exactly the same), but weighing up the detrimental effect on the kids of having their biological dad manipulate and guilt-trip them in the lead up to a court date, with the likelihood of them being able to withstand it and actually voice what they want in front of someone impartial for the court, and it's really hard to see a situation where the kids get to honestly explain what their wishes are with no negative repercussions in the long-term for them.

2Tired4Drama's picture

...welcome to Steptalk.  

I'll answer your first question, which was "Not sure if this is the right place to post this."  TBH, I don't know that it is.  

While it is laudable that you want to look out for your stepkids and "protect" them from their father (your spouse's ex) I don't know that you should really be involved in the issue other than supporting your wife to the best of your ability.  If social services was involved a year ago, why did they not do any follow ups?  A year is a long time...

I'll be the first to admit I am approaching this from my own experience, which was the biological mother (and her husband) psychologically, mentally and emotionally abused the early teen stepkids by alienating them AGAINST their father (my SO) and discouraged them from maintaining a relationship with him. The biomother's perspective was she "couldn't make" the skids visit with their father if they didn't want to.  Well, of course they didn't when they'd spent years listening to how she was the best, most loving, and "better" parent and their father was useless and expendable. 

If there are circumstances which warrant a change in custody due to documented abuse then it should have been immediately brought into the legal system, and dealt with accordingly. 

Otherwise it's just your word against theirs. There are many on STalk who will verify that biological mothers very often paint their ex's (the fathers) as horrible people who should be cut out of kids' lives. 

dougrama81's picture

I hear you, and your experience sounds incredibly unpleasant to say the least!

In answer to your question as to why Social Services didn't ever follow up (even as a courtesy), the feeling my wife and I got was that they were incredibly keen to get the case closed as soon as possible. As the abuse was mental (rather than physical), I guess it massively reduces the chances of an easy investigation, as there wasn't the categorical proof of bruises, etc.

In the end, it did devolve into a situation whereby my step-son was telling the social worker about the abuse he was subjected to, meanwhile his biological father was trying to minimise it by saying my step-son was confused or exaggerating his testimony.

To make matters worse, following the conclusion of the investigation (which advised that their biological dad needed to attend regular anger management classes and that we should go back to court to change the access arrangement - but that was left with us to manage), my step-daughter then started to say that she was being subjected to even more of the emotional blackmailing as my step-son was being treated differently for fear that social services would become involved again. This has caused her relationship with her biological dad to deteriorate further, and her relationship with his partner to break down completely.

Both my wife and I feel let down by Social Services, and we couldn't shake the feeling through the whole process that the kids were being viewed as a number to get off their books as soon as possible (once it became clear there wasn't evidence that physical abuse would provide), hence the lack of follow-up and tangible output from the investigation (despite it being made clear in the final report that their biological father's testimony often changed and had numerous inconsistencies). Again, I do strongly believe that Social Services do an incredibly tough job in truly challenging circumstances, but still, it's hard to come to any other conclusion personally.

I totally understand where you're coming from, and personally I don't see gender as any indication at all as to whether someone is/has been a good parent or not, it's just in our particular case that the issues are with the behaviour of the kid's biological father. I know there's just as many examples of it being the other way round.

2Tired4Drama's picture

Your follow up posts have provided an incredible amount of detail about the situation which shows you must have highly unusual insight and intuitiveness to know and understand what everyone in this situation is doing and FEELING. Including the experience and professional judgment of the child welfare worker. 

But I still don't think this is the correct forum for you.  I do know there are an abundance of sites where you can find support/encouragement about how awful this father and stepmother are to these kids.  This ain't the place for that, IMHO.

Who knows? Maybe the stepmother in your case already belongs to this site and has a much different opinion of the situation. As in, "My husband's ex-wife and her spouse have coached the kids to claim we are abusing them. We ask them to clean their rooms or give them a curfew and they told CPS we are emotionally abusive!" 

Look around, You will find PLENTY of posts like that here. Might give you another perspective. 



Survivingstephell's picture

As a stepmom who watched a BM torment her kids with mental abuse, I understand your concern. I made the choice to totally back off so they skids had nothing to say about me to BM.  

My recommendation is for you and mom to get therapy so you have someone coaching you two in how to help the skids thru this until they are able to cut him off. He might be able to stop the skids from therapy but he can't stop you two.  You will have to look hard to find a good therapist for this situation.  Not all therapist are good with blended family dynamics.