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What do you do when BM refuses to co-parent?

1sttimestepmom70's picture

This is a long vent - so apologies - don't read it if you don't want to - I'm just venting.....
I am so lucky to be married to a wonderful DH and I have a fabulous SD11. We have been married 4 years. DH and BM divorced approx 6 years ago (before I met him) due to BMs extramarital relationship. She ended up marrying that person after getting pregnant. All was "amicable" between BM and DH until DH and I got married. Well, to be more specific, all was well until DH stopped doing BM's bidding. He began questioning things and standing up for things and basically didn't just "do" whatever she wanted. He also realized that she had a financial ax hanging over his head because of a verbal agreement they made after their divorce was final. When he realized that, he attempted to have a voluntary modification, but she would not cooperate. After telling him repeatedly that she would not take him to court, she did just that. They had a formal mediation where she got almost everything she wanted as far as custody/visitation arrangements. My husband was able to got some things in his favor as well - so all in all, you would think it was a good resolution. Well.... it has been hell.
BM has custody of SD the majority of the time. We have her from 5:30pm - 8:00am on Mon and Tues. Then we have her from 5:30 Friday to 8:00am Monday every other weekend. We live about 2 miles from BM.
BM and DH are supposed to collaborate regarding SD11 schedule for extracurricular activities. For the past 3 years, BM has created VERY heavy extracurricular schedules (9-11 hours of dance classes) for SD11. BM says that she only does it because SD11 wants to. BM will sign forms and make payments and commit to everything before getting any input or feedback from DH. When DH tries to put his foot down, BM bullies everyone by threatening to punish SD11 for "backing out" by making SD11 repay fees that BM incurred. Historically, DH has caved so that SD11 doesn't have to repay.
This year, BM has done it again. SD11 auditioned for "company" level stuff without DH having any idea that it was happening. BM attended a company meeting that outlined all of the requirements and didn't tell DH. BM notified DH a few days later and told him that SD11 made the audition (which is really cool all things considered) and said that the 1st requirement fell over a weekend that SD11 would be with DH and I and would that be ok? He replied asking her not to commit to anything until the 3 of them could sit down and discuss everything. She replied back to him that she had already made the commitment and made payment because the deadline was soon (we still haven't hit the deadline). She still did not tell him what the requirements would be and he kept telling her that he could not agree to the schedule without knowing what it was. He was able to speak with the dance instructor who told him what the requirements were. Basically, the requirements don't allow us flexibility over the weekends to visit his family who live out of state (SD11 is very close to her cousins and we typically make that trip every 6-8 weeks). We also would not be able to take SD11 to other outings that we have discussed taking her to. So, he spoke with SD11 (last night was the first night he was able to discuss things with her) who told him that she didn't really want to audition, but that "mommy" said it would be a good idea and she didn't want to take all of the classes associated with the company. When she realized that she was going to have to be tied up the 1st 3 weekends of every month, in addition to 2 weekends during the summer AND not being able to do anything during the month of November (apparently BM did not explain all of this to SD11 - imagine that!) she said that it was too much and she didn't want to do that.
DH informed BM that the requirements will not work for the family and that he would not be taking SD11 to the company events. He still supported her being involved in the 1 class that she wants to be involved in (which happens during our visitation time), just not the level of involvement for company.
BM's response: Everything was explained to SD11 and she signed the papers and it has cost BM $$$. If SD11 is backing out, then SD11 will have to repay BM for the $450 that she shelled out (before consulting with DH). And BM will not consider anything that DH wants for SD11 (she never has considered anything before) in the future. And she will not consider other activities (soccer) that SD11 has said she wanted to do in the spring (SD11 has been wanting to try soccer for 3 years)(that BM said was OK before all of this). And she will not support SD11's involvement in church choir (this was mutually agreed upon last year - and BM did not take SD11 to all rehearsals anyway).
I am absolutely aghast that this woman would do this to her child!BM's words: "I am simply doing what you have have always done to me and SD11 is about to find out what that is. No activities for her on my time. I'll be sure to explain it to her, and where it came from. She will be busy every weekend working to earn back all of the money already spent for her on Company and it won't be me she will be working for." She is also throwing up that DH missed SSD11's blackbelt (another activity that BM signed SD11 up for without consulting DH)test because he was attending my graduation from Grad school which was out of state.
I just don't know how to help HIM deal with this. I don't know how to help SD11 deal with such emotional abuse and bullying from her own mother. I just feel so helpless.
These 2 people just can NOT agree on how to deal with each other and what is best for SD11. They each have different priorities and philosophies in how to raise her. Why can't the woman admit that she is at fault for signing papers and paying the money without consulting with DH? He would have said it was too much from the get go and we wouldn't be in this situation. SD11 said, "You aren't taking an experience away from me, you are trying to keep my family time together." Why can't BM see that? UGH!!!!!

misSTEP's picture

I didn't have time to read everything, but a short answer is: you don't co-parent. You parallel parent. That's what we had to do. DH got a No Contact Order added to the CO which cut down on the harassment plenty.

Cadence's picture

If BM is punishing SD and saying that she has to pay her back, then can't DH stand up for SD and say the following to BM: "I am the one saying no, not SD. SD is a minor child and I am the adult in charge of her on my parenting time. You signed her up for activities on my parenting time without my permission, again, and I have the final say so on what SD attends or doesn't attend on my parenting time."

Break the "BM signs up SD --> SD is pressured --> Your family is pressured --> You say no to BM --> BM punishes SD and everyone feels awful for SD" manipulation cycle. She is playing on your guilt by saying that a child has to pay her back.

Perhaps contemplate sending her a certified letter with copies of pertinent communication and dates reminding her to cease and desist scheduling SD activities on DH's parenting time, and that it is totally inappropriate to insist that a minor child pay her back for activities that she is scheduling for DH's time without DH's permission. That way this horsesh*t is documented should you ever need to take legal action.

ej'scrazy's picture


BM did this to DH, and would always tell him after she signed them up; then she would get them all excited. DH felt bad in saying no, considering ALL of it happened on his time with the kids. Then, she would have be "unable" to pay, and send the kids to "Daddddddeeee" to pay for it. He felt guilty in saying no. After three years, thousands of dollars, and two different agreements stating that she could not sign them up for activities on his time without his knowledge or consent--then she did it one time where DH got burned one too many times and he refused to pick up an almost $1000 tab.

She has been told under no circumstances are we paying for anything she signs them up for; nor are we taking them. All of a sudden, she stopped. I guess she could read the writing on the wall.

In your situation, SD is 11. She doesn't have a job. BM made the payment; it's BM's loss. If she wants to 'punish' SD for HER (BM's) ill conceived ideas, let her. I doubt it would last anyway. She's threatening because it's worked before. BM does not get to dictate DH's time, nor does DH get to dictate BM's time. If there's an activity that overlaps their times, communication happens beforehand; not as an after thought. If she doesn't have time to communicate, then she doesn't have time to sign SD up for anything!

tryingmom's picture

She is bullying him and using her daughter as ammunition. Parallel parenting is the only way when dealing with HC BMs.

AllySkoo's picture

Yup, agree with pretty much all the advice so far. You parallel parent, follow the CO exactly, and don't take SD to any activity on your time unless SHE tells you she wants to go. I also agree that it's unlikely BM will actually make SD pay her - that's emotional blackmail of YOU GUYS. Once you've said no, there's little point in her actually doing it since she's likely to be seen as the "bad guy" by SD.

Also, make sure that you guys talk to SD about all this on a level she'll understand. I don't mean bad mouth her mom - never do that, it'll backfire on you big time. But get your side of the story out there when BM tells her things. If BM says, "It's your dad's fault you have to pay back this money!" then tell her "Your mom is an adult, and when she paid the deposit without talking to Dad she made a bad choice. I'm sorry she's making you pay for her bad choices, we don't agree with it but it isn't in our control."

ETA: Oh! And also TOTALLY agree that you should watch for SD telling BM and BD what they want to hear. Our SD's did that, and in fact they started to manipulate facts in order to get both parents on "their side". They caused a lot of fights like that until one day they got caught. All 4 of us (BM, SF, DH and me) had a Come To Jesus meeting with the girls where we laid out what they'd told each of us. They KNEW they were busted. They tried to say BM "misunderstood", which basically sent BM ballistic since she finally realized not only were they playing her, but they were also throwing her under the bus. Lol That was the end of the stories....)

1sttimestepmom70's picture

Thank you all for your insights! Yes, DH has explicitly informed BM and SD that the first error was to go ahead without including him. DH has repeatedly requested for all 3 of them to sit down to discuss extra-curricular activities for the past 3 years and it has never happened. I absolutely don't trust what BM says SD says to her about DH, but I won't put it past SD to manipulate both sides either. Unfortunately, DH doesn't see "that side" of SD. The only way I know to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future is to do as y'all have suggested:
1. Take SD to things that happen on our time
2. Follow the letter of the docs - no flexibility either way
3. Stand our ground - keep insisting on having face to face meetings, but stand our ground once our decisions have been made.

It's just crap and I know it could be sooooo much worse - I just hate that it is as nasty as it is. I know karma will kick in, but dang - it is hard in the meantime.....

Thank you all again! I do feel a bit validated and affirmed that we were on the right path Smile

1sttimestepmom70's picture

Oh there are definitely inconsistencies in the stories of how this all came about. DH asked to meet BM and SD11 so that all 3 could talk. He asked to meet in a neutral site and BM refused. To be fair, BM said she would meet at her house, bu DH refused. It is all a mess. I hate it for SD11. The 2 people she loves most in the world can't agree on anything. And now, BM is threatening to do "take whatever measures (she) thinks necessary to deal with this." Ugh. All of this drama and nonsense because she couldn't be bothered to let DH know ahead of time that SD11 was auditioning - she only had a week between the time BM told SD11 to audition and the time BM let DH know of the time commitments (said with sarcasm). In retrospect, about the only thing that DH could have done differently would be to have begun requesting a meeting would have been when SD11 told him about the audition after she'd done it (which was 3 days before BM told him that SD11 had made the audition). I just don't understand why BM has to be so manipulative. Siiiiiggghhhhh...... Lesson for SD11: don't agree to anything on the days she will be with DH. Lesson for DH: as soon as you hear the first rumblings of something happening on days SD11 will be with us, send email (or call or text or something) to BM to get involved before any commitments are made. Bleh...... only 7 more school years to go!