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Delegating parental responsibility

  • Brokenspoons
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07 Apr 21 - 07 Apr 21 #516417 by Brokenspoons
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Hi all,

Very stressed and mentally unwell newbie here, looking for some advice/support.

I split with my ex 3 years ago and have been living with my partner for 15 months. My children (12,10 and 5) have been visiting here regularly for the last 9 months, and it is a much more stable and secure home than I was able to provide on my own, with my partner doing the vast majority of the chores like cooking, cleaning, washing etc while the kids are visiting so I am able to spend as much quality time with them as I can while they're here (every other weekend and one evening a week). They appear to be benefitting greatly from this, despite us picking up hints of parental and new partner alienation going on at home.

My ex has a lot of control issues, and used to coerce, manipulate, guilt trip and bully me into behaving and parenting in the way she felt I should, and appears to genuinely believe that her way is the only acceptable way to parent our children. So the controlling aspect of the relationship has continued under the guise of it being in the kids' best interests.

More recently, my ex has started openly criticising my partner for having too much involvement with the children, saying that parenting decisions and choices should be made between the biological parents only. Personally, I disagree, and I value my partner's insight and parenting style much more than my ex's.

Am I right in thinking that when the children are with me how they are raised is up to me and my ex should have no jurisdiction over what goes on in my house? She might not like my parenting style, that I consult with my partner, or that I allow my partner to treat the children as her own (she loves and cares for them as devoutly as I do), including hugging, asking them to do things and chastising if necessary, but surely it's reasonable to expect my ex not to try to interfere with my family life while I have the children?

Because of the way my ex speaks to me about these things, my partner gets very upset (she has high functioning autism) and feels like she is unable to talk to or engage with my children in any way for fear of putting a toe out of line and incurring me yet more wrath from my ex.

Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated, we are both suffering extreme mental health problems (this post is only the tip of the iceberg) and don't currently see any way of managing all the contentious contact and conflict with my ex for the next decade! Incidentally, as I suspect this might be suggested, my ex has already refused mediation, ostensibly on the grounds that it is too expensive, but I feel she would not want the disparaging way she speaks to me to be witnessed by anyone else and she would not want to give up the control over me that she's desperately trying to cling onto.

Many thanks!
Last edit: 07 Apr 21 by Brokenspoons. Reason: Typo predictive text error!

  • rubytuesday
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07 Apr 21 #516422 by rubytuesday
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More recently, my ex has started openly criticising my partner for having too much involvement with the children, saying that parenting decisions and choices should be made between the biological parents only. Personally, I disagree, and I value my partner's insight and parenting style much more than my ex's.

Am I right in thinking that when the children are with me how they are raised is up to me and my ex should have no jurisdiction over what goes on in my house? She might not like my parenting style, that I consult with my partner, or that I allow my partner to treat the children as her own (she loves and cares for them as devoutly as I do), including hugging, asking them to do things and chastising if necessary, but surely it's reasonable to expect my ex not to try to interfere with my family life while I have the children?




It's great that your partner cares for your children and wants to take an active role in thier lives. But your new partner is not the children's mother, and while there's nothing wrong in discussing things with your new partner, your ex should be included in decisions about the children. It's true that you can make decisions about how you bring the children up while they in your care - but up to a point.

1. Decisions either parent can take independently of the other without consultation or notification:

· How the children are to spend their time during contact periods;
· Personal care for the children;
· Activities undertaken;
· Religious and spiritual activities;
· Continuing to take medicine prescribed by a GP.

2. Decisions either parent can take independently but of which they must inform the other:

· Medical treatment in an emergency;
· Visits to a GP and the reasons for them;
· Booking holidays during contact time.

3. Decisions which must only be taken following consultation:

· Selecting a school and applying for admissions;
· Contact rotas during school holidays;
· Planned medical and dental treatment;
· Stopping medication prescribed by a GP;
· Attendance at school functions (so the parents may avoid meeting each other wherever possible);
· Age at which children are allowed to watch age-restricted DVDs and video games.

Your question isn't really about delegating PR, but rather how to manage parenting with an ex you don't agree with. Have you heard of Parallel parenting? Parallel parenting grants each parent independence from one another, while still enabling each parent to make child-rearing decisions for their children. With parallel parenting, the parents do not have to consult each other or seek approval when making decisions on their children's behalf. Rather, each parent agrees to let the other parent make their own decisions, in exchange for them being able to do the same. Parents who are able to successfully engage in parallel parenting, acknowledge that high-conflict parenting is much worse for the children than being in agreement with the other parent on parenting/child issues.


You may value your girlfriend's insight more than your ex wife's, but your ex is still your children's mother, and some degree of respect would be appropriate, I would have thought - despite what you feel about her. Your children love both you and thier Mum equally, and generally speaking children have better life outcomes when thier parents manage to work together (or at the least, not against each other).

It's difficult being a step-parent or new partner of a divorcing/divorced person and getting the balance right - one is neither a parent nor just a friend. If one oversteps the mark, they can be seen as undermining the children's other parent, and not being involved too much can look as if they don't care. Tricky.

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07 Apr 21 #516428 by Brokenspoons
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Hi Ruby

Thank you for responding so quickly! I have had a look through the lists of decisions and who can make them; what strikes me is that the sorts of things on list one (decisions over which individual parents can have autonomy over) are the ones which my ex is trying to exert control over or, rather, not allowing me to manage with my partner. In addition to this, there have been medical appointments and treatment being made without my prior knowledge including changes to ADHD medication and assessments for Irlens Syndrome, the latter of which aren't covered by the NHS and I didn't find out about until it came time to request half of the cost from me, months after the initial screening took place. She has even informally changed the children's surnames to her Maiden Name without consulting me.

I have only just recently started hearing about parallel parenting and it does look as though it would work very well, for me at least. It clearly needs both parents to be on board and, unfortunately, I really don't think my ex would agree to it on the basis that she would lose the control she consistently tries to exert over the way I parent. I note that parents who choose this route acknowledge that high-conflict parenting is worse, and I don't know whether my ex would agree that the way things are at the moment is high conflict. Personally, both my partner and I panic every time a car drives past, at every phone ring, every notification; sometimes I even hallucinate that my phone is buzzing in my pocket because I'm worried about when the next fallout is coming and what it's going to be about this time!

I do have a certain amount of respect for my ex as my children's mother, God knows, I couldn't do what she does; I have executive functioning issues and can only just cope with the children for the time that they are with me - that in itself makes me feel like a bad father, even before she finds things to criticise about my methods (or lack of). You're right though, she clearly feels undermined by my partner's level of involvement and I really don't know what to do about that. I am happy with my partner's level of involvement but I worry greatly about trying to justify this to my ex; with just about every other conversation I've had with my ex for the past 5-10 years, my opinion is either ignored, ridiculed or aggressively dismissed in favour of her own.

Still not sure how I'm going to raise the subject of parallel parenting with her - all contact at the moment, even non-contentious contact, is causing me a lot of distress and I have been trying to think of ways that I can still have my kids to visit but without any contact from my ex (or anyone in her support network, for that matter). Is it even possible to get a non-molestation order when children contact handovers are necessary? Maybe there is some sort of way to get a contact agreement drawn up that would limit the type of contact between me and my ex? Even if there was, I'm not sure there'd be any point going down that route because she'd probably just ignore it.

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