What legal options are there to prevent a step parent from over-"step"-ping?

Valerie - posted on 01/18/2013 ( 12 moms have responded )

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I don't know if this actually applies to my children or more to myself. But it involves my children's stepmother. It has been almost 4 years that she has been with my ex-husband. From the very first week of our separation she was right there to jump in and start acting the mom to my children, against my protests to my ex. During the past few years she has actively participated in my divorce proceedings, custody hearings, and child support hearings, even trying to speak up on occasion on behalf of my ex even though it was not a matter that involved her. I was not in love with my ex any more when we separated, so it was not sour grapes that prompted my disapproval of her. It was every behavior and action that was taken starting the week she lay claim to my children and her sense of entitlement that my ex gave her to be their mother. Over and over again, I voiced my protest or request for more reasonable boundaries when it came to her role as the step-parent but I was ignored. I finally filed a restraining order against my ex citing harassment. It was denied which was no surprise to me but I was at least heard out in court regarding my concerns with him cutting me out as the mother and substituting his new wife. At every opportunity he places her between us and tries to force me to communicate to her about the children, instead of discussions with him. I tried filing a civil harassment restraining order against her but the judge said it was a domestic order, and the family court said it was a civil one.

I enrolled my children in a religious private school. This woman is not my religion but she has taken upon herself to actively engage in volunteering a majority of her time at this school. Originally I thought it might be a haven for myself to socialize with people of like mind, but now I am faced with seeing her as well as her family, at social events designed for the parents of this school. I really want to move on with my life, but I feel that wherever I turn I am faced with this extremely unpleasant reminder of a person who has no respect for my role as a mother or even a human being. Last week she attempted to humiliate me in public by presenting me with my ex-husband's payment and making me sign for it in front of the parent association people that were present for the meeting. I get feedback that people think her behavior is inappropriate but the school says their hands are tied when it comes to accepting her volunteerism. A couple times she has been confrontational with me at the school, telling me I was not allowed to sit with my daughter at an event, and another time she brought up personal business in front of other volunteers. Is there any legal recourse I have to get this person out of my life and minimize the time she volunteers? I get that people say my children benefit, but how does it benefit my children for her to be involved in social events that I am attending which have nothing to do with the children? This woman has her own child and does not volunteer at his school, so I have to wonder what her motivation is behind doing so for mine? I feel like I am dealing with a poor maladjusted person without any sense of propriety, shame, or boundaries. It seems to me that she is trying to bully me and intimidate me from being involved with my own children. I want to be happy in my life, but it is difficult with her hanging around every corner.

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Ariana - posted on 01/19/2013

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There doesn't sound like there's much you can do other than talk to her. I would try to have a frank discussion with her about how you feel about some of these situations.

It's usually best to use 'I feel' statements and that sort of thing because if you start blaming someone (even if it is accurate) it ends up getting them defensive and no one benefits.

So sandwich what you want to say inbetween two good things.

You'd tell her, 'I appreciate what an important role you are playing in my childrens lives, and how concerned you are about them.

There are some concerns I would like to bring up. I feel you may be overstepping some boundaries in my childrens lives and in public. '

Then state the main, factual, points. So bringing your exhusbands payment to be signed at the school instead of in private, bringing up personal business in front of volunteers. Pulling your daughter aside during the photo time and sitting at her desk etc.

Tell her, 'I feel you may be overstepping your boundaries by volunteering at my childrens school, when you are not volunteering at your own childrens school. It seems odd that you are this invested in my children, but I appreciate you being concerned and involved with them.'

Try to end it off on something positive if possible.

Although this may not help at least you will know that you very clearly told her this is bothering you and you don't feel it is ok. You'll know you did everything you could. Talking to her might make her start to think a little bit more about things she does, at least in the public eye, that are bothersome. The main point is to not get drawn into arguments or back and forth games. State what you have to say, don't get drawn into an off-topic discussion or argument and be positive during the conversation. Don't come off as hostile or nothing you say will get through at all, plus you'll come off looking bad.

Once you've done this in the future if she brings up something private in public or does something like that you can tell her, 'This is a personal matter for when we can talk alone, not in front of others.' If you decide to do that once again be calm and to the point. If she is trying to overstep her bounds blatently, like trying to take your daughter to take a photo while you are talking to her, you can tell her, 'I'm taking a moment with my daughter, she'll see you in a minute.' If she gets offended you can bring up how you had talked to her about how sometimes you need to be the one doing the mothering when you're around, or how you feel she's overstepping boundaries.

You can't change her behavior, only yours. So the first thing you need to do is speak up to her in calm, respectful manner and tell her exactly what's bothering you. Once you've done that, whether she's receptive or not, you open the doors to being able to put in place boundaries when you are with your daughter or when you are out in public. You will be able to calmly say, this is a private manner, or I need this moment with my daughter right now etc.

I hope some of this can help. Another thing you might try (but it might not work, or you may not be willing to do this) is to try to communicate with her more. If you can get on a semi-friendly basis with her she may be more receptive if you were to bring something like this up. So she may see you as 'cold' right now and if you say these things she's going to think you're just being crazy, but if you speak with her and try to bring her more on your side, she might be more understanding if you say, hey, I know you adore my kids and want what's best for them, but they're my kids and sometimes it bothers me if you try to take over my role as mother instead of your role as stepmom. If she feels like you're closer to her or more open to her being around she might be more understanding of your feelings. Don't know her so no idea if that would actually help but it can be worth a shot.

I hope you can work things out!

Valerie - posted on 01/18/2013

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Mardi,

I have considered all those things and joked about doing them with my mother who is as frustrated by this situation as I am. But in the end, doing the same back to her would not make me feel better or make me the better person.

I have been more vocal then I ever have in my life, about my displeasure with this person. I have stated to certain persons that I am not happy with her involvement. That is a big step for me to take and I have never voiced an opinion so deliberately in the past about anyone. I think an ad in the newsletter might be going a tad far, but I do feel strongly that this situation is simply not right and I am not afraid to tell anyone who asks exactly that.

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Jacqueline - posted on 02/17/2014

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I am experience the same problems with my sons step mother! It's crazy how much this sounds just like her!

Cc - posted on 02/13/2014

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Hire an attorney and file a motion for third party interference at exchanges, extra cirrcular, school function, sports, etc. you have a right as a parent to have your child's love and affection and this stepparent is clearly interfering. Document all instances of interferences time date describe situation. Court will want to see proof. Court in most instances will rule favorably on the parents behalf. Courts want the parents to have a relationships they don't want stepparents to interfere in the other parent's relationship at all. You have to make sure they are not petty instances. Instances were she is damaging your relationship with your child. Where the child can be emotional damage as well.

My husband is taking his ex wife to court on a third party interference motion soon. Her soon to be husband has been harassing my husband during exchanges for way to long. We have the videos to prove it. This will be expensive but hopefully worth it in the long run. Peace during exchanges, school activites, and sport games. Good luck.

Cc - posted on 02/13/2014

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You can file an motion of third party interference affecting parenting times, exchanges, school activities. You have a right to your child's love and affection without interference from a step parent. The court usually will rule favorably upon the parent. Document all interferences they will want proof. Time, date, and describe what she is doing. Hire an attorney. Ask she be restricted from everything.

Lyndsie - posted on 02/12/2014

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Actually yes! You can file a cease and disist against her if she is publicly humiliating you. Also the fact that she vollenteers is good but talk to the school and see about having them limit access to your children's classes but but let her vollenteer elsewhere in the school. The fact that she is trying to create drama I from of everyone including the kids is not just harassment it's mental abuse towards your children and yourself. Good luck!

Kay - posted on 01/19/2013

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I would love to hear the responses to this problem. This problem with our x-dil's evil boyfriend is one of many problems. One thing I am sure of is it stems from control issues. How do your children feel when she enters their life?

I too, would like a solution to this.

Valerie - posted on 01/18/2013

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That is a good question Jodi, and its one I deal with every day. Why should I throw such a fuss if it is not negatively impacting my children? I did preface my post stating that this was more for me then my children. It is not an easy question to answer. I have avoided a lot of confrontation over the years when I asked myself, does this benefit the children to fight? There are many issues I have surrendered to, regarding her care of my children, there is simply nothing for me to do regarding what goes on in her home.

That being said, she is presenting herself as a parent at the school while I am doing the same. I can logically say that this benefits my children and does them no harm. But emotionally I feel that since I am the mother, and I am the one who is paying for them to be at this school, and my connection to this school goes back 30 years with the people and with the religion, that one mother at the school is enough. I do hope that if any of my children should have stepchildren, that they would not behave as this person does, but make sure that they are invited by both parents to participate in the privilege of raising a child that is not their own with tact and compassion for both parents.

I am sure as well that my children have felt my tension and displeasure. I NEVER say anything negative about their father or step-mother, but it has been difficult at times to hide my feelings on certain occasions where I have been taken by surprise with yet another intrusive behavior on her part. For example, at my daughter's 5th grade promotion celebration I was talking to my daughter and the step-mother came up and pulled her away from me in the middle of our talk so that she could take her picture. She sat in my children's desks at Back to School Night. While I am always concerned about the best interest of my children, it does not seem to me that she considers it might be in the children's best interest to form a healthy relationship with their mother. I am experiencing zero empathy from this step-parent and I do not view her behavior as appropriate, and I do not want my children to follow her poor example. Therefore, I cannot respect her decisions or condone them. Sorry I'm so word-y.

Jodi - posted on 01/18/2013

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Can I ask how her actions are a problem for the children? I can see how it is a problem for you, but I am not seeing how this is negatively impacting on the children.

Mardi - posted on 01/18/2013

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I would take out an ad in the school newsletter asking if any of hte other parents want her as their step parent in the picture, as your over her actions and isolations to get closer to your child when she does non of it for her own

Or even start volunteering at her childs school and see how it feels from the other side.

But then after all this time, I'd stop playing nice and make sure eveyone new of her games.....ie Ex is supposed to pay this money into my bank account, is it so hard he cant use an electronic transfer??? Wow, your here again, when do you volunteer at your childs school, you always seem to be at this one?????????? Anyone says anything, I'd welcome them to have her as their own new step parent and deal with her over bareingness........given away, free to a new home....lol

Valerie - posted on 01/18/2013

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I have given the bare bones of the situation here, and I just don't want to have people read every single thing these people have been pulling for the past 4 years. No I have not tried to talk with her. My ex utilized her as a means of revenge from day one and she went along with it and supported it. He announced to me that as far as he was concerned she was the perfect mother and I should be grateful that someone like her wanted to care for my children. Except that I'm the mother and I have always been there and cared for my children. I find it hard to believe that someone like her has any common sense. If that were so, we would not be in this position in the first place. I mostly blame my ex for this situation because he is encouraging and allowing these behaviors, I blame her for being insensitive and ignorant about her own actions. I know very well that if the situation were reversed, I would handle myself much differently, not just because it is how I want to be treated, but because I witnessed within my own family growing up, many examples of how to get along in a blended family. Like I said before, I sincerely believe I am dealing with sick people and I am hoping to find a way to protect myself and my children. Unfortunately, in order to have someone declared mentally ill, you have to pay for it, which I can't afford.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 01/18/2013

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Have you ever taken her aside and talked with her privately? This women sounds like she has an agenda.

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