Has anyone used a mediator or requested court-ordered counseling?

Megan - posted on 07/21/2009 ( 31 moms have responded )

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My husband and I are very concerned for his two older children (girl 12, boy 10) and their situation at home with their mother, stepfather, and several members of their stepfather's family who are unstable and come and go as they please. Plus, their mother has interfered and inhibited court-ordered visitation for the children with their father. It states in Ohio's standard order of visitation that it is the absolute duty of the residential parent to foster a positive experience in visitation, and if problems continue (or the children express a wish not to see the non-residential parent) the court may order counseling for the children. We asked our attorney to file a motion and she said it would be pointless. She suggested mediation instead. However, I know from my own research that court and family mediators do not need any advanced education or special certification in order to be appointed mediator by the court.



These are only the beginning of our issues (as it seems you all understand). With the kids getting older we feel that decisive action is needed now, but even our attorney (who specialized in father's rights) seems to have given up. My husband has never fallen behind on child support and we still live in the same community the kids did when their parents were married. We know in our guts that something is very wrong in their home life and we worry endlessly. And the fact that our lives revolve around someone else's irrational and harmful decisions makes me angry.



I would like to know if anyone has utilized either one of these options and if they yeilded any significant results.

Thanks.

31 Comments

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Glenda - posted on 08/10/2009

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In NC, the mediators are usually an outside attorney, not just anyone off the street. That surprises me about Ohio. Anyway, I think you should give it a try and then if nothing changes, you can show that you did try to work with her before resulting in a court date.

Megan - posted on 08/10/2009

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Yes, Ursula, the medical issues continue to be an on-going battle. Since bm is the custodial parent, she has the power to make all medical decisions. I believe that she is supposed to share info with my husband, but she rarely does. They live in Kentucky and she has a pattern of switching doctors and specialists until she finds one that tells her what she wants to hear. With this pattern of behavior, it has been impossible for my husband to keep track of who the kids are seeing. Every time we see the kids their diet is different and we have no idea what they are allowed to eat until they get here. We never have a doctor's note, only bm's instructions. It is heartbreaking to hear that a ten-year-old boy can eat nothing but medical formula. And he cries (of course!) when others eat in front of him. And according to the kids, their mother does not follow her own strict guidelines.



Without getting into specifics, we believe that bm has some serious mental problems. Add that to the fact that she recently married a convicted felon. But our attorney says that unless the felony was sexual in nature, we do not have a leg to stand on as far as a custody fight. We could go into the medical stuff in court, and we have to some degree, but we do not have the money it would take to fight it out in the long term. And bm comes to court with doctor's notes. I ask you, what doctor would put his/her reputation on the line by saying that our kids' bm knows all there is to know about a disease which was only "discovered" 10 years ago? This seems very unprofessional to me, and very close to unethical.



Right now, bm is denying visitation completely, so we are going back to court soon. Our attorney believes that the judge will take this very seriously since this will be the second or third time she has denied. We will see what happens.



We feel very strongly that the medical drama is a way for bm to get attention. She has gone so far as to make up flyers with the kids' pictures on them and exaggerated stories to raise money for extreme medical treatments. In my mind, and having seen the flyers, this is exploitation. It is interesting that there is no sign of illness when the kids are with us, but that they know their mother likes the attention associated with their being sick. I'm sorry to ramble, but this has been going on for so long and it feels like there is nothing we can do to protect these children.



I wish you luck, Ursula. It is good to see someone else from Ohio here.

Ursula - posted on 08/10/2009

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Your husband has no say in the medical realm of the children? I also am in Ohio and in my husband's decree there is a clause that she must share everything with him as we must with her. Right now things are sticky because we have full custody of her through children services due to mother's background. Originally we had shared custody. Right now we are just trying to save for an attorney for the third time to retain full custody. If you suspect foul play go with your gut. We did and didn't do anything and now the kids are in a real mess unfortunately and BM doesn't seem to care.

Elizabeth - posted on 08/03/2009

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To all, reading all of this makes me so angry - there are so many "dead beat dads" out there and look at the uphill battle the guys that are really trying for their kids get? Nauseating!

Elizabeth - posted on 08/03/2009

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Wow. Most definitely imo on the Contempt of Court. Courts don't like that. And it certainly is not in the best interest of the children. Too much of Contempt of Court and she will out & out lose custody. I would also ask your attorney to use that time to document a request for Mediation to "exhaust all credible and reputable avenues to" work this out "amicably and in the best interest of the children" before you "return to Court." You then have further documented demonstration of attempting to work with her. If she doesn't show or won't work with you on that, it is even further proof to the courts...

Elizabeth - posted on 08/03/2009

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PS Megan, by initiating through a Mediator, you are also showing the Court you are doing all possible a) to work it out with her in the best interest of the children and b) the court "may" appreciate you keeping it out of the court system until you have exhausted all options. In all honesty though, you and your husband need to do what your hearts/guts/etc tell you to do. If the info is stacking up and you fear for their safety or otherwise, you need to proceed wiht how you best see fit. One thing though, if you do it, don't walk away and sign anything you are not happy with. This is your chance to negotiate (understanding some comrpomise) to a point you and your husband are most comfortable with...

Megan - posted on 08/03/2009

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Thank you, Elizabeth. We have considered looking into a guardian, but our attorney says this is very expensive. Mediation costs next to nothing but we suspect that bm would not even participate (and her attorney has hinted at this as well). Anyway, we are filing a motion for contempt of court because she would not allow visitation this summer. Our attorney believes that the judge will take this seriously since we have been in court for this very issue on a previous occasion.



We have been in favor of mediation because there are too many issues that keep emerging and we thought this would be a way to clear the air and hash it out. But it does take two sides, right?



Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences.

Elizabeth - posted on 08/03/2009

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Megan, wow do I feel for you. Our situation is not as dire (so we believe) as yours but we have had a rough go of it, especially b/c of her family wealth and power. In any case, to give you a brief history of my background, I moved from California to FL to keep stability for my husband's children. He felt the divorce too recent and that they were too young for him to relocate to me at that time. Mamma Bear did not want to live in FL (especially once she found out he had moved on w/me) and petitioned to relocate (seems it ok for me to move there so the kids could be by both parents but she needed to move - supposedly for the kids but pretty clearly for herself since she did not work here and does not work there - yet has FT help for kids, house, etc). In any case, it was on the path of going to court. It was a pretty crappy experience - emotionally, mentally, etc for all involved. When my husband found out they were sending in these people with "magic" computers and so forth into the home for all kinds of stuff (according to my older stepson who was 5 at the time and was already in counseling for anxiety, anger and depression over his parents' split) my husband met with his attorney to see what they could do. Exasperating the already extremely difficult situation was her wealth, anger, determination to make him "pay" for a breakup she initiated and that if she lost this petition, she would keep refiling because she could and financially break us.



In any case, he went through mediation...he went through two separate sessions given the emotion, gravity, and hostility (I did not attend as we did not want to exacerbate her hostitility further in the hopes that we could get to a place of mutual agreement). He found the Mediator to be quite good. He kept things even scale, gave some breaks to alleviate the situation, etc. He negotiated separately at different points, and so on.



Honestly, from all he said, it is a less aggressive, more compromisable, and less $$ than going direct to court. In court, you are going to get handed down whatever situtation you are handed down. You can have the most iron clad case and still walk away with nothing. Mediation gives you a chance. The other thing that you can request is a court apppointed guardian with whom all decisions (inlcuding ones you make regarding the children) must first run through/be approved through them.



Hope this helps...good luck...you sound like a wonderful partner/step to these kids to be so vehmently looking after their best interest in such a manner...

Kayce - posted on 08/01/2009

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My husband has been through the mediator twice now. Because in NC you have to go through mediation and try to work it out before going before a judge. Both times he tried to do what is best for my sd and her bm wanted only what she wanted and would benefit her. With that the only thing they were able to work out was the holidays. So, if you try the mediator i dont know how good it is going to work because both parents have to be willing and able to work it amongest themself. As for counseling my sd's BM put her in counseling without my husbands consent so you can put the children in some type of counseling if you know when you will have them. But, I would send the BM the dates of the counseling because you tech. have to tell her the appointments of the children. My sd's BM broke the court order by telling my husband the day of or after the fact.

[deleted account]

Kelly - Where do you live? In CA if one party doesn't show up the other party has the appt. alone (to prevent what is happening to your hubby). Theu also don't do home visits... I wish they did the home visits here, then they could see how well my daughter is doing without her bio mom!

Kelly - posted on 07/25/2009

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my husband had to go through mediation with his ex and that didn't go too well. his ex didn't show up to her appt 3 times and they dropped the mediation meetings because of her. they come to your home too and watch everything you do for like a few hrs to see how you interact with the child.

Jessica - posted on 07/24/2009

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In Iowa mediation is required, but i found it not helpfull. I have supported and cared for my daughter since birth. Her father did come into my apartment a few times a week but always laid on the floor and never did anything productive with her. I have since moved 2 hours away and filed actions against him and we had to go through mediation and it was pointless, he put on his best act and claimed that he did all these things for her that he didnt and doesnt have proof of and is contesting the daycare ladies affidavit saying that she is lying about how often he picked up or daughter which was once and never droped her off, now im waiting this going on a week to hear and see what the judge decides being it be me having primary phyical care or us shareing care on an everyother week basis. Good luck in your case, just keep praying and keep good records.

[deleted account]

just keep fighting and keep all records of everything, phone calls, dates, times, any visitation lengths, arguements, school records, anything you'll never know when you'll need it. We've had my husbands kids for 3 plus years now..I find it so effing funny that she pays no medical, dental, vision expenses, child supoort or anything and gets to see the kids every weekend, unless theres 5 weeks then we get them, and every other week in the summer. But when she had them he was paying like $900 a month cs, carried medical, dental, vision, and had to pick up n drop off the kids every weekend. Its a 1hr drive each way. Courts are kinda one sided still....kids can share a room depending on their ages, we slept in the living room just so the boys and girls had their own rooms since i had 2 kids and he had 2, We each have 1 boy n 1 girl. It was never a prob w the court. She lets the kids sleep in the same room boy/girl when theyre with her, so i cant see that being a problem..Ex wives seem to have a grudge and always want to make their ex husbands life and new family a living hell..usually it has nothing to do with the kids they just use them as leverage, if u can prove it the courts will be on your side! Good luck!!

Nancy - posted on 07/24/2009

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Mediation is a good option if BOTH parties are willing to make concessions. But it can also simply fail. Another option might be a custody evaluation. I'm not fond of this process, since my husband's ex-wife is trying to use it against us -- but it might help you! An impartial social worker interviews both parties, speaks with the kids, visits both homes. They are certainly trained to look for problems, and should be able to speak with the children in an nonthreatening way. They write up a report, and the findings can be used in court. It's not cheap, but seems thorough. Ask your lawyer about this option, which can also be done through court order.

[deleted account]

We just had a mediation appointment yesterday and it went so well! We got hy husband's ex to agree to what we want (originally she was fighting for all 4 weeks of every single schhol vacation and all holidays - which we thought was unfair because it's like us doing all the work of raising her and then her bio mom gets all the fun time!). Our mediator was so helpful and was able to see through all the ex's bull. it was such a wonderful experience and we are so happy we don't have to take it back to the judge, at least not yet!

Robin - posted on 07/24/2009

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Your situation sounds very much like ours. BM is very angry (8 years post divorce) and uses child to get back at dad, tons of medical stuff, child acts immature and is very feminized (he's a boy), etc. We were told we had to do mediation first which ended up with us getting some of what we wanted with lots of concessions to keep her happy and then she refused to comply. We next went to court to enforce the mediated agreement which majorly pissed off the judge and had her yelling at BM. When we finally got more time with him we started uncovering all kids of other issues. Long story short we have filed for custody and the court ordered a custody evaluation. We are 2 1/2 years into this and have depositions and another mediation session (required) coming up next month. Since it's highly unlikely that she will yield custody we will end up either going back to court and through arbitration to settle all of this. Hopefully (or so our lawyer says) it will be final before the end of the year. It is a very long, difficult journey but we know in our hearts we are doing the right thing. We live in Texas where fathers have few rights but even here it looks good for us.



Do the right thing - you won't regret it.

Megan - posted on 07/23/2009

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I wonder, does it ever get better? She is now claiming that the kids will never be allowed to come back to our house because of the condition of our home. We live in the same house that the two of them shared and the kids lived in for 5 years. The house is on the market with the stipulation that it sells "as is" because (get this!) she owns all the equity. The kids have to share a bedroom temporarily because there is water damage in the third bedroom. So here's the situation, my husband and I share a bedroom with our 19-month-old and the older kids share a room which has been partitioned and we made out a schedule so that they both get private time during the day and they only have to share the room to sleep. And again, it is temporary. We had the roof fixed (at our expense, of course) and now have to have a bedroom rebuilt, which I am very concerned about because it is an older home and I don't want anyone (especially the younger kids) exposed to lead dust. We really don't know what to do.



Even with all of your experiences (thank you so much for sharing) I think we would still be open to mediation because we will try anything at this point. My husband can't even talk to his kids on the phone. They are either "asleep" (at 8pm on summer break?), or "out of town" (we have no idea where and are never notified), or "they don't want to talk to you." Ideally we want to go to trial, but the last time we filed a motion for contempt of a court order (regarding interfering with visitation) the judge just told her not to do it again. No help.



I am afraid that Ohio may not be as supportive as Cali, but, really, we have to do something.

[deleted account]

yep my husband went throught court appointed mediation with his Ex..In side the court house before all the different court dates, and then a very lond session at the mediators office. It was very 1 sided. The mediator pretty much agreed with the Ex and didn't let my husband prove his point. The children missed like 20 days of school in a year and were late like 15 times. The teachers had told my husband they only turned in homework for half of the school year and when they were late it was like 2 or more hours. Even with all that proof the mediator still let the kids live with the mom. She ended up getting fired from her job, got her car reposessed, moved out of her moms house with the kids, started working at a bar, and never letting her attorney know. So because of that the judge told him to keep the kids on the weekend had an emergency court date for monday, he told her sun nite, and then the judge ordered the kids to live with us. They went to mediation again after that and even had a new trial set cause she wanted them back. No luck she settled right before they were to go in for trial, she knew she would have had all her dirty laundy put out there for everyone to see. So if u need to go to trial that can be the best thing. Just remember if u do go to trial it is a final order. Unless there is something harmful in the childrens life then it can go back to court.

Tina - posted on 07/23/2009

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yes and it doesn't always work cause the other person will agree to anything in mediation but once out the door will do what they want. dealing with my husbands x with that. unless it is in her favor.

[deleted account]

The judge in our case has been really impressed with the fact that we have gone to mediation with my daughter's bio mom. He said it shows that we are willing to do whatever we need in order to get the best visitation schedule for our daughter... Plus the fact that the ex is completely irrational and insane has helped - she tried to get the judge to order me to not let my SD call me "Mom" (not even "Holly-Mommy" which is what she called me for a long time), but the judge laughed and asked, "Are you serious? After all these people have done to give you time with your daughter?" It was hilarious! (by the way, the mediator has ruled in our favor each and every time - and the judge has been inclined to follow the mediator's recommendation. The only reason my daughter's bio mom has any visitation is because my daughter wants to see her bio mom)



I would also check the requirements for mediators to go through to get their jobs in your state. I know CA doesn't mess around with that kind of thing and spares no expense to make sure there are responsible people in the mediation dept. (even despite the state financial crisis). Also, looking for a new attorney is a good suggestion. If your attorney is not willing to fight when the battle may get tough, then they may not be the right attorney for you. I would expect my attorney to fight tooth and nail for me and my case, no matter what the expected outcome may be.



I wish your family luck as you go through this difficult time!

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Our attorney told us that most judges want to see that couples have at least tried mediation first before going before them. And it's crazy how each state has such different rules towards what and who can be a mediator. Check the rules in your state.

Megan - posted on 07/22/2009

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Thank you all for your input. One of our concerns was that the mediation process may not have any real standing in the courts. We don't want to waste time and money which could be better spent some other way if the judge completely disregards progress in mediation. You are right, Betty, we may need to look for a new attorney.

[deleted account]

My husband and I have worked with the CA mediators and found them very helpful (but in CA they have to have prior experience and extensive in-house training). The mediator is one of the few outside people who can see through my hubby's ex's bull s**t (excuse the language...) and they are the only ones who do not feel sorry for her and the bad situation she has put herself into.



I know Ohio must be different, and I don't know if this helps at all, but I hope you find what is best for you and your situation! Good luck!

Betty - posted on 07/22/2009

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Well my husband had a fairly productive expreiance with mediation so far and we are getting things in order so that we can have the mediators recomendations adopted by a judge. They are also going to counceling together to discuss parenting concerns with eachother. Myself and the new step dad have joined a session one time so far and from what I see it just gives BM a chance to tell my husband off two or three times a month. But it sure makes things better when they can stop themselfs from saying something and bring it up durring counceling instead.

I would just take them to a family counceler with their dad and tell the BM that it is for his relationship with them if she brings it up. I don't think couseling should be considered medical and he should be able to take them durring his time with them if that is what he feels they need while in his care. It sounds like your husband needs to get a new lawyer to me.

[deleted account]

Megan: That is so crazy about the kid's school. I am a teacher too so it makes me extra mad! All my husband had to do was fax them a copy of the court order stating that he had joint legal custody. He did go and visit her school later on but he had access to the teachers, principal, etc after he sent the court order. YOu might check into seeing if they can do that or not. I know they want to protect the kids but that's crazy that he would have to "prove" himself. Every school district has a different policy I guess.

Yeah, supervised visits are going to be bittersweet. We will be glad to see SD but to have it restricted and then the distance to drive 500 miles to see her for 2 hours and then to have to drive 500 miles back home without her. We are trying to be optimistic but you're right.. why is it that a lot of the time fathers are the ones having to prove themselves and continually fighting an uphill battle. When are BMs going to be held accountable?

Carrie: I feel your pain. When we went through mediation the guy said the same thing when my hubby brought up our baby on the way and travel costs, etc. He said that no one told you to have more kids and live so far away from your daughter. Even though his ex and him had never been married and had always been in a long distance relationship. Keep your head up and I'll be praying things look up for you guys soon. No matter all the drama and craziness, we have to keep fighting for our children! They deserve it!

Carrie - posted on 07/22/2009

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I'm not sure how the courts look at fathers where you live, but here in Edmonton, Alberta it has not been a good experiance for us.
My husband went to mediation with his ex to discuss his two older children and was treated Very badly. We have two children together and the mediator told him he should have known better than to get married and have more children. His ex said she didn't care about our children and demanded a crazy amount of money. Now almost three years later nothing is final and she is still trying to make our lives hell. Court costs, lawyer fees and now $10,000 for a home study and the only thing that has changed is our ability to do the things with all four kids that we used to be able to afford and enjoy.
My advice is research everything you can, keep all receipts, and stand your ground. Be prepared to fight for every little thing you get because in our experiance the father and step mother are considered bad parents right from the get go.
Good Luck

Megan - posted on 07/21/2009

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They are also in a different state, but she has not filed for change of venue so we still do everything through our county's court system. I don't know why the attorney is not supportive of the motion. We have asked and have yet to receive a response. It states in the divorce decree that the father has all rights to medical records, school records, etc. But now he has no idea who the children are seeing in their area (I guess he will when we get the bills) and the school has said that they will not speak to him on the phone until he shows up in person and proves that he is their father. We are fighting an uphill battle and not sure at what point to give up or if it is the right thing to do to make this a life-long fight. How do you know what is best for the kids? The courts obviously don't know.



I'm so sorry you have to endure supervised visitation. I can't imagine how that must make your husband feel.

[deleted account]

Why does your attorney think the motion is pointless? BM currently made a motion to have a new trial. She is claiming "endangerment" and the judge suspended hubby's visits to only supervised until after the trial. Maybe you guys need to do something like that. You would think a judge would order them to have counseling to find out what's going on. Does your husband have joint legal custody? If he does BM is required to give him info on where the kids go to the doctor, school, etc. Then he can request to have all their records. That's what my hubby had to do because though he was required to pay medical insurance she put SD on medicaid so he couldn't find out any claims that were made or anything like that. Now he has all her medical files, therapy progress notes, school attendance, etc. Also we live 500 miles away in a different state from SD and we have to file everything through their state, not ours. Hope some of this is helpful.

Megan - posted on 07/21/2009

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I am positive that their mother will be uncooperative as well. My husband has asked for counseling several times with no response. One of the major issues is that they live almost 200 miles away and we wondered if the court ordered counseling if they would be allowed to fulfill their obligation in another state or if they would have to come up here.



I want to emphasize that the children are wonderful, all things considered. Very well behaved. But we (and their maternal grandmother) have noticed some questionable behavior when their mother gets involved. They act differently. Plus there are questions of physical health problems with both kids which my husband feels have gone misdiagnosed. He is completely cut out of any medical decisions. The kids are on some very dangerous medications which scares my husband (he can't make decisions but he still has to pay for the decisions their mother makes). We asked our attorney about the medical issues and she said there was nothing we could do. We don't know what to do.

[deleted account]

Our attorney suggested we do mediation before our initial court date. It was pointless. BM refused to mediate about anything but updating child support and changing SD's name. If BM your way is open to communication the mediator may be able to convince her to agree to take the kids to therapy. I would think it wouldn't hurt them. Just make sure you both pick the therapist and both are allowed to work with them.

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