Nine secrets your spouse’s ex may not tell you.

Do you have an ex in your life, which makes your life hell? Does it feel like even though your spouse got divorced, that they are still married? Would it surprise you to find out that you put up with more than you have to, simply because the ex says you do?

Below are nine ways to stop allowing the ex to run your life. And, how to remove the welcome mat from your porch and your forehead respectively.

1.  You didn’t marry them; they are not your ex.

This person your spouse or significant other married and consequently divorced, was not who you planned to spend your life with. The word exclude, starts with ex, do just that.        

2.  The ex does not own your spouse just because they share a child.

If your spouse is the non-custodial parent with visitation; it is difficult, but not impossible. Though no longer a team in terms of marriage, they are a team in terms of the child/ren. The ex can only control what the divorce decree says. If the ex has sole legal and sole physical, s/he has the say over schooling, medical and religion. However s/he is required by law to encourage and nurture a relationship with any and all family members of the child’s non-custodial parent. This includes stepfamily, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Better yet, did you know your spouse has a right to daily phone calls with their child, unless noted differently in the divorce decree?  

3.  If you want to attend a school or sporting event – you can. Doctors’ appointments too.

Sporting events are public; anyone and their grandmother can attend. If you want to go, go. Same goes for school recitals, back to school nights, etc. In fact most schools will do separate conferences so that both homes are involved in the child’s educational progress and needs. In terms of doctors’ appointments you can go with a spouse, or have your name added to the child’s file as someone who has a right to medical care and information. It is really no different than having access to a credit card or utility bill that may be solely in your spouse’s name. You can gain information and have some involvement.

4. Your spouse’s visitation time is your spouse’s choice to spend it how they wish. 

The ex-spouse cannot commit you to anything on your time. This includes sports, doctors’ appointments, birthday parties etc. It is a double edge sword though because if by not taking the child to certain engagements will hurt the child in the process, it is a no win situation. But, by no means are you required to do it.

5. Follow your divorce decree, not the ex’s divorce commands.

It can’t be any more plain stated than this. The divorce decree is your spouse’s bible in a sense. It states what is expected, allowed and forbade. Non-custodial parents have more rights than most realize, like rights to medical and school records. Do your research.

6. If your spouse and their ex share joint legal and joint physical custody – your spouse’s say is just as important as the ex’s.

One is not more than the other. In some cases, one parent may have sole physical custody, while both retain joint legal custody. You need to know the differences of these and what your spouse has.

7. The ex can only control what there is no control over.

If a void is visible, the ex will invade. One place the ex will try to invade is your marriage. This is your territory – be territorial enough to remind the ex, this is not their place, and their existence will not be tolerated. Stand your ground.

8. The ex’s issue with you, is a reflection of an issue with themselves.

Any parent who is content with themselves and their own level of involvement and parenting they provide will never limit or control the parenting or involvement of anyone else. This is a well-known fact.

9. In terms of child support, do your own math and research.

Many parents pay more than they should, and feel as though they have to roll over and take it. If your spouse feels there is a substantial change either in their income or the ex’s, request a review. If your spouse is on disability or the ex is on disability make sure the child support office is aware. You’d be surprised how many parents overpay because they failed to double check or request a review.

There you have it, nine ways to limit or exclude the ex’s involvement in your home, your marriage and the relationship with your stepkids.

Happy Meal with a side of visitation

Sitting next to my brother in McDonald’s PlayPlace yesterday opened my eyes to world of traveling visitation. Its not your normal run-of-the-mill visitation that you have with a local parent, where you have a weekend together. I’m talking about the parents that have to travel to see their children, whether it be a half-hours drive or even a flight across the United States.

We drove five hours to where they live in California, and spent seven hours in court rooms or other government buildings. Following a long hard day of roadblock after roadblock, we drove another thirty miles to pick up they boys, only to drive thirty miles back to town to spend three hours with them. My brother was exhausted from the drive, emotionally letdown from all the legal mumbo jumbo, and court hoola hoops he was jumping through. Seeing them was by far the highlight of the day, the way they came running down their hill to their dad waiting with tears and open arms was enough to make anyone tear up. Their smiles were from ear to ear, they had missed him since his last visit in July and were beyond ecstatic that he was there.  Knowing that his visitation time with his sons was limited, he soaked up every bit of it that he could,  that realization was visible all over his face. He would look at the kids, laugh, hug them and as they would turn away it was if the flame within him was blown out.

Watching my brother snapping pictures of his boys, smiling at them, laughing with them, and hanging on every word of “Dad – watch me” or “Dad guess what?” I wondered how many other kids at that playground were there for visitation also.  When traveling out of town, depending on the time allowed for the visit, its hard to find a quality place for quality time. Many travelers arranging with a custodial parent will use a common place, a place easily located and well known, and helps when there is a playground close by. It was the first time I saw McD’s as anything more than a fast food joint with a cool playground and a yummy strawberry shake. Today this popular drive-thru was a drop off place for parents, a visitation station for those from out-of-town and the place where some -parents sat smiling soaking in every detail of their child – only to face saying goodbye shortly after.

The boys were having a blast in the playground area and would take turns running back to their dad to hug him, to talk to him, just the exciting realization that he was there. They both kept wanting to put on the costumes dad had bought them at the local Halloween City store.  To them this time was fun – to my brother it was wonderful outlined with heartbreak – because he knew he would be leaving them again. To be honest it hurt me as well. This was the first time I had met my nephews, and I too was saying goodbye to them.

The judges in these cases, granted the cases where parents are deserving of the visitation, really need to put traveling time into consideration. After a twelve hour day, a three hour visit seems ridiculous to me. Giving a three hour visit, that takes 10 hours of drive time in all, once a week – is of course a blessing to see your children, but then again its hell. Why not an overnight, or a weekend? It just seems that the system has a lot of things backwards if you ask me, but luckily in my brothers case this will all be ending soon.

After kissing the boys and snapping one last photograph, they were off with their Mom, and my brother settled into his seat in the car. What was on his mind for sure, I couldn’t say, I told him it was okay to cry, and he said he already had. Those boys are who he is, they are what makes him alive, and although he has a beautiful happy little boy here at home as well, you could tell his family just wasn’t complete yet. Even his wife, was saddened to not have these boys more, to get to interact, have them bond closer to their little brother and feel the closeness a family should feel.

For that day though, we were happy for that hamburger happy meal with a side of visitation.

Have you ever had a drive-thru visitation of sorts?