On A Hiding To Nothing

It was a few moons ago now that @coffeecurls and I were having a talk about something or other, when she used the expression “you’re on a hiding to nothing”.

That expression has stuck with me ever since! It came back to bite me yesterday.

Bit of Background

OnlyDads was contacted by a dad a year or so ago now. His situation was far from straightforward. I met up with him for a catch-up yesterday. Things have now reached the point of impossible.

OnlyDads exists to help dads (and mums) find solutions to family predicaments. The one (and perhaps only) advantage of me running the show, is that there are not too many situations that phase me. I have faced many myself, and sort of come out the other end. Albeit wiser and weaker!

So when I find myself telling a Dad he’s on “a hiding to nothing” – things really are difficult.

The Situation

Mum and Dad are divorcing. There are 5 children. (3 through to 16). Dad has brought the whole family up on his own for extended periods because sadly, Mum has been in and out of hospitals for much of this period suffering from Depression.

The most important fact to get in at this point, is that this Dad loves her. He loves her to bits! But the marriage is over. neither Mum or Dad are moving away post divorce. What Dad wants is for his children to basically have base-camp at his house, but with frequent (as in daily if possible) contact with their mum, especially when she is well, which she is from time to time.

His preferred route of going through Mediation to arrive at a solution that was clearly going to be in his children’s best interest and long-term security failed. Mum has gone to a Solicitor and is now stating in Court, that this Dad is a good for nothing A,B, C…through to Z, and the children should live with her. Children’s Act proceedings have just started.

When we met up, he told me he simply had to move out of the house because of the constant rowing – it was upsetting for all the children. Her health and general well-being were sinking while he remained in the house. In the few weeks since then however, his children have been left on their own for extended periods, and basic stuff around the house (cooking food and cleaning and bedtimes) are not being done. Two of the older children came to him the other day and said they really wanted out of there, and needed to move in with Dad. They told him the youngest child especially was really not coping without him at home.

To stress again, this is a Dad who wants peace and security for his children. He knows (because of Mum’s illness), that if the Court really got to hear the whole history, he would end up with the children and Mum would end up a broken – possibly dead – woman. There have been suicide attempts previously.

Going around the Houses

We discussed all his options. There were no rose-tinted spectacles available to us!

99% of the time I would be saying to a Dad in this situation that he has to find out what is “in the best interests of his children”, and then find the backbone and the wherewithal to execute that solution. But with a Mum is such a terribly vulnerable position, such easy words were not appropriate.

This is one of those posts that need an update. I will do so, when further news is available. For now however, I just wonder what the wonderful commentators on this blog would be doing if they were the dad. I told him I would be writing this up.

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About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded www.onlydads.org in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
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7 Responses to On A Hiding To Nothing

  1. CoffeeCurls says:

    To be blunt (so unlike me I know….) if the mum is that unwell at the moment then surely there is a risk to the safety of the children while they are with her? You can only act on the here and now, you can’t speculate about how people may or not be in the future. So, right now, this lady is unwell and right now it sounds as though the children would be better of living with their dad (and seeing their mum as much as possible) while mum gets medical help.

    When mum is well again it becomes a different set of circumstances but they can only be addressed then.

    In my humble opinion x

  2. @pie100 says:

    I understand how hard it must be but the well being of the children is the most important factor. If the mum needs medical help then that needs to be sort but he needs to keep his children safe.

  3. What a horrible situation for all of the family to find themselves in. My heart goes out to all of them.

    Firstly, if this is going to court, then CAFCASS reports will need to be filed for the younger children at least. All the children will need to be talked to/observed to determine their wishes and the reports will be noted.

    Practically, if Dad can move back in, he should do so, for the best interests of their children. He should keep a diary regardless, as backup to any affadavits put forward, re his continuing care for the children. If he can’t move back in, can he arrange to spend evenings there before going home? Can he arrange relatives or friends of the mum to spend time during the day/evenings/weekends there when he can’t be there? Can he afford to pay for extra nursery/after school time for the younger ones so he can arrange to pick them up and take them home?

    From the court’s perspective, a parent who doesn’t trash the other parent is seen as the more mature individual; that stance, combined with diaries, full details of care, arrangements, cover etc. will go a long way to support his case. He doesn’t have to detail the mum’s illnesses, the courts are capable of reading between the lines of a few well-chosen adult comments. Especially if the children display a preference.

    Good luck.

  4. Liz says:

    Hi Bob,
    Gosh, this is a truly heart rendering situation I feel so much for the Dad and for the Mum, but especially for the children. I am not going to give advice either professionally or otherwise. I do not know enough to do so. So let me please state that this is purely down to experience and opinion.

    I can empathise with the Dad’s position on this and the added anguish of really caring deeply what happens or how the Mum reacts to any outcome, particularly with her ongoing mental health issues. Firstly, a mental health issue does not necessarily mean that children are in danger of neglect or abuse, there are many parents who cope very well and lovingly towards their children despite their suffering. However, when experiencing an episode of severe depression for example, the ability to function properly or cope with every day situations can greatly increase to the point of almost becoming impossible. This is not the persons fault, they are ill, however where children are involved especially young vulnerable children, this can lead to neglect or even danger of harm either by being left or actually being hurt by the parent.

    If the scenario is that Dad can no longer stay at the home due to the break-up, but still has concerns about how Mum may cope, if she is willing, is to ask if he can still come and visit every day and maybe help out a bit at tea time and bedtime?This will help with routine (which children badly need at this particular time)stressing that he is there purely to see the children and no discussion of forthcoming break-up will be given (try to keep it more business-like and less emotional – I know, very hard!) He could also ask whether she would like some extra support in the day and could refer her to Home Start for example. I would greatly recommend them as I have had them myself in the long ago past and also volunteered for them, it’s amazing the difference it can make. However, she would have to agree to this. Also, they do have the added benefit of having a huge support network of people to call on, or signpost her to if necessary. They are also trained in child protection, so if anything did occur they could help while continuing to support Mum. There may other agencies like this that you may know of Bob?

    Worst case scenario, she refuses all of the above and the children continue to be neglected or put in harms way then social services will be needed (early intervention) and they may be placed back with Dad again while support is put in place for Mum and for the whole family, including Dad. I understand his anxiety about having all this being dragged through the courts, but if she is not willing to listen and meet half way then that is the way it is going to go. He may love her dearly, and worries about the stress this causes his children, but he is not responsible for her actions. Neither would he be responsible if she became very ill again or tried to commit suicide. I can’t comment on the state of their marriage as I do not know about it, know them, or know exactly the dynamics of what has or has not gone on in their marriage, or why she is behaving like this. So I would tread very carefully. But one thing is absolutely clear whether it be Mum or Dad the children should and must always come first. If they are in any danger then concerns should be raised with the right agencies and let them take over from there. It sounds harsh I know, but Mum and Dad are adults those children need support. Better that than the possible alternative.

    Bob, I know this is a difficult and complex case for you too. Take a step back (I guess you are doing hence this blog) and re-assess your thoughts and feelings. Are you getting emotionally involved in any way? Don’t. I understand that you care about the people you befriend and talk to, I also understand about confidentiality, but do not be drawn into a colluding situation or end up telling him what to do, only the options. (Sorry, I’m sure you know all this anyway!) And all I can say is that if he confides in you that the children are in danger in any way or have been hurt, that you have a duty to report this to children’s services. Make that very clear. I don’t know if you know the Mum and talk with her too? It’s difficult really if you don’t in this situation. I understand she is vulnerable (and we are assuming he is telling his side of the story fairly and without any bias) and she deserves all the help and support she can get too. But the children don’t have a voice in the same way adults do and therein lies the answer.

    Difficult one, I wish you all the best.

    Liz x

  5. Diana Jordan says:

    This seems an easy one to me Bob. Dad needs to move straight back in (the children need him), preferably after having taken photos of the chaos in case they are needed as evidence later. And he needs not to allow the rows (parental conflict is the most damaging thing for children). It takes two to argue and he needs to work out his strategy and stick to it (walk away, bite his tongue, stick his head in a bucket of cold water ….). You said it so much more diplomatically than me in your last paragraph but, like CoffeCurls, I think it’s time for some blunt speaking. This lady is mentally ill and will no doubt say all sorts of enraging things but nothing will be gained by responding to them.
    If what Dad says is correct, the children have to be with him, whatever the consequences to Mum. The children must come first. If there have been previous suicide attempts, there could be more, whether or not the court decides the children are to be with Dad. Five children are far too many for a depressed Mum to be able to cope with and it would seem that the best solution would be for her to be looked after elsewhere right now.

  6. Andrew says:

    I tend to agree in part with Diana, in that Dad would perhaps be best placed to support the children in the family home. It seems that the children would welcome this too.

    Perhaps the Dad could be coached in coping with the Mums illness, put together a set of coping strategies so that arguments don’t get out of hand, and an action plan could be compiled should the mums depression escalate into her having thoughts of suicide, knowledge of what to do in such situations and action to take should the mum act on her thoughts.(I appreciate this may seem extreme, however it would be beneficial to Dad having the knowledge of how to manage such a situation)

    It may also be worth considering, especially the older children, talking to them about Mum’s illness, and even giving them some guidance/support in coping with mums illness.

    As has been mentioned, without knowing all of the details it is difficult to comment on the legal and relationship issues, there are however things that can be put into place to help all of the family members cope with this difficult situation.

    On a personal note I’d like to say that the dad in question is not on a hiding to nothing, being there for his children and his wife is something of which he should gain a lot of meaning and purpose from and be confident that he has the ability to help and protect his children whilst also caring for his wife.
    It may seem overly optimistic on my part but I do believe we as human beings can overcome much as long as we reamin hopeful.

    On the subject of hope, I also would like to encourage the Dad that recovery from mental ill health is posisble and often likely. And he shouldn’t overlook his own needs either, he needs to take care of himself too.

    I do also think that the consequences to mum, do matter and tackling the current difficulties as a family unit will, in the long term, be best for all.

    If I can be of any help in supporting this dad in working out coping strategies I’d be happy to help.

    Regards
    Andrew

  7. A says:

    It is so sad to see partners forget all the happy times they had together and get to court and try their hardest to paint their partners like the devil. They forget about the happy times they had together and demean it by cheap shots. No one thinks of the child

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