Should I bother to enforce custody orders or let it go?

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  thirdtimelucky 10 months ago.

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  • #45167


    Hi everyone,
    This post relates to my ex husband, NPD. We have a set of detailed court orders in relation to our 7 yo son. The orders worked fine until my son started school last year and it was supposed to become 50/50 from that point. Since then my ex has been interpreting the orders and pulling my son out of school at the start of the school term so that would result in him effectively having 3 weeks a year more.
    My solicitor says I should enforce compliance (50/50).
    There are also minor issues and a complete lack of co operation from my ex.
    I am still scarred by my 2 years of litigation with him 5 years ago and reluctant to spend more money unless I can succeed. She says that if I do nothing, it may look that I have conceded equal custody.
    My ex fired his solicitor and is going to represent himself.
    I tried to offer him to go to mediation, meet for coffee and try and build parenting relationship but it does not help.
    He is living with another woman, has been with her for 4 years so its not like he is pining for me.
    Litigation will cause stress which means it will affect my little one.
    On one hand, I want him to comply with the orders. On the other hand, it is 3 weeks a year. In the big scheme of life, will it matter in the long term?

  • #45168

    Donna Andersen

    thirdtimelucky – It sounds like your ex is beginning a typical sociopathic ploy, which is to separate your son from you. His long-term agenda is likely to drive a wedge between you and your son, so that your son no longer wants to have a relationship with you. His goal is probably to make your son hate you.

    If he is able to have your son for extended periods of time, he has a better chance of accomplishing this.

    Also, this is just the beginning. If he is able to cross this boundary, he will cross more boundaries. He will keep pushing until he is forced to stop.

    As painful as it is, I think that if you do not enforce the custody orders, you will later regret it. What is at stake here is your entire relationship with your son.

    Do not bother trying to mediate. Do not meet him for coffee. This is not about him wanting more time with the child. It is about punishing you.

    One of your ex’s goals, of course, is also to decimate you financially. Plenty of women have learned to represent themselves in court. It’s not fun or easy, but at least he won’t be bleeding off your money.

  • #45219


    thirdtimelucky, there are details here that aren’t clear to me, but I do agree with Donna’s bottom line: that you shouldn’t let this issue go.

    I can’t presume to know your ex-husband’s precise motives–an NPD who might or might not be a psychopath –but I’m sure he imagines he’s entitled to have his way, and to heck with anybody else’s rights, whether it’s yours or your son’s. Narcissists imagine the whole world revolves around them and their wants. Or if it doesn’t, they think it jolly well should, so there! It’s as if other people don’t exist in the mind of a hardcore narcissist. So just as Donna said, if you let him get away with this violation of your agreement, the “thin end of the wedge,” he’ll just go on taking more and more. As the old saying goes: “Give ’em an inch and they’ll take a yard!”

    I hope you won’t mind my using your post as an excuse to pontificate about something that I hope is already obvious to you from your ex’s behavior, but I think is worth highlighting anyway. I call it “the law of reinforcement versus the law of reciprocity.”

    The “law of reinforcement” is the most fundamental principle in behavioral psychology. It states simply that if a behavior brings “reinforcement,” especially in terms of a reward, we’re likely to repeat the behavior. If we get a pat on the back for doing something, we’ll be more motivated to do it again. Whether we’re rats or humans, if finding our way through a maze brings us a delicious piece of Stilton at the end, we’ll be likely to work harder at solving mazes.

    And if we ask our friend Bert for a loan when we need money, and he gives us one, we’ll be likely to ask Bert the next time we’re short of cash–and not the old miser Ebenezer who told us to get lost. Unlike Bert, Ebenezer failed to “reinforce” our loan-seeking behavior.

    However, when it comes to loans, another, different law comes into play. That’s the principle of reciprocity. If our friend Bert does give us a loan, as decent people we’re now aware that we’re “indebted” to Bert. We owe him a payback! Obviously this doesn’t have to be about money, either. If somebody does us a favor, we “feel grateful.” We’re aware that we “owe” them something in return. Even if they’re just “nice” to us, we generally feel–quite rightly–that we should be nice to them in return.

    With normal people, the principle of reciprocity moderates the principle of reinforcement. That’s to say, we wouldn’t keep going back to Bert for a loan every time we needed money without ever paying it back. At least we’d be well aware that we were “wearing out our welcome.” We have feelings of obligation toward people: obligations that we normally make some effort to fulfill, or else we “feel guilty.”

    However, psychopaths and the like, including narcissists who are often simply blind to the existence of other people in the universe, just don’t obey the “law of reciprocity.” At least, they don’t obey it unless they calculate that they can get something out of doing so. And sometimes not even then. All that counts to them is the most primitive law of all: the law of reinforcement.

    Historically one of the most infamous examples of this, on a colossal scale, was the 1938 Munich “agreement” between a psychopath (Adolf Hitler) and a normal, well-meaning (but naive) human, Neville Chamberlain. Hitler demanded the Sudetenland, part of Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain agreed to cede it to him, taking for granted the “principle of reciprocity.” “If we’re nice to this guy, he’ll be satisfied, and he’ll be grateful to us. He’ll give us what we want in return: peace for our time!“–that notorious phrase of Chamberlain’s that will never be forgotten.

    As P. T. Barnum (probably another psychopath) famously put it: “Never give a sucker an even break!” Needless to say, the psychopath Hitler couldn’t give a fig for the “principle of reciprocity.” The only thing driving him was the more primitive “principle of reinforcement.” All he could see was that if he made a threat, a demand, it got rewarded! So he just went on doing the same thing: aggression after aggression. He took the Sudetenland, then marched in and took the rest of Czechoslovakia as well! Then the next year he invaded Poland, with the results that everybody knows. Neville Chamberlain chose to “let it go,” and all it got us was World War II.

    In short, it’s bad policy to cede anything to these aggressors, because they only see it as encouragement to take more. On the other hand, if aggression only brings a smack on the snoot, it’s less likely to be repeated.

    I apologize for not being quite sure what you meant by “conceding equal custody” to your ex. I understood you to say you were already supposed to have 50/50 custody, so I take that phrase to mean “giving up your own right” to equal custody, rather than according him the right to equal custody, which is what the phrase would normally mean, a right he has already. But you don’t want him to take any more than “his half.” And trying to be “nice” to him with coffee and mediation probably won’t work, because he doesn’t obey the “law of reciprocity.”

    I also don’t know what your current custody arrangement is–which days, weeks, or months each of you is supposed to have custody of your son–and how exactly this was affected by your son’s going to school. Since the boy is so young, I assume this means day school and not a boarding school. So your ex is “pulling him out of school” for three weeks of the year at the beginning of term? A week in the autumn term, a week in the spring term, and a week in the summer term? But what on earth does your ex think gives him the right to do that?

    What I’m wondering immediately is this: isn’t your son legally required to be in school the whole time? Isn’t your ex violating that requirement by arbitrarily pulling him out of school? If he is, that’s a strong argument to take to court with you.

    I wouldn’t want to pronounce on whether you should proceed with or without a solicitor. That’s a judgment call. What I would say is that as Donna pointed out, you’re better off going to court to draw a line in the sand against this guy instead of letting this go. Whether you use a solicitor or not is up to you. Good luck!

    • #45225


      Redwald, thank you for your post and I enjoyed reading your explanation of reinforcement v reciprocity.

      In conjunction with Donna’s post and my legal advice, I must enforce the orders otherwise it may look as if I am voluntarily giving up joint custody (or as it is called in Australia where I am “equal shared care”. I’ve tried for 2.5 years to co parent to no avail.

      I am not sure if he is a psychopath, but he is a NPD (around separation I found his personal diary which included a personal manifesto as to what he wanted out of life: no1: A wife who admired and obeyed him; 2: a wife that every day told him she was lucky to have him in her life and loved him unconditionally; 3: compliant children: 4: be powerful and influential.

      To clarify the situation with the orders and my reservations about going to court:
      1. Met the father at a work function when I was at a very low point in my life. After 2 weeks of meeting (we haven’t even had a dinner date at that point, not to mention anything more intimate! Just SMS and a couple of phone calls) he proposed marriage. But we had to be married by the end of the year (6 months time) and try for a child immediately (he insisted I had to do a medical check and stop contraception prior to marriage).
      On top of it he painted a picture of someone with solid conservative values (e.g. not living with someone prior to marriage). When I tried to slow the relationship down and get to know his friends or parents, it was “unless we marry by the end of the year, I am out”. He kept saying I had a fear of commitment that why I was reluctant or that I was waiting for Prince Charming that did not exist and if I waited too long, I’d never have kids. He even bought me a book “Marry Him: the case for Mr Good Enough” to press his case. Having children was important to me so I panicked and agreed. Also, I felt bad for him – he told me his fiancee broke off their engagement 2 weeks before the wedding; he said he almost committed suicide and had not dated until he met me.

      2. After the wedding moved into a place I owned, said we’d shop for a house. That never happened. I fell pregnant straight away.

      3. Once I was pregnant, he stopped contributing to the mortgage or living expenses or helping out financially. All the nice things he did (e.g. dinners out, weekends away) stopped. When I tried to ask how much he earned, the figures kept changing (runs his own business). I also found out he had large undisclosed debts (e.g. 5 credit cards with $0.5m of debt). Once our son was born he was becoming increasingly controlling. Would not let me socialise with other new mums in the area. He tried to talk me into signing over half a house to him “because we are married”. I was getting depressed, but luckily my parents and friends helped me to see the light and tell him to get out of my house.
      4. We had a 2 year litigation after, some of it due to poor legal advice I was given (I changed lawyers since). Part was him – e.g. he tried and argue that we should not get divorced (even if the law is no fault). Just objected to everything, did not submit affidavits on time and dragged the process out.
      5. The orders state that our son lives alternating weeks with each of us (a week about arrangement) plus 1/2 school holidays each. However, as the school term does not start/end on a Monday, there is a provision in the order to take this into account and even things out. The father is not complying with that provision. My lawyer warned him last year to stop but since he fired his solicitor and now self representing.

      He does not discuss or communicate with me on anything. He refused to go to parent-teacher night together, brought his girlfriend instead (and added her to the parent list as a parent!). I tried to invite him to make joint decisions, e.g. what sport our son plays, but he never responds to me.

      I am not sure what personality disorders the father fits. He is not charming/funny/life of the party type. He is not social and has no friends. He is obsessed with dreams of power, mixing with the wealthy, famous etc. When we were married, he’d tell me not to see some of my friends because “they are not well connected, cannot get anything out of them”.

      Thank you again for your note.

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