Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me

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Arkhangelsk

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Hi All,
There are multiple court orders that state that my ex has to allow phone connection with the kids.  We have them for 5 weeks each in the summer (not all in a room).  My ex has had his 5 weeks, I have had 3.  During that time he called the kids 8 times and connected with them 100% of the time for a total of 96 minutes of talk/FaceTime.

During my 3 weeks, thus far, I have initiated 13 calls.  ONE time I got to talk to them for ONE minute. 

Their dad tells them that they will have to stop their activity and go to bed if they answer my call.  He does not pick up the phone when I call - he just immediately texts me "The boys declined."

I always answer the phone - offer it to them and if they decline I generally tell them, "It is important to connect to your dad.  Let's pause out activity.  You can go back to it when you are done."

My heart hurts.  I have not spoken to them since Sunday night (it is Friday now).  And there are 2 more weeks before I see them.  I did send this data to my lawyer, who says she is going to write a letter. 

What to do?

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Penny Lane

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2019, 08:11:17 PM »
Oh yes, this is one of my husband's ex's favorite tricks and it's SO shitty to do this to the kids. And we've never found a workable solution.

I take comfort in knowing that it's DH, not the kids, who really needs the calls. I don't think the calls are bad for the kids, per se - it's good to know that your stable parent is still there even if they're not with you. But I also think the kids get caught in the middle of both parents so much in these phone calls that they are stressed and not really able to share good stuff with their dad. So really it's a wash for them. So now more often than not he just doesn't call - because the stress for everyone isn't worth the benefit.

Of course, with really long stretches I think the calculus changes and it becomes more important for the kids to hear from you.

Brainstorming: What if, when he says "they declined the call" you said "please put them on the phone anyway"? If he refused would he be in violation of the order?

H has had some luck by following up a refusal with an email that says "The parenting plan says X about facilitating contact. Today you told me I could not speak to the kids and that's in violation of the order." Then she'll put the kids on the phone but usually manipulate a situation where they don't really want to talk ("you can have a cookie as soon as you get off the phone" or - one of her favorites - wait to call back until they're in the middle of a fun activity like watching a movie that they want to get back to as quickly as possible).

I guess documentation is kind of along the lines of the lawyer letter.

I think the biggest problem is that BM clearly does it to get under H's skin. So the more he asks her to NOT do it, the more she knows it's bothering him and messes around more. And even if a lawyer (or eventually a judge) stepped in, BM and your ex can still do all kinds of manipulations while maintaining plausible deniability (like the cookie thing).

So maybe the solution is, call every single night, document that he didn't put them on the phone, then don't make a big deal of it to your ex and let your lawyer handle it? That way he's not getting the satisfaction of knowing that he's bothered you thus encouraging him to do it more often.

Also, on future long stretches, maybe work something out with the kids. Send them with notes for each day they're gone, or find some other way to remind them that you love them even if you're not there. That doesn't solve your sadness but maybe it makes it slightly easier on you. Eventually when they're old enough they'll have phones I assume, so this is only for a few years.

And maybe the solution on your end lies in finding something to distract yourself from missing the kids. Though - other than occasionally a fun vacation for us - neither H nor I has had great success with that strategy either.

I'm sorry you're missing your boys and I'm so sorry I don't have a better answer. This is one of those areas that I think we might have to let go, just because there's no good way to insist that they do the right thing here. I hope I'm wrong though and someone else here has a better solution.

 :bighug:

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Associate of Daniel

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2019, 08:30:58 PM »
This is unfortunately a very common problem and I've never yet read a solution to it.

How old are your children?

One idea I've heard is :  There are online games that kids play with their friends and sometimes family members. Apparently they can send messages to each other in the game.

Since the messages are within the game, they don't appear on the home screens like texts do.

Would that be a possibility in your situation?

AOD

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Whiteheron

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2019, 08:55:18 PM »
This seems to be very common. My kids are older and have their own phones now, but stbx makes it very uncomfortable for them to speak with me. To the point they either don't call, or they call in secret, then hang up quickly if they hear him coming near. DS will only call me when stbx is out of the house or in the shower.

If they are on vacation and stbx controls the phones, then I won't hear from them. He's told me "they really don't think to call you." That really hurt, but then DD said something along the lines of, he forgot to pack our phones and his battery was dead. So they wanted to call, he just made excuses so they couldn't.

Of course, the kids are expected to call him each and every night. They hate it. I do encourage them to speak to their dad and allow them to talk for as long as they want to. I have let them know that they don't need to call me every night, which I could tell was a relief since they were afraid of getting into trouble with him.

It's very hard not hearing from them, but I know in their case it's safer for them.

It sounds like you're already doing what you can. I'm not sure what else can be done. It really sucks.
You can't destroy me if I don't care.

Being able to survive it doesn't mean it was ever ok.

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athene1399

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2019, 09:36:04 AM »
I am sorry, Arkhangelsk. From what you said, it's hard to tell if your ex is even telling the kids you called. Maybe next time you see them let them know you miss them when they are gone and wish you could talk to them. If they say something about you not calling, you can tell them that you do. I don't know if bringing it up would cause more issues, but I feel that if they have no idea you are calling, that may make them feel bad. So maybe letting them know you do try to call will let them know you haven't forgotten about them when they are with dad. I hope the letter from your L helps.

Or before they leave, you can give them a letter they can keep under their pillows while they are at your ex's, and if they miss you they can read it and know you are thinking of them.

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Stepping lightly

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2019, 01:04:06 PM »
The phone calls were such an issue, we don't call the kids while they are with BM.  The order actually dictates that the kids can call the other parent, but does not give the parent the authority to call the child.  As we all know, the order language is pointless.  BM calls as she wishes, and she says the kids don't want to talk to DH.  We know if they do ask to call, she punishes them for it, so at times DSS will sneak and call DH- but it's rare.  The kids have been told that they shouldn't call us because we just tell them lies. :stars:

We do feel that phone calls are not actually good for the kids. In our dynamic, the kids really have to mentally shift between homes, and the interference seems to be difficult for them.  When they call BM from our home, there is a lot of stress for the kids.  The kids asked to call BM last week and there was a huge meltdown over who would actually hit the button on the phone to initiate the call.  There is so much competition for her attention, it was insane.  Two adolescents, crying.

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Arkhangelsk

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2019, 11:24:34 AM »
Thanks, everyone. 

I mailed a note to the kids yesterday.  They told us, last year, that if their step dad writes on the notes, their dad refuses to read them.  They are 7 and 9, so they can probably be left to read things themselves, this year.  But my partner decided he was not going to create any tension by writing.

Penny Lane - the ex has a good way to prevent me from insisting on the call.  I call.  He does not answer.  I text that I called.  He texts that the children declined the call.  If I ask about calls with the judge, he INSISTS the children do not want to speak to me and it should be THEIR choice.  He denies incentivizing them with video.

So, I went over a week this past week with no contact (2 weeks to go).  BUT, the 9 year old called on Sunday!  And we talked a bit.  He was talking in this baby voice.  I think he misses me.  He then asked for his stepdad by name.  This is unusual - because it means he said the name out loud, where he might be heard.  I passed the phone over and heard him excitedly telling my partner he loved him.  Then, last night, the younger one answered and he sounded happy to be on the beach. 

So, I feel better.  The kids are okay. 

The lawyer letter goes out today.  Mostly, it is just documentation.  The law in my jurisdiction decides custody according to a multi-factor test.  One item is to favor the parent who facilitates contact with the other parent.  So we will continue to document this, in case custody is every in issue again.

It sounds like your kids getting older did not help a lot.  I hope that when they are adults, they remember who made things less stressful and who put them under pressure.  But, sadly, that is a thing I wish about a lot of things.

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athene1399

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2019, 01:15:34 PM »
I am so happy you finally got to speak to them! It's so frustrating and scary when you don't really know what is going on there, especially when your ex won't let you talk to them. But this is good news for sure. And you are documenting. I hope you don't have to go back to court, but if you do you will be prepared. I hope the communication is easier when they are older.

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Phoenix Rising

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2019, 07:39:55 PM »
My NPDex did this all the time and it was really tough on our child and on me. When I did manage to speak to our child, much of the conversation was redirecting away from negative comments the father was saying about me in front of our child. In my situation, I felt similarly to wanting to know what was going on and feeling wounded by being denied time to talk with our child.. But I realized the more and more I fought back (e.g. getting into arguments about what court orders say and so on) as opposed to remaining neutral, the more NPDex used it to provoke me. As well as hurt our child.

All you really can do is document document document and don't react to ex personally. Don't engage!! He wants that. Court doesn't really help because  PD don't follow rules already but it is good to be prepared.

It really is so painful but the one thought that has helped me move past the hurt from this type of alienation was that our child is going to get to an age where he can and will reach out to me in many ways (apps, social media, etc).

Kids are intelligent and they will grow to resent PD parents when they are adults. My mother behaved similarly about my father.. playing these kind of games and I remembered everything. I don't have a relationship with her now. Up until my father died, we talked daily. We were very close. Stay strong and take care of yourself.. it does gets better slowly but surely.
And here you are living despite it all..

Know this: the person who did this to you is broken. Not you... I will not watch you collapse

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Arkhangelsk

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2019, 04:07:20 PM »
Thank you, Shop.  I really appreciate your perspective from both sides.

It has been 2 weeks now.  I have had less than 2 minutes on the phone with my kids (3 phone calls).  One was mostly my youngest asking his dad to let him FaceTime me and his dad refusing.

My lawyer is going to take my ex to court for contempt.  I am just trying to stay out of it.

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Phoenix Rising

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2019, 08:50:56 AM »
I feel for you and your children.. that's so awful for your child to be denied access that he directly asked for. Very cruel.  :sadno:

Sometimes that's all you can do. I really hope something positive comes out of the contempt proceedings.  :bighug:
And here you are living despite it all..

Know this: the person who did this to you is broken. Not you... I will not watch you collapse

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Arkhangelsk

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2019, 12:44:00 PM »
Well, I did not get contempt of court.  Just an order reinforcing that he should follow the original order about contact.

Which means I am right back not getting to talk to my kids.

But I do have less money now..... Huzah.

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athene1399

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2019, 10:00:05 AM »
I am so sorry. That is crap. What is the point of having and order to remind you to follow the order? Like he's not following the order, so how is an order reminding him to follow the order going to help.  :doh: What the heck.

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Arkhangelsk

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2019, 12:59:40 PM »
Right-O.

Maybe I shall make a separate post about what could possibly motivate me to follow the rules myself at this point.

I am beyond frustrated with the lack of connection on vacations and on 5-day stretches with their dad.  I am looking at stripped down walkie talkies or this thing called a gizmo that has text and talk.  I would normally not think about cell phones at 7 and 9 - but......GRRRRRRR.

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Penny Lane

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2019, 01:25:42 PM »
We've been looking at those watches you can program to call a handful of people. But my guess is no matter how the kids can contact you, their dad is going to prevent them from doing it.

DH gets really upset on this topic as well. My view is that the more he pushes it, the more BM will take it out on the kids. And he should learn to live with it. But he's never gotten anything as bad as three weeks with almost no contact.

So sorry.  :hug:

I hope you do post a thread on the nons following the rules. I have a lot of thoughts and questions on that topic swirling in my head and I don't really have a good answer.

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Arkhangelsk

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #15 on: September 19, 2019, 02:29:32 PM »
Thank you for the solidarity, Penny Lane.  I know you know so much about this.

On some level, I am okay with my ex showing his hand to the kids.  He is going to abuse them some way or another.  And, sadly, they are going to have to learn how to process that.  So, if I feel really good that what I am seeking is right (connection to the kids throughout the week) and I am also facilitating that for my kids and my ex - then the kids see the difference.

I posted the thread, with an example.  I am eager to see what you think.  My fiancé (this is new and wonderful) is in the camp that we should work any angle we can get away with.  I am not particularly comfortable with that.

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Penny Lane

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Re: Phone calls with kids - my ex will NOT let me connect - Advise me
« Reply #16 on: September 19, 2019, 02:53:48 PM »
Fiance?? Hooray! It's nice to have some good stuff going on to ground you against the PD.

I agree that the kids see the difference. They will remember how they felt with you vs with him. He will always be their dad and the earlier they can figure out healthy ways to deal with him, the better.