Co-parenting, and custody need advice to protect my daughter from her NPD father

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My daughters father and myself have been seperated for a year and 4 months, he was very abusive and has NPD. I admittedly had major lapses a couple of times in judgement with trying to work things out with him hoping it was the drugs we had done together as he had been using for 20 years. I stopped when i found out i was pregnant and have been clean for a year and a half now.
Our daughter is going on 1 and sees him every saturday for approximately 4-5 hours. I have a temporary PFA against him but i don't feel it will hold up when we go back due to the couple of times i fell weak and welcomed him back into my life regardless of how scared i was and the abuse. He is currently on parole and living with a woman whos children are in foster care due to her drinking.
I have been hearing about their drinking and abusing prescription medications and their fighting (his abuse and her retaliation) and it is causing me so much anxiety and fear of our daughter visiting him.

I do not know where to start or what to do to ensure i get sole legal custody as per our daughters best interest and saftey without physical proof of anything. Also there is already a temporary custody agreement from the PFA placed.  My fears are if i file for a longstanding finalized custody order he is able to afford high priced, high up legal representation, where i cannot.

I do not want to persue this and lose like i am with this PFA ....

Please, if anyone has ANY advice or has gone through this and won and can offer the proceedure that won them custody, contact me.

He is very good at seeming like the good guy in court. And i know judges(at least in my area) are not very well informed about NPD and are easily conned. He is very vindictive and doesnt like being on paper for anything and will take any chance given to make me look bad and will try his best to take our daughter from me. 
She barely knows him. She has only been around him a total of 30 times since birth. As he avoided seeing her, denied her as his own, and then was incarcerated.

Im very concerned for her well being. And i had hoped that he would be different around her. Regardless of our history she deserves to know him, but not if he is going to be a distructive violent and harmful component in her life.


Penny Lane

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Hi AdpMotherof3 and welcome! Sorry you had to find yourself here and sorry you're in such a tough situation. I hope that reading others' experience on this board can help you figure out how to cope with such a tough situation and also what is the right way for you to proceed.

So, if I'm understanding right, you have a temporary order that says he gets very limited visitation, like a few hours each week? And you're worried about your daughter's safety during that time and you'd like to take it down to he never sees her, and you are worried he will fight you in court?


This is very scary and there's no good solution for you here.

Do you have a lawyer? I hear you about money - lawyers are insanely expensive! - but any changes you make to visitation now will impact your daughter for the rest of her life. And you might find that a lawyer would more than pay for itself if they end up getting you some or more child support.

A lawyer would also be able to tell you how feasible it is to change visitation with the evidence you have. I hope you will hear that it's doable. My guess from reading these boards is that the best you could do would be to make sure he has supervision (not the girlfriend, hopefully a third party). But maybe your evidence is better than you think and you have a good case to cut off all contact completely! Hopefully others can weigh in on the court strategy aspect, too.

But I will say, even if a lawyer says they don't think you can make changes to the schedule - even if a judge won't believe what you KNOW is happening - I promise you, there is hope. You can play the long game - gather any evidence you have over years and go back later and change the schedule. Get your daughter to a play counselor who can also monitor the situation. It would not be a failure on your part if you waited to file something in court until you knew you had the goods. That's just being strategic.

And, there are things you can do out of court as well. Be the best mom you can be. Teach your daughter the skills of resilience and strength, so that she can handle those few hours per week with her dad. Teach her to advocate for herself. Teach her how to call 911 just in case, basically as soon as she's able to talk. As she grows, be a neutral sounding board for her concerns about her dad. Show her what it's like to feel safe and to feel loved unconditionally so that she knows she always deserves to feel that way. He will always be her father and someday she will be an adult who has to make her own decision about what kind of relationship to have with him. Give her the tools to make a good choice!

It's not OK that she has a dad who treats her like this. But sometimes what's not ok, still has to be.

You have some tough decisions ahead of you. Sometimes it's comforting to know that there are no good answers - you will need to choose between bad and worse. But you and your daughter can survive and thrive despite her dad, I know you can do this.



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Penny has some great points. Even if you aren't sure if you have the money or resources to file for anything right now, you can still make sure you are documenting what you can. Like is he refusing to see her on some of his days? You said something about their drinking and fighting, you can use this as evidence too that maybe he shouldn't be alone with your child. I'm not sure if you communicate at all about pick up and drop offs, but if you do can you use some of it as evidence? How does he talk to you? What does he say about your daughter? Keep track of whatever you may be able to use in the future if you do choose court. And if you do go to court, I would think they would have to hear from his parole officer as well. And I don't know for sure, but it can't look good for him that he was in jail.

In regards to the NPD, IMO courts do not really understand that stuff. They seem to think everyone is reasonable and if you work hard enough with someone, you can work out your differences. IMO that is near impossible with a PD parent who views you in negative light. So I would stay away from using his diagnoses as evidence, but you can use other things (like evidence where his behaviors are really out of line). For example, SO's xw has BPD. Instead of saying "she has issues and has BPD" we used her financial instability as evidence. She would text SO saying she can't afford to buy food, yet was trying to get custody of SD. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box. It's best if you can show how his behavior affects your daughter negatively. Try to keep the focus on her with whatever you say. In our case, xw had extreme rages. There were multiple times where SD called us to come get her and left her mom's in tears. She wouldn't tell us what happened, but that still doesn't look good in court. We later told her no one should talk to you like that. No one has the right to scream at you no matter how upset they are.

Congrats on being clean BTW.  :) That is tough to do, but you did it. You should be proud!



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What kind of documentation do you have regarding the PD's refusal to see your dd?

 Was there a paternity test? Did you have to ask for one?

The fact the PD was incarcerated is evidence of whatever he was incarcerated for.  I assume drugs?

That he's living with a woman who's children have been removed from the home is likely evidence the home is not safe for children. 

Whatever police reports, witnesses, and evidence you have regarding abusive behavior should be organized, and kept safe for future court hearings.  You should seek legal counsel, particularly free consultations, to a) get some insights into your case, and b) limit your exPd's ability to hire particular attorneys..... sometimes certain attorneys know the Judges well, and have more pull with them in particular counties, IME.

You can ask attorneys questions about the Judge you pull, when you have a case, or court date coming up.  Good attorneys will  know, or find out, what a Judge does in the courtroom, how they typically rule, who the best attorney to represent you in front of the Judge IS, and why. 

Arm yourself with knowledge, and document like your dd's life depends on it.  That's how you keep your dd safe.  You SHOW the court the truth, and sometimes you formulate the truth to fit your evidence.

I would never allege anything I can't prove in court.  I'd craft my case around my evidence, and think hard about what PD behaior I share with court officers.  Court officers... attorneys, and judges need your story to square up or make sense. PDs do things that don't make sense, and you need to make sure you don't look unstable while telling your story. 

People understand addiction, abuse, and incarceration.  They don't understand PDs who do insane things.

People DON'T like to be told what to think, or what they MUST DO, so it's important to learn how to relate your story in a short concise manner, then give up expectation for the outcome.  That gives the listeners space to understand AND do what's in your child's best interest. 

IF you tell people what they must do, or come off as shrill and bitchy YOU CAN AND MAY BE PUNISHED IN THIS COURT SYSTEM.

I learned to speak as though I was addressing children, and this slowed me down,  and kept things very simple.  When you answer questions, keep your answers short.... give the burger, not the bun, or the condiments is how it was explained to me.

People who've been in abusive situations often ramble, and jump from one topic to another, while talking about insane improbable PD behaviors that sometimes have listeners asking what WE DID to MAKE the PD DO that TO US.   

People will ask stupid questions, btw,  so please please please treat those questions as oppotrunities to educate your audience, and DO NOT GET DEFENSIVE under any circumstances. 

So, to recap....
get your evidence, and documentation together.
File it so you can find it when you need it.  I put together a folder with different subjects:

DO NOT MARK ON YOUR ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS!  You will need clean copies for Court to be admitted as evidence.

If you need to highlight things, and you likely will, use the bright yellow highlighters, and only mark up copies. 

Make many copies of very important things, and have them on hand so you don't have to keep pulling your orginals.... sometimes a document can make all the diffeence in a court case, so take very good care of them.

KEEP EVERYTHNG.  You never know what might be important, bc PDs tend to allege stupid things, out of the blue, and you can disprove those things often if you have all your documentation handy, and organized. 

When you're in legal battles with PDs assume they're documenting everything you say and do.  Avoid getting angry in public, or doing things that can be used against you.  Make sure your e mails, texts, and notes, phone messages sound measured, professional, and always always always centered on the best interests of your daughter.  Assume everything you do is being watched.  I'm sorry about this, but you're a new mother, and that might not be too difficult to do.  At least the PD doesn't have access to your home and vehicle.   Don't be paranoid, but listen to your intuition.  IF you feel your PD is stalking you, or worse, listen to that intuition.  Don't let people talk you out of listening to your gut.

Report everything and anything the PD does to you TO the police.  If he refuses to comply with an Order, you report it to the police.  EVERYTHING, bc that's how you document it for the courts.  If you need to tell your neighbors to help watch out for the PD, or to report suspicious things to you or the police bc of the situation, select those people carefully, and tell them the short version.  Most people have someone in their life, or a loved one's life with a PD,  IME.

Remember to keep your story simple..... blurting out all the PD behaviors can muddy the waters, make you appear unstable, or sometimes make you look like the problem, IME. 

CRAFT YOUR STORY well, and rely on your evidence to guide you.  You aren't lost, or directionless.  You have your child, her safety, and your evidence and future evidence to guide you through this journey.  You'll depend on that evidence to get you through the court system.  Telling your story to many attorneys is your way of gaining more information, and sometimes... sometimes an attorney gets angry over what's happening to you,  and they help you out.  Some give free advice, some represent you for free, some represent you without a large retainer, and let you pay monthly as you can, some reger you to someone who will help, or who will refer you to someone who can.

This is a marathon, and it won't be over quickly likely.  Calm yourself, and get your documents in order so you can be present with your daughter, and not completely freak out when attorney appointments and court come up. 

I know this is a lot of information, but I want you to have an idea what's coming, so you can be proactive, and as calm as can be managed.

PDs typically are pathologically unable to settle anything,  and that's important to know, bc it often means COURT and TRIAL is your quickest way through this first nightmare of custody.

Don't fear court.  If it's on the table, press forward, and try to get there as quickly as you can. 

PDs often use court to threaten us, then put it off, bc they lack evidence, IME, particularly those making crazy allegations that aren't true.  They can't prove them, and sometimes it becomes very clear, very quickly, that the PD is a lying liar in the courtroom.

If you don't have a lot of money, and the PD doesn't either, then the court battles can't go on forever, IME.

I don't know your living siutation, but you might contact domestic violence groups, and ask for counseling, and information about what you're about to go through in the courts in your area.   They might have legal advice available, and they might help with guiding you in the right direction in ways I don't know about. 

Heck, when you call lawyer's offices, you can ask the people anwering the phones who they'd hire to represent them in your case, in front of your Judge, in your County, etc, if it was them.  Have a place to file all your information, and notes. 

I'm afraid this is going to be part of your life until your child is grown. 

The best you can hope for is that the PD lets you walk away, and stops seeing your child, IME.

There will likely never be any good choices, from here on out.  Only less harmful ones for your child, and that's a hard thing to make peace with.  You should make peace, btw, bc you'll make better choices when you're in a calm place.

You can calm yourself down with tactical breathing, used by the armed forces, and police.  4 seconds breathing in, hold that breath for 4 seconds, then breath out for 4 seconds.  Don't talk when you're freaked out, and don't make decisions when you're freaked out.  Breath that way 3 or 4 times, and ask for a little time, or for some water before answering or DOING something when you're freaked out. 

You can't access the part of your brain that's rational, and creative when you're freaking out, and you really need that part of your brain.  For you, for your child, and to model how to problem solve, and cope for your daughter. 

One last thing, it would likely be helpful for you to buy FACING CODEPENDENCE by Pia Mellody and the accompanying workbook BREAKING FREE.  You can buy them used on Amazon.  These will help you understand your addiction, your choices in relationships, and how to begin making better choices for yourself, bc you and your daughter deserve your best. 

Also, the book HAPPINESS by Thich Nhat Hanh, which is a short book, can help you learn to manage your emotions during this difficult time. 

Try not to panic when you feel fearful.... and that's going to happen a lot if you're going to court.  Every time you get a piece of  legal mail, an e mail, a text from the PD..... breath the 4 4 4 tactical breathing so you can RESPOND instead of REACT.  Your PD will try to bait you into doing crazy things so he can point to it, particularly if you're doing well in court , and he's not. 

Do not help him defeat YOU.  You already see how allowing him back in your life, after you left him, is hampering your ability to utilize the legal system.  DO NOT SABOTAGE YOURSELF AGAIN.  Treat him with professional detachment, and set yourself up to have the best evidence..... sometimes the PDs go nuts when we remain calm, and stay focused on the child stuff, discussing things appropriately, and refusing to be baited.... be prepared to document everything.  If you can record conversations legally in your State, consider buying a little recorder to DO that.  You should be able to purchase them used, and I'm sure tech has improved since I was doing this, and likely gotten cheaper.  I think smart phones can record, so check that out, and always always always be prepared to capitalize on your PD's behaviors.

Please know you'll look back on these days and wish you'd looked your dd in the eyes more, and been really present with her, so don't forget to remember to do that as you can.  Your life will be a roller coaster, and you'll get upset, freak out, think about how to fix whatever freaked you out, do what you can to fix it, then calm down.   It's a cycle, and it's OK.  Even if it's not OK, you'll be OK.  Remember that, and know there will be good days, and bad days. 

The breathing excercises can help restore calm sooner, so get used to breathing deeply and slowly, bc it will be hugely helpful in ways you won't understand until you're a ways into this. 

Protect your child.  Help her talk about her feelings,a nd what goes on at her father's.  Don't say bad things about him, or the lady friend.

I'm going to put this in caps, bc it's important"

ALWAYS SPEAK ABOUT THE PD WITH COMPASSION, and don't tell people he has a PD. 

Your job is to document, formulate your story around that evidence, then present it to your audience without labeling the PD as PD.  Just share his actions, and your evidence, without expectation, and keep it short.

Good luck,



What you are speaks so loudly in my ears.... I can't hear a word you're saying.

When someone tells you who they are... believe them.

"That which does not kill us, makes us stronger."

"It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness."
Eleanor Roosevelt



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Hhaw has excellent advice.

A few things I want to zone in on:
1- Get back on track on your PFA.  Enforce it exactly as it reads.  Document this.  If your ex trys to say you let him see you some time in the past, you want to be able to say, yes - it was a mistake.  It was NOT safe for me or my daughter and I went right back to enforcing the PFA.  Do not back down on this again, no matter the hassle. Time is your friend here.  You can create a record that the PFA is a good thing.
2- There is likely a pro bono lawyer group who helps people with low income.  Find them and see if you qualify.  If not, shop carefully for a lawyer who understands high-conflict divorce.  HHaw is right - the PD will not settle.  The only way through is to wage the war.  If you cannot pay a lawyer to do it, then see if you can pay a lawyer piece mail for advice while you represent yourself.  If you do this, you need to dig in and read the procedures at every step - very, very carefully;
3- Use your time with your child wisely.  Create a record of making good decisions about parenting.  You want relationships with teachers, daycare providers, medical professionals who would all be happy to declare that you are a devoted mother.

Best of luck. 


Penny Lane

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These ladies are very wise and this made me think of something else. If you think he might be incarcerated again sometime soon, that would be a good time to file something. 1. he's distracted with his court case and 2. that's pretty convincing evidence that he is a problem.



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Another thing.... keep a calendar with your routine, doc appointments, calls or contact with the PD, and a stable record of your daily rituals with your daughter.

THIS will likely be very important, and help you appear organized, stable, and good at documenting, which ties in with all the other things you're putting together to prove your case.

This means you DO NOT put anything negative down about thre PD or yourself, or your day.  THIS is for the courts, so be very professional, non emotional, just the facts please.


Called PD to set up time for visitation.  PD answered the call, asked to change the time to X.  I stated I wasn't available to make that happen but was willing to give him Y, and Z.  PD refused, used the word F, and C, then hung up on me. 

Do not name call him in this record.  Always refer to him with compassion, and with the thought you're going to help him be the best darned dad he can be to your dd. 

You want to be the stable parent this Judge can trust to do what's best for this little girl.  He WANTS someone else to make these decisions.  If you're calm, aren't angry, defensive, or hateful this Judge can believe you're the best person to be in charge, IME.

Also, writing down what happened with your child that day, every day, will help show a court how she might be effected negatively by visits with her father.

My kids used to come home after visits hysterical, or defiant, or name calling me terrrrible things, and their Therapist helped me document, along with the journal, and emails between me, the PDs, and the therapist.  It all tied together, and reiforced the strength of the evidence. 

Don't let he PD get away with defying any small part of any Judge's Order.  You must report to the police, even if he just tosses something at you..... he can't touch you in any way, with anything. 

That's a lot to digest, but you can do this.  Get a clean pad of paper for the calendar, and notes, or a calendar.  I was so freaked out I was writing notes on all sorts of things and hiding them from the PD.  I wrote everything multiple times, and it was disjointed, and difficult to deal with and sort, and I want you to do it right the first time.

« Last Edit: September 16, 2019, 03:50:36 PM by hhaw »

What you are speaks so loudly in my ears.... I can't hear a word you're saying.

When someone tells you who they are... believe them.

"That which does not kill us, makes us stronger."

"It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness."
Eleanor Roosevelt



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hhaw :  Thank you for putting your thoughts down in words and allowing others to benefit from your hardship, priceless wisdom that I wish I would have had 3 years ago   :yourock:


I made so many mistakes when divorcing.  If I could go back and do it again, I would follow the advice given here by others that have walked this road.  :doh:
 You will survive this and you have an opportunity to have a stable, productive life with your precious ones.  You will not regret taking steps to invest in your children or yourself.  There is hope and it really does get better.