After a highly toxic 10+ year relationship and two children, aged 6 & 3, my wife and I separated. There was wrong on both sides, however the way she ended the relationship was particularly underhanded and malicious.

She started seeing someone else behind my back, took the children with her when she went to see him, and got my eldest son to lie to me about it. All of this while I was away spending time at the hospital with my mother who was dying of breast cancer at the time.

Once the truth came out she left me, taking the children. Initially, she refused to let me see the children, she refused to allow my mother to see them before she died, she refused to let them attend the funeral/wake or the funeral/wake of both my grandparents that died shortly after. She falsely accused me of domestic abuse. While I was arrested and held for 24 hours, she emptied the house of everything.

She let me see my eldest son regularly after a couple of months had passed but still forced me to get a court order to see my youngest son. She falsely accused me of abusing the children and was dishonest during the entire process.

She is now living with the man she left me for and they have had a baby together.

All of this has left my eldest son deeply unhappy. He has become very introverted and his teacher has said he seems like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Whenever I speak to him, he begs me to pick him up. When he is with me he never wants to return to his mother and when I have to take him back he gets angry and cry's/screams hysterically. He tells me he misses me and that he wants to live with me. I barely know my youngest son and it worries me that he will be affected by not having the same relationship with me that his brother has.

The situation our children are in is difficult enough for them but is being made worse due to the conflict between me and their mother. We are unable to to communicate constructively to come up with a solution that will mitigate as much distress to our children as we can.

She refuses to speak to me half the time and the other half she cannot talk to me without trying to start an argument by bringing up the past or by making hurtful remarks. I try to keep the conversation focused on the children but she will eventually either provoke me into an argument or she will get angry about something and hang up.

I don't want to see any further distress caused to our children but I do not know what to do. I have tried unilaterally apologising for my part in the failure of our marriage and for how I hurt her. I have tried my best to forgive what she did to me and I have tried to make peace.

If I didn't have children with her I would gladly just walk away and never have any contact with her again but it is tormenting me to see our children put in this situation. She doesn't seem to treat them as individual human beings with needs and relationships independent of her. They are treated as if they are just props in her life to be used for her own ends.

How can I change things so that I can have a better relationship with my children's mother so the children are not caught in the middle of a bitter conflict ?

  • your ex-does not have the right to use the children as a tool for emotional blackmail.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 15:05
  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it seems like OP is in need of professional help from a marital councilor or a lawyer. Commented May 22, 2018 at 16:35

4 Answers 4


Your relationship cannot improve

It might look like a black and white answer, but from what you told us, your wife does not want the relation to get better, and most of all, does not have anything to gain from making the relationship any better.

Put every chance at your side

From what I understand, the divorce is yet to happen, so the only thing you can do is to try to put every single chance on your side for the divorce. As you probably know, most of the time divorce courts almost always favor women over men, unless there is some very grave factor to take into account (being unfaithful is not one of those factors.)

Some thing you can do to make thing go in your way:

Record your phone call(s) with her.

Depending on the state you are living in (assuming you are living in the USA), you might have to right to record your phone call with her. Some states allow you to do so if at least one the concerned parties know about the recording taking place. Note that if she lives in a different state than yours, both states have to allow this.

It might seem underhanded, but if she does act the way you describe, it might give a court of divorce some much needed evidence of her behavior, which is manipulative and almost sociopathic.

Make sure that your oldest son has his say in the divorce

I know that involving your son is not something any decent parent wants to do. But they are the most important part of the divorce, and they can provide what they're living to a court. If your son is in as much distress as described, then it is of utmost importance that his point of view is heard.

Use every legal document you have proving that she lied

You told us that she falsely accused you of at least 2 different crimes, which warranted an investigation or at least an arrest. If it has been proven that those accusations were not founded, it will have a lot of weight in the divorce, because it will prove that she can and will lie for her own benefit. Even if it means potentially putting an innocent in jail.

Write down everything she does that causes harm to your children

From her preventing your children to see their grandmother on her deathbed, to her preventing you from seeing your son, including her making your kids having a part in her affair, they're all important details that might make things favor you.

Get a lawyer

Many of her actions are illegal, and dangerous to not only you, but your kids as well. A lawyer might be able to help you, and can tell you how you should handle things.

  • I also want to add that I feel that OP's ex wife tries to start arguments about old stuff, because she wants to validate her own choices. Where OP realises and acknowledges his own mistakes, I get the feeling she is far less self-conscious about it all. At OP. You are a good person, just be yourself and try your best and I am sure your children will make the right calls in their further life. You might need to see them face hardship, but make sure you are always there to catch them when they fall. That is the most important part and I feel that their mother won't be there for them.
    – Robin
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 12:11
  • 8
    "Get a lawyer" should be moved up higher in this list. It should be the first move before doing anything else.
    – Carcosa
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 17:50

I'm divorced twice and and have experienced some of what you're going through. Hopefully my experience can help you a little.

As others have said, get a lawyer immediately. Your rights need to be protected. In that sense, it's not personal. It's not about "making her pay" or revenge or anything of the sort. It's about 2 things and 2 things only:

  1. What's best for the children (which is 2 parents who actively parent)
  2. Your rights as a parent.

A lawyer is not only advisable, it's necessary. Just like you wouldn't try rewire your house, remove a poisonous snake from your basement or perform surgery on yourself,don't attempt to handle legal matters without a lawyer. Talk to people you know who've been divorced, particularly who went through a nasty one involving custody, and use them to get a referral.

I don't agree with the notion that your relationship can't improve. What I can say is that it will probably get a lot worse before it gets better.

So how can it improve? Forgiveness. I'm not joking and I'm not being spiritual. I'm saying that you need to forgive her and the person she cheated with. It won't be easy, but let me explain why it's necessary.

Hating her doesn't hurt anyone but you. All the negative feelings you have don't affect her a bit. Hating her doesn't affect her. It does affect your children.

So how can you forgive her? I would suggest 2 things: Therapy and time.

I'm serious about therapy. It will help you get perspective and advice from someone who neither knows your ex nor you beforehand. It's objective advice on how to work on you. And an emotionally healthy "you" is necessary if you want to be the best dad for your children and even eventually get along with your ex.

I'm not going to give you a whole list of things to do to protect your rights. Your lawyer will be able to help with that better than some internet nobodies.

There is one thing I will say however. Keep your kids out of it. They don't have any say in what happens (they're too young) and anything you do will just put them in the middle. Don't interrogate them about their mom or her SO. They need to know that you won't use them against her and believe me, they'll pick up on that a lot younger than you think.

EDIT: There's been good advice in other answers to make a record all the bad stuff that she does and I completely agree. I would add too that you need to make a record of your good relationship with your children. Video of you guys playing at the park or your house, etc. Make sure it's not contrived though. Just normal family video of you guys having positive interactions. That may come in handy down the road because you'll have established the truth of it.

Whatever you do though, don't question the children, especially on video, unless you're able to do it in a casual or natural way (or if the children have been saying something she'll deny they said). Just remember that you don't want to look like you're interrogating, leading or coaching them.

But remember, records of positive interaction is almost as necessary as records of her negative actions.

  • Group counseling can be helpful as therapy and a lot cheaper.
    – CloneZero
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 18:39
  • That actually depends on insurance too. For me, it's $25. it would be closer to 90 without.
    – Chris E
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 19:02

As user3399 already mentioned, get a lawyer. Make sure it is a specialist and that it is a top professional. Do NOT pick someone from the phone book, you need a (local) top dog. Seeking trusted references is the best way to go about it.

Also make sure you build your case. Create a log of every (nasty) event and capture whatever you can on paper. Everything else will be built upon the paper trail you gather now.

Next it is worth the effort to see that some mediation process can be started to proceed with the minimal needed communication. This mediator should be able to find and enforce a non-toxic middle ground and enable progress so you both can move forward. This will have to fit in with the legal process.

Finally it may be possible to start a medical/counselling process for your kids. How and where will depend on your local situation.

This is, beside intensely sad also truly serious and has the potential to get a lot worse. You need to engage professionals. It is probably best to try and minimize direct 1-1 contact. For protection, to have a witness. Godspeed.


My ex and I are dealing with child custody and she also destroyed the relationship with her decision to have an affair. That of course is very painful and makes it very hard to engage without letting emotions surface. However, it is important to understand that parents are forever and you are both obligated to participate and provide the best environment for your children. If you are interested in coparenting classes you might want to search online for coparenting classes in your area.

Another option for understanding effective coparenting is the free course offered by UptoParents . I enjoyed the Up to Parents curriculum more than the book learning from Solutions for Families, although the in-class discussion during Part B of Solutions for Families was very helpful. A huge plus for Up to Parents is that the program is free and there are no hidden costs or obligations and you can go through the Up to Parents program without your ex. Additionally when you complete the program you are able to print out a certificate of completion that can be verified in court, showing that you are making huge attempts to be the best dad you can be and are worthy of being awarded some sort of custody (e.g. 50%).

Next it is advisable that you both keep a record of all communications. We use and I recommend communicating using the TalkingParents platform. This will provide you with:

  1. an organized written record of your attempts to communicate;
  2. a time/date stamp of the initial communication;
  3. a time / date stamp of when the recipient viewed the communication;
  4. a record of any follow up responses;
  5. the content of each post cannot be altered; and,
  6. the basic platform is free of charge.

I have completed both coparenting courses and use Talking Parents. We may actually be able to continue without incurring any further attorney fees as it appears we have a parenting schedule that we both feel is best for our child.

I hope this is useful and wish you the best, more importantly i hope you and your ex can commit to the idea that parents are forever and your children need you both to succeed without anymore trauma as a result of your failed relationship.

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