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Annie Lane: Trust your instincts, put children first

Dear Annie: My husband and I separated two years ago. Ultimately, we divorced about a year ago due to his rising alcohol and drug abuse, which led to him being violent. I did what I could for years to get him help, offering counseling together, rehabs and anything else that would be beneficial to him to deal with his addictions.

Once the kids became the target and witnessed one incident of abuse where he attacked me, I called his parents for support and help. They agreed to have him move in with his mom, so she could oversee his visitation with the kids to ensure their safety.

This past weekend, when it was time for me to drop the kids off, I called and found that he was at the bar, obviously intoxicated, and he started yelling obscenities at me through the phone because I told him it was not acceptable for him to be doing this when he knew he was supposed to have the kids. Long story short, he apologized the next day and when he was sober, I brought them over. When I went to tuck in my daughter that night, it came out that his mother was questioning her about my personal relationships and telling her not to tell me. My daughter, who is 5, was very conflicted and upset because she felt like she’s been asked to keep secrets from me, but she doesn’t want to break the confidence of her grandmother.

This is not the first occasion that my ex’s mom has done this to the children. I warned her that if she had adult questions and adult conversation, then she should come to me directly and not put my children in the awkward situation that she had. When I called her to see if she would be there that Friday — when my ex was intoxicated — in order to ensure their safety, she told me, effectively, that she doesn’t want to be bothered with my kids. Essentially, she told me they aren’t good enough.

Since my ex lives with his mother and does not have the financial or emotional stability to be on his own, I don’t know what to do. I’m not comfortable with him coming to my home considering the past. I don’t want to withhold my children from him, but I also don’t want them to be manipulated by his mother. As a side note, my former brother-in-law also stopped letting his children communicate with their grandmother because she was being manipulative.

What should I do?

— Miffed by the Manipulation

Dear Miffed: Trust your instincts as a mama. You’ve tried so hard to make it work with your ex, and I commend that. You’re clearly a compassionate person. But as long as he’s actively drinking and/or using other drugs, it’s not safe to entrust your children to his care. His mother’s presence can’t make up for that fact, clearly.

Begin documenting these incidents as well as you can, saving any relevant text message conversations and emails. Talk to your lawyer about options for adjusting the terms of custody and visitation, perhaps with an understanding that you will revisit the issue if your ex-husband seeks treatment for alcoholism. I also encourage you to check out a support group such as Al-Anon Family Groups or SMART Recovery Family & Friends, if you haven’t already. Meetings are available online and over the telephone.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.