I am a single parent (no family around to help) and I have been struggling to raise my daughter alone. I'm also having problems with my ex.

Holding down a job is difficult due to constantly calling out from work because of my daughter's severe asthma. I have child care challenges due to the lack of help, which my ex is aware of. I have repeatedly asked for his assistance on a more consistent basis (more than the court ordered every other weekend that he has).

I filed for sole custody when our daughter was two due to his emotional and mental abuse (ignoring me, silent treatment for days and weeks, yelling and shouting, not showing up when he said he would, not giving me the daycare money on time or at all, saying I was just complaining when I asked for help with our child etc.) The court awarded him every other weekend.

My daughter is now 6 years old and things haven't improved. He's said in anger many times that since I have sole custody, she's my responsibility and he's "paying" me to care for her (implying child support is payment for caring for her.) He gets her every other weekend, and in addition, I have always agreed whenever he's asked to see her on his non visitation days.

However, he continues to ignore my requests for more consistent help during the week (due to my work hours and child care issues) or he simply gets upset and ends the conversations.

My question is: do I continue to allow him to see her on his non-visitation days - which usually requires me to inconvenience myself in a minor or major way due to my work schedule - or do I cut that off since he is clearly ignoring my requests for additional help and keep things strictly by the court order?

  • 2
    Would the father consider a more formal change from you having sole custody to a shared care arrangement, with a change in child support to reflect this new arrangement? Jun 19, 2017 at 12:52

5 Answers 5


One rule of thumb (and it's a good one) is don't put your child in the middle of a dispute between your ex and yourself.

You are contemplating using an innocent child, someone who asked for none of this storm, as a pawn to change your ex's behavior. The odds are that it will not change your ex's behavior (as evidenced by the fact that you're having the same problems 4 years later), and unless your child is harmed in some way on his visits, the person who will suffer the most from the restriction you're contemplating is the child. So, for your daughter's sake, please don't even entertain this option.

It is better for your daughter in the long run if she has a good relationship with both parents. Do whatever is within your power (within reason) to foster a good relationship between her father and her. Your problems with him are yours and yours alone.

If this is difficult for you - and as a victim of abuse, I imagine his repeated lack of support is very painful both in the present and as a reminder of why you split - then please find a therapist with whom you can start rebuilding your life apart from this person, and sort your goals and priorities for yourself and your daughter, and then get some help achieving these goals.

I'm sorry this is happening to you, and I wish you luck.

Edited to add: You ask why I consider your daughter a pawn. A pawn is a person used by others for their own purposes.

Your daughter is not asking for more help from her father; you are. It helps you if he takes her when you need help during the week. You can rationalize (and not completely in error) that it helps her with bonding time, but that's not how you phrase it. You want him to help you, and you want to use your daughter's time with him as a bargaining chip. The person with the most to lose here is your daughter.

As parents, we signed on to go out of our way to help our children. It doesn't really benefit us very much to take children to soccer practice, or throw them birthday parties and overnights, etc. It's extra work for us, but we do it because we want what is best for our children. This is really not much different: you are putting yourself out to help your child have a better relationship with her father. Because it's better for her, not for you.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Jun 17, 2017 at 15:02
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    I considered adding an answer, then found you had already written everything I wanted to, and more. Excellent answer, as usual! Only thing I'd like to add: "not putting your child in the middle of a dispute" is IMHO not just a rule of thumb, but one of the most important principles. And it applies even if the parents are not separated.
    – sleske
    Jun 21, 2017 at 10:52

Denying visitations that the other parent sees as his right represents an escalation of the conflict, regardless if the other parent has a right to these visits.

In the short and the medium term, this will not make things simpler. You need to be prepared for retaliation, and unfortunately a prolonged conflict is unlikely to benefit the child

What you can and should do is to value the extra time and effort you need to spend due to his behavior. Therefore, my recommendation is that you do continue to allow him to see his daughter on his non-visitation days, but not in ways that result in a major inconvenience for yourself. E.g. if he wants you to drive your daughter to him and you don't have the time, say "no, I do not have the time. You can come and pick her up if you like, but you need to be here before X o'clock because I need to get to work. At what time can I expect you to arrive?".

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    Pretty much my take on it. I would have summed it up as: you should allow the extra visits but not allow them to be an extra burden for you. And make sure to be strict about it and not let yourself be manipulated into a different outcome. That means having a plan B if he does not hold his end of the bargain. eg. If he's not there on time, leave for work as usual, no exception for any reason.
    – user27286
    Jun 19, 2017 at 15:54
  • Yes, exactly. Denying visitation because you want more help elsewhere is using the daughter as a bargaining chip - but denying things that are too burdensome for you (like driving your daughter to the visitation) is a healthy boundary.
    – sleske
    Jun 21, 2017 at 10:53

Based on your comments to anongoodnurse's answer, I've thought a bit more about this.

I still support the main point of anongoodnurse's answer - e.g. try not to hurt your daughter's access to her father if you believe seeing her father is good for her. But you're saying

My sanity is at stake at this point

If you really mean this - e.g. if you're near a burnout, then it is important that you reduce your workload and stress immediately. If you don't, you could suffer a breakdown that will hospitalize you for weeks, and full recovery might take months.

(There are several steps leading to a full-blown burnout, and each step has symptoms associated with them. You can google these symptoms, or better yet, get a professional opinion, to find out if you are in fact in danger of impending collapse).

Where I live, we can get partial sick-leave from work if a doctor diagnoses such problems. I don't know if that exists where you live, but if it does, maybe that would be an immediate short-term solution.

Once that's done, you might have some time to think your situation through and find a way to apply for additional help from the state.

I admit I've read over your question too quickly - I didn't read the following part:

to see her on his non-visitation days - which usually requires me to inconvenience myself in a minor or major way due to my work schedule

Is there any way you could change this without cutting off additional access to your daugher? Normally, I'd assume that having the father take care of your daughter would free up some time for you, not make it even more difficult for you. Is this because you need to be present when he sees her? If so, is there a way to change this so that him seeing her will actually free up time for you? If he calls and asks to see her tomorrow, maybe you could tell him to pick her up after school/kindergarden, and call the school or kindergarden to tell them her father will pick her up?

I don't feel comfortable suggesting this because you also say that he doesn't show up when he said he would, but the point would be that he's not picking your daughter up in your home, where you have to wait for him, but instead at the school, where a third-party (the school) will notice that he's not on time. That might put more pressure on him, and it will also allow for an independent record to be built that might be useful to have in the future. This way, if you do try to renegotiate child support payment and visitation, you have an independent third-party to support your claims that he's never on time. That might be especially useful if your ex is also late in picking your daugther up on his actual visitation days, which you might use to argue that he's not fulfilling his obligations as per the existing court order and that his inability to pick her up on time on his visitation days seriously hinders your fulfillment of other obligations (work, household work etc).

You'll also have to think about long-term changes. As I said, I don't think it's a good idea to try to force him to help you more using access to your daughter as a bargaining chip, for basically the reasons anongoodnurse mentioned. Really the only option I see is the one I already mentioned: Renegotiate child support payments and visitation rights. This might be in the form of a contract between you and your ex which can be enforced legally, or in the form of a new court order, depending on what works.

However, if none of the things I suggested works out, then you'll have to act to preserve your ability to care for your daughter. If you are hospitalized, you can't do that, and that will be worse for your daughter than being cut off from additional visits from her father.

  • Good point about involving third parties who can notice if the father is late. Best case: father gets his act to together and is on time. If he does not, there is at least a record to show he is not.
    – sleske
    Jun 21, 2017 at 10:55

I don't know if you are in the USA or not, but if you are, you can contact legal aide for advice. I know very little about anything other than my own area. Where I live, if a parent regularly is having childcare issues, you can ask the court to have him assist in paying for additional hours at daycare or a private hire sitter, for times when regular daycare or school cannot cover. He would be given the "right of first refusal" in that case too. In case that is a new term for you, it means simply that you call, you see if he can do it himself, he says yes or no, but then if he says no, he may mind himself in helping to pay for other care for her. In cases where you have primary, it is not supposed to be set up to make you more apt to having employment problems. So you would be good to check with legal aid on how you may be able to alleviate some of this stress for you in that regard. Many unhelpful coparents seem to be more interested in helping when money is on the table, sadly. It might get him motivated to say yes more often. And if it doesn't, it helps alleviate the cost burden from you a little.

  • @ Threetimes Thank you for this advice and being able to pin point what my true dilemma is! This is my main issue and because I have been struggling, I have slowly built up some resentment towards him. As long as I am not struggling and can also hold down a job and do what I need to do to progress in life, I would have less to no issues at all with him seeing her on his non visitation days.
    – QueensMum
    Jun 19, 2017 at 20:22

Contrary to the previous answers: deny your ex access to your daughter.

I've been in the situation similar to your current predicament. But I've been there as a child. And in the long run? I think my mom should've kick my dad somewhere into other galaxy.


  • Clearly he doesn't give you the support you need, would it be his time, money or whatever. When he doesn't help you with your child - it's not 'he doesn't help you', it's 'he doesn't help your child'. Because when you can't properly balance your life, your job and your daughter's needs - it only means that your life, job and daughter will suffer, all three of them. And maybe you can forgive him for failing your life and job, but can you allow him to fail your daughter? If he couldn't spend time with her both of you can work out some agreement about hiring a nanny or find another solution to the problem. But he doesn't even trying - he knows that you have no other choice and the kid will be taken care of - in the cost of whatever it takes to you. Not to him. Thus you struggling with problems, your work suffering breaks, your daughter has a good but tired out of her mind mommy. Energy and money you're spending on dealing with issues your ex could've help you with you could give your daughter.
  • It's very convenient to him to see his daughter only when he's ready and comfortable with this meetings. What happens when the girl wants to see her daddy? 'You have sole custody, she's your responsibility and he's "paying" you to care for her'?

Your daughter will grow up. The way everything is now? She will hate you one day, because her father is cool, he is dad-holiday, you know? Picking her up on the weekends (and sometimes even on a weekdays!), doing something with her, maybe telling some stories. Sometimes he doesn't hold to his word, maybe, but it's not his fault - he has an important job, or there was a friend in trouble, or whatever convincing excuse. And you? Often tired, and strict - making her do homework and chores, and it's your fault that good-guy-dad doesn't live with you, that she doesn't have a full healthy family, it's you who wanted divorce and went to court.

Or/and maybe one day she'll realize or discover through probably very painful situation that her father is an emotionally abusive jerk with zero responsibility about his own child, and she'll recall whatever she witnesses now from your conflicts, and she'll understand that her father hurt her mother and kept doing so again and again, and that her mother just went with it because of her. Delightful.

I have also a third, even better option, though it can go perfectly fine with both things above:

  • So you divorced him because he was an abusive jerk, now, years later he still is an abusive jerk... That's so cool - to have an abusive jerk for the father. First hand opinion. Honestly. Of course he won't be emotionally abusive with his daughter. We've established earlier - he's such a good and caring person.

Do not let anyone convince you 'to not put your child into petty Ex Wars'. It's not about you getting revenge, his behavior clearly states that he is not a good father.

Do not let anyone play 'you shouldn't separate father and daughter' card. No father(parent) is oftentimes better than an emotionally abusing father (parent).

Get all the legal help you can find. Discuss bills for her healthcare, daycare/whatever with your ex - if he's not going to help you this way, discuss it again through the court.

If he wants to be a father for his daughter, he'll try, he'll make some changes, he'll be a better person.

Till then - deny him access to your daughter.


  • She cannot just deny the father access. There is a court order. This question is about additional access. You cannot just ignore the court decree. He has done nothing in what is listed that would cause a court to deny him access. I am sorry you have hurt from your own father & childhood & clearly issues with your mother regarding it, but you might be mistaken as to how much say so your mother had about any of that if you think she could just choose to not send you.
    – threetimes
    Jul 13, 2017 at 17:44
  • @threetimes well, thanks for the sympathy I guess, but in the guess about issues with my mother you're wrong. Regarding this matter i mostly use an experience of my friends with similar problems in family. Also - I do understand that about additional access, I'm sorry I didn't clearly point that out in y answer. And in time my family had that conflict there was no real custody agreements and laws regulating it in our country, so in that I'm not mistaken at all.
    – thane
    Jul 13, 2017 at 19:48
  • Well I thought it was you, because I've known people with bad dads & I haven't known any that blame their mother for it. That is a new idea on me. I am glad that you haven't had that issue. I know at some time, most kids will blame parents rightly or wrongly for all the ills in their life, but I see that mostly as a phase & one you can never be sure to avoid. It is maturity that gives you the perspective to understand your parents were just people doing what they knew how to do.
    – threetimes
    Jul 13, 2017 at 19:51
  • About hate-to-parent question: the problem usually was about good moms protecting their kids from the truth about their dads being anything less than good and loving, because moms didn't want the children to feel unworthy and not loved, which is totally understandable. Dads in question doesn't have such courtesy and often stating that the mom is bad, uncaring etc. Thus - hate and blaming the wrong parent.
    – thane
    Jul 13, 2017 at 20:00
  • I'm aware, but again, I think it's a phase in coming to terms with one's life & then thinking it through to the other side. It's safe to hate on the parent who has been there for you, since they are the one present & willing to be responsible. It typically will not last if it happens. I adopted a couple of children when they were older. When they came of age they showed a lot of unwarranted anger toward me for "not doing something" sooner. I did absolutely everything within my power to get them to a better situation and they weren't my kids, but I was safe to accuse. It passes.
    – threetimes
    Jul 13, 2017 at 20:14

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