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Hello,

I am having a difficult time dealing with my ex - wife and what I percieve to be her significant control issues. I would appreciate any contructive comments on how to deal with this phenomenon.

The background:

I was married for over twenty years. My ex wife had an affair and moved out. I have been divorced for 2 1/2 years. I have 4 children with my ex-wife, three are adult girls (21,20, 18) and one son who is 16. The two younger children live with me as the custodial parent. My ex has moved out of state and visits with the younger kids about once a month.

When I was married my ex-wife was "in charge" of family finances and took it upon herself to be the family organizer.

Since our divorce I have single handedly been the emotional and financial hub for our kids. I pay for all the kids medical insurance, co pays, car insurance, cells phones, college expenses and assumed all of the marital debt etc...

The issue is that my ex-wife continues to attempt to micro-manage my life. She uses our children as the means to do this. She is constantly making accusations, demands, and scrutinzing nearly everything I do.

I have tried different strategies - I have asked her to stop. I have ignored the more caustic demands and accusations. I have tried to appease her. All to no avail. She even takes me to family court to "enforce" parts of our divorce decree with regard to our kids that have no merit. (one example she that insisted that I pay back my eldest daughters college loans in a lump sum NOW, while my daughter still has two years of college left and the loans are not due.)

Forget about analyzing the validity of the legal issues (we are both lawyers) Does any one have advice on how to deal with this type of ongoing control issue?

She has lost court hearings before and just keeps coming back for more. Rather than view this as a "legal issue" I am turning to this forum to discuss this as a "mental" or "emotional" issue. I have moved on with my life.

I am interested in peace, not "winning". I have already "won" a number of times. Is there a way to effectively deal with a condition like this? or is it simply a war of attrition?

Thank you for your consideration.
 

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How often do you communicate with her? Can this be limited in any way to just court exchanges?

My ex was very difficult as well. I bought our son a cell phone from the age of 16 (so he could talk to his dad without me being involved) and only communicated with the ex through the court. Eventually he stopped filing petitions. I think it was my comment the last time we were in there when I said "I think you just like seeing our names together on legal documents." It ticked him off, but highlighted his somewhat fixation on me.
 

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I'm not sure what area of law you practice, so please forgive me if I'm speaking on an over-simplistic level....

It sounds like your wife is engaging in tactics that are similar to parental alienation syndrome. Fortunately, your children are in your immediate influence more than hers, or your situation would be much worse.

As you know, the court system is set up to be adversarial in nature. Despite progress in turning to mediation, the legal system isn't set up for bringing people together.

Her behaviors likely stem from feelings of rejection and failure. My guess is that you probably left her or else she threatened you with divorce to manipulate you, and you refused to play ball. This means she has unresolved feelings toward you - tenderness, but also intense rage.

Unfortunately, there isn't much you CAN do with someone like her. You simply have to wait it out. Once your children are all moved out, she won't have much means or reason to interfere with your life this way. She'll probably still try to turn your children against you, but hopefully you're bonded strongly and able to communicate with them regularly.

My ex and I spent ten years in and out of courtrooms, across several states, with a dozen or so attorneys, because of his first wife being this way. We endured parental kidnappings, false accusations, refusal of visitations we'd driven many hundreds of miles for, and we ultimately got custody. That didn't stop the problems. She still kept claiming the child on her tax returns, which forced us to go through audits, and she continued to collect a thousand bucks a month in child support for two years after she was supposed to stop and we weren't able to do a damned thing about it.

In our case, the problems stopped when the ex had a heart attack and died, but the child was still her child and loved her mom despite all the emotional abuse she'd endured because of that psychotic, evil woman. It's important to understand that and not get your children involved any more than is necessary.

Uphold your boundaries clearly, and despite having to go to court every time you turn around, see it as an opportunity to make progress. Keep journals of every interaction: Date, time, what was said by whom, and any effects that happened. When a court case is pending, find an attorney that is a member of the Matrimonial Trial Lawyers Association (they are not afraid of going to trial AND are often familiar with Parental Alienation Syndrome) and is well established and respected in his/her jurisdiction. Don't be afraid to "make your case" in your initial motions/responses. I know this probably goes against everything you've been taught, but it's effective as long as it's not overdone.

If her antics are affecting your children, consider whether to hire a GAL to help set and enforce boundaries. A GAL might also be able to help your wife see how her behavior is abusive to your children. You might consider emancipating your youngest child if the legal criteria for emancipation can be met. You can still support and love him, but it will strip her of some of her ability to mess with your life.

You might find some good resources on sites devoted to Parental Alienation Syndrome, too. When we went through this, PAS was little understood and we found very little empathy in the court system. Only TWO cases had successfully highlighted PAS at the time this started for us - one in Texas and one in Florida, and we weren't in either of those places. Over the next decade, it became more accepted, but I'm sure there has been a LOT more progress since we stopped dealing with this around 2004.
 

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My first thought...sounds like she wants you back. Someone who is over it, and moved on, would have no interest in controlling the ex. She must be exhausted...pick your battles.
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There are ways to apply sanctions to serial litigants. Perhaps you could also file a complaint through the ABA.
 

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Have you tried calmly asking her?

Are you pissed off that I didn't shrivel up and die when you left?
Are you pissed off that I've moved on with my life?
You got what you wanted; you fvcked (Bob) and you're living with (Bob). Doesn't being with (Bob) make you happy?
Go be happy with (Bob). I've moved on and I'm not interested.

If she gets irate and claims she isn't interested in you calmly ask her, "Then why do you consistently arrange for me to see you and deal with you in court over matters that are frivolous? Afraid you'll lose all contact with me forever? Because THAT's how it appears to everyone BUT YOU! I've moved on from you and I'M NOT INTERESTED."

Then physically walk away (or hang up) AT THAT POINT to reinforce the point. Let her stew on that and perhaps SHE'LL see she's been trying to hang onto contact with you. And maybe she ISN'T so enamored of (Bob) anymore!
 

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Every time she makes a demand, you shouldn't appease her. In fact, you should do more of the behavior that upsets her. You need to make her understand how little control she actually has.
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