I am the grandmother of one six year old boy. The mother divorced the father four years ago due to abusive behavior. Although both parents are British, the mother and son live in the UK and the father in another European country. The child has a chronic illness that involves frequent hospital visits and medication.
The father remains extremely hostile to the mother. Access was arranged by court order and the mother is very aware what the child needs time with her father, which she tries to facilitate beyond the court order. The child’s medications and an update on their condition should be given at the time of delivery.but this does not happen because of the hostility of the father.
Also, the father is constantly say his son how much his country is better, and that the boy will end up living in this country and resume his business. he is negative on anything to do with life in the UK.
The child becomes quite confused and anxious because he wants to please his father, but he is emotionally very attached to his mother and has settled down in school. The child’s visitation court order said ‘neither parent should disparage the other in front of the child’, but that doesn’t make sense because it happens all the time from the father.
I fear that the child may end up with psychological and/or other problems if the father continues to undermine his son’s safety, trust and confidence in his mother, home, extended family, school and life in general. As far as I know, there is nothing that can be done to change this negative behavior of the father. The child and the father clearly love each other, then [helping the situation] could be a positive thing.
In your letter you did not say whether you are the maternal or paternal grandmother, although I suspect you are the first – and that matters because I wonder whose “ear” you have. It was also unclear how much you view your grandson, as your influence and love will be key here. I contacted psychotherapist Nicole Addis (psychotherapy.org.uk) who pointed out that you were right, neither parent should denigrate the other or cause parental alienation.
I also spoke to family law attorney Karen Dovaston, acting chair of the Law Society’s Family Law Committee. She said unless you’re part of [court] proceedings”, you will not know what was discussed and agreed upon in court, and you should not have seen the court documents because they are confidential. She also said that any action, such as asking to change the court order, must go through the mother (ideally) or the father. If your grandson’s mother thinks there is a problem and wants to change the court order (bearing in mind that the contact cannot go below what the order says but it must not go over), then she will have to reapply to the court.
It’s important to get evidence here: any abusive text messages, medical evidence that drugs aren’t being administered, or parental alienation. If you have raised these issues with the mother and she is unwilling to act, and you believe the child is physically/emotionally at risk, your only avenue is to seek permission to seek an Order of Arrangement. child through the court; in other words, that the child comes to live with you. Or you can report the situation to social services who may decide that there has been a breach of protection. I’m sure I needn’t stress that these steps should only be taken if you believe the child is at serious risk.
Is there someone in all of this that you can talk to, to play some sort of mediating role? Do you have some kind of relationship with the father? Could you practice reflective listening with the mother so that it’s less about telling her what she should do, but maybe letting her talk to see what her options are?
Addis also wanted to ask if your grandson’s school had been alerted, so they could monitor changes in his behavior. She also recommended spending time with your grandson to provide him with a safe place where he can talk to you freely (but don’t ask leading questions because children feel protective of their parents at this age). That’s why I asked how much you see him as you can provide a good counterbalance to his father if need be.
Annalisa Barbieri discusses a family problem transmitted by a reader each week. If you would like advice from Annalisa on a family matter, please send your concern to [email protected]. Annalisa regrets not being able to enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions.
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