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“I am a divorced mother of four children, ages 18, 13, and twins that are 11. My ex-husband has been in and out of mental hospitals for the past ten years and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He has never paid child support but is now receiving disability and the children receive money each month also. After being in and out of our lives for some years now, he is now back and okay right now because of the large sum of back pay from disability. My problem is that he is verbally abusive to me and the children. He says he wants to help parent the children and he continually downs me and my parenting ways. He repeatedly says that he is going to beat up my boyfriend. We live with my boyfriend who is very kind and gets along with the children fine. The children hardly ever want to spend any time with him and they say that all he does is yell at them. Due to his past and present mental conditions I am not sure of whether I should force the kids to go with him or not. He is a great talker but his actions don’t live up to his advice. Do I have to treat him as a “normal” parent or do I have a right to take his bipolar condition into account and let the children decide for themselves? He threatens me about court all the time and I just don’t see how he would have a leg to stand on.”
Question: You should have your custody and visitation order revised by the court to deal with this. While both he and the children have a right to some relationship with each other, if he cannot control himself then it may be that any time he has with them needs to be supervised. Rather than cutting him out completely, try figuring out a way to make it ok, and safe, for all involved – but again, do this through the court, as it may be that any visitation order will also need an accompanying restraining order for non-visitation times and locations. This will likely be the same outcome if he takes you to court, so you should take the initiative, as the sooner there is something formal from the court the better for all concerned.