Donate Child Support Calculator
Skip navigation

What are reasonable expectations?

Add Topic
With some hesitancy I post having read replies which seem overly hostile to the original post.

I have been separated from my husband for 6 months. He has a long history of depression, 20 years, which he had difficulty managing. He cut all friends and family (except his parents) out of his life, would display intense hatred for them. When there was no one left, it turned on me. Some days he was caring, considerate and understanding. Other days he was paranoid, accusatory and abusive. I couldn't live the roller coaster anymore, it was affecting my own mental health. I was doubting my own sanity, because he would renege on agreements we made, present a totally different perspective of past events that was not true. I felt like I should document every interaction we had so there would be something to refer to when he made accusations, just to see if I was going crazy.

We had separated in 2008 at my initiation, because despite doing all I could to be supportive etc he wasn't following professional advice on dealing with his mental health and the children and I were bearing the cost. My repeated message to him at this time was that *I* couldn't live with a person with mismanaged mental illness. During this time he came to see the children every few days, and had them visit him where he was living with his parents. Fairly informal. He varied between remorse and promises to engage in his treatment, and ranting that I was a controlling b* and demanding to know which of my friends were telling me to leave him. This culminated one night in him coming and trying to kick the door in, smashing a glass panel, very scary. Children were asleep. I called the police, he fled. They arrested him and he ended up with an interim AVO, but convicted of the intent to intimidate/cause fear offence and malicious property damage. He is angry about that to this day, blames the arresting officer because she was female.

AAAAnyway he took some steps that showed commitment, and moved back in.

2 years later the situation deteriorated. I was recognising more and more his manipulative and bullying tactics. He started accusing me of having an affair (!) If you knew me, you would laugh at the very idea. I was virtually living the life of a single mum with 4 children under 8, yeah in all my spare time….If he didn't get his way he would become verbally abusive. He did it all in front of the children. His usual sleep was 12 hours, but could go up to 16 easily. The children wouldn't see him on his work days because he worked afternoons, would sleep all morning then get up and get ready for work, and come home at 10pm after they were asleep. I couldn't leave to go anywhere and leave him to look after them until he was out of bed and had eaten. Otherwise he would stay asleep, and could sleep through any fights or problems the children had - wouldn't even get up to give them breakfast, or change the nappies of the two little ones. He would get angry that I would wait until he was up before I left. I only waited because his past actions had showed me I had to, for the safety and well being of the children. I was always careful to talk to them in a way they could understand about his sickness. That it made him very tired. It was hard to see their hurt when he would break promises to them and sleep.

I got to my breaking point during one fight and told him I was going to my parents to think about whether I could continue in the marriage or not. I said I would see him in a couple of weeks. He asked if I was taking the kids. I said yes - meaning for the 2 weeks.

Next day he attempted suicide, after sending me an abusive text to let me know what he was doing. I visited him in hospital the next day, and he swore at me and said what was I doing there.

When staff said it was OK I brought the children up to see him with his parents to take them in, as he clearly didn't want me visiting. They don't know what he did, just that his depression had got very bad and he needed to be where the doctors could help him better for a while. The youngest was too scared to go in- it was a locked mental health unit. So I decided to go in so they all could see their dad and he could see them. I sat in the furtherst chair and didn't talk. He came in and after about 3 minutes started asking me loaded questions. I tried to deflect and get him to just focus on spending the time with the children. He started to yell and make accusations. I stood up to leave to diffuse the situation, but he pushed past me, knocking me over. He wouldn't come out, even after I left, to spend time with the children. So I made arrangements with grandparents to bring the children to see him regularly.

Once he got out he lived with his parents. We agreed on Sun lunch to Mon afternoon weekly visits. I trusted that his parents would be there to help out. I offered more time with them as he got better, he declined. He works a four day week, 4 x 10 hours, he didn't want them to be there on ALL his days off, said that he needed a "day off" eg a day off work and children. He never rang to speak to them on any other days, for 4 months.

He continued his rollercoaster = I will do whatever it takes to work on our marriage one day, and the next day : Sell the house, keep the money, give away all my stuff, never speak to me again.

The children sometimes came home talking about good times they had spent with dad. Other times sad. Things they said include "Daddy says you hate him" "Daddy said we'll probably get a new daddy and have to live in a new house" "Daddy said we would all be better off without him" He allowed them to watch Indiana Jones and the temple of doom where the evil priest pulls out the heart of a live prisoner and holds it up with blood dripping down - they are aged from 10 to 3. They said he slept alot and their grandmother dressed them and gave them breakfast. There were a few occasions when he either didn't want them to come, or asked me to come and get them early. One in particular where he rang me, told me he wanted a divorce, asked his parents for money (they gave him $200!!!!) and drove off. Leaving the kids there, having witnessed his outburst and departure, with no idea what was going on. When I came to pick them up they were so upset on the drive home, they could barely speak. They know it's his sickness, but it just sucks…

The final straw came when he turned up at my house unannounced and wanted to talk. I said I would be happy to, as long as there was a 3rd party present who we both agreed upon. He kept at me, and at me. Got angrier and angrier. Ended up storming off, when one child said goodbye, he said : yeah goodbye and have a good life coz you're never going to see me again. She just collapsed. I ran to cuddle her, and my eldest came up too, crying. We sat down. He drove up the driveway and got out and started ranting again. I was just in a shut down zombie mode. He said many horrible things :kids, your mum's full of s*. I;m going to kill myself, and before I do I'm gonna come up here and smash your f* face in. We were cowering as he booted right next to where we were sitting.

My sister had rung just as he pulled in to the driveway - he started abusing her too, so I held out the phone so she could witness what was going on. At the last part she said, What are you doing??? LEAVE!! That snapped me out of it and I gathered everyone and we left.

My children were crying and so was I. When we got to a relative's place my son said, can we stay here until it's safe?

I rang the police, they said if I came and made a statement they would probably arrest him. I just thought that would make everything worse. It's a mental health issue as well….BUt police can't do anything about that. and mental health can't unless he cooperates which he wasn't at that point. Was refusing their services and then lying to me about it.

I rang FRC to sort something out, they said our situation was unsuitable and recommended I call DOCS and community legal centre. Docs took a report. Recommended not to let the chidlren see him unsupervised. I don't trust his parents as good supervisors, because they allow all these outbursts and don't do anything to protect the children. I don't feel able to ask anyone else to supervise as it's a huge thing with his mental health. So it pretty much has to be a contact service. Spoke to DVAS and a solicitor from there. They recommended not to let the children see him unsupervised. I was taking them away in summer as was our  tradition, so they said, do that. Make sure you are contactable, but you are not obliged to let him see them as there is no plan in place. Another thing they said was that there are significant risk factors present of someone who could harm the children. That was very upsetting.

So I took them away for a month. I needed time from it all to get my head straight.

The thing is, he can become very calm, reasonable and convincing. He has got his parents back on side, and his brother. He has exploded at both of them and accused them of things that aren't true, but that seems to all be forgotten now. I am just the cold hearted ex wife denying him access to his children for no reason. sigh.

I changed my phone numbers coz I was sick of the roller coaster. A third, neutral person was arranged to pass messages.

Since coming back, I have arranged counselling for me and the older two children, starting next week. I have a support worker who helps family of people with mental illness. I have applied for a legal aid grant for mediation around a consent order- my priority being supervised visitation. I spoke to a police dv officer who said I would have to apply in court to get an AVO since that major incident was about 2 months ago. I have met with workers from DOCS brighter futures program - I am keen to see what they can link me up with.

After being told by me, my sister and I think his brother that I am scared of him, he turned up at my house last week. One of my younger children let him in, I didn't even hear the knock. He walked into the bedroom where I was putting the children to bed. I screamed, it was such a shock. I said you need to leave. i stood up and tried to close the door. he put his foot in it. I repeated. I said I would call the police, and went to pick up my mobile. I had started dialling. He ran into the hall, and collapsed on the ground crying. He told me something from his past which made a lot of things make sense.  I promised I would keep it confidential. I told the children to wait in the bedroom with the door closed while daddy and I talked. I reassured them that it would be Ok. He then started tellling me he has seen lawyers and the FRC is taking him on, they say it is very bad that I haven't let him see the children, a judge would look very badly on that. He said a judge would say it's not a crime to have depression and wouldn't allow that to play a part in his decision. And that if I refused to talk to the FRC he would get the certificate, and that would look bad for me too. He said he has weaned off his meds under the supervision of his psych (not sure if psychologist or psychiatrist) and is learning life skills to cope without meds. That's all very well, but he had a blow up at my sister a week ago, and rang her husband making all kinds of accusations from a phonecall with her that lasted barely a minute. She has decided to cut contact with him now too.

He wouldn't listen when I said I had already spoken to the FRC 2 months ago and they had referred me on, and that I was arranging mediation through Legal AId. He said some other manipulative stuff, but nothing threatening. The children came out and had cuddles with him, and that was nice. Then he left.

My older son said he liked seeing his dad, but didn't like it that he just turned up like that. He said he was worried that dad could get angry, and it was hard not knowing if he was going to be ok or angry.

I spoke to DVAS, they advised writing a short letter by registered post to request he not turn up at the house as it was upsetting. I also offered him an email address to contact me by, or to write me a letter. I am not confident to give him my new phone numbers because of his past behaviour. I need to feel that emotional distance for my self.

Then I received a letter from FRC that I needed to come to an individual session with them (over the phone) so they could assess our situation. I found this very confusing as it conflicted with what they said in Dec. So I rang the person I spoke to in Dec, she was excellent and reassuring. Then I spoke to the person I got the letter from. My husband had already spoken to her. I told her about my Dec phone call. She was quite dismissive, that I should never have been told that, a determination about suitability was never given on the basis of one phonecall. That if I refused, husband would be given a certificate saying so. I told her there were mental health and domestic violence issues and that i knew husband could come across very reasonable. She said if I did a phone interview with her, they may decide our case is unsuitable. I said I had gone down the Legal Aid path because of the binding nature of Consent orders. She got defensive and said, well, WE do consent orders too, a parenting plan can be turned into consent orders you know. She has given me an extra week hoping that I hear back from Legal Aid by then. She is also going to talk to the original person  I spoke with at FRC.

DOCS is also going to call back tomorrow. They mentioned being able to advocate to FRC, I will talk to them about what that means in more detail.

I want my children to see their father, as of course they love him and need him in their lives. I gave him every opportunity to see his children, and only put limitations on when he continually showed himself unable to control his outbursts for their sakes. And not just outbursts when I am around, but telling them horrible things when I'm not even there. He accuses me of poisoning them against him. I just try and listen to them, and empathise, sharing a bit about what depression can do to the way people think. I always reassure them that he loves them, and he's their dad no matter what. I just want it to be as safe as possible at this stage, particularly with younger ones who can't really understand. My desire is supervised visitation at a children's contact service. That is what I will be asking for in the legal aid mediation for consent orders. I think he may say no. Then I guess it would end up in court.

Am I being ridiculous in asking for this? Do you think it's likely a court would understand where I am coming from? I know they consider what is in the best interests of the children, and I agree that they have a right to a relationship with both parents.

I am so sorry for writing such an essay. It's a messy and confusing situation because of the combined mental health/domestic violence issues. I was trying to write a short summary and it got out of hand. There is a lot more I could say. I am willing to answer any questions that help clarify. I have tried to be factual and only share the things that I believe show his issues as they relate to parenting the children well. I don't want to come across as the bitter wife who denigrates her husband at every opportunity - i hung on to this marriage for over 15 years, and tried so hard. i just couldn't do it anymore. I don't hate him. I'm just sad for what could have been.

sojourner first of all, I am in no way a legal expert but I read your post with a lot of sympathy for both sides. You are doing your best and that's very clear and should be congratulated.

My brother is like your husband. I know first hand what it's like to be on the receiving end of what you described - however the much more difficult thing is that the kids and a marriage are between you two!

I hope you keep very strong for your kids sake and seek counseling. If you ever need to talk with someone on the phone directly about your family circumstances, there's a Family Relationships Advice Line which is 1800 050 321. I have called it several times and the great thing is you get a quick, objective perspective to think about.

All the best.
I don't think you're being ridiculous. There are some practical things to consider though.

Having supervised contact at children's services is not a long term solution to addressing contact for children and father. You need to keep in mind that you'll need to think of something a little more long term. You would have to question the children's "benefit" of a "meaningful" relationship with their Father if it requires ongoing Supervision at a contact centre.

Having said that, it's hard to anticipate whether this will go to Court or not. You may very well have a good shot at getting Orders by Consent. If you do get Orders by Consent that state that he is to have supervised visits at a contact centre, then you can potentially leave this open ended and if a few years down the track he really comes good, you can always change them by Consent. I think it would be hard to place an "expiry date" on this case because there are simply too many unknowns.

Mental illness or no mental illness, the children still have a right to be safe and protected from physical and psychological harm. His mental illness doesn't excuse himself from this responsibility.  Given his past performance and issues with DV and self-harm, I think supervision at a contact centre is a good first-pass idea. Also, keep in mind that there are extremely long waiting periods for this service and that if his Parent's aren't really being responsible supervisors, he may have no choice then to wait it out.

Given the DV issues, you may also want to get Sole Parental Responsibility of the Children.

Good work on getting out of there though. Sometimes, it takes a few go's at it but you eventually got there stay safe.  
@ds80 Thanks for your supportive words. I have had extensive counselling over the years, living through this situation. In fact it was my latest round last year that helped me to identify many of the problems, and begin to feel more confident in my own sanity. I'm also in contact with a DV/legal community centre, and Docs for the children. I am seeing a community health counsellor next week to see what they can offer, for me and particularly my two oldest children.

I'm very glad for your family and friends that you can see your brother's behaviour for what it is. I am fighting against this situation being viewed as  "just a communication problem" and that "we are as bad as each other" - he presents so reasonably. Thankfully, there are people that *do* understand, and I value their support more than anything. One major thing that keeps me strong is that these people *believe* me, after living for years having to fight for my perception of reality. And you are right, being married with children does add multiple complexity to the situation.

@plusone Thanks too, for your reassurance and points to consider. Legal Aid told me in our first meeting that Children's contact services isn't generally considered a long term solution. I don't really know what else I can do though. I kind of expect that they will end up unsupervised. I hope that the shock of being put into supervised contact will be a wake up call to him about what is damaging to the children. Who knows though….I hope over the time of supervised visitation I will be able to get the children good help and counselling so they will be in a better position by then. There is a children's group run by Docs that I am going to put them in first, and  I will also contact COPMI (Children of Parents with Mental illness) to see if they can offer anything from that angle. And maybe after a while he will find another target for his anger if I'm not in the picture daily.

I wondered about my chances of getting supervised visitation in Court because he hasn't directed any abuse at them, it's more them witnessing verbal/emotional abuse to me. Though he has really got no idea about appropriate things to say to them. I thought the court would think that if I was out of the picture, then this type of thing wouldn't happen anymore. I know he will continue though. I just don't know how seriously the court would take it because it's not physical/sexual abuse of the children.

The current waiting list for the service is 3 months. They won't put us on until we both register. I already registered, and I've written him a letter to let him know that he might consider registering so that if supervised visitation is the result of the orders he won't be stuck at square one. I said he can always take his name off if supervision isn't ordered. If it does get ordered, I could probably find a few people to cover in the 3 months so the children can see him. He has rang my dad quite a few times to rant, my dad just kind of goes "hmmmm", so I think my husband is OK with my dad.

And i know what you mean about there being no certainty when this will be ok. So I think that my priority has to be in building up my children so they can deal with this the best they can. I would be interested what they would say to a counsellor if I wasn't there…

Thankyou for the suggestion of Sole Parental Responsibility. What does that exactly mean? If it cuts down necessary contact between me and dh, then that would be good.
Sole Parental Responsibility means that you are able to make the major decisions on your own eg schooling, medical treatment, religious upbringing etc.. so in cases such as yours, I think it's a good idea.

This is purely made on the impression that in your situation, there appears to be a high level of conflict and there has been substantiated Family Violence so it would likely be in the best interests of the children if you're the one to make the long term decisions at this very point in time.
Do you and the father have a history of recreational drug?

I agree with other posts although I don't believe you need to seek sole parent responsibility given that you will have 90%+ care of the children and as a result you are able to make most major decisions by defualt. Sole parental responsibility excludes him for things such as enquiring about his children at school etc… and can cause more trouble than it is worth.

You should not have any problems getting what you want. Just need stay focused and your posts suggest you have done very well to date.

Perhaps consider working with his parents for supervised care instead of the care centre.

Good luck
Fairgo said
I agree with other posts although I don't believe you need to seek sole parent responsibility given that you will have 90%+ care of the children and as a result you are able to make most major decisions by defualt. Sole parental responsibility excludes him for things such as enquiring about his children at school etc… and can cause more trouble than it is worth.


I don't think that's necessarily true. I have Sole PR myself and in my orders, it states that my ex can go to parent/teacher interviews, get school reports and photos etc. We didn't cover this in our mediation however my lawyer added it in. It wasn't a big deal to me, nor did I really question it or ask him not to include it because it was an easy thing to facilitate. Then I remembered reading a Rice v Asplund case where some orders were overturned because one of the kids were struggling at school and the Father was not informed of progress or something like that. It proved a material change of circumstance. Don't hold me to it but I remember something along those lines. So I think a few Lawyers are including it in orders now to be on the safe side.  
As Fairgo pointed out, you have sole parental responsibility by default for both long term welfare and day to day decisions, but it does not stop the father being involved in the children's lives, eg. having contact, getting school reports etc. but only if they are not as risk as their care & welfare is paramount.

Sole responsibility just means things like being able to do things like getting braces on teeth, attend speech therapy, even chose what school, religion and what church the children attend. There is nothing that stops consultation with the other parent, but consultation does not mean there has to be agreement. You just get the final say at the end of the day.

Day to day responsibility means being able to decide what the kids wear or have to eat for lunch, right up to taking them to the doctor (of your choice) when sick. Both types of responsibilities are totally different from contact and residency issues, i.e. how often the other parent can see the kids, who they live with etc.

Hope this clarifies.
Plus1 - sounds like you had a reasonable lawyer as if you had shared parental responsibility, those other orders would not be needed.
1 guest and 0 members have just viewed this.

Recent Tweets