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How to Actually Separate

  • 15-02-2022 4:15pm
    Registered Users Posts: 14,985 ✭✭✭✭

    Hi Folks,

    I've been with my partner for 17 years and we have an almost 5 year old. For the last few years (since 2018) things have started going downhill. We had quite a lot of stress with a neighbour and had to take them to court (we won). This however started my partner down a path of treating me with little respect. Despite being a doting Dad & doing more than my share of the work involved, early on she told me she would take our daughter back to her own country. I didn't think this was a real threat and that it was said to hurt more so than anything. Hurt it did indeed. I was told this on two separate occasions.

    I've had shaving cream shoved into my face, headphones knocked off of my head. I've been sleeping on the sofa for the last 6.5 years. With the first 12 months she told me she had insomnia and needed to sleep by herself. After that she was pregnant and needed a good nights sleep, fair enough. We have a small 2 bed house so there isn't a 3rd room I can take. She's followed me out of the house after an arguement (I was going for a walk) despite the fact that our little one was sleeping upstairs. I had to turn back as I didn't know how far she would carry on this charade. She works part time and works the majority of the weekends in the month. So I generally look after our daughter most weekends, some times in the morning if my partner has a morning shift and in the evenings when she is at work.

    I pay for just about everything. Mortgage, all the utilities, subscriptions, a car loan, about 90% of the food bills. She hasn't contributed to birthday or Christmas presents for our daughter. It frequently leaves me with no money at the end of the month. Her mantra was always that I'd pay the bills and she'd do the saving (foolish I know). A few years back we sold an apartment in her country that we had bought several years previously. We both contributed to it but it was never in my name (too complicated), however there would be a money trail going from my account to hers if we were to go back far enough.

    Her dream has been to buy a new home for us as she hates where we are currently and hates most of our neighbours. I don't want to move as we were unbelievably lucky and bought our house over 10 years ago for a pittance. As it stands we've built up significant equity in the house and were we to go our separate ways we would both, in theory, have enough for a deposit elsewhere. We're unmarried and she's unwilling to add me to the guardianship of our daughter so really, I feel it would be terribly foolish to buy a new more expensive place.

    I've put our daughter to bed every night since she was born. I cook the majority of her meals, I bring her to playschool in the morning. I was the one to look into getting a playschool place for her, it was me who organised a school place for her. There are many many details I could go into about why I feel we should separate but it's hard to make that concise.

    I've spoken to my partner 3 times now that we would be best to separate and co-parent our daughter but she's unwilling to do so as she really wants a new home. Recently she put it to me that she's unwilling to work full time so would be ineligible for a mortgage. That pretty much throws a spanner in the works. What happens in a situation like that? We have healthy equity in the house, healthy savings in her account..... there's no reason we both wouldn't be able to go our separate ways and co-parent.

    I'm a bit lost.


  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    OK, apologies for the length.

    First, I'd write everything down. Now. Look back over old emails, texts, WhatsApp messages, etc to jog your memory. Look at Google Photos (or whatever you use) to jog your memory of where you were (I keep the location on my Google Photos/Maps so I've a good record of where I was and when). Record everything, and hopefully she has put some of the threats in writing. Have clarity on how things have evolved. Writing things down does instil that clarity.

    Second, think about what you want. Think about how flexible your boss can be about your hours (for childcare), and think about the extent to which family members or childminders can help you. You need to have your ducks in a row. Have an alternative life planned.

    Third, One Parent, Treoir, Men's Aid and FLAC can be quite helpful in informing you of your rights. With FLAC, they have a special family law clinic with family law solicitors. You have to book it and you could be waiting a month or so. I essentially got two advice sessions, one from the general solicitor in FLAC, with whom I booked the meeting, and the second with the specialist family law solicitor. They had alternative strategies, so that was food for thought. Get on the FLAC thing without delay:

    Fourth, incredibly there are no support groups in Ireland for people separating/divorcing, although obviously there are many people who have gone through it. Covid has not been of much help either in facilitating this. Unfortunately, that lack of coordination and experience being shared means much of this can be a very lonely journey. You need to draw on support, something which is generally harder for men to do. If you don't feel comfortable telling people close to you, you've a number of other options. First, and most easily, in your work scheme you will probably have some sort of EAP/Employee Assistance Programme (most of us aren't aware of this). Find out what company offers your EAP, and use it. I never used it until this year, even though I've had a right to it for many years. At 1am the other night I was in a bad way and I spoke with somebody on the line for a full hour. It was good to know I wasn't alone. Second, if you have private health insurance you should be entitled to a number of discounted etc counselling sessions. I was able to use my private health insurance and then continue on using my EAP with the exact same counsellor, which was very helpful (Indeed the phone number for my EAP and my private health insurance's EAP was the exact same). If you have neither, Fettle had a good offer in January of 9 sessions at €43 per session ( Just make sure you choose the counsellor wisely as some are very qualified and others need to get their counselling hours up ("pre-accredited").

    Fifth, while I suspect from your description of walking away that you might be doing yourself more harm by your approach to discussion (i.e. avoidance, which is generally passive aggressive), in fairness to you, you shouldn't be sleeping on the sofa for 5 nights, never mind 6.5 years. Why are you letting yourself be treated like that? These years aren't coming back. Ever. You deserve to be happy. I, too, was threatened that my children would be taken from me and that she would get full custody. It is extremely stressful, and much of the stress revolves around our societal prejudices which blame guys no matter what - "no smoke without fire" - and you really feel all the odds are stacked against you. Many, although not all, wives will exploit that prejudice to play the "poor me" victim card. That you don't feel you can talk about it greatly exacerbates that stress.

    Sixth, you need to talk to Treoir without delay about your options regarding guardianship. Her unwillingness to put your name down as a guardian of your daughter should have all your alarm bells going off at once: Not to put the cat among the pigeons but are you certain the child is yours? could put your mind at ease with a discreet dna test for c. €95; going through Irish-based dna companies complicates things, as well as raises costs (although the ancestry dna kit is not admissable in court, it will put your mind at ease).

    Seventh, if at all possible try and make the marriage work although from what you've said she's got the walls up pretty high. But both of you need to want to make it work. Once the walls come up on one side, it's very hard to bring them down. And, to be frank, a calculation is often made that financially they will be much better off if they go to court in a custody battle so they have zero interest in keeping the marriage going. And that is what you might be up against here, despite the best will in the world. At all costs, do not lose equal parenting time with your child. The money comes and goes (it will mostly be going in the next few years!). That time with your child will not come back (although it will wax and wane throughout the years when you're the "cool" parent and the "not cool" parent, etc) and when you look back on your life, what will be most important for you? In short, be clear on your values and live them and by them. Another thing, put it in writing that you do not agree to your wife refusing to work fulltime. This, along with requests for shorter working weeks, is a common ploy to lower their income, show more interest in raising the child and in short to have a stronger hand in court. I was specifically warned about this by a family lawyer. Be wise to what's going on. But you definitely need legal advice.

    Last, do not agree to your wife bringing your child to her home country, especially if it is Poland, or you could end up like this poor, poor Irish father, whose incredible case of having his children kidnapped by his ex-wife is all but ignored by our media and politicians:

  • Registered Users Posts: 14,985 ✭✭✭✭Kintarō Hattori

    Thanks anamcheasta,

    I've kept a log of incidents and in some cases have video or photo records of what went on, so it helps verify what I might be saying.

    What I would love is to be the primary carer of my daughter with 50/50 responsibility between my partner and I. She is our daughters mother and she needs her Mam in her life. Ideally we'd split the house and savings and buy separate places but I have no idea if that's realistic or if it is likely to be Mam and daughter staying in the house while the only place I'd be able to afford would be a place down the country somewhere.

    I'm lucky in that I have been working remotely for two years and that's not going to change. My job is reasonably flexible. Family members would be able to help out but if we separate I wouldn't be able to afford to buy where they live. As it stands my family are 40+ km from where we live, so they have no day to day impact on anything. My daughter and I go down to see them 3 Sunday's in a month.

    We had an incident last year where she became enraged about something, pulled the cutlery drawer from the cabinet, threw it into the air and then onto the ground. She then picked up a kitchen knife and waved it at me, stating she didn't know what was going to happen before turning it towards her wrists and making a similar statement. I went to the Guards, reported what happened and didn't know that this would trigger Tusla involvement. We've been through the process. She did agree in the interview with Tusla that she did this so along with some other incidents I feel I should be able to make a case as to why I'd like to be the primary carer. I don't know if that's just wishful thinking though.

    I should really look into Men's Aid at least, that's been recommended to be previously. It's just trying to find the time to do that, keep up with work and look after my daughter as well. Currently my partner is in work so I'll collect my daughter from playschool, bring her to the supermarket, come home, cook dinner and then my partner will be back around 2pm.

    I'll have a look at Treoir as I agree, the unwillingness to move on guardianship is a massive red flag. I am indeed 100% certain that she's mine, there's absolutely no doubt of that.

    I do engage in discussion with her and will talk to her about disagreements but she is absolutely unreasonable sometimes in what she wants and she will go on and on and on. If I try to end the discussion it just doesn't happen and once or twice when it's been bad I've gone for a walk. I don't shy away from needing to talk but quite often it's not a discussion, it's dictation.

    With regards to the sofa, I've highlighted how unfair it is but she is so selfish she doesn't see it and refuses to sleep on the sofa. If she has a bad nights sleep both my daughter and I will suffer for it, so I suck it up to keep the peace.

    Make the marriage work- just to state again that we're not married but I hear you, make the relationship work. I'm an incredibly easy going person and I'll give a lot of leeway to people. However there comes a point in time where you realise it's just never going to work as the other party is selfish, oblivious to anything you may need/want and why should you suffer for that.

    A case in point. As mentioned, I pay all the bills and generally have nothing left for anything out of the ordinary. Maybe two years or so ago I needed new glasses as my current ones were scratched to hell from when our daughter was smaller. I said to my partner that I didn't have any money to get new ones and asked her would she give me some money. She laughed.

    I don't think it's going to be healthy for my daughter to grow up and see this sort of relationship. It won't be healthy for her to see how my partner treats me. She may think it's acceptable to treat other people/men in the same way.

    There's also a parenting clash. My partner can be quite domineering when it comes to parenting and our daughter is quite emotionally sensitive. We did an Assessment of Needs with her and the psychologist highlighted how we need to approach dealing with her in some situations. You have to be patient and show compassion/empathy as she has difficulty transitioning from one thing to another. She doesn't get this with her mother. I deally I'd like to give her an enviornment for at least 50% of her time where she doesn't feel under pressure.

    My partner has worked part time for all but one year that we've been together. For that one year in which she worked full time, she hated it and would regulary sit on the sofa on a Sunday, crying at the thought of having to go back to work on the Monday. She's never going to agree to work full time. That presents a difficulty for me as if we separate she wouldn't be eligible for a mortgage.

    I 100% agree on the heading home thing. Yes she's from Poland and am aware of that heartbreaking case with the Dad and his children.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    One thing to put you mind at rest; you are already your daughter's joint guardian, even though unmarried.

    A father who lives (cohabits) with the child’s mother for at least 12 consecutive months including not less than 3 months after the child’s birth, will automatically be the guardian of his child. The three months period does not have to take place directly after the birth of the child. It can be fulfilled any time before the child turns 18 provided that it is part of the 12 consecutive months during which the parents have lived together. The cohabitation period can only be calculated going forward from the commencement date of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015. This means that guardianship will only be acquired automatically where parents live together for at least 12 months after the 18th of January 2016.If you lived with the mother while she was pregnant, you are automatically a guardian of your child, even if unmarried.

    Regarding the threat of abduction - does your daughter already have a passport? Make sure you know where it is. More information here on what you can do if there is a threat of abduction.