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Old 03-01-2011, 10:30   #1
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Dealing with Non-Custodial Parents

Just wondered if there are any folks out there who have had to deal with a blended family situation while cruising. My 11-year-old son goes to see his father every other weekend and several weeks during the summer. I have sole custody, so am entitled to make all decisions regarding my son's education and living arrangements. However, I've always included his father in these decisions out of respect. My current husband and I have been talking about and planning the transition to live aboard our 44 foot Gulfstar and begin cruising. My son has a very good relationship with my husband and loves to sail. He is extremely ready and excited to see the world on a boat. We have a business and aging parents at home so will be forced to travel back every few months to touch base and my son would have these opportunities to see his father. He would not be seeing him less, but the visits would just be longer each time instead of every other weekend. But, needless to say my ex-husband is less than thrilled with this whole thing. Not only me moving his son onto a boat and home schooling him, but sailing on the ocean no less! My son's father and family have been telling him the boat will sink and that sharks will eat him.

It is not my intention to take my son away from his father and my husband and I have already communicated to my son that we wouldn't leave without him, even if it means we have to wait. But my son doesn't want to wait, we are all ready to go now and the visitation situation seems to be one of the major hurdles. I could do whatever I want and just deal with his dad along the way, but I'm quite positive some serious custody and legal steps would be taken. But not only that, I feel my son could ultimately suffer because of his father's anger toward me.

We have 3 other children, two boys who are 19 & 20 and a 3-year-old little girl. Life has been incredibly challenging and stressful for us and none of us seem to be cut out for the day-to-day get up go to work and school year after year scene. We are each just fading into life and monotony. During warm weather we spend as much time as possible on our boat on the lake and our family is drawn together in such a special way. Itís as if we start breathing again and really living. I understand we can try to do as much as possible while on dry land to foster this kind of feeling, but deep down we know there is a whole world out there to see. I'm sad we can't see it now while the children are still young and especially sad that it's because of my ex-husband. I guess we all have to live with our past, but this is a tough one.

I know there are so many different types of cruising families out there and would love to hear about how others have overcome similar obstacles to living their dream.

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Old 03-01-2011, 10:49   #2
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Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, sailingrn.

Life can be a challenge, and I wish you well in dealing with yours.
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:56   #3
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There are legalities involved in taking children out of the country which you should explore with your ex-husband.
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Old 03-01-2011, 11:08   #4
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Having gone through a similar situation with child custody in California, my guess is that it will come down to going by what a court mediator believes is best for the child and then a judge reviewing and signing off on a modified child custody agreement or keeping the same custody agreement. Your state might be different.

If your state is more or less the same, you will have influence with the court appointed mediator as will your son's father, but ultimately it will be the court that makes this decision. My best guess is the court will rule that nobody has the right to take their son away from their father because they want to go cruising. Although there may be some sort of agreement for example, where your son spends 6 months with one parent and 6 with the other in order to accommodate one parents desire to go cruising. But, what the court cares about is what it believes is best for the child. The parents desires and the child's desires are pretty irrelevant from the courts perspective. What is best for the child is pretty much the bottom line as the court sees it.

One huge question would be you ability to keep up with your son's learning while out on a boat. The other big question would be the disruptions and major changes in his life going in and out of land based schools.
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Old 03-01-2011, 11:39   #5
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Though you may consider yourself to have "sole custody", you still have a strong moral imperative to supporting your son's relationship with his father - for the benefit of your son. That is a sine quo non - and in my experience, courts will place that goal extremely high. Much higher than your desire to "live the life". You gave up that right when you had children.

What you should be considering, is to leave your son with his father while you set sail. A court cannot stop you doing that - it's your consititutional right. Your son could see you for long summer vacations, and each time you travel back to visit family. I am quite serious about this - and if you won't consider it, perhaps that says something about what you are trying to do.

Sorry to be so blunt, but at least count yourself lucky that you have a son and family you love, and that you can go sailing! Many people are not so lucky!

And lastly, if this does go to court, plan on spending some very large sums of money. Lawyer dollars are even bigger than boat bucks.
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Old 03-01-2011, 11:54   #6
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Thank you for your comments everyone. I completely understand my moral obligation to my son. Not willing to leave without him or spend extended periods of time without him. I don't feel this would be healthy for anyone. That's why we have decided that if it comes to long legal battles and damage to my son't emotional wellbeing then we will just have to wait to do extended cruising.

I understand about making sacrifices for my children. Everyday is a sacrifice for our children and we will continue to make sacrifices. This is why we haven't just aken off. We aren't completely selfish about our lives. We deeply and truly want what is best for our family.

Just wanted to see if anyone had similar experiences.
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Old 03-01-2011, 11:54   #7
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I'd like to offer my perspective as a non-custodial father. My children are THE most important part of my life and I spend as much time with my two kids (age 12 and 13) as they can stand. They too have a pretty good guy for a step father but I don't believe he can offer the same parenting that I can.
I took my daughter to the movies and she spent a goodly amount of time with her head on my shoulders and walking arm in arm while window shopping. A step father will not be able to provide that sort of love.

I agree that your son would probably benefit from a cruising lifestyle, but there is an equal chance that losing regular contact with his father could have a negative effect.

The kid's welfare takes priority here, but I think the father's feelings should be entered into the equation too. I would be devastated if my ex were to just up and take my kids out of my life for months at a time year after year. I'm lucky she's kinder than that.

I think when a boy turns 14 or 15 he is better able to thrive during long separations from a parent. JMHO
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Old 03-01-2011, 11:59   #8
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The elephant in the room is why sailingrn has SOLE CUSTODY. If the court held the father unfit to share custody, then living the son at home with the father would be highly improper.

On the other hand, if the father revisits the court and wants, asks, for custody claiming the extended sea cruise will be harmful or dnagerous to the son...The only question is which way the court will roll the dice, and that IS a crapshoot, regardless of the original or current circumstances of both parents.

rn, this one is entirely on you. You're the only one with all the background information so only you can say what's to be. "Fair" has nothing to do with it, life is unfair. Many professionals would say that you have to do what is best for you and your new marriage, and your child has to be secondary to that--not ahead of it.

Will he miss his dad? Hoipefully yes and that would be a good thing. Would cruising be a positive experience? Perhaps, that depends on how he feels about it. But it is 100% up to you (until and unless the courts get involved) to decide, not which would be better or best or fair, but what would be worse for your son, yourself, and your husband? The son staying with the (unfit?) dad? The son cruising with all of you? Or all of you staying home for another eight years and perhaps being miserable. Which certainly would rub off and perhaps lead tobigger issues if your son decided "Mom and stepdad have been misearble for eight years now because they stayed home for me."

The right answer is to speak to your son, discusss the options if he's mature enough to do so, and follow your heart. And if your ex gets the courts involved...you deal with that later. There are plenty of kids who've gone on extensive cruising and managed to grow up as sane and well as the rest of 'em.
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Old 03-01-2011, 12:26   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by afmstm View Post

What you should be considering, is to leave your son with his father while you set sail. A court cannot stop you doing that - it's your consititutional right. Your son could see you for long summer vacations, and each time you travel back to visit family. I am quite serious about this - and if you won't consider it, perhaps that says something about what you are trying to do.

Sorry to be so blunt, but at least count yourself lucky that you have a son and family you love, and that you can go sailing! Many people are not so lucky!

And lastly, if this does go to court, plan on spending some very large sums of money. Lawyer dollars are even bigger than boat bucks.
Yeah, that's a little blunt. Maybe even judgemental. You do have a right to leave your son. But exercising it might seem to say that sailing off is more important than he is.

I have been through a pretty good deal of gut wrench over custody issues. Horrible stuff.

And what I went thru with my second wife to maintain the sole custody that she already had was worse than what I went thru for my own kids. So from my own experience, I'd say wait.

My 2 cents. You've offered to wait for your son. He says he doesn't want to wait. I try to spell out that the alternative to waiting is much tougher and try to help him see that you must choose to wait. Not fun.

The idea of the boat sinking and sharks are pretty ugly toxins, but also things you should expect from your opposition. Waiting and downplaying it all might be a good toxin neutralizer I would think. Get some subscriptions to cruising magazines to keep the goal in mind for your son.
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Old 03-01-2011, 12:28   #10
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Good luck. Having been in a simular situation, i'll have to say unless you can get the EX onboard it is unlikely the courts will let you follow your plans. My wife's EX (She had full custody, as well as an order suspending his parenting rights), yet He was still able to get a court order banning us from not only leaving the country or getting the son a passport, but also from us relocating or changing schools. Effectively trapping us in the same house until the kid became 18. The burden is on the custodial parent to comply with the other parents wishes, unfortunate but true.
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Old 03-01-2011, 12:32   #11
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My daughter, also sole custody, is going thru a similar situation except she's trying to move her 4 kids, similar ages to yours, from Chicago to the east coast for an excellent job opportunity (6 figure raise, etc.). Her ex husband has the same visitation as yours, which he exercises faithfully. She's offered to pay his travel to NYC, put him up in rental apt so he could maintain the same degree of visitation. You would think that it would be a slam dunk except he's objecting to having to travel every other weekend. Consequently, she has to go thru a "removal process" in the courts. And as someone else said, lawyer $$ cost way more than boat $$. The courts, in this PC age, have to consider the children's welfare primarily and the father's visitation rights/schedule are a key component of this. Absent approval from your ex husband, I doubt your proposal would fly in the courts.

I guess what I'm trying to say, Sailingrn, is that your ex can stop your plans cold, especially if you go to court. My advice is to absolutely get your ex to approve, do anything he wants you to do to secure his approval. It may even cost you $$ to "buy" his agreement.
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Old 03-01-2011, 13:00   #12
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The idea of the boat sinking and sharks are pretty ugly toxins,

Bunch of crap,,, so is getting into a car accident or hurt by a drunk driver or crashing in an airplane,,, just need to present a good argument that the boat is safe and you can cruise safely

Much higher than your desire to "live the life". You gave up that right when you had children.
also a bunch of crap
by what you are saying i guess she gave up her right to have a life and explore different opportunities

do a google search and find other kids and familys that have sailed around the world or part of it,
you might have to do a comprise with this, prove that home schooling can work and how much other knowledge can be gained by sailing,,,it can open other doors,,, many families have there kids with them in the "http://www.peacecorps.gov/" and travel with them,,,

while you are only one parent out of two somehow you can both come to an agreement for the kids benefit,

Expedition Sail

they have had there kids with them many times in higher latitudes,,, most would say that is unsafe but they MADE it safe

people die everyday, is living on land safer than on the ocean,,,,look at the crime rate, accident rate in cars,,, the ocean has it dangers like land does but can be made to be safer

good luck and keep us informed
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Old 03-01-2011, 13:24   #13
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Unfit fathers, how can someone make that assumption, car accidents, crime rates and the fact that others cruise with children aside, we too went through the process for a very long time and much of the feedback you have received is pretty good. You probably have a court ordered visitation schedule and that can only be changed by the courts or mutual agreement, and even then approved by the courts. We brought the same issue before the court and lost big time. They did not want to hear about it and it almost made the entire situation worse for us. Your ONLY recourse is a mutual agreement and that is usually not going to happen with a caring concerned father, regardless of how much the child might benefit. We had to resign ourselves to shorter cruises with my son, and occasional longer cruises without him, leaving him with his mother, forgoing some of the time we would spend with him, and making up for it by flying him into some of our cruising locations for what would normally be vacation time. We would then return to local waters for more short cruising venues. It worked and as he got into his teen years and made his intentions known, the schedule slowly changed until he was 18. It was not perfect, but it worked and he is now 25 and came through it all unscathed and just Christmas eve, remarked how he will remember those times for the rest of his life.. Chuck
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Old 03-01-2011, 13:36   #14
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I unfortunately am not well versed in diplomacy but I would sit down and talk with your Ex husbands family and ask why they keep lieing to him about your boat sinking and your son being eaten by sharks.
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Old 03-01-2011, 13:59   #15
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The elephant in the room is why sailingrn has SOLE CUSTODY. If the court held the father unfit to share custody, then living the son at home with the father would be highly improper.

On the other hand, if the father revisits the court and wants, asks, for custody claiming the extended sea cruise will be harmful or dnagerous to the son...The only question is which way the court will roll the dice, and that IS a crapshoot, regardless of the original or current circumstances of both parents.

rn, this one is entirely on you. You're the only one with all the background information so only you can say what's to be. "Fair" has nothing to do with it, life is unfair. Many professionals would say that you have to do what is best for you and your new marriage, and your child has to be secondary to that--not ahead of it.

Will he miss his dad? Hoipefully yes and that would be a good thing. Would cruising be a positive experience? Perhaps, that depends on how he feels about it. But it is 100% up to you (until and unless the courts get involved) to decide, not which would be better or best or fair, but what would be worse for your son, yourself, and your husband? The son staying with the (unfit?) dad? The son cruising with all of you? Or all of you staying home for another eight years and perhaps being miserable. Which certainly would rub off and perhaps lead tobigger issues if your son decided "Mom and stepdad have been misearble for eight years now because they stayed home for me."

The right answer is to speak to your son, discusss the options if he's mature enough to do so, and follow your heart. And if your ex gets the courts involved...you deal with that later. There are plenty of kids who've gone on extensive cruising and managed to grow up as sane and well as the rest of 'em.
I appreciate your comments hellosailor. Yes, there is a reason I have sole custody, but don't want to just sound like the nasty ex-wife trying to selfishly get my way. I knew when I posted that many would interpret my thread as such.

My ex-husband and his family spend a LOT of time putting me, my husband and the rest of our children down in front of my son regarding our love for sailing and just about everything else about us. But, it is a rule in our house that we don't disrespect the biological parents by ever talking down about them in front of the kids. Nor do we allow the kids to talk bad about their biological family. We also encourage our kids to always tell the truth, no matter what.

It's a tough situation, but I'm one who believes all things work together for good. So take it one day at a time. One never knows how the future will unfold. So far we are very blessed and I know blessings will continue, it's just a matter of how I look at it....
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