Dealing with passive-aggressive ex 'losing' kids stuff on visits.
March 12, 2013 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Title says it. Passive-aggressive ex ' accidentally loses' my sons stuff on every.single.visit. Meaning I have to replace one or more of the following: toque, mitts, socks, hoodie, pullups, footwear, etc. every week and I just can't afford it. I can't send my toddler naked. Is there anything I can do about this lame game?
posted by tenaciousmoon to Human Relations (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Seems like they should replace the crap they lost. Is there a reason that is not a workable arrangement?
posted by aubilenon at 2:36 PM on March 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

On preview, I was about to say the same thing. Why are you replacing things he lost? Have you had the conversation (you lost it, you replace it)?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:37 PM on March 12, 2013

First, just call them on it. Tell him/her that this is a pattern, that this is unacceptable, and that next time they stuff they're going to have to pay for it themselves. Get on their case every. Single. Time. Until the money is paid.

Make a list of the stuff they're losing (including stuff already lost). Keep receipts for replacement stuff (hopefully you still have receipts for some the stuff you've already had to replace). Document. It's probably not worth the effort to go the legal route, but if you can show them that "You've cost me over a hundred bucks in replacement clothes since blah blah date, here's proof," they can't turn around and accuse you of overreacting or being unreasonable.

Passive-aggressive people do this stuff because a) they don't like direct conflict and b) they feel like it's a "safe" way of getting back at you. However, if doing this suddenly starts causing them grief (in the form of direct confrontation from you and demands for money), then it's no longer a fun, rewarding behavior for them.

Don't play the game.
posted by Broseph at 2:39 PM on March 12, 2013 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Wow, that's tough. Shop in dollar stores and Value Village for things you'll be sending with him. Socks, tshirts, mitts, everything you can get there. Who cares if they are good quality or the most stylish. Send only the barest mininum with him. ( I'm guessing you're asking because talking to him has not worked.)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 2:41 PM on March 12, 2013 [14 favorites]

IANAL, I do not have shared custody, but...

I know at least two people who've had this problem and eventually had the guidelines for treatment of the child's possessions and clothing established in their custody arrangement--check yours to see if there's any specifics about this. One of those people got so fed up with her ex's failure to send things back that she contacted her lawyer and filed a complaint with the court system, and the father had to appear in court and was warned that if it continued, he could be held in contempt. (I believe that's how that played out. There were definitely judicial warnings involved.)

If this isn't spelled out and it's a continuing problem, it may be worth contacting your lawyer or petitioning to have the custody agreement revisited, with specific attention being paid to the child's belongings, because this is passive aggressive bullshit.
posted by MeghanC at 2:49 PM on March 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

Is it possible to pack a bag that will have one set of the kid's stuff and let him leave it at dad's?
posted by kinetic at 2:54 PM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: If he was a reasonable person and could discuss things maturely(without raging) and follow though on his promises (to replace these things), he probably wouldn't be an ex. :P
I more than suspect he's getting off on upsetting me and having my time and attention thrown his way to pursue him to replace lost things.
He doesn't follow the current custody agreement, we went back countless times to mediation and he appeases and placates and charms his way though it, then does whatever he pleases once were done with court. So I doubt putting this in an agreement would have any effect other than to waste more of my time,money and energy.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 2:57 PM on March 12, 2013

Agree- this must be nipped in the bud now, while the child is too young to realize he/she's being made a pawn in the custody "game." If your ex is pulling this crap now, it will only get worse and your child will pay the price, far more than the cost of these items.

Keep "go to daddy's" clothes/stuff (from thrift stores and such) in one place, and that's what you send when it's visit time. After all, this is an age where things only fit for a short time anyway so it's good strategy regardless to not spend lots of $$ on them.

Take photos of your child before you send him over. Lay out all the clothes etc. on the floor and snap a picture so it's clear that today, Bobby had on a total of 6 items, one backpack, one stuffed animal, one book, etc. and it's all laid out. OVERDO this to make your point.

Editing to add- seriously; a father who sees nothing wrong with using kid issues to get his digs in cannot be trusted. Soon he will want to raise the stakes when the "losing stuff" game won't be enough to satisfy his need to get back at you. Is there anything you can use to arm yourself in this conflict? He wins every time in court??

Good luck. This shit gets old REALLY fast so don't let it wear you down.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:58 PM on March 12, 2013

Best answer: He is playing you for the reaction. Don't give it to him. Just get a 2nd set of clothes for his house. He loses them, he figures out what to do about having one sock. If he loses something and complains to you, just shrug your shoulders. He needs to be trained that he cannot get your goat even if he is. The issue is not losing clothes. When he realizes that won't get you upset, he will find something else. Just let the next item brush off you.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:03 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Start billing him for it. Send him invoices. Take him to court once they've piled up enough to be worthwhile.
posted by zug at 3:09 PM on March 12, 2013

Send your child to his father in flip-flops, shorts, underwear and a t-shirt that you get at goodwill. Warn him one week in advance that you will be doing so, so that he has time to prepare. Be nice and even give the proper clothing/shoe/underwear sizes. When you drop your child off/pick your child up, keep their jacket.

Notify your lawyer that you are doing this, because your constant need to replace a full outfit + jacket each time is costing you a significant amount of money, and that you will accept one of two solutions: either the arrangement you're proposing, wherein he becomes responsible for all clothes while your child is in his care, or wherein he pays you a fixed, court-mandated amount monthly to cover the cost of the "lost" clothes.

Incidentally, he might be doing this to be annoying, but he also might be doing this to end up with a set of clothes for his child that he didn't need to pay for. Either way, circle up with your lawyer, and proceed accordingly.
posted by davejay at 3:10 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Send your child to his father in flip-flops, shorts, underwear and a t-shirt that you get at goodwill. Warn him one week in advance that you will be doing so, so that he has time to prepare. Be nice and even give the proper clothing/shoe/underwear sizes. When you drop your child off/pick your child up, keep their jacket.

This is bringing the child into the fight and I think that's the last thing they should do.

Send the ex invoices, take them to court, complain during mediation, but don't make the kid part of the battle.

You aren't going to change your ex's behavior unless there are consequences for his behavior. Start making some consequences. Now.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:13 PM on March 12, 2013 [12 favorites]

You might want to have a third person at the pick up/drop off each exchange. THAT person can be the bad guy that unpacks the backpack and says "hey, you are missing X" to the ex.
posted by saucysault at 3:16 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, that sounds horrible. I am so sorry for you.

I have two ideas: send only worthless clothes and no discussions.

I second what ThatCanadianGirl wrote - is it possible to solve and make it not a problem for you by not ever ever sending anything (except toddler itself) that is important to you with your x? Toddler goes to partner's with only clothing on his body (not one backpack / not one extra thing / not one extra diaper or wipe). Every article of clothing on toddlers body is something you feel absolutely no emotional attachment to and you don't even expect to see again. Keep all 'nice' clothing and accessories at your house. You could even be more extreme: does toddler go to daddies in a car? Toddler doesn't need shoes/mittens/hat for a car ride? If daddy wants to take toddler somewhere that needs shoes/mittens/hat - he buys them or organizes them himself or has an indoor activity. Perhaps you can go to goodwill / other used clothing stores and explain your problem. Perhaps friends / family can help you get a whole bag of clothes to send toddler with. Before each visit, you take off 'your' clothes put a worthless outfit on your toddler and say goodbye to toddler and worthless outfit (you have a whole trashbag full of old clothes - so they mean nothing).
And, I wouldn't even begin a discussion. Partner complains - no jacket / no shoes / no hat. Just say - sorry, gotta run - you know how things get when we discuss. It is probably better if you send anything you want to discuss to my lawyer. Enjoy your visit. See you at next exchange.
posted by jazh at 3:17 PM on March 12, 2013

After reading your response, OP, maybe it is worth going the legal route after all. Gonna have to agree with other posters who have suggested it.

He doesn't follow the current custody agreement

Are you saying he doesn't follow the mandated visiting times etc? If so you have other, bigger issues than just the missing clothes.

Document, document, document every time he fails to follow the terms of your agreement. Lawyer up if you have to.
posted by Broseph at 3:19 PM on March 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I have an ex who no amount of writing things out, mediating, telling him he had to pay me or any other thing made it so he did the right thing around just about anything and including not providing the bare minimum to his kids. In the end unless you have endless amounts of time, energy and money to fight these battles you might just want to not send excessive amounts of things and also buy doubles of somethings- I had to do this, dude wouldn't even buy socks, underwear, pjs and tooth brushes for his kids so I just did it because to me it was about quality of life for my kids. And, kids do grow up and take more responsibility, mine did and they know if they forget somethings at Dad's they might not see it for awhile and they also know to bring things that they need and bring them home. It really sucks and is no fun for anyone involved but you firming up your boundaries and not engaging will help you in the long run and unfortunately your child will come to know who their dad is without you ever having to say a word (and I say this from experience.)

It's really hard to enforce divorce agreements. You can try to write out every little thing, but there are no divorce police who go and enforce agreements.
posted by momochan at 3:21 PM on March 12, 2013 [13 favorites]

Create a checklist of every item that you send with your child and check it off in front of your ex when you do the custody exchange. This could be in the context of "just making sure isn't accidentally leaving his stuff."
posted by kamikazegopher at 3:23 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Document every "lost" item and then start considering the possibility that you should/could fight for full custody?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:25 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Document the atrocities. Everything he misses or is lost should be documented.

You might talk to the cops. Depending on how they are with this sort of thing, they might go over there and retrieve the things. I've had some success with this, but it is a time consuming pain in the ass. But, you get police reports and those are nice documentation to have.

At some point, you talk should talk to your lawyer. The first step will be a mean letter. Then a court action.

In the meantime, buy two of everything. Yes, it sucks, but my ex pulled this shit too, and there just isn't a better way.

Whatever you do - keep your chin up and always be the better human. Good luck.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:09 PM on March 12, 2013

I know someone who uses their toddler's day care provider as the intermediary on custody hand-offs. One parent drops the kid off at day care, the other picks up, then returns. It might take some of the fun out of it for your ex if it is the daycare provider saying "hey, you dropped off your child without a hat/socks/etc., please be sure your child is properly dressed when you drop him or her off." Then it's not your goat he's getting, and there is an ostensibly neutral party to observe the patterns.
posted by ambrosia at 4:22 PM on March 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

Gotta agree with the folks saying call your lawyer. Meanwhile, when Ex comes to pick up your kid, send Kid with absolutely NOTHING but the clothes he's standing in --- no backpack with clean spare clothes, no toys or books or ANYTHING else..... doesn't matter if Ex will have Kid for six hours or six days: not one single item other than the outfit your son is actually wearing at pickup-time. And, yeah, document the clothes he's picked up wearing.
posted by easily confused at 4:22 PM on March 12, 2013

He doesn't follow the current custody agreement, we went back countless times to mediation and he appeases and placates and charms his way though it, then does whatever he pleases once were done with court.

He can be held in contempt and fined or even jailed. It sucks and requires a capital outlay to a lawyer, but if you don't hammer him and continue to hammer him now, you will be dealing with this for another 16 years. You've seen that it isn't this thing that needs to be solved. Solve the real problem, not the socks.
posted by Etrigan at 4:52 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just wanted to add this since I've been there with an ex who also ignored the divorce agreement (and sure, legally he may be in violation of the agreement but it'll be hard to find a judge who will jail him for contempt...and it's not worth your mental and emotional energy): don't get into any back and forth or clothes/backpack inspection in front of your son. I know it's not easy and it's incredibly difficult to not completely lose your shit when your son gets dropped off with half of his stuff "missing," but just keep mentally repeating, "This is why I'm not married to this man anymore, praise heaven," and then smile and enjoy your son.
posted by kinetic at 4:53 PM on March 12, 2013 [11 favorites]

I think other people have the main ideas of 1) keep you child away from this conflict and 2) send cheap stuff.

Dollar stores and thrift stores for the stuff you send him in (flip-flops and Ts seem inappropriate for the weather you're in) and just try and let the losses roll off your back. Involving courts and lawyers (and detailed backpack inventories) seem like more trouble and mental energy than it's probably worth.

And keep in mind that this will pass. Since you mention pull-ups, I assume this is a preschooler, yes? Soon your son will start noticing his stuff more and will care and want to have his "good coat" and favorite Spider-Man toque for school on Monday. Then it's less of a chess match between you and your ex.

This bites, but at least you're not married to this dude anymore.
posted by pantarei70 at 5:16 PM on March 12, 2013

my ex and I have this problem. Especially on longer vacations, he always comes home with significantly fewer items of clothing than he came with - because the ex disapproves of what I buy the kid to wear, so a lot of the time he'll loan him shirts, etc, and so the laundry gets mixed together, etc. This last time I sent along a descriptive list of every single thing I packed for him and told the ex it was there in the suitcase (and also had it on the computer so I could email it, because I fully expected him to "lose" it - he plays this same passive aggressive game. I was shocked, because it worked. All of his clothes came back. Of course, the next weekend visit, he brought home some of dad's shirts and not his own but that's when i decided that fine, I was going to do just like the ex does. Any clothes he sends home with him, i consider donations to my son's wardrobe. If the ex wants them back, well I'll get them, but I don't make any special effort to make sure they get back to his house.

Really, the only thing you can do is send the cheapest stuff; it's ridiculous but it's not a battle that you can win.
posted by lemniskate at 5:38 PM on March 12, 2013

Best answer: I've been down this road with my ex and I feel for you. I echo the folks who recommend sending a bunch of hand-me-downs and thrift store items to leave at Ex's house and just hand over your son in an outfit you don't care if you ever see again.

As for getting a lawyer involved, I'd back off on that for a couple of reasons. Ex is doing this to get your goat and watching you incur legal bills over this will probably thrill him. It's also highly unlikely you'll see any real legal payoff because this is one of those unproveable things that courts find very petty. If you end up in mediation over it, he'll promise to do better and then, as you say, do what he wants.

That said, do document your situation in an email thusly:

Dear Ex,

I notice the clothes I send with Son during visitation haven't been making it back to my house so I've put together five sets of clothing for Son to keep at your house. His current pant, shirt, and shoe sizes are ____ in case you want to supplement. I'll be sure to let you know as he moves up in size so you can add additional clothing to his closet at your place as he grows.


You'll probably still end up replacing socks, mittens, etc that don't come home with him but A) that's far less of a hassle than trying to get back entire ensembles, and B) those are the cheapest items to replace.

Going forward, send him with nothing but the (thrift store) clothes on his back and some pull-ups. I don't know the laws where you are but in the state where my divorce was finalized, the custodial parent needs to provide a bare minimum of essentials during visitation (diapers, wipes) but the non-custodial parent is also on the hook for providing a stocked environment for the child.

If Ex even thinks of taking you to court for not providing a bag of clothes during visitation or some such nonsense, you have your email as documentation that you did do so but did not receive the clothes back in kind. If he initiates a court proceeding (which I highly doubt because game-playing non-custodial parents rarely do), the burden will be on him to explain why he's incapable of getting a few shorts and t-shirts for his child.

I'm really sorry your going through this. If ten years as a single parent of three has taught me anything, it's that you need to refuse to engage whenever possible. It's easiest to disarm someone's power play when you act as if you're just delighted to assist them in solving a problem that's clearly just become so incredibly difficult for them to figure out on their own.
posted by _Mona_ at 6:40 PM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

You need to be more assertive or your child is going to be the one suffering. Maybe it's time to stop giving him opportunities to charm his way through mediation.
posted by discopolo at 7:59 PM on March 12, 2013

My younger brother has an ex that would pull this shit, too, among other things. My brother documented her shenanigans and got her back into family court. The judge was very pissed off and told her (the ex) that if it continued she'd be jailed for contempt of court. The ex didn't like that idea and, to some extent, cleaned up her act.

BUT until that happened we (the extended family that the kids would visit) just bought cheap clothes at Kmart so they'd have clean, decent clothes to wear. And, as someone mentions up-thread, the kids eventually get old enough (my nieces and nephews are all adults now) to call the parent on it and take care of their own clothes and items.
posted by deborah at 12:32 AM on March 13, 2013

Try putting him in one item when he goes to his dad's - an inexpensive pair of "footie" pajamas with a hood. Search ebay or Kmart/Target type stores to get a source of cheap ones. Likely outcome - his dad will then need to buy him a set of clothes to keep at his house.
posted by hazyjane at 12:49 AM on March 13, 2013

If he was a reasonable person and could discuss things maturely(without raging)

I know divorce arrangements can be fraught between the adults, but is your ex even someone you can trust with a toddler? The fact that he engages in childish games that leave your kid *sans clothing* and without other basics makes me question his ability to parent well. Toddlers can try anyone's patience, and this guy does not sound like he handles confrontation, adversity or disagreements very well.

Toting around a little kid in winter without his shoes, mittens, etc. could constitute as neglect and endangerment, which might give you more leeway in custody hearings.
posted by zoomorphic at 6:15 AM on March 13, 2013

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