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Anyone with expertise in psychiatric/legal issues?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
This forum is such a rich resource... it occurs to me that some of you here might be able to help me figure out what, if anything, I can do to help my cousin.

Without going into too much detail in this public place: my beloved cousin(let's call him David) and his wife (let's call her Karen) have been separated for few years, and a divorce will happen when money becomes available for it. Their nine-year-old son has his own room in each home and is handling the whole thing just beautifully. Let's call him Andy.

The problem is that Karen is mentally disturbed. And lest you think I'm just saying that about her because David is my cousin and I naturally want to side with him, let me add that it's not just my assessment. The psychologists and family counselors all suggest the same thing: Borderline Personality Disorder for sure, and probably bipolar as well. They always tell her they want to do further testing and start developing a medication and therapy regimen for her -- but as soon as they suggest that there's anything wrong with her, she pitches a fit and storms out.

If you aren't familiar with BPD... it's hideous. Everything I've ever read about it says something like, "If you're married to a person with BPD, get out now! Save yourself!" Karen's behavior is so controlling, so cruel, so destructive... and so completely irrational, so absolutely closed to the application of any logic at all... and so relentless... she very simply makes life a living hell for David every single day. And she does it with gleeful relish, with righteous pride, with venom beyond my powers of description.

She does turn all this ugliness on others as well, including my parents and me -- but no one receives the full force of her hatred quite like David does. And the older Andy gets, the more she clamps down on him with her controlling and manipulating techniques... and also with deception, just plain lying to him, especially about his father.

Karen also drinks too much, spends money obsessively and foolishly, and often becomes aggressive and hostile toward people in public places.

In short, this woman desperately needs help and refuses to accept it. But even with help, statistics say she will probably never change very much.

So unless something is done, my cousin will have to deal with the utter misery of this woman's constant, obsessive attacks every blessed day until Andy turns 18. Even the divorce won't help, really -- David will still have to deal with her and coordinate with her, just as he does now.

I don't think he can do it. I'm afraid the stress will give him a heart attack.

So I've been trying to think of what to do. Karen has several family members here, but she is estranged from some of them, and the others seem to have been beaten into submission. They just stay out of her way. She has just one friend, who is almost as crazy as she is. I don't see anyone in her life who could, or would, step in and try to help her see the light.

I've even thought of trying to arrange an intervention... but I can imagine how it would go. She would sling hateful epithets around the room, spin on her stiletto heel, and go looking for ways to punish us all.

So... does anyone have any ideas? I'm just lost. Is there any chance someone like this could be treated involuntarily, required to accept therapy and medication? As far as I know, that kind of thing only happens when an act of violence has occurred.

Short of that... is there anything we can do?

Thanks for listening.
post #2 of 18
I'm no expert, but I am an RN who has worked in Psychiatry and have a legal background as a paralegal, plus my friend was married to a guy who is Bipolar. I just want to say that my advice is not meant in a professional manner, and should not be treated as such. You should seek a 15 minute free consultation with a lawyer and ask for their advice. "David" should go with you as it's his situation.

Now then, with that said...

If she is as bad as you say she is, then she is a danger to "Andy" and shouldn't be left alone with him. She should have court ordered supervised visits. The first order of business should be protecting the child. Please note, David taking the child and running, is NOT an option and is in fact against the law. He needs to do this through proper legal channels.

You say that they have no money for a divorce. Tell "David" to contact "Legal Aid" in his area and get the process started so that he has the law on his side when it comes to custody. Fees are either waived and paid for by Legal Aid, or greatly reduced and/or a lien placed on any property IE: House, owned by David. Legal Aid then recovers their fees when the property is sold.

Someone, either her parents or David, should seek to have "Karen" declared mentally incompetent, which will go along way in protecting "Andy" when it comes to the court ordering visitation. Plus then she could be admitted to a facility where she can get the help that she desperately needs.

"David" should also seek soul custody of "Andy" because of "Karen's" mental state and behaviour. Getting affidavits from the counsellors she's seen, and friends and family who have witnessed her behaviour will be of great help.

It won't be easy, but David really needs to start taking control of the situation through legal channels in order to protect his son. David aside, Andy is going to grow up to be one screwed up young man if all of this continues.
post #3 of 18
i really cant think of anything else to say, beyond what Natalie has already said. I do wish you luck
post #4 of 18
Natalie's advice seems good and I can't add anything to it. But I hope for David's and especially Andy's sake that something can be done. I will keep them in my prayers.
post #5 of 18
Who currently has physical custody of Andy? I'd strongly advise your cousin to get an attorney and get PHYSICAL custody of the boy. Most times in the final divorce, whoever has physical custody will retain it.

The the mother won't have physical/legal custody of him. She still would probably be granted some kind of supervised visitation, but your cousin has to prove she's unfit for regular visitation.

Don't let the lawyer tell your cousin that men stand little chance of custody - not true. But he has to have physical custody now during the separation to be able to fight it later.
post #6 of 18
I understand your situation and your frustration all too well. I won't go into details but I'm trying to deal and manage a person with a drug addiction and possibly some BPD. The problem is you CANNOT force the person to seek medical help unless you can prove that they will harm themselves or others or by having their doctor "form" them into a treatment facility. What you can do is have DAVID contact Children's Aid to start a file and detail the concerns he has around the safety of Andy. This will be imporatant information to have on file when it comes time for divorce and custody battles.

It's a tough situation, and one that I know is causing a lot of stress and anxiety for you and your family. I wish you the strength to get through this.
post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Oh, thank you! Thank you ever so much, all of you -- you've brought up some ideas that are completely new to me, and that's just what I needed. At the moment, Karen has undisputed custody, but only because the two of them have informally agreed to it -- there's been no legal involvement at all. David sees Andy almost every day, though, and keeps him one night a week and every other weekend.

So at the moment, access is not a problem... and therefore, we've all been thinking in terms of not rocking Karen's boat too much and making her any angrier than she just naturally is, for fear she might decide to stop cooperating on the access issue.

But really, Andy himself would make that very difficult for her to do -- he adores his dad and would much rather be with him. That's the saving grace here, I think, as far as Andy's wellbeing goes: he's a very, very smart kid, and he recognizes that Something Is Wrong With Mom. So he largely emulates his father instead, and -- like everybody else -- tries to stay out of his mom's way. Luckily, he has at least two other "mother figures" in his life with whom he is deeply bonded, so I have hope that he won't grow up to hate women.

But of course, there are countless other issues regarding Andy's welfare. One of my great fears is that he could grow up with the idea that it's perfectly normal and acceptable to denigrate, humiliate, taunt, scream at, and otherwise verbally abuse people you love... then turn around and act as if nothing happened, as she does multiple times a day.

So it does make sense that David should seek full custody, even though his purpose is not to deny Karen access to Andy... because if he controls access, it will be a fair and productive arrangement. If she controls access, it will be a weapon she'll use against both of them.

So maybe the boat just has to get rocked.

Oh -- and don't worry, David would not run away with Andy. Karen, however, very well might try it, which is another reason everyone has been handling her with kid gloves.

I should say this: although everything I've written about Karen is true and then some, it's also true that beneath her mental illness lies a very sharp mind, a strong sense of responsibility, and a difficult childhood that I think explains a lot of what's wrong with her. It's not that I don't feel compassion for the anguish that she, too, is suffering -- I just don't want to see it ruin David and Andy's lives, as well.

Thank you all for your insights -- especially you, Natalie. Your very specific knowledge is extremely helpful. I'll do an investigation of the agencies and authorities in David's area and present him with some ideas on how to proceed.
post #8 of 18
Its imparative that your cousin get PHYSICAL custody of the son now - not later. I'm telling you if you don't it will be a long hard battle to get the judge to change it. The faster your cousin moves to get custody the better in the long run.

We tried to tell DH's brother to go file for legal custody of his 3 youngest kids since he had them more then the mother (long story). He refused cause he didn't want to "upset" her or "get her in trouble with welfare".....and the 3 kids are in the middle of this mess! They are only 3-5 yrs old!
post #9 of 18
Oh my, I have no idea. But wanted to offer some vibes that she will get help soon. I know about BPD, and your right , it is hideous That poor boy to have a mother like that. (((())))
post #10 of 18
Not to scare you, but a co-worker's son was accused by the mother of molesting his kids. It was a sad, long drawn out case. The son was innocent (lie detector, evaluations, etc.) and yet the mother (psycho) still retained custody of his 2 kids. She was a psychiotrist too and had other doctors back her up that she was a fit mother - even if it was obvious she was mentally unbalanced.

Also she brainwashed the oldest girl into saying that daddy did molest her and continues to do so. The really sad thing is the father was never convicted of child molestation and yet cannot see his kids till they are over 18 (they are under 5 yrs old now). None of the family (grandparents) can see them either.

This psycho mother will destroy her own kids. That's why your cousin needs to have physical custody now.
post #11 of 18
What a tough situation.

It is important that your cousin makes it clear that he would dispute her having full custody because if he doesn't have a problem with it now it won't hold water later.

IF she were willing to seek treatment for her psychiatric problems, and if she does have bipolar that would invariably include meds and not drinking much, she could probably do just fine. It's the unwillingness to seek treatment that is disturbing, not the illness itself. When they get to court it might be possible to force her to if she wants any custody...

Either way, he needs to document anything that happens involving her and putting the child in danger.
post #12 of 18
I don't know if anyone has added this but people diagnosed with Bi-Polar generally do not want to be medicated (this is a general thing, but certainly does not pertain to all people diagnosed with bi-polar). They enjoy the euphoric feeling that comes with their manic phases and don't want to loose that. The onlything I know of is that legally a person has to be declared a danger to self or others to be held against their will.

Let me just add this is IMHO, and not expert advice.
post #13 of 18
I work with a lot of clients with mental illnesses, including Bi-polar disorder and i really just feel for those suffering from it. As far as I know, which has already been said, no one can force her into any treatment unless she is considered a danger to herself and others. It's a very sad situation. I hope things are able to be resolved positively for them all.
post #14 of 18
BPD doesn't always result in obsessive controlling behaviors. My brother has BPD and he goes from extreme euphoria to extreme depression (suicidal). When he used to drink alcohol (he was an alcoholic for years), he did get very condescending and controlling of others. I will say that the only thing that has helped him was to remain on meds, which he doesn't like to take as its an admission that something is physically wrong with him. I think people with BPD fight meds for this reason.

I also have a friend of a friend who is a horrible alcoholic, to the point that she drinks herself into coma's and has to be detoxed in the hospital. Her doctors have told her that the next time she does it will probably kill her, as her liver is barely functioning anymore. It doesn't stop her. She has 2 daughters and she just went thru a divorce. My friend called every agency she could find and her own lawyer to find out her options as she was concerned about the welfare of the girls, who had court ordered rights to visit their mother. Too often my friend would have to go over to their house and pull the daughters out of there because mom was too drunk to even cook them a meal (they were age 4 and 6). They would call my friend and ask if she would come over and feed them.

So even with this extreme situation, where it was clear, with medical proof and eye-witness testimony that mom shouldn't be allowed to have her children overnight, my friend couldn't get a single agency to intervene on their behalf. Nor could she do anything to force treatment on her. She even called her parents and asked for help to have her committed, but there was nothing they could do. She talked to the medical staff that treated her during detox and there was nothing they could do. Ex husband also drank to a lesser degree and didn't want to bother with it, and even if he tried, he wouldn't have made much progress.

State laws very tremendously. You might want to start by calling child protective services and go from there. Karen isn't as extreme as the woman that I know, and they couldn't get anywhere with that horrible situation.

Does this help?
post #15 of 18
Originally Posted by MoochNNoodles View Post
I work with a lot of clients with mental illnesses, including Bi-polar disorder and i really just feel for those suffering from it. As far as I know, which has already been said, no one can force her into any treatment unless she is considered a danger to herself and others. It's a very sad situation. I hope things are able to be resolved positively for them all.
They can't force her into treatment in general, but I *think* (not knowing specific laws of Texas) they can put seeking treatment as a stipulation in a custody decision. Like, she can have custody of her child X amount after seeking treatment for her psych problems. They can do it with drugs, alcohol, anger problems...

All the more reason your cousin needs to talk to a lawyer.

I've a couple very close friends with bipolar, and they all take their meds religiously because they know what it does to people around them when they don't. It's a disease. They're still moodier than most other people, sometimes coming off as needy and sometimes way too confident, but nothing that would harm a kid any more than any other parent.

The focus should be IMO on helping her and as a result the entire family, even though they'll be separate. Keeping the child away from a dangerous situation first, but making sure his mom will be well enough to be his mother throughout his life as well. Obviously I've never met her, and maybe she has lots of problems or just isn't a good person, etc, but if she truly has mental illnesses underlying all her behaviors, trying to get a psych treatment stipulation on custody if it's possible would be a leap in the right direction.
post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
This is all so helpful! What a very wise and caring group of people you are. I'm saving this thread to print out for reference as we all work through this.

It's hard, revealing such personal stuff here... but it's so worth it, to receive such valuable input. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your guidance, and I'll do everything I can to encourage David to act on it.
post #17 of 18
I was shelving yesterday and I thought of you. They make a whole series of books on law, called NOLO and the series' subtitle is something like "law for everyone". They have them on divorce, custody hearings, etc. You might want to find those at the library or bookstore they look very helpful! They look like this: always seem to have a dog on them, it's weird.
post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thank you, ZM! That could be very helpful...
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