Custodial Parent Refusing Medical Information
by Non-custodial stepmom
My husband has 2 children, ages 12 & 14, from his first marriage, which ended 9 years ago. His ex-wife has been re-married for 8+ years, & during most of that time, the relationship between my husband and his ex was fairly amicable. He paid an exorbitant amount of child support ($1500/mo + 1/2 of extra expenses, such as participation in sports, etc...based on his highest year of income, @ $80,000)since their separation.
When his mortgage business crashed 3 years ago, he got behind on child support, had to foreclose on his house, and ended up living at various friends' houses so that he could continue paying at least part of his child support instead of going back to court to adjust his support payments (due to pride, guilt & shame). His ex began withholding visits based on whether or not he paid her and frequently bad-mouthed him to the kids.
When he & I started dating, the situation got worse--she was very threatened by my presence in his life, and refused to let him see the kids unless he did so in her presence or at her home, primarily to prevent the kids from meeting me. (She also engaged in some harassing behavior toward me; I had to have a lawyer send her a cease-and-desist letter as a result of her attempt to get me fired from my job based on false accusations against me.) After we had dated for about a year, he finally recognized that he needed to take her to court to enforce visitation and adjust his support payments. The judge initially ordered mediation, but when that failed (she ended it when the mediator tried to encourage her to let him have a visit that included me), their lawyers negotiated an agreement that detailed a visitation schedule (every other weekend; 1/2 of every school vacation; 2 weeks in the summer; holidays alternate by odd/even years). The support order cut his monthly payments down to 1/3rd of what he previously paid, and included a monthly payment to take care of his arrears.
The boys finally came to our house after we'd been together for 15 months. They liked me immediately and we have gotten along ever since, although they have frequently had to present a different picture to their mom due to her insecurities and her hatred toward me. So I have largely stayed away from all of their school/ sporting events to reduce their stress level. The boys did not attend our wedding last fall because she told them that weddings are "all about the bride" so it became an untenable choice for them to make (me over her). Situations like these continue to arise, although visits have been somewhat regular over the past 2 years, with a few blocks of time when he has had to give up weekends or school vacation visits because of events she plans during his parenting time, but that the boys don't want to miss. She continues to fly off the handle from time to time as well regarding various situations that she distorts to meet her needs. Contributing to the animosity between them has been
my husband's job instability over the past 2 years, which has meant that at times he has been late with support payments--although he has mostly been consistent, if not completely so.
Most recently, the ex called to tell my husband that their youngest son had fainted and had to undergo some medical tests to determine whether or not he may have a heart condition. Obviously my husband was concerned, as well as appreciative that she had called him. He requested that she keep him in the loop, and when she told him that their son was going to see a pediatric cardiologist, he said that he wanted to attend the appointment. She balked, and then said that the appointment hadn't yet been scheduled. Later that day, when he spoke with his son, this son told him the date of the appointment. He decided not to press the issue with her, as he figured it would be more worthwhile to speak to the doctor after the test results had come back. However, he did call after the appointment had taken place to find out how it went, and left a message on their answering machine to this effect.
The ex called him back and basically flipped out on him. Apparently when the message was played back, the 2 sons started arguing about who told dad about the appointment (obviously scared about getting in trouble for sharing this info), and she called to blast him about prying this information out of their older son (who took the heat, even though it was the younger son who had told him about the appointment). They got into an argument with my husband's point being that he should be kept in the loop, while she simply trashed him for every real or perceived wrong he's committed as a father (in front of the kids). She hung up on him, so he called back, at which point she put him on speaker phone, and essentially manipulated the conversation so that the 12 y.o. told him that this was happening to him and he didn't want his dad involved. (We call this behavior "toeing the party line"). She also refused to give him the name of the cardiologist, and then told him that he could no longer call their home phone or she would consider it harassment.
What rights does my husband have to obtain this medical information? He can probably figure out what cardiologist his son saw, since he knows which hospital they went to, but what information would he have to provide? They have shared legal custody, so I assume that if he provides legal documentation to this effect, the doctor will have to provide him with copies of the records? What if he wants to obtain these records but not have his ex know that he's done so? While he wants to stand his ground with her, he's also sensitive to the stress situations like this put on his sons, and doesn't want to play into that (as the boys will hear, "Your dad doesn't care about your wishes, he lied to you" etc. etc. Any advice as to how to proceed?