Family fell apart, but no end to drama in sight
I am going through a terrible family situation right now including a separation and probable divorce. I really don't know how to cope and what actions to take myself. The background is that I have been married for 20 years, with three children. The last seven or eight years have been very rough for us financially and also with arguing about parenting, but things have really come to a head the last two years. There have also been some great times, so I'm very torn up about this. We were previously separated for a few months two years ago with my wife taking the children to my in-laws, earlier last year for a couple of months, when I lived in an apartment short term, and now again for a few months, but this time with more serious legal proceedings.
A core issue is that my children have been completely out of control with no discipline. The two oldest have refused to go to school and physically attached me when I tried to force the issue. (The oldest when in high school and the second in middle school). My wife has never let me discipline them, yelling at me anytime I've tried to. We've tried therapy of many sorts, but she has never engaged in it openly, always blaming me for every problem, and insisting that I do more and more things to allow me to cope with the situation. I have done everything possible including talk therapy, psychiatric medication, and meditation, all at her insistence, and without reciprocal efforts. She eventually escalated to calling the police every time there was an argument in the house and getting a protective order to initiate the most recent separation. I have never laid a finger on anyone in the house. My lawyer said it would be impossible to fight the PFA given that no judge wants to take the responsibility to deny one. We wound up with a plea that the temporary order would be extended a whole year and could be expunged from my record eventually.
Despite the issues with the children, I have remained close to them and had visited them daily in the previous separations. My wife is now trying to keep them from me in a very controlling way. She included them on the PFA (except the oldest who is now 18). She is trying to insist on not allowing me to see them unless it is with my mother, who is 70 years old, works full time, and lives hours away. I am now actually living with my parents for the most part and working remotely, otherwise staying at hotels when I need to come back to town. I filed a custody case and the judge recognized my right to visits, but in court my wife is still trying to fight against each and every hour I get to spend with them with every maneuver possible. At the same time she has no shame in asking my mother to take the kids for all of their school breaks for several days at a time, when she knows I'll be with them. It's all about control and winning right now for her.
Despite all of this swirling around and her expressed desire for a divorce, she has not filed one. I suspect she won't for awhile because she only has a very low paying part time job and would never be able to afford her lifestyle without nearly 100% of my salary and my health insurance coverage, both of which she currently has. My salary is fairly modest and she was already overspending our means significantly, ringing up substantial debt. Child support and modest alimony wouldn't be nearly as good of a deal as she has now under the PFA. She has a college degree and held a good job right at the beginning of our marriage, but after losing that she never returned to working, even well after the youngest started school.
I am not sure what to do at this point about filing for divorce myself. Everything about this is so exhausting. Her behavior and posturing in court with the PFA and custody case give every indication that a divorce will be contentious and protracted with all sorts of drama. This all has become very expensive with respect to the lawyers, especially with the PFA in place forbidding any mediation. Part of me wants to wait her out and let some things unfold before I file. There are already indications that her poor parenting is being exposed (county agencies are involved). I also secretly hope that if she bottoms out she will come to her senses and seek a reconciliation with a truly open heart. However, maybe the divorce filing is a better way to force these issues, while also protecting myself from the financial train wreck she has become, and sooner rather than later.
I guess I'll try to take this one step at a time. I also have to deal with a job change that will put me in another state, slightly farther from my family compared to where I am now with my parents. I work in a very specialized field that makes such relocations necessary. I will be doing a lot of driving just to see my kids for a few hours every other weekend, but it will be worth it.