I think the fact that she signed away custody and her actions, which I hope he documented, prior to this will weigh heavily in the future; and any actions she takes until that poiont, which again I hope he documents as well. Also, it depends on the amount of time that passes before she gets her head on straight, the longer it takes the more it will count against her. Not only that, if she takes too long then the judge will be less inclined to disrupt the childrens' life by giving them over to her custody.
Rick, about your edit...
"I would never tell a child that their mommy can't be their mommy, ever. Reason, they'll believe that it was something about them that made mommy not want to be their mommy, kids do this all the time. They blame themselves for how their parents act. And, in fact, mommy may still want to be mommy, just not Mrs. Paul. Or mommy may not want to be a mommy anymore but it isn't something the kids did it was something she did. Sometimes you have to protect kids against themselves and this is one of those times."
I understand what you're saying. But it seems to me that they could easily distort Chuck's neighbor's version to mean the same thing. It does strike me as being less harsh than the "mommy can't be your mommy" version, though. It may be that there's no "good" way to put it, only lesser versions of bad.
"It may be that there's no "good" way to put it, only lesser versions of bad." I believe you've put it rightly there.
My father moved out to "find himself" shortly after I joined the military and my younger two siblings, who are much younger than I am, took it quite hard and blamed themselves for much of what happened. I think my wife, whose two children were very young (one and two) at the time of her divorce were told that mommy and daddy couldn't live together but of course this was after a few years of living with only mommy so they didn't really know anything different.
The speech I got laid it all on them. They were both present, sat me down, and it went something like:
Your mother and I still love you, and still love each other. We'll always be your parents. But, we can't live together right now.
I don't recall any discussion after that.
I think that may be the best way to handle the situation with both parents available and willing. Doing it singly is probably the next best way.
I keep imagining him alone in this scenario. But using your example, maybe... "your mommy will always love you, and she'll always be your mommy, but she can't live with us anymore."
How are the children handling the situation? I would recomend that even if you think they are handling it ok you let them know they will always have you and that you will love them no matter what, which I am sure you are doing.
Another recommendation is to not try to compensate for her percieved lack of love, you'll only end up spoiling the kids and doing them no good. The behaviours you expected before should be the behaviours you expect today and tomorrow and the next day, no matter what. This is especially true if your wife has visitation and takes the kids for more than a couple of days. My wife tends to overcompensate when our two come back from their fathers and behaviour that would otherwise not be tolerated is allowed to pass. Loving them includes discipline.
Perhaps have a listen to one of these while taking care of the household?
Being a single parent you're probably seriously out of time but may I offer some questions to ponder deeper exploration?
What do your kids want?
What did you want?
What did you get?
What do you want?
I appreciate that most of us men want to provide the answers, all the time, on time but sitting with the questions is of value in making conscious choices and action.
Here's a really interesting read also:
hint: there are no nice guys or gals