Dr. Phil's guests are ex in-laws in a bitter fight. Cindy and Randy say their ex daughter-in-law, Michele, is an unfit mother, and their granddaughter lives in danger. Michele says it's all lies. Full Story
Cindy and Randy are caught in a family feud with their ex-daughter-in-law, Michele, that is spiraling out of control. They want Dr. Phil to end the battle once and for all.
Fighting for Their Granddaughter
Cindy and Randy say Michele is an unfit mother, and that their 8-year-old granddaughter is living in danger. Michele says their accusations are all lies!
"My ex-mother-in-law, Cindy, is a manipulating person who's trying to destroy my family," says Michele, who was married to Cindy's son, Chris, from 1997 to 2002. She and Chris met 10 years ago when she was 22 and he was 17. "We all kind of dabbled in drugs. That’s how we met," she explains. Michele had a 6-year-old daughter, Lexa, from a previous relationship, and shortly after she met Chris, she became pregnant with Cristen.
"We were horrified to have a baby. It was insane," says Cindy. She claims that Chris and Michele were both using crystal meth when Michele got pregnant. "That's when we applied for temporary custody."
"I went in that day when she made the accusation and voluntarily took a drug test. The drug test showed that I was not on drugs," says Michele, noting that she stopped using in 1997.
The fighting between Cindy and Michele worsened. "Cindy would ask Chris continuously if he wanted a divorce. She wanted it so bad that she was hoping that at one point that he would say yes." Soon after, Chris asked for a divorce. "I was devastated," Michele reveals. "She has been ruining my life since the day I met her. Cindy told Cristen that she came out of her tummy and not mine. She really wants Cristen to think that she’s her mother, and that I’m not. Her obsession with my daughter in thinking that she’s hers, it's really bizarre."
Cindy and her husband, Randy, don't believe Michele's lifestyle is conducive to raising children. "Cristen has stated that her mom was having sex for money, that when she walked in, her mom was on her knees with her mouth on the man’s private parts," Cindy shares. "Our fear is what is happening to Cristen that Cristen doesn’t tell us." She also says that Cristen has seen her mother making out with other women. "Cristen actually has asked me, ‘Is my mommy a lesbian?’" she says. "We are the only people who will stand up and tell Michele that the kids need a better environment."
Michele denies Cindy's claims. "There is no truth to this whatsoever. This is a sick plot," she says. "I've never put my daughter in danger."
Michele will not allow Cindy and Randy to see Cristen. They are pursuing custody because they believe she is unsafe. "Michele is a morally corrupt individual. She needs to address her sexual addiction and her drug addiction. It’s spiraling out of control, and the situation is getting worse. She is hurting her children. She is hurting all of her family members. She needs help," Randy says.
Michele wants Cindy to back off. "I want her to understand that I am Cristen’s mother. CPS is working with me to get a restraining order against Cindy so I don’t have to deal with this anymore," she reveals. "I will never allow Cindy to ever get custody of my children. Cindy will be very lucky if she ever sees Cristen again."
Randy interjects, “You told Cristen, personally, that she is the devil girl. You have told Cristen, personally, that you don’t love her."
“You’re disgusting,” Michele retorts.
“Every time she comes to visit us, she tells us everything that goes on in your household. From sexual deviancy, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, drug manufacturing, performing sexual acts on strange men,” Randy continues, his emotions running high. “You are lying to Dr. Phil.” He goes on to say that Cristen told him and his wife that Michele told her she was having sex with men for money.
Dr. Phil interrupts their fighting and addresses Randy. “How does Cristen know that it’s for money?” he asks.
“Because her mother told her that,” Randy says.
“That doesn’t even make common sense,” Dr. Phil points out. “I’m not saying you’re right or wrong about the overall situation, but how does she know that?”
“Most everything we know about what goes on in that household is from her daughter, Cristen,” Randy says.
“How would Cristen know that it’s sex for money?” Dr. Phil questions.
Cindy explains, “Cristen said, ‘My mommy said that they gave me money,’ because they had no money.”
“That is disgusting,” Michele says, arguing with Cindy.
Dr. Phil asks Cindy how she feels knowing that Michele may never allow her to see Cristen again.
“Devastated,” she says. “If Cristen was safe, we could live with that if we had to. Cristen has asked us to ask for help.”
Michele interjects, saying, “This woman and her husband have put me through hell. I have court documentation to back every single thing up."
“Why are they saying all of these things about you?” Dr. Phil asks.
“She’s obsessed with my daughter,” Michele says. “I wasn’t just married to her son, I was married to her.”
Michele explains that her ex-husband, Chris, is currently in prison. “Chris took his truck with my kids and I in my vehicle and rammed my car,” she says. “And then two weeks after that was pulled over by the arresting officer and was found with ounces of drugs in his truck.”
The women bicker about past events.
Dr. Phil interrupts the fighting and addresses Cindy. “You have said that you believe that Michele could kill you, the children and herself, that she is a threat and danger to everyone,” he says.
Randy concurs with his wife. “When the CPS gave us the children, it was after you had threatened to kill yourself and your two children,” he says to Michele.
“You’re crazy,” Michele says.
Dr. Phil asks Michele. “Do you have a spotty past here?”
“No,” she says.
“They say they have seen you cooking meth in the kitchen, that you’ve threatened to kill yourself and the children, that you have been violent and thrown things, attacked your ex with a knife. They say that you’ve been reckless and out of control, and that worries [Cindy and Randy] for the safety and welfare of the children,” Dr. Phil says.
“If all these allegations are true, then I’d like to see. I should be in jail. I should have things on my record,” Michele says.
Dr. Phil reads a notarized affidavit filed by Cindy. “It says, ‘I regret the petition for guardianship of my grandchild and my stepgrandchild, Cristen and Alexa. It was never my desire or intention to keep the children from their mother. The information given to me was false.’ I’m skipping down now. ‘Michelle is a good mother, and I just desired counseling for all of us,’” he reads. “You said, ‘I, Cindy, will never be a plaintiff in a court proceeding against Michele regarding her children, as I believe that living with their mother and visiting their grandparents is in the best interest of the children.’”
“I went down and notarized it and gave it to you so we could see Cristen after not seeing her for eight months,” Cindy says, facing Michele.
“This was something you wrote on your own,” Michele retorts.
“Are those lies in there?” Dr. Phil asks.
“If I said she’s a good mother, it’s a lie. Yes,” Cindy says.
Randy joins the ruckus, but let’s his emotions get the best of him, shouting to Michele, “They’re not lies. We can document anything. You’re a drug abuser, alcohol abuser, sexual abuser. You pimp yourself out for money.”
The family continues to bicker
After a commercial break, Dr. Phil says to Michele, “You just told me, I need to move [Cindy] or you’re going to hurt her, and that she’s going to shut up, or you’re going to walk off this show."
“These are the allegations that I have to face every single day, and they have nothing to back it,” Michele says. “With all these allegations that they’re saying, where is the information to back it up?”
“On MySpace.com,” Randy interjects. “You have bared everything on MySpace.com so the whole world can see your sexual lifestyle."
“Is that true?” Dr. Phil asks Michele. “Do you have nude pictures on MySpace.com?”
“No, I do not have nude pictures,” she says. “I have pictures of me.”
Dr. Phil addresses Randy. “You, I think it’s fairly clear, think this is a morally corrupt and unfit mother,” he says.
“We’re trying to save those children from the harm she is causing to them in that household,” Randy says.
“What is it that she’s doing to these children that is harmful?” Dr. Phil asks.
“She exposes her children to sex and other sexual activities in front of her children,” Randy explains.
"It's common knowledge," Cindy says, looking at Michele.
"No, that is not common knowledge," Michele says.
The women argue.
Dr. Phil asks Cindy, “Do you want custody of the child?”
“At this point, I want custody of Cristen,” says Cindy, who hasn't seen her granddaughter in three weeks.
“Even though you’ve said [in the affidavit] that you would never do that?” Dr. Phil probes.
“Even though. Things change,” Cindy says.
“Things change because her household is 300 times worse than what it used to be,” Randy adds.
Dr. Phil introduces renowned attorney and legal analyst Lauren Lake. “Isn’t it true that grandparents do have some right and some standing to go before the court and petition to have certain rights with the grandchild?” he asks.
“Absolutely,” Lauren says. “Michele, despite your assertion that Cindy and Randy will never see Cristen again, that’s untrue, because grandparents do have rights. They can go to court. They can petition the court to see their grandchildren, because what courts recognize is that there’s a special bond between grandparent and grandchild, and often courts do award that visitation despite a parent’s objection.” She points out that the children are the ones who suffer when their parents and grandparents fight.
“The burden of the court and the wisdom of the court is to determine who is a positive influence in a child’s life, who is toxic in a child’s life. And I can promise you that a bunch of name calling and finger pointing and angst among everybody is not in the best interest of the child,” Dr. Phil adds. To Randy he says, “Whether you like the morality that you perceive to be going on with this mother or not, she is the biological mother, and she does have the primary right. And if you want to have a relationship with that child, you need to learn to get along with this woman.”
Dr. Phil asks Randy. “Do you honestly, in your heart of hearts, believe that [Michele] is going to injure your granddaughter?”
“Yes,” he says. “Cristen has already been approached by friends of hers who have made sexual comments. Older children who have been at her house have pleaded with Cristen to take showers with them.” He explains that he and his wife are trying to get custody of Cristen as a preemptive strike against her being physically and emotionally harmed. "We're trying to to save Cristen's life."
Dr. Phil asks Michele, "Has your daughter said these things, to your knowledge?"
“Every time I turn around, this is new stuff,” Michele says. “They just called CPS and made allegations.” Among the allegations were that Michele was starving her daughter, and that she locks her in the closet to punish her. “Our P.D. and CPS went out and talked to my children and found all of this to be untrue,” she explains.
“Do you have a revolving door with men coming in and out of your home?” Dr. Phil asks Michele.
“Absolutely not,” she says. She asks her best friend, Tanya, who is sitting in the audience to back her up.
“It’s absolutely disgusting. [Cindy and Randy] are constantly, constantly trying to bring her down, trying to get the children,” Tanya says to Dr. Phil.
Interrupting Tanya, Randy raises his voice and says to her, “Cristen told us that you were osculating, kissing Michele in that household, exposing her to lesbianism.”
A heated discussion ensues among the four guests. Michele says, “Come on Tanya, let’s go. This is absolutely ridiculous.” The two women walk offstage.
Without Michele onstage, Dr. Phil speaks with Cindy and Randy. What do he and attorney Lauren Lake think of the grandparents' claims against Michele?
“You two believe, for certain, that your granddaughter is in danger,” Dr. Phil says to Randy and Cindy.
“Yes, adamantly,” Randy says.
“She’s in physical danger as well,” Cindy adds.
Dr. Phil asks them about Cristen’s older sister, Lexa.
“Lexa’s in danger as well,” Cindy says, on the verge of tears. She explains that because Lexa is not their biological granddaughter, they cannot obtain custody of her.
“Is your approach working?” Dr. Phil asks. Turning to Randy, he says, “I think a lot of what you say is so outrageous that it’s just non-credible."
"We have people ready to talk to you to tell you the truth," Cindy says.
“I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. There’s her version, there’s your version and then there’s reality," Dr. Phil says. "At this point, the best possible outcome to this situation is to get you folks with a skilled and calm counselor to negotiate some kind of plan where you can stay in this child’s life.” He points out that if Randy and Cindy go to court and try to take custody away from Michele, they are going to have a hard time winning their case.
Dr. Phil asks Lauren for her thoughts.
“All of your allegations are unsubstantiated. This is problematic,” Lauren says. “What the court is going to look at is the best interest of the child. If you have two grandparents who continue to put children and to put families through court proceedings for no reason when their claims aren’t substantiated, you very well could be fighting the battle but losing the war ultimately, because you’re then going to make the court feel like, ‘Hey, maybe the grandparents' right to see these children isn’t that important because it is jeopardizing the happiness and well-being of the child, and also affecting the mother-to-child relationship, which the court is going to preserve at all costs.”
Dr. Phil offers to provide the family with counseling, so the children can be put first.
Dr. Phil goes backstage to speak with Michele, who has escaped to a Dr. Phil dressing room. Without interruption from her ex-in-laws, she shares her side of the story.
“I feel like every time I turn around I’m having to defend myself,” she says. “I brought court documentation to show what they have done to me from the beginning until current.”
Dr. Phil assures Michele that he has read all the paperwork. “That’s why I read the affidavit onstage,” he points out. He asks her, “Are you a fit mother?”
“I am a fit mother,” she says.
“Do you provide well for both of your girls?”
“Absolutely,” Michele says. “I don’t get a dime of child support. I take care of my children on my own, every single day.”
“Are you subjecting either of your girls to unseemly, pervert-types who can wind up molesting them and harming them?” Dr. Phil probes.
“No, no one comes into my home.”
“Are you doing drugs?”
“No, I’m not.”
“If I were to provide some counsel — some family planners who would sit down and work these things out so these children could have a controlled, even supervised, relationship if necessary, with their grandparents — would you accept that counsel?” Dr. Phil asks.
“Yes, I would,” Michele says.
Dr. Phil offers to provide Michele and her daughters with counseling as well. “There is no resource I will not bring to bear to help support you as a mother and this family,” he says.
“Thank you,” she says. “I have a hard time listening to these allegations and not getting upset about them.”
“I don’t expect you to not get upset about it, but I do expect you, as the mother, to stand up and say, ‘That is not almost even right, and I will not be bullied by these people and what they say,’” Dr. Phil tells her.
Michele agrees to accept the help. “The only way I want Cristen to be able to see her grandparents is supervised visitation, because I feel like every time she comes back, there is something that is toxic with Cristen having to deal with,” she says.
At the end of the show, Dr. Phil addresses Cindy and Randy. “You understand she vehemently disagrees with everything that you guys allege,” he says. “I’ve got to tell you, I think some of the allegations you’re making, I think, frankly, are pretty reckless. You really want to tone down the rhetoric here.” He reminds them that if they want to see their granddaughter, they need to change their actions because what they're doing is not working.
Randy shares his thoughts. "For the last seven or eight years that Michele's been in our family, I personally, I've always had compassion for her. I have never addressed her the way I did today. I have always gone out of my way to appease her, please her, so she can be a normal member of the family," he says.
Dr. Phil reiterates his offer of professional help.
Stop Fighting In Front of the Kids
Fighting in front of your kids, says Dr. Phil, is nothing short of abuse. Read on before you make the decision to ever do it again.
Children learn what they live. Stop and think about what you're teaching them.
What goes through your mind when you do it? How do you justify doing this? Why do you think you're entitled to fight in front of your kids? You've got to look at this and say, "This ain't workin!" Stop justifying it. The kids are picking up the tab.
You have a choice: either vent your impulse or love your children. Those are mutually exclusive. When you fight in front of your kids, you are putting your need to explode ahead of your kids' best interest and peace of mind.
What are you fighting about? What's your goal when you call each other names? Is it worth trashing your children's harmony? Can you even remember what was so important last week that you were willing to trample over your children? What "victory" were you looking for? Is it worth it? Do you think your kids think it's worth it?
There are important issues in every marriage that need to be discussed. Turn the volume down to deal with them.
Stop being a "right-fighter." The kids don't care who's right. "They want you to shut up," says Dr. Phil.
Don't say you can't control your anger. That's not true. It's that you don't control your anger. Have you had fights at your boss's house? At church? At a restaurant with friends? You don't do it when you can't.
The only person you control is you. Choose to control your impulses