Spankings, Secrets, a SWAT Standoff: A Family Torn Apart
Matt says his ex-wife, Mindy, is a liar and manipulator, who alienated him from their children and continues to cause problems for him and his new wife, Heidi. Mindy claims that Matt has a history of violent behavior and says their kids are afraid of him. How does Matt respond? Can these exes learn to co-parent peacefully?
Feuding ExesMatt says his ex-wife, Mindy, is a liar and manipulator who has alienated him from their children and continues to cause problems for him and his new wife, Heidi. He says in 2008, when he told Mindy he wanted a divorce, their argument spiraled out of control, and he barricaded himself inside their house for four hours, surrounded by a SWAT team. Matt was arrested and charged with terrorist threats and domestic violence in the presence of a minor and spent 490 days in jail. He blames Mindy for escalating the incident that day and says she has been using their kids as pawns ever since. He says his 17-year-old daughter refuses to speak to him, his 15-year-old son is in foster care — and he claims Mindy kept him at a distance while their 8-year-old daughter was dying of cancer. “I think she’s such a despicable person that I don’t like the idea of her still using my last name,” he says.
Mindy denies Matt’s accusations and insists that their kids are afraid to visit him because of the abuse she claims they suffered growing up. “I’m here to represent my kids, to be their voice, to hopefully, somehow, get Matt to realize that he did harm them in different ways, that there was trauma,” she says. “I want my kids to have a dad, more than anything in the world.”
Heidi admits that Matt can be condescending and controlling and has issues with his temper. She says they fight often, mainly over the drama with Mindy, whom she calls a “master manipulator.” She says when she and Matt were married, Mindy kept the children from attending the event. “I believe that the situation that started out with their marriage has filtered into our marriage and is causing extreme amounts of distress to the point where I feel that it has put me and my family in emotional danger,” she tells Dr. Phil.
Matt’s Discipline Decisions“When I was married to Mindy, my manner of discipline and trying to teach the kids what was wrong could be considered as demeaning,” Matt says.
“There was a time when my 15-year-old son left his clothes on the floor, and his father pulled him out of the shower, naked, and he did proceed to spank him with a belt,” Mindy says. “There was a time when my daughter was told to clean the bathrooms, and Matt had her lick the floor around the toilet.”
Matt says he asked his daughter to lick the floor, “to demonstrate to me that she thought it was properly cleaned.”
Mindy says when her son was 5, he was in a lot of pain after passing several kidney stones and would “beg to die.” She continues, “Matt took a kitchen knife and told him if he wanted to die, then he needed to push it into his chest.”
Matt admits he handed his son the knife but says he never would have let the boy harm himself.
Son's BehaviorMindy says she placed her son in foster care because he physically assaulted her on more than one occasion. “He’s bigger than me. He’s stronger than me,” she says. “When he gets angry, I do not feel that I’m capable of keeping him from hurting the other kids.”
Matt says he believes Mindy “damaged” the boy. “He has learned to manipulate from Mindy,” he says.
Mindy claims that her son learned “violent tendencies" from his father, adding, “I see similarities to the way Matt used to be and the way my son is.” She says the family has decided that her son will live with Matt once he's deemed ready, because the teen is worried about his behavior toward his siblings. “He had an outburst at my daughter’s birthday party and since then has been very concerned. He holds a lot of guilt over his behavior, now that my daughter has passed away.”
Matt says that Mindy would often cut short or cancel his hospital visits with their 8-year-old daughter, who died three weeks ago from cancer. He also says that Mindy denied him and Heidi the opportunity to have “some personal time” with his daughter hours before she passed away. “I mourn for the time that was stolen from me,” he says.
Mindy says on one occasion, the hospital staff posted a sign on her daughter’s door, saying the child was to have “minimal contact,” so she turned away Matt, Heidi and Matt’s stepson and daughter. “Any time it comes to visitation, I think about what’s best for the kids,” she says.
Dr. Phil asks the group, “What is the biggest change that you need to make to contribute to the healing of this family unit?”
“I need to find a way to be able to communicate with Matt as co-parents, to raise our children well,” Mindy responds.
“I need to turn off my anger. I need to get better control of myself,” Matt says.
Heidi says she needs to take things slower and try to work through issues better.
“I think the three of you share one thing in common, and that is that you are all extremely egocentric,” Dr. Phil tells them. “You run your own agenda. You look at things from your point of view, and you run your own agenda.”