Question about having step kids, but having no contact with them... - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 41 Old 07-10-2006, 10:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi everyone! A quick introduction:

I am 28 and have a 3.5 yo DD. In December, I met my soulmate and we were engaged a month+ later. We married 3 weeks ago, and we have all adjusted very well.

DH is divorced with 2 kids. For the past 2+ years he has had no contact with them. His ex was making it hard for him to contact them. Anytime something happened that she did not like, she took him back to court for more CS. In addition, she had a boyfriend who did not get along with DH and I believe they almost came to blows at one point.

DH has not let his kids know he is remarried to me. I tried many times to talk him into contacting them, but he is very worried his ex will ask for more CS, which we can not afford as we are barely making ends meet as it is. Apparently MD laws have CS based on what they feel you should make, rather than your actual salary. The CS is about right for what he makes now, but it is based on an order that is over 2 years old, so it would be certain to go up. He feels he doesn't want to 'rock the boat' especially since he knows the kids are being well taken care of. He is hoping they will contact them in time. One child is 12 and one is 7.

Has anyone had an experience like this? They are his kids, and he needs to make decisions regarding when or how to contact them, but I get worried about the what if's. If they do contact him, it puts me in a very bad position, like a secret wife or something. I know when my dad got remarried when I was 18, it bothered me that I did not find out until after the fact, even though it was a court ceremony and it was pretty last minute due to a tax thing or something.

Any advice will help, but please don't flame DH for his decisions. They are based on his circumstances and I am not sure if he could have made any "better" decisions.

TIA!
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#2 of 41 Old 07-11-2006, 01:09 AM
 
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this sounds very painful and kind of like a no-win situation. i hate to say it, but i think you have to honor your husband's wishes. i probably won't be popular for saying so.

my husband has been drifting from his 16 year old son. after trying to force contact over the last couple of years, we decided to leave it up to my ss as to when and how often we get together. as a result, we never see or hear from him except on holidays when he comes over to collect his gifts.

it is very painful to my dh but he has tried so many things to make his relationship with his ex better and to be a vital part of his son's life. i wish for you to find peace in your heart over this because it seems to me that until he wants to make contact there's not much you can do.

i also think it's shameful that his ex uses the child support as a form of blackmail and that she let some other man come between her children and their father. she will be held accountable at some point when the kids are old enough to see it for themselves.

it would be great if your dh could send a card or something on a regular basis just to say hi and let the kids know he's thinking of them. he could also update them on the changes in his life and welcome them to contact him ANYTIME. hopefully you can encourage him to make some contact though i've found that for the health of my relationship with dh i have to stay out of it more often than not.

good luck and keep your focus on the things you have more control over...your new family.

j
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#3 of 41 Old 07-11-2006, 01:53 AM
 
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I would write the children a letter and then mail it to yourself. Don't open it, just put it away somewhere. When they do find out about you, if they are hurt, you can give them this sealed letter (with the post office date stamp) to show them how much you wanted to meet them, but circumstances would not allow it.
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#4 of 41 Old 07-11-2006, 10:17 AM
 
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It may be that he experienced (and saw the kids experience) so much conflict when he was trying to keep in contact with them, that he is understandably reluctant to re-open that, not only for himself but also for the kids. If you really want to push him to make contact, and it seems his ex is highly conflict-driven, you should probably think about how things might look if they go down a high conflict road.

That said, you could try encouraging him to start with something low-key - birthday cards, a brief note, etc.
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#5 of 41 Old 07-11-2006, 12:53 PM
 
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I agree with honouring your dh wishes. But for you, I would suggest starting a journal. Maybe either for just yourself or one for them to see one day.

You could write "letters" to them with your feelings/questions/hopes/etc in it and then maybe one day, when more contact is made, you could give it to them.

Do you think your dh would do something of the same? Just to help him process his feelings?

Good luck and all the best to both of you. Its such a difficult journey at times......
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#6 of 41 Old 07-12-2006, 02:15 AM
 
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I like the journal idea. I don't think you have a choice right now but later on if the kids come calling and asking questions, they will see that they were (are) loved and you were (both of you) thinking of them. Right now, my DH is being kept from him grandson, it's his daughter's way of punishing him (major ACOA issues going on here) so I suggested doing the same thing. This way when his grandson wants to know who his grandfather really was, he'll have it first-hand in Grandpa's writing and it will probably heal so many wounds and answer so many questions for the child. Good luck.
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#7 of 41 Old 07-12-2006, 12:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks guys! Those are some really good ideas. I know DH sends B-day cards and such, but he doesn't feel like he can put anything about himself in it beyond "I love you and miss you" because he believes his ex would read it.

I never thought of writing a letter or journaling and letting them see it later if they wanted. That might make a difference in th "evil step-mother" situation I fear will happen if they do contact DH later.

Thank you again and let me know if you have more ideas!
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#8 of 41 Old 07-20-2006, 10:07 AM
 
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Okay -- a couple of points:

Your husband seems to be under the impression that his kids are being "well taken care of." He should understand that this is completely incorrect. They are being emotionally abused by being deprived of contact with their father.

Given that, what should he do?

He needs to decide whether being their father is worth dealing with conflict, a lot of work and inconvenience.

If its not, journaling how much he loves them is basically a bunch of bs, created to make you all look better in the unlikely event that the children eventually seek him out and ask why they were abandoned by their father.

If it is, then the only answer is to fight legally for visitation. I know as the child in that situation, the only thing that would have real meaning for me would be being able to see court filings showing that my father had fought to have a relationship with me and had been prevented by the courts from doing so. Even if he views the likelihood of his getting visitation as being remote, I believe this is one situation where the effort should be made regardless, because the effort alone has meaning.

I'm always shocked at the number of men who view themselves as disposable parents, as if their presence or absence meant nothing to their children. It is sadly a common attitude, even on an AP board.
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#9 of 41 Old 07-20-2006, 12:26 PM
 
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I agree that for kids to lose out on a relationship with their dad is very sad, and a great loss to them. There are situations, though (and I have some personal experience here), where the custodial parent may really ramp up the conflict in ways that hurt the kids if the non-custodial parent keeps pushing for visitation. So, it's not necessarily just about generic conflict and inconvenience/expense to an overly lazy non-custodial parent - it can be about whether you'll take the risk of plunging the kids into conflict or being manipulated. That's enough to make plenty of good, loving parents think twice.

With the original poster, I'm not sure I understand if this is the case or not: I understand that there was a lot of conflict about child support when he was more active in seeking visitation, but I couldn't tell if the kids were suffering from the ongoing conflict. Still, it's not a concern to be dismissed lightly.
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#10 of 41 Old 07-20-2006, 03:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Since I was not around at the time, I can't be sure what the conflict was doing to the kids, but since DH and his x's BF nearly came to blows on at least one occasion, I am thinking that the conflict was enough to be a cause for concern. I don't know if the path he has chosen is right, but it is his choice and I can't say for sure since I wasn't there. He is a very considerate person so I don't think he is choosing to ignore them as much as he is trying to do what he thinks will benefit them the most. He grew up with a lot of conflict and I think he feels minimizing it is the best way to go.

Needless to say, I have no choice in how things are going. I can talk to him or make suggestions, but I can't force him to do anything. All I want is some ideas on how I can prepare myself for the time when we finally do meet so that I feel like I have tried my best. I like the letters and journaling suggestions because it would let them know that I was thinking about them even if I didn't know them, and that I harbor no resentment towards them.
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#11 of 41 Old 07-21-2006, 05:34 AM
 
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I certainly understand that you can't force your husband to take action. I just feel strongly that the parent/child relationship is important enough to be worth a very high level of conflict in order to maintain it (or if impossible to maintain to at least make sure the child knows the parent did not wilfully abandon the relationship). I will admit, every time I see a man acting like his kids don't need him to be an equal parent I want to administer a quick kick to the rear. Especially when the guy seems to be acting out of ignorance as to the harm that is being done. Obviously, its good he's your husband rather than mine, because the situation you describe would drive me beyond nuts.

As a practical matter, if you have a child together he may feel more comfortable going after visitation, because another child can be grounds for reducing existing child support (or at least make it less likely that cs will be increased). Maybe you could consider pushing him forward again at that point, using the argument that you want your child to know its brothers and sisters. Moving on from the snarkiness that plan induces....

I guess the whole journaling thing (by you, rather than him) strikes me as a little odd. The journaling sounds like the sort of cya memo to file that I do when I'm afraid a client is going to come back at me claiming that I've advised him differently than I really did. In any event, I would recommend that if you do the journaling/letter that you try to do it with your husband. If you do end up showing it to the kids at a later date, I think it might be painful for them to see that a total stranger cared at least enough to do something and their father chose not to be involved.
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#12 of 41 Old 07-21-2006, 09:33 AM
 
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These are great ideas...fancy seeing you here Kelsi!!! I am a VA girl, so it may be different here, but just for the record, his CS may go up on his salary...but has nothing to do with you. I get CS from my ex and when he got married, his wife's salary is not included in his income... I do agree with the maj. that you should honor your DH's wishes. I know the feeling of not wanting to rock that boat... It is a terrible feeling to be in court all of the time and sometimes peace is worth the sacrifice. At the same time, I can so understand you wanting not to be the "best kept secret" and wanting to be a a part of their lives. divorce is so hard and step families are even harder. But, you can't go wrong with the journals, letters, etc... and one day, that opportunity will open to share with them. Hey, on a side note...my ex also got his CS reduced when he and his girlfriend had a baby...
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#13 of 41 Old 07-21-2006, 09:48 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks guys! It isn't my ideal situation, but at the same time I wouldn't trade him in for anything! I will look into CS reduction in MD when we have a baby. The CS thing is so wierd to me - DD's bio father pays an amount we agreed to and we have not gone through the courts so I am new at all of this:
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#14 of 41 Old 07-21-2006, 12:52 PM
 
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I'm in the same boat. My DH has 3 other children by two other mom's and after 2yrs of telling him that doing nothing isn't doing anything we are now taking her to court for joint or possibly full custody. And it seems that we are just in time. He thought his kids were being taken care of as well. Yesterday we found out that the house they live in is on the verge of being condemd(sp): and she is being evicted. I'm in MD also and CS laws here are horrible. They are not realistic and if you have a question don't ask DSS. Find an idependant attorney OR do your own research. Will your DH be adopting your DD?
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#15 of 41 Old 07-21-2006, 03:14 PM
 
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Okay, I probably shouldn't reply, because I'm on the other end of the spectrum.

My daughter's dad and I were always on good terms until recently, when we moved 4 hours away and he got married.

I tried to make it easy for him to see her... We would meet him part of the way, and I told him that he could call her always (cost wouldn't have been an issue... We both have Nextel's with unlimited direct connect minutes)... It started with him saying they were in dire financial straits, and I understood... FOR A YEAR. For a year while I noticed that his wife's hair was still getting highlights, and they got a new dog. And he wasn't calling, and only seeing her on the rare occasion that it was convenient, and doing it last minute.

So, after his wife sent me a letter, telling me that I was terrible for keeping his daughter away (which I hadn't... I had just told him that we had plans... And we did), we fired one back telling him that unless he stepped up with child support (not asking for a lot... just SOMETHING), and actually showing interest by calling at least once a week... Well, if he couldn't do that, then we'd prefer that he'd go away. And apparently he has. Two voice mail messages and that's it. His dad's even a lawyer, and if he would've tried to fight for her, I would've been HAPPY!!!

So, this situation makes me a little angry. I know that your DH needs to make ends meet, but these are his children, and no matter how much he thinks they're being taken care of, he's doing irrepairable damage by not being around.
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#16 of 41 Old 07-21-2006, 03:37 PM
 
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I feel the need to point out, as gently as possible, that there is always more than one side to a story.

My kids live with me full-time, for good reason. They see their father every week ... but he has told people terrible, terrible lies about me and our custody situation. Lies I have found out about because we live in the same community.

Arismomkoofie, my point is simply that his ex may have a very, very different version of events and it might be wise to keep that in mind, should you ever have contact.

: I am a woman of faith; a mother; a writer. :
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#17 of 41 Old 07-21-2006, 03:49 PM
 
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I agree that you have to honor your dh's wishes but just have to say, my parents split up when I was 4. When I was 8, he remarried and had another child but didn't tell us until my stepsister was about 1. It all worked out fine in the end, his new wife (now ex-wife) is a wonderful person, incredibly welcoming to us, and kept the relationship with my stepsister going when we were too young to do it ourselves. I am truly grateful that she came into our lives ('she' my former stepmom and also 'she' my stepsister). But I always thought my dad was a coward for not telling us sooner. I'm not saying your dh is a coward. My dad had other reasons for us to have bad feelings toward him and not telling us about his marriage and new baby were par for the course. But that fact that he kept such important events from us has always stuck with me.
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#18 of 41 Old 07-21-2006, 08:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MeganW
Will your DH be adopting your DD?
DD's biodad is still in the picture somewhat, and I believe he would have to agree to DH adopting DD, and I doubt he would do that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zyla
I feel the need to point out, as gently as possible, that there is always more than one side to a story.

My kids live with me full-time, for good reason. They see their father every week ... but he has told people terrible, terrible lies about me and our custody situation. Lies I have found out about because we live in the same community.

Arismomkoofie, my point is simply that his ex may have a very, very different version of events and it might be wise to keep that in mind, should you ever have contact.
This is probably true, and DH does worry about what the kids have been told. He has had some brief contact w his DD (12 or 13 yo) before we were married via his website, but she indicated that she was not ready for further contact (like on the phone - her mother resads her emails). Anything he says online can be viewed by the public, so he doesn't feel like he can use that as a forum for telling his kids, but we also plan on changing the website from his personal one to a family website, and I don't know how he will introduce me on it. I guess I have to just wait and see.

I kind of feel like he is being manupullated by his ex-wife to keep him out of their lives, but again, I was not around then so I have had no contact with her or know more than he has told me.
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#19 of 41 Old 07-21-2006, 08:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by jgmommo
I agree that you have to honor your dh's wishes but just have to say, my parents split up when I was 4. When I was 8, he remarried and had another child but didn't tell us until my stepsister was about 1. It all worked out fine in the end, his new wife (now ex-wife) is a wonderful person, incredibly welcoming to us, and kept the relationship with my stepsister going when we were too young to do it ourselves. I am truly grateful that she came into our lives ('she' my former stepmom and also 'she' my stepsister). But I always thought my dad was a coward for not telling us sooner. I'm not saying your dh is a coward. My dad had other reasons for us to have bad feelings toward him and not telling us about his marriage and new baby were par for the course. But that fact that he kept such important events from us has always stuck with me.
That is what I am worried they will feel for him, and I only hope I can overcome any thoughts they have of me once they meet me.
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#20 of 41 Old 07-22-2006, 04:35 AM
 
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I'm speaking from a child's experience here....

"He is hoping they will contact them in time."

I hope he doesn't hold his breath.

My father, at one point, was seeing a counselor. The counselor, only hearing his version of things, told my dad that he was being manipulated by my mother and us, and told my father to not contact us until we contacted him. Of course, we didn't KNOW this, we just thought he was ignoring us. We thought he didn't love us. We thought perhaps he had died.

I don't remember who finally contacted whom, but I doubt it was me or my brother (I was dreadfully shy even with my dad, and my brother had defenses so built up you'd need a tank to get through them). When we found out it was the counselor's idea, well, I wanted to harm the counselor.


The kids, if they haven't been told the reason for no contact, are quite busy making up their own reasons for the no contact. Or they are being told their mom's version of things. If she's a mom like I had, that's OK. If not, well, it could be ugly.


My dad and stepdad once almost came to blows. I was there for it. My stepdad was stepping in where he did NOT belong, being the big gorilla protecting my mom, when all my dad had done was raise his voice, as had my mother, while having a VERY difficult discussion about finances. Just b/c the new guy almost comes to blows with the old guy, doesn't mean there was any sort of GOOD reason for it. It's possible there was, but it's by no means for sure.


I think the postmarked letter idea is a good one. If he's not going to contact them, of course.

I think that MD law is rather odd regarding child support.

And lastly, I, as a child of divorce (two!), can't understand why the ability to pay child support ever has anything to do with visitation. Makes me sick, actually. If a couple were married and one lost their job, we'd be asking for MORE help with the kids, not less. We wouldn't be keeping the kids away from the out of work parent...oh how things change when parents change their relationship status....(not actually related to your post but something that I couldn't keep in)
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#21 of 41 Old 07-23-2006, 02:02 PM
 
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can't understand why the ability to pay child support ever has anything to do with visitation.
Agreed.
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#22 of 41 Old 07-23-2006, 02:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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In the courts point of view it doesn't in our case, but DH's x is kind of holding it over his head so he doesn't contact the kids.
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#23 of 41 Old 07-23-2006, 02:27 PM
 
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kelsi, I'm so sorry you and your dh have to go thru this.
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#24 of 41 Old 07-23-2006, 03:30 PM
 
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child support and visitation are not linked by the court. Rather, as in this case, they are linked by the exs (both of them). The biodad knows he will end up paying more if he visits with the kids cause the biomom will take him back to court, which wil require him to pay more. So he stays away from the kids. In lots of cases, biodads who don't pay any child support don't request visitation cause they know if they do it will trigger the biomom to request cs.

Honestly, and I say this even though I undertsand how hard it can be finacially, I have little sympathy for biodads who choose money over a relationship with their kids. In some cases, the choice is a difficult one (i.e. the biodad has a new family and thus new kids that will loose out finacially when cs goes up as a result of his seeing his old kids). It is complicated, but a relationship with his kids (all of his kids) is more important than money. I would want my father to have a relationship with my half-siblinsg even if it meant I was poorer growing up (and i say this having grown up very poor)
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#25 of 41 Old 07-23-2006, 11:21 PM
 
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It is complicated, but a relationship with his kids (all of his kids) is more important than money.
Absolutely! Its just unfortunate that sometimes the custodial parent doesnt see it that way either.

Having been thru the courts on both sides, its not just money thats the issue. Its the stress of fighting; the cost of lawyers on top of increased c/s; the games that the parents play; the games that the courts play; etc; etc. Its emotionally draining. I can see why people would think twice before stepping into it.

So while yes, its sad, that someone would not see their kids b/c of money; its also sad that someone would hold money over another parents head to keep them away.

My reply to "why not just pay more?" can be, "why not just let it be?".

But yes, its waaaaaaay more complicated than that. We're all only human.
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#26 of 41 Old 07-24-2006, 01:19 PM
 
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#27 of 41 Old 07-24-2006, 01:22 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamawanabe
child support and visitation are not linked by the court. Rather, as in this case, they are linked by the exs (both of them). The biodad knows he will end up paying more if he visits with the kids cause the biomom will take him back to court, which wil require him to pay more. So he stays away from the kids. In lots of cases, biodads who don't pay any child support don't request visitation cause they know if they do it will trigger the biomom to request cs.

Honestly, and I say this even though I undertsand how hard it can be finacially, I have little sympathy for biodads who choose money over a relationship with their kids. In some cases, the choice is a difficult one (i.e. the biodad has a new family and thus new kids that will loose out finacially when cs goes up as a result of his seeing his old kids). It is complicated, but a relationship with his kids (all of his kids) is more important than money. I would want my father to have a relationship with my half-siblinsg even if it meant I was poorer growing up (and i say this having grown up very poor)
Jail is often a reason men don't initiate contact that may result in support being raised. In jail a man is no good to his new family, any of his children and is a burden to tax payers. Our system Sucks.
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#28 of 41 Old 07-24-2006, 06:28 PM
 
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Originally Posted by arismomkoofie
In the courts point of view it doesn't in our case, but DH's x is kind of holding it over his head so he doesn't contact the kids.
I don't understand why this matters? So she keeps mentioning it? I just dont' get it. Parents have the right to visitation with their kids unless they are hurting them. If she gets in the way of court ordered visitation (which you don't have, but could), she's the one in trouble. It seems like she has all this power in the situation, but it's only because he's giving it to her. In our case, the biomom was always telling us she was going to have full custody, or she was going to get CS, or whatever. It didn't really matter what she said, it was up to the courts and none of it happened. Don't be scared!

It seems like dads get the impression that the mom always gets what she wants. I'm married to a custodial dad. The courts and situations decided that.
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#29 of 41 Old 07-26-2006, 11:43 PM
 
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Couple of points:

Regarding the person who said they would trade "peace" for maintaining the relationship, I would remind them that they are trading their peace (as the adult) for their child's relationship with the other parent. If the child was asked, they might not be so willing to make that trade. I think that's one of the classic divorced parenting mistakes -- assuming your child's interests automatically line up with yours, and that what makes your life better automatically improves your child's life.

Regarding the originator of the thread. I see by your signature that you are TTC another child. Wouldn't it be worth having some basic understanding of why this man is estranged from his children before creating another child with him?

Jennifir -- I agree that your ex is a loser for not being motivated to see his daughter. However, if I were him, I would be steamed beyond belief that you moved my child 4 hours away from me. You act like you are being gracious by deigning to drive the child halfway to visit her dad. YOU moved, you should be the one driving her to her dad's house and leaving her on the front porch to make sure she has dad time. You have made the daughter-father relationship extremely difficult to maintain, so it is your responsibility to go the extra mile to do what you can to repair the effects. I would suggest you explore letting your daughter spend several weeks at her father's during the summer months. Quite frankly, his disinterest may stem from the fact that he feels having any semblance of a parenting relationship with his daughter is impossible due to the distance, and its better to cut his losses now.
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#30 of 41 Old 08-03-2006, 02:19 AM
 
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Not to threadjack, but he and I used to have a very open communication line, and before we moved, we talked this all over, and he was fine with it. I had to make the decision that was right for us, and this was it. This is the first time he's ever had to do anything hard to have contact with his daughter. And it's still not an excuse... DH's ex moved 3 hours away from him when she left him. He was working full time and going to school full time, and was only 19 when all of this happened. Yet he still had the dedication to his son to see him every other weekend, and more if his ex would let him. She's taken him to court for CP, and had it increased at various times. DH has still remained on top of it.

During my pregnancy, we only talked a handful of times. When she was born, I never asked child support of him until she was put into daycare. And even then it was less than $200/month. I never took him to court for visitation or child support (which would've been more). I've been the one making sure the contact would be there. I've urged him numerous times (even before the move) to call her from time to time. I wanted us to even be roommates at one time, so that she could have both parents around (there never has been a romantic interest... It was a one night thing...), and he wouldn't even think of it for her sake.

The second he got a new family, he decided to only contact his daughter when convenient. I have done so much (aside from completely stopping our lives) to make sure they had a good relationship. Even making sure I travelled to his wedding, which was on MY birthday, and heading back the same day. And doing the same things when taking her to him for vacations. But if he can't even find the time to call her, then I'm done. If he can't find some sort of means to help support the child he helped to create, then I'm done. It's not all about money, and I totally understand hard times. But a year of NOTHING, when our daughter had to miss out on sports last year, because he promised to pay for it, but didn't.

Anyway, I'm going off, and this isn't even my thread. I'm not perfect, and never claim to be, and if he makes an effort to truly be a part of her life, then I will never hold grudges for past mistakes. But for now, it does anger me for HER sake.
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