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Child Issues With The Ex

My Daughter

I am divorced.  Visitation with my daughter has been a nightmare.  My ex-wife takes me to court twice a year trying everything she can to keep me from seeing my child.  I thought this would pass.  We are both remarried, but this behavior of hers continues.

There is absolutely no legitimate reason why I shouldn't be able to have a relationship with my daughter.  To make matters worse, the judge is a female with a reputation as a man-hater.  It's always the same thing in the courtroom; my ex-wife puts on the "poor pitiful me" show every time.  I'm tired of wasting money on attorney's fees, not to mention being ordered to pay hers.


Marc, your ex-wife is attempting to erase you from her past.  She is acting as if your child is hers with another man.

There are several things you can do short of paying more to an attorney.  First, maintain a consistent attempt to see your daughter.  Send cards, make calls, and show up.  That accomplishes two things: it shows your determined mindset, and it may wear down your ex-wife and her new husband into letting you have reasonable visits.

Second, make sure your daughter knows how much you want to be in her life.  Start a scrapbook and keep it in a positive light.  Record memories of your visits with her, save copies of the cards you send and pictures of gifts you give.  Bring a camera on visits and take pictures.

What our children most want is proof that we have never stopped loving them and never stopped wanting to be in their lives.  What your daughter will most value in the future is the knowledge that you have been rooting for her all of her life.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)


A Brick Wall

Two years ago I divorced, and there is still a lot of hostility. 

My former husband has been served with contempt papers for not paying child support.  He says I am sending him to the poorhouse, but I have no recourse but to contact the court when the payments stop.  He continues to blame me, even though two judges have explained it is the court which determines when contempt charges are filed.

My children require the necessities of life, which I provide, but he says the children are my responsibility and not to contact him, even if they become ill.  He only interacts with them on scheduled weekends, and many times the weekends are cut short. 

The home he purchased with his girlfriend includes a built-in swimming pool and two Jacuzzis.  Last summer he asked me how it feels to work, and he explained he makes enough money his girlfriend gets to sit by the pool all summer.  His girlfriend looks like a glittering Christmas tree with all the jewelry she wears. 

I have tried to talk to him, but he says he is not listening and then belittles me.  He buys food and clothing for his girlfriend's children, but he tells me I have messed up our children's lives and dress them in rags.  That is not true.  They are really great kids doing well in school.

I need some ideas how to try and talk to him to get my point across.  How do I communicate my concerns to him?


Marlene, you have communicated your concerns to him.  He doesn't care.  Your ex-husband doesn't want to support any woman he is not sleeping with, or her children.  Your children have lost a father figure because their father does not see himself as their father.

There is another danger here.  Children often respect the bad parent and respond to what that parent wants, while disrespecting the good parent.  It is not simply that they pick up the difficult parent's attitude; they think by placating him they will get a father response out of him.  But the end result is they may blame you.

Don't waste time thinking you will ever get through to this man.  You are being emotionally battered and so are your children, which is a good reason to minimize contact with him.

His obligation to his children comes from the state in the same way the state determines which side of the road to drive on or when to pay taxes.  Let the state enforce this obligation and don't explain or apologize for it.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)



I am divorced with two grown daughters in their 20s.  Both my ex and I are remarried.  He lives in a distant city.  Both daughters are married, and one has two boys and the other one boy.  My problem is the lack of interest my ex-husband shows in his daughters.

My youngest daughter is getting her master's degree and invited her dad to come to her graduation.  Also, she bought a new house two years ago and has a little boy, neither of which he has seen.  Her invitation to the graduation was greeted with enthusiasm, and she really thought he was coming.  She also told the news to people at work and family members.

She's been buffing up the house and getting a guest room ready for his stay.  Well, lo and behold, he's not going to come.  He gave some lame excuse about tickets for something or other, and he couldn't give them away so he has to use them.  Sorry, he said, you know you come first, but these tickets are hard to come by.  Yada, yada, yada. 

My daughter told me last night.  I showed no sign of anger or disappointment, nor did I rank on him.  But I'm mad.  She says no big deal, but I know how hurt she is and it hurts me when my kids hurt.  Both daughters are so nice they would never confront him on any issue.  I don't want to butt in where I shouldn't, but when I see my kids hurt, I want to do something.

Do I have the right to interfere and call or write my ex and tell him exactly what he has done?  Or do I keep my mouth shut, and let relationship issues between father and daughters be dealt with by them?


Delia, you cannot make him be the man he isn't.  If that could be done, everyone could just write a letter or make a phone call, and everything on the planet would be fixed.  He is taking advantage of your daughters because they are nice, but if they weren't nice, would they be your daughters?

You've experienced who he is.  A divorce didn't change him.  Your daughters are going to have to come to terms with this on their own.  There are children whose parents die when they are young.  There are children who are abused by their parents.  There are children who are ignored by their parents.

Each child deals with that individually.  Perhaps 20 years from now he may suddenly decide he needs a relationship with his daughters.  And they may accept, or reject, him based on their past dealings with him.

This is not a matter for you to get involved with.  He is no longer your husband.  Your daughter is trying to "win" her dad, a man who rejects her.  She may always try to do that, and she may take for granted the person who has been there by her side all along.  Best to take a neutral stance here and do nothing.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)


Been There, Done That

Fourteen years ago I was divorced from my second wife, her idea.  I'll call her Kay.  But I never lost my love for her.  She married again and had two children.  We always remained friends, however my new wife could not relate to that, so contact via any manner was limited.

Kay divorced again about four years ago, and my wife just passed away recently.  Kay sent her condolences and that has led to a meeting for coffee in the near future.  First, I feel guilt because my wife's passing is not even a month old, and my heart is buzzing for Kay.  Second, my heart tells me I could live with Kay for the rest of my life, but my intellect tells me I would be a fool to now raise the two kids of the man she left me for.

I feel if I ever commit myself to Kay, I may regret the children, and our relationship would be ruined.  I also feel if I don't commit myself to Kay, I may regret losing the woman I never stopped loving.


Keith, a friend of ours is a superb horsewoman.  A few years ago she acquired a stunningly beautiful, gray Paso Fino horse.  She knew he had been mishandled and abused by a string of previous owners.  This horse had the characteristic gait of the Paso Fino.  When he walked slowly forward, his hooves beat the ground in a perfect four beat rhythm like the rapid roll of a drum.

Our friend saw the potential in this horse, but no matter how much she worked with him, she could not make him achieve that potential.  She experienced one more thing.  This was a dangerous animal.  A less accomplished rider might have been seriously injured.  Finally, she had to admit the horse's flaws and let him go.

In your imagination there is something about Kay which allows you to deny the reality of her actions.  You wooed Kay, you were engaged to Kay, you legally married Kay, and she left you for another man.  You might call her children the children of another man, but they are her children.  They came out of her body.  The children are completely innocent.

Until you can get this turned around in your head, you need to consider whether to even meet Kay.  The term which describes what you are doing is displacement.  It means transferring emotion from the original object to a more acceptable substitute.  The loathing you feel for Kay's children is really the loathing and anger you feel toward Kay for leaving you.

Put the blame where it belongs.  It doesn't belong on the children, it belongs on Kay.  Kay is looking out for Kay.  Like our friend with the Paso Fino, you need to admit Kay's flaws and let her go.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)


Mom's Legacy

I am recently divorced from a destructive narcissist.  His infidelity, coupled with a lack of remorse for the havoc caused to our family, was the last straw.  This crisis drove me to discover much about myself that needs repairing.  I am happily working on those issues, particularly on establishing clear boundaries and a strong sense of self.

Last week my son, his former stepson, received a birthday check.  I told my son he should return it.  I said it was okay to keep the good memories in his heart and be polite when they met, but that gift was just making my ex look like a good guy and showing total disregard for the pain he caused all of us.

My son accidentally got wind of his stepfather's affair through a third party.  It was a cruel discovery, and he was deeply hurt.  I also explained it's hard to say "enough" to someone you opened your heart to, but it is imperative to recognize situations for what they are and not make excuses for bad behavior.  My gut says I'm on the mark.  What do you say?


Julene, our gut says you are on the mark.  For yourself.  But your relationship to your ex-husband and your son's relationship to him are two entirely different things. 

For better or for worse, you were the one who brought this man into your son's life.  You don't mention how long you were married or how old your son is.  But it sounds as if this man may be the only father your son has ever known.  As long as your ex-husband is not clearly using this to get back at you or to manipulate your son, let your son decide. 

If the check is what it appears to be on the surface, a gift, your son should decide whether to accept or not.  If he is like most young people, he would rather have the money.  If he is like most young people, he would rather not be caught in the middle of a power struggle between his mom and the man he thought of as dad. 

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)


Seeds Of Understanding

My husband has two children from a previous marriage and shares custody with his ex.  They have been divorced over three years.  Our problem is scheduling holidays, arranging meeting times, or adjusting the visitation in any way.

His ex-wife screens calls with an answering machine and will not return messages.  On the rare occasions she answers the phone, she claims she will get back to us but never does.  At our swap location, she rolls up the car window and drives off rather than discussing things.

She is so skilled at manipulating that my husband must concede to her or be made to look like he does not want to spend time with his children.  His son, 11, says his mother told him now that his father is married, he would be too busy to spend time with him.

I am a hospital administrator and need to plan travel schedules, evening events, and vacations in advance.  My husband is a teacher with set vacations.  This ex-wife does not work other than cleaning two houses a week on a cash basis.

I am stymied.  Is the next step contacting an attorney?  Her refusal to schedule in advance has resulted in one too many situations where my husband missed a work-related social event at the last moment, or I lost my option to schedule vacation days.


Gloria, second wives often have a tough row to hoe, and this woman is doing all she can to plant weeds.  You can't make her give up her emotional resentment and jealousy, but there are some things you can do.

Your husband, for example, could give a watch with an alarm to his son.  The two could synchronize their watch alarms.  Each day when the alarm sounds his son will know his father is thinking of him. The ties that bind your husband to his children don't always have to be physical ones.

You can also draw a comparison for the children.  Let them understand that just as they have school rules they must follow, so rules of the workplace govern your lives.  Share the demands of your schedule with them.  Let them know the things you must do don't reflect a lack of love for them.

Young children are concrete thinkers, but they are capable of understanding the difference between what you must do and what their mother chooses to do.  Unfortunately, legal solutions seldom solve emotional issues.

(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)


An Unintended Snub

My husband and I recently divorced.  We have three beautiful children, the oldest 11.  When I decided it was time for me to move on, I packed my bags and was ready to leave, when to my horror, my eldest decided to stay with his father.

His father is a man who was never there, never changed diapers, never took them to school, practice, appointments or parties.  He was the invisible father.  The only good thing he did for us was provide financially.

I am so angry at my son I don't want to communicate with him anymore.  I feel betrayed.  I provided everything but the money, and this is the payback I get.  I actually allowed him to stay because I knew it wouldn't last.  For my husband to do some parental work was not within the realm of possibility.  Or so I thought.

I love my son and don't want to lose him, but I can't stand to hear about his life without me.  I know my behavior is wrong, but it is simply too painful to face up to my son picking my ex over me.


Kirstin, lawyers say you should never ask a witness a question if you don't already know the answer.  Otherwise, you are apt to get surprised.

You weren't being magnanimous by giving your son a choice.  It made you look good.  You wanted to show your husband the children preferred you.  The best rule to follow is never make an offer you don't mean, and never bluff.  Being caught bluffing puts you in the weakest position in any relationship.

The only person to kick is yourself, because if you kick your son, you will be kicking him right out of your life. 

Don't be too hard on yourself, either.  An 11-year-old boy looks to his dad, not his mother, to show him how to make his way in the world as a man.  Your son is focused on this man as his father, not on his failings as your husband.

(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)

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