I am a single mother. My daughter will be 3 the end of this
month and I am in need of some advice. I currently have
sole custody of her and her father has visitation every
other weekend. He doesn't have her overnight and he only
pays half of what he should for child support. The reason
for this mostly is because I wanted to ensure that I would
be sole custodian of her. I believe that a child needs
stability and that was really the only way that I felt she
would have it and that he would agree to the terms was by
letting him "off the hook" for full child support. He
didn't hesitate at all the signing the contract because he
knew he was getting off easily.
To fill you in on a little of our history. I dated him for
8yrs before ending our relationship. I was engaged to him
for about 1yr before we broke it off. He never, ever
stepped up to be a full time father and that's when I
decided my daughter and I deserve better. When I told him I
was pregnant he tried to force me to get an abortion and so
did his parents. He was not there during the pregnancy and
while he was present during birth, he was not there
coaching me, my mom was. Once she was born he decided maybe
he wanted to try and be a part of her life and so I decided
to give him another chance only to realize he was only
going to be a part of her life when it worked out for him.
I tried to be flexible on schedules and such, but after
being taken advantage of I decided to get it in writing and
make visitations official. Now that my daughter is getting
older and understanding things more I have noticed her to
act out more and I don't know what to do about it. There
have been times when he shows up late to pick her up, drop
her off. He has been too hung over before to pick her up on
his weekend. He often asks me to switch weekends with him
because it doesn't work into his schedule to have her on
his scheduled weekend. I will admit that I have had to do
this a few times too, but I know when my weekends to have
her are and therefore I schedule things around that, to the
best of my ability. He has brought her home in the middle
of winter in -8 below zero weather with no heater in his
car. When confronted about it he simply said he wasn't
going to get it fixed and that kids don't get sick from
that they get sick from viruses. She is in the middle of
being potty trained and is doing wonderfully, but always
seems to have accidents while in his care. He puts diapers
on her because he doesn't want to deal with it even though
that only regresses her potty training. I hate to point out
all these negatives but I have to in order to ask my
I haven't dated anyone since our engagement ended 1 1/2yrs
ago and now have met someone that I feel I want to persue a
relationship with. Only problem is he is in Texas and I'm
in Iowa. I'm by no means saying I will be moving anytime
soon as I want what is best for my daughter and she comes
before any relationship of mine. But if it came to that
what are my rights on moving? Also is it possible to prove
him to be an unfit parent. I have often wondered this
before I met anyone, but now wonder if I ever got married
would it be possible for her to be adopted? I know it may
seem like I am crossing some bridges a little early, but I
feel that when it comes to my daughter I can never be too
sure or certain especially when the laws promote that they
want both parents involved. What if having him in her life
appears to be hurting/confusing the child? He is her dad
and I won't deny that, but he doesn't know what
responsibility is and that is obvious. I don't voice my
thoughts in front of my daughter nor do I approach him in a
negative way around her. I try to remain calm in every
situation, but I have observed him with her and I have
observed my friend with her and he has been more of a
father figure to her than her real dad ever has been so
doesn't that count for something?
I am a christian woman who works full time and is trying
hard to make it on my own. Currently I live with my
parents. I rarely go out. I try to put money aside for my
daughter for savings. And am doing the best I can to be a
Loving Provider for my daughter. I truly feel I know what
is best for her and that is why I have expressed my
concerns. Sorry for the length of this message, but I
appreciate you taking the time to read this.
By the way I have contacted my lawyer on this, but am
waiting for a response.
Thanks for writing.
It's really interesting to me that you decided to mention you're a "Christian" woman. I don't think anyone has ever felt compelled to mention their faith as being part of their situation, so I'll comment on it. I'm not Christian, but I'm a tad familiar with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
First, would Jesus Christ be okay with what you've written to me, and what you've asked of me? In Mat 5:21-22,27-28, Jesus made it clear that not only obedience to the letter of the commandments is needed, but also following the spirit
of them is needed.
There are hundreds of commandments in the Old Testament (i.e., the Torah), though most people know of the first ten the best. The fifth, commanded by God, is to "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
Do your wonderings about the future put you on track to help your daughter follow this commandment so that her days may be long? It seems to me that your approach is, "Honor thy mother and thy mother's tidings, regardless of pain to the father."
If you are a Christian woman, you may wish to let that sit and see if there's any validity to my perspective. For those who follow Christ, adhering to the commandments is extremely important, as I understand it.
Okay, now, on to your situation.
It may be that the father isn't the best parent in the world at this point, but I read that he is paying child support and is regularly spending time with the child. So long as that's going on, no court is going to terminate his parental rights. Realistically, there's no chance that another man will be able to adopt this child (unless the father willingly terminates his own rights).
That said, I think it's your duty to your daughter to do everything possible to try to improve her parents. And, you describe the father as a fairly defensive guy, so you may need to be a little clever in trying to do this.
Here are some ideas on how to best serve your child, in hopes of ensuring her best interests are advanced:
- Get an order from the court saying that both parents are required to attend a parenting course that covers developmental issues and parent/child communication. If you're willing to go to such a course, the father would be less defensive about it. This will help him understand about potty-training and basic needs such as the heat in the car.
- Recognize when the father does things right. You had not ONE good thing to say about him in the lengthy note you sent (by contrast, you showed no reserve in saying good things about yourself). Thank him more frequently, and promptly apologize if you're ever unfair or mistaken on things. This could help him be more trusting of you and your perspective, which may help him listen more openly to parenting suggestions.
- Allow him to have special opportunities with his daughter that are beyond what the orders required. Again, it helps mend your relationship with him, gives him more opportunity to build a deeper relationship with your daughter.
- Quit fantasizing about another man raising this child. It does nobody any good.
If you date a man who you think would be a good stepfather as well, have the expectation that the man should moved to where you are so that your daughter isn't stripped of one of her parents. If the man was truly a good man, he would find a way to do this.
If you end up deciding to move, or if you want to further modify your custody, I suggest that you and the father first go through a custody evaluation process with a clinical psychologist. Such a person would be invaluable in identifying what's best for the child, along with any challenges either parent has. Again, if you are TRULY desiring what's best for the child, you'd be willing to hear areas in which you may need to improve (e.g., if there are any psychological issues at play). Likewise, it'll help confirm any concerns you have about the father, if you're presenting an accurate picture of what's going on.
When a mother writes to me and has 100% bad things to say about the father, and 100% good things to say about herself, it raises red flags about the person who is writing. (or vice versa if the person writing is the father).
I want to emphatically point out that you are not a victim here. You knew the guy (and who he is) for many years before deciding to have a child with him. You willingly accepted THIS MAN as the father of your child. YOU played a major role in creating this situation for your daughter. It's on YOUR shoulders (and the father's) to make it work.
So, please do your best to work with it and figure out how to improve the father/daughter relationship that you describe as ailing. Twenty years from now, your daughter will love you even more if she knows how hard you worked to give her a good relationship with her father.