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Never married mother of infant works 50+ hours, father stays home; she wants out

Your Question:
I am in need of advise for the following situation; I am a never married mother of a 5 month old boy, the father lives with me in the home that I own, and retains a position as a stay-at-home dad while I support our family of three on my semi-corporate salary position. I currently am responsible for 100% of the bills and utilities as well as carrying the health insurance for the baby. Dad has been out of work (he is a funeral director by trade) for over a year now, (He quite his job to move to the other side of the state to live with me) and refuses to find work to supplement my income. While I make very good money I work 50 plus hours a week, and am having trouble making ends meet due to the fact that my company decided half way though 8 weeks they could not afford to pay me for my maternity leave.(I admit, I wasn't prepared, and I should have been) I am at a loss with this relationship, and find myself thinking that ending the it would be best. The father did bring a considerable savings with him when he first moved in, but that has long since been used up. While from the outside "dad" may look like the perfect catch, he is complaisant in watching me struggle. I have am not without fault myself, as I have an 4 year old unresolved traffic offense that resulted in the loss of my drivers license (I could easily reinstate it if I could afford a lawyer) and I also have some tax issues that I have failed to take care of. My concerned is that a court would take into consideration, as well that, even though I am the bread winner, I didn't spend enough time with my child to due to the fact the father is the primarily care giver. (I take over the minute I get home and on the weekends). Granted for a while I justified this situation to myself by saying "at least he's not in child care". I am bitter because it was decided that I would stay home with the baby, and then it was decided that after a few weeks I would quit and stay home with the baby, but now he has made clear that he has no intentions of returning to the work force. I am considering selling my house and moving in with my parents to keep my head above water. Would I be on the losing end of a custody battle because of assuming the breadwinning role? As hard as I try, I cannot separate his role as a father from the role I expected him to play as a man. Please advise, and thank you in advance for your time.

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My Answer:

Well, you're in a tough situation that is more often reserved for men. I know that's no consolation.

I think you need to first need to go through an exercise and write down your long-term priorities.

Currently, here's your situation:

  • You're not married, you have a baby, and you live with the father.

  • The baby's primary caregiver has been the father for the past 5 months.

  • The father has no current income by choice (i.e., he resigned from his prior job), though he's likely had significant income within the past few years. The father's savings helped support the household during the past year.

  • You probably make far more than the father can earn.

  • You own a house in a market that is at its peak.

  • Your current employer is not a family-friendly employer.

  • Your biggest complaints about the father are that he's not a good companion or financial provider. You expressed no concern about him as a caregiver.

  • You can't legally drive, and I presume that the father can.

With these circumstances, if both of you had competent attorneys, your best scenario in a court ruling would likely be a 50/50 custodial outcome.

If both of you are good parents, and if you can set aside pain from a failed relationship, that's actually pretty good for this kid.

However, if the father is determined to have primary custody, and if he has an aggressive attorney, and if the judge doesn't have any "mother sympathy" that some judges seem to possess; right now, you may end up a noncustodial parent.

So, back to my original statement-- what are your long-term priorities? Is being a very involved mother a #1 priority? I sense you'd see it that way, from what you wrote.

If you see this relationship as failing, you need to set up a strategy on how you can end it in the child's best interest, as well as your own.

The biggest thing you need to make happen is to spend much more time taking care of your child for at least the next few months and plan your exit from this relationship. Here are some ideas:

  • See if you can go down to part-time with your employer, take an extended personal leave without pay, or quit. If your child is your #1 priority, this employer is the wrong one for you anyway. They illegally put pressure on you to return to work only 4 weeks after giving birth (read details of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act that was created to protect employees specifically against employers like yours).

  • Take out a loan against the equity in your home for several months of your household expenses. Or take a loan from your parents.

  • Advise your boyfriend that y'all need to really tighten the budget, and/or he needs to find part-time or full-time work.

  • Care for your child for at least six hours daily, every day. Use software like OPTIMAL described on my What You Must Have page to document the next three months of who does what parenting each day.

  • Consult with a landlord/tenant attorney to find out what notice you have to give your boyfriend in advising that he needs to move out. It may be 30 or 60 days, depending upon your state. Don't mention anything to him until you're ready for the next step. As is my understanding, if you just throw him out on his tail, he may have some legal action to take against you if he wants to be nasty. You need to know that information if it makes sense to sell your home, so the sale doesn't get delayed by tenancy problems.

  • If your parents are in the same town, get them on board to take you in if their home is appropriate for a mother and child. If your parents are not in the same town, get an idea of what a modest, safe, clean two-bedroom apartment will rent for... do NOT put major distance between you and the father, as that will result in this little boy being shuffled back and forth across distance for the rest of his life.

  • Get your driver's license, so it's not an issue at any court hearing. Dad can argue that he's able to take the child to the doctor, to preschool, to the dentist, to activities-- etc. Right now, you can't easily argue the same thing.

Your goal is to ensure that the court will view you as equally involved (if not more) in raising this baby; before the separation. If you have three months of detailed journaling in that regard, that's pretty convincing.

Your goal is NOT to destroy the father. While the guy may suck as a boyfriend, it's usually a characteristic of a good parent if one stays home with a baby and does well at it.

So, your goal is to ensure this baby will have high access to both parents upon separation. Right now, you can't ensure it due to the circumstances.

With my approach, your worst case scenario is that in a year, you file for bankruptcy. But if your #1 priority is to be highly involved in raising your child, bankruptcy is not as bad as a court making a temporary ruling that you're to be a noncustodial parent (with 17 years of an uphill battle to gain custodial timeshare).

If you're earning a decent corporate salary, you understand cost/benefit analysis and long-term strategic planning. View your personal situation in the same manner. Your emotional decision has already been made -- to leave. Use your head from here on out.

Think about everything I wrote, start making a sound plan for getting your life back on a track that is good for you AND your child, and then write back with more questions.

Good luck.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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