Advice from someone who has been in your shoes
  Search entire web
Supervised Visitation Directory
Return to list of questions Return to topic groups
Noncustodial father learns from teenager's Instant Messaging log that she has drugs and is upset about custodial mother's cheating on stepfather

Your Question:
I am a stepmother of a 15 yr old girl who lives with her BM. Lately she has been seeming depressed, sleeping the whole time she's here, on the computer constantly, bad- mouthing her mother, just different than usual.

We thought maybe she might be getting involved w/drugs, or something bad on the internet. We monitored her conversations for a couple of months and discovered she was upset because she had discovered her Mom having an affair on her stepfather.

Her mother has apparently induced her into keeping quiet by suddenly extending priveleges previously denied (dating, driving, job, etc.) and also by paying her money!

We have not yet discussed this with my stepdaughter, because we don't want to lose her trust. But we feel this situation is becoming even more intolerable because now that she's allowed to pretty much do what she wants, she will continue lying for her mother.

There is also a safety issue, both these adults are volatile people, and we are afraid of what might happen if the affair is revealed to the stepfather.

There is also evidence in the IMs that my stepdaughter is in posession of illegal drugs, although she does not state that she is using them. It seems to be a situation that if nipped in the bud, may have a better outcome than if left to fester.

Will a judge consider this a good reason to modify custody? Will he accept the computer conversations, or look down on us for having spied on our daughter? In the event that we do not gain a custody change, do you think this info could be used to at least have her mentally evaluated or to ensure counselling for the child?

This woman will not roll over. She will deny it or twist it, she will mess with the child's mind. She is vicious. And an expert liar. She may be able to afford an attorney, where we aill not.

Thanks in advance

Custody and visitation problems? We can help. can help you win custody, change custody, or reduce child support. Recommended by mediators and therapists and used every day by thousands of parents and families worldwide.

My Answer:

As you know, it took me a few days to respond. I really don't know if there's a good answer for you.

I asked you if the father has joint legal custody, and you said that he does not. You said that there's some wording that he's to be involved in decisions, but that you think mother has sole custody.

I think you're in a very tough boat, without even joint legal custody, and ideally you'd at least be able to come up with a few hundred bucks to meet with an experienced family law attorney in your area with a list of questions.

On your concerns:

  • Mother had an affair on stepdad. That's not relevant by itself. But if daughter is so upset by it that it has destroyed the mother/daughter relationship, it doesn't bode well for the mother being an effective parent. But how do you convey all this to the court without betraying the child's trust, and without even the legal authority to take daughter to a psychologist (who would then testify about it)? I don't know. You need to talk with an attorney.

  • Daughter is in possession of illegal drugs. If you pilfered through her internet activity on your computer, is it admissible evidence? I don't know. I think some may view it as falling in the "tough love" parenting category, where one can't be too careful. I think you'd sound reasonable if dad were to say, "We noticed an abrupt personality change in daughter, and we had to figure out what was going on-- and we chose to breach that privacy out of concern for her own best interest." Again, an attorney needs to advise you on this.

  • Is there any measure you can take to report the child for possession of drugs, but still have some control in the process so that it's done in a way that is going to be best for the child rather than just being tossed into law enforcement's hands? I don't know. Again... the attorney.

I think the elements are there that IF you can build your case on evidence, you could probably get court orders to help the child (in what exact manner, I'm not sure).

But that's a big IF. And that's why you really need to sit down with a family law attorney to explore what options there are.

The mother's personality is irrelevant. Your portrayal of what she'd do is speculative. She may be an awful human being, but that assessment shouldn't play a role in how the father chooses to proceed on doing what's best for the daughter.

Good luck on this, please keep me informed as to what happens... if anything. I'd like to learn from it.


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.

© 2005 ~ 2012 All Rights Reserved.