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Stepmother wonders if father can resume relationship with child he abandoned years ago

Your Question:
I am the stepmother of a beauitful 5 yr old little girl. This situation is a bit complicated. Well my husband and the childs mother dated briefly and concieved the baby. They decided it was best if they didnt form a realtionship together. My husband had visitation apond reasonable time reasonable notice. But all that ended up doing was giving the mother a power trip and her not letting him see his daughter. So my husband just gave up. Which was a dumb young thing to do we realize. So he left her at about 18 months. We got back into her life when she was 4 1/2 yrs old and although we live 400 miles away true to visit as much as possible.He calls her weekly, we have sent them a webcam for virtual visitation and we send her gifts and letters often. Now it is not possible for us to move to there state, due to our careers. So we mentioned to the mother about coming up with a out of state visitation schedule. Something would be meaningnful for forming a relationship with his daughter. Now we realize that she doesnt know us from Adam and she needs time to ease into this transition.Her mother flips out about taking this to court. But living so far away we cant depend on her allowing us to see the daughter.We need a set schedule. But the mother will not help us do this. We are going after everyother holiday and summer visitation. But we wont make the schedule take affect until our daughter is ready for it . But how can we get the mother to help us ease this little girl into this? And what is our opionion of what were doing?

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My Answer:

It seems to me, and perhaps I'm not reading correctly between the lines, that you are the motivator behind the father wanting a relationship with his daughter, three years after he walked away from her.

Regardless of the difficulty of dealing with the child's mother, the father had many options at the time. Many men are faced with the same kind of challenges, and they stick with it. So, let's not merely dismiss his decision years ago as "a dumb young thing". He CHOSE that path and contributed to the huge problem of fatherless children in this country.

That said, if he now wants to step up to the plate, I think it's great.

But let's also keep perspective. Apparently, you and he feel your jobs are more important than his relationship with his child, as you said, "It is not possible to move to their state, due to our careers."

I'll tell you that my child's mother has tried frequent move-aways. I've fought them and defeated each one. However, if it ever came to the situation where my daughter lived far away, my wife and I would be uprooting our lives to move to where my daughter lives.

Your careers are a higher priority than this child. This is a statement of fact, per your own words, not a judgment. Some people would share your priorities. My priorities are different, and some people would share mine.

To make a difference in your situation, I don't see any option but to seek visitation orders through the court.

I like that you are hoping to find the best way to transition (all you can do is help the child, and you should give up on helping the mother). The father decided to stay away for years, during a formative time in the child's development. The child has only known you two for a few months. I really don't see you getting extended time with the child until the father proves that he isn't a flake and that he's now determined to show he is a permanent person in this child's life.

So, to start, I suggest the father spend time with the child, on alternating weekends, for perhaps 5 hours on Saturday and 5 hours on Sunday... IN THE CHILD'S CITY. Five hours is plenty of time to have lunch, go to a park, play, etc. You and the father can get a hotel room for Saturday night.

After doing that for perhaps four months, change one of the weekends to an overnight in your home (i.e., he'll travel to the child's city one weekend per month, and the mother will bring the child to his city one weekend per month).

After doing that for a number of months, transition into a few days of time at holidays. E.g., if you start this plan now, perhaps 4 days in your home over Christmas 2006.

And then by summer vacation 2007, the child will probably do okay with one week in your home, three times (i.e., one week per month of summer vacation).

To be clear, you'll be asking a judge to order a step-up plan akin to what I outlined. Court is also going to order child support and make some decisions on who pays for what transportation.

This situation would be easier on everyone, especially the child, if you moved to the mother's city; and getting to see the child more frequently would be easier. But it seems you and your husband have jobs that are so unique to your city (or perhaps military assignment), you can't move. If not, you two just don't want the hassle of moving and finding new jobs.

I think the father has a long road ahead before he spends extended time with the child, and it's quite reasonable that a judge wants to make sure this guy doesn't disappear again. It's much better for the child to never see him again, than to have him pop in and out of her life.

Looking at the big picture, within a mere 2 years of hard work and proving himself as a Dad, the father/daughter bond will be strong, and by the time she's a teenager, she won't remember these early years at all.

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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