Relationship Advice #34: What to do if the father/mother of your kids is a deadbeat ex

Here is a question from one of our avid bloggers these days. She actually posted it on my face book wall, and I thought it was a great question, although many people did not want to comment on it, since it can vary from case to case…

From Kerry: Ok, I have a question for you.. and this is because it’s the situation I’m in…. If the father of your children completely abandons you all with nothing, steals from you, continues to let you down and not support the children… ( I can add to this, but I would be here all night writing it all).. and a long time later says he wants access, but lets you down again.. and again … and again… Is it right, for the sake of your sanity and the children’s well being, to give up giving chances and ultimately give up on them as a father all together?… or, just because he “fathered” them, is he entitled to have access, regardless of what he puts them through?

From Gigi: Normally it is up to the courts that force visitation on the children, whether or not the parent is worthy of contact with them. I have seen this all to often among my friends. If the choice is up to you, and the absentee parent has been given many chances that he or she does not live up to, then I think at some point in time, you have to stop giving them chances. The children need to be protected from continuous hurt asnd letdowns.

From Mike: Too complicated. I pass.

From Gigi: Mike? passing on a blog? for shame!! At least you didn’t answer with a casino comment :-p

From Mike: That parent probably has a gambling problem so I must recuse myself.

From Brie: Sounds a little too personal and specific experience….not something I want to comment on 🙁 sorry….pass here too.

From Gigi: Et tu Brutus… this was sent in by Kerry, wanting our help and advice…

From Mike: Only she knows if said parent is worthy of another chance.

From Hannah: This is a really tough one you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Children need to have connections to their herritage but if this said person is damaging you need to really weigh those cons you don’t want your child wondering why you contibuted to whatever hurt the other said parent may subject them to. Maybe sit down with that person and have clear ground rules before you start and if there is a break in these rules they know what will happen and so will the child. It really depends how old the child is and how much imput they are able to give.

From Gigi: If anyone else reads this and would like to give some advice, it was sent in by someone needing your opinion… if not, Kerry… I tried 🙂

From Brie: I provide plenty of input… just going to sit this one out as I’m not comfortable nor qualfied to be giving advice on someone else’s situation….especially if it involves children.

From Annie: Why does the parent want to re-enter the children’s lives and how long has the gap been? What do the children think? How old ARE the children? Is the parent violent? What is meant by it not being up to the courts? What is against this person’s will? There are too many blank spaces in this one, Gigi…

From Ricardo: Yea, this is a tough one without knowing details… just from the facts above, I guess give them another chance, and if he lets the child down again, give the child some excuse to not make him look bad and let the child realize the truth when they are older…

From Annie: I would go for professional advice.

From Dan: That makes it MUCH easier to answer. HELL NO. Fathering children doesn’t make you the Father. After the initial abandonment he gave up his right to co-parent, IMHO. Unless and until he can play by the Mother’s rules now i.e. payment in full of ALL child support, make restitution for ALL stolen property, publicly admit and apologize for ALL past improper behavior, check himself into counseling or prove that he has had the proper counseling and is ‘cleared’ by a professional to re-enter the children’s lives…then he doesn’t really exist (parentally speaking). Of course all of this depends on whether or not the mother was at fault initially by ‘driving’ the father out, and is not, herself, a psycho. The mother, if asked, should explain to the children why the father is not allowed to be in their lives fully. It should also be explained that the father CAN be let back into their lives should he choose to (prove himself) play by the Mother’s rules. It’s really up to her at this point. She shouldn’t feel guilty about it if she is justified. Only SHE knows what has REALLY been done. But based on the information that has been given, she has no obligation (unless ordered to do so by a court of law) to let him have “access”. Keeping in mind that the truth will eventually prevail…so IF she is keeping him away without proper justification, the children will likely hold it against her later in life.

From Rose: A friend of mine’s daughter had a sort of a nervous breakdown AT 5-YRS-OLD because her father kept making and breaking promises. However, they have a decent relationship now that she’s in college. From my own experience, my son’s father wanted things HIS way and his way only. I wasn’t having that. His father eventually just gave up because he wasn’t willing to work with our schedule. It’s a delicate and complicated situation, no matter what. My first thought is always to protect the child. If the father (or mother – because it happens that way, too) isn’t willing to work with strict ground rules, they don’t deserve the time.

From Annie: From my own experience, my son’s father wanted things HIS way and his way only. I wasn’t having that. His father eventually just gave up because he wasn’t willing to work with our schedule. I am not saying it does, but that COULD suggest that you demanded that you wanted things YOUR way and your way only. The trouble with this type of thread is that there are always 2 sides to a story. Seriously, I think the person asking this should get professional advice and not look to face book for the answers to such a very hard situation.

From Rose: I agree, Annie. However, considering your reaction to my post, I need to clarify. My son’s father came into his life after my son was already 6 years old. I was more than willing to allow him to be part of his life, but I wasn’t going to allow him to completely disrupt it either. He’d call and say, “Can you bring him over now?” Uh, no. These things have to be planned. I wasn’t going to let him manipulate me or my son. Did I mention we never received a dime of child support or that my son never even received a birthday card?

From Annie: I wasn’t reacting to your post, I was just using your comment as an example of how none of us know the full story. And, again, I don’t know the full story of you and your family, either. There could be all sorts of reasons etc as to why your situation is as it is…there ARE always 2 sides. What I am trying to say, is that no matter WHAT one side says, we can NEVER give a reasoned response, because we are only coming from hearing one viewpoint.

From Rose: That’s the unfortunate thing about most advice columns – dating or otherwise. There’s usually only one person asking the question, “What should I do?”

From Annie: Hence why they should seek professional help. Although preferably not a lawyer at first! Relate or family counselling etc are a good first step, I think.

From Rose: OK, Gigi, time to shut down the advice column. 😉

From Annie: Advice columns are great – but we are talking about the lives of very little children here. That is a different kettle of fish in my book – I am sure you agree, Rose?

From Rose: I don’t think it’s unfair or off-limits to seek pedestrian advice or opinions regarding kids – or to give it, so long as both parties know that that is exactly what it is. I would definitely agree that professional advice should ultimately be sought in these difficult situations, but a little anecdotal food for thought can’t hurt either. Again, so long as it is taken for what it’s worth – an appetizer – not complete sustenance.

From Winnie: Does the mother still love him? even though he’s caused all the before mentioned pain? I would think that this would be the first thing to tackle.

From Ron: Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it and reach an agreement. It is unfair towards the kids to block a parent out of their lives. Use your superior intelligence/awareness to educate the ex-partner in how to be a positive influence on the kid’s life. Take the ego out of the equation as best you can. for the religious, Jesus taught love and acceptance of everyone, not just those we like 🙂

From Annie: Brilliant words from Ron – although not sure about the word superior…;)

From Ron: Haha… yes indeed… but we usually see ourselves as superior to “the ex” anyway so its soothing to hear someone else reinforce it 😉

From Aaron: This needs to be all about the kids. Decisions on either side are going to be swayed by emotions. Seek professional help.

From Rose: ‎@Ron, I have a mixed response. I agree with taking ego out as much as possible and doing one’s best to have reasonable and rational conversations with the ex. However, if reasonable and rational conversations can’t be had and the kids are suffering because of the other parent’s behavior, I think it is reasonable to shield the kids from him/her until they’re old enough to better understand and actively take part in the conversation themselves. And yes, Jesus did teach love and acceptance of all, but He didn’t say we had to accept bad behavior.

From Jackson: Very tough to answer given the limited detail and complicated nature. Short of the person endangering the kids, I don’t think the other parent should ever use the kids as a control tool. We only see one side of this story. ButIi say stop the hate. Forgive and take the high road. Life’s too short.

From Harriet: I agree… this one cannot be simply answered. More info is needed. The age of the children would matter and what the father/mother did or do that make him/her untrustworthy today. Do both parents have equal custody.
If you’re truly concerned & worried about leaving your kids in the hands of the other parent then I suggest you speak to a legal advisor. Find out what both of your rights are. I’ve seen cases where one parent is asked to attend classes to help improve in the area where they’re lacking. Like say, Parenting.

From Ricardo: She needs to get a divorce lawyer ASAP and get full custody, court ordered child support, and he can visit at appropriate times only at the house for 30 minutes… if he misses one no more visits…

From Harriet: At least I know that in California and probably other states as well… if one parent does not try to contact their child in 2 years straight the other parent can be entitled to full custody. But, of course, it will take some time and money.

From Rachel: Ugh… it’s really up to the courts. I’ve seen police take kids and put them with the “weekend” parent because the papers say so. is it right? Fuck no, but that’s the breaks.

Whew!! Yet another heated one… what a few weeks we’ve had here!!
It is becoming like those rowdy tv shows at times!!

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