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Daughter is treated like an unwanted shoe

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dear Annie: I am a divorced father of a 13-year-old daughter. Though her mom and I share joint custody, I have her most of the time because my ex doesn’t want her around. The visitation clause in the divorce is very liberal and my ex is taking advantage of it. She claims she is always working and needs massive overtime to make ends meet.

Every time I bring up the subject of a set schedule, she becomes defensive and combative. She has not seen her daughter for any significant amount of time in weeks. She thinks calling several times a day is sufficient. It has reached the point where my daughter doesn’t want to see her mother.

Reliable sitters are hard to come by and her mother is against it. I have not had an evening to see my girlfriend for two straight weeks. This is putting an intense strain on a serious relationship and it may already be beyond repair.

Last month, I was invited to a very special family gathering that I was unable to attend at the last minute because my ex had to work. I am reluctant to go to court to force the issue, but she is leaving me no choice. How can I handle this situation and salvage my relationship? Mr. Mom

Dear Mr. Mom: Get your act together, people. We feel sorry for your daughter, who is being treated like an unwanted shoe. If you need a sitter so you can go out on a Saturday night, get one. You don’t need your ex-wife’s permission. And if the ex cannot manage to spend any time with her daughter in “weeks,” it’s time to take her to court. As for your girlfriend, any woman who is serious about you must understand that, right now, your daughter comes first. If you want to see the girlfriend more often, invite her to have dinner with you and your daughter.

Dear Annie: Should I tell an adult relative that I’ve found his biological mother? Adoption records are sealed in this state, but thanks to some key information from an Avon saleslady, I now have the woman’s name and location. He had only a slight interest in my search. Should I wait for him to ask? Puzzled

Dear Puzzled: The Avon lady told you where his mother was? My, my, what personal service. If you are certain the information is accurate, your relative is entitled to know. Tell him you have it, ask if he would like it, and then follow his wishes accordingly.

Dear Annie: I was completely appalled by your response to “Heartbroken,” the young woman who was distressed about relocating far from family to be with her fiancé.

To state that “once you’re married, your husband should come first” is a page straight from the 1950s. What about the young man’s obligation to see that his future wife is happy? It seems to me his family has essentially bribed her to relocate (house, business and wedding plans) in order to bring their son closer to them.

If his family has their son’s best interests in mind, they should work out a compromise. If the young man can’t stand up to his family, then perhaps he is the one who’s not ready for marriage. Wellfleet, Mass.

Dear Wellfleet: This isn’t a gender issue. When someone marries, the partner should take precedence over the parents. Period. Missing her family, whom she can visit, should not be more important than his livelihood, which may not be transportable. And her need for family should not outweigh his. Both families should be given equal weight. She knew what the deal was when she agreed to marry him. Compromise is always good, but for the primary breadwinner (male or female) to relocate because the spouse fears being away from Mommy and Daddy indicates the spouse may not be ready to commit fully to the partnership. Our advice stands.

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