I have been a follower of yours for a long time and I think you give great advice. My dilemma is sort of a touchy subject.
I have a brother whose daughter is about to move out of state with her mother and two siblings (not my brother’s children) because she is not getting along with her current baby’s father. The problem with that is she has done this at LEAST three different times including one occasion where she actually left the children behind! To make matters worse, the mother is somewhat sickly and often is unable to care for her third child, a 10-month old baby girl. So my 9-year-old niece has a lot of responsibility.
My brother has no legal say-so in this matter. Should he? We don’t want to create a hostile or strained relationship with the mother, but we are worried about our niece who has told me she doesn’t want to go. I know her mother loves her but should my brother try to stop her from leaving the state with his child? Oh, we’ve tried talking to her and trying to convince her to stay already.
Thanks, Rene. Hope you can help with this one.
Anonymous, Any town, USA
Thanks for taking the time to write and I understand your wishes to remain anonymous given the touchy subject matter.
Okay I think there are two sides to this coin: The legal issues as well as the emotional ones.
LEGAL ISSUES: You say your brother has no legal say in the matter. Why is that? Has he spoken to a lawyer? Does he pay support for his child? I am not an attorney but it seems that if he is paying some sort of support he would not only have visitation but also a say in how the child is raised. It sounds like there are plenty of issues here that need to be raised in family court.
– A mother who has left town three times, including once leaving her kids behind. I believe that could be considered abandonment if the mother could not be located.
-A mother who is sickly and unable to adequately care for her children.
-The unstable home environment or the children brought about by constant and sudden moving.
I’m not sure if your brother has seen a lawyer or petitioned the court but that’s where I would start.
EMOTIONAL ISSUES: Honestly, like you, I am worried for your niece.
Nine is pretty young to be caring for a 10-month-old baby when the mother is unable. Not only are there things she physically cannot do, it’s also unfair to force your niece to take on such an adult role at that age. I worry that with her constantly in new environments there is very little safety net for her in the event she need one.
It’s admirable that you want to keep their peace; there are enough Jerry Springer moments to go around in situations like this. But, and this is a big but, this woman is an emotional terrorist and she is taking advantage of your good will. I know you have tried talking to her but some people are like horses in that they respond only to the bit being pulled back in their mouth. Once your brother finds out what his legal rights are he can proceed from there.
One of my big pet peeves is when adults act like children, running away from their problems (like not getting along with exes). You did not mention how old the woman is but it’s time for her to pull up her big girl britches and face her issues instead of using her kids like pawns in battles with her exes. That is despicable.
Keeping the peace, while important, is going to have to take a backseat to protecting your niece’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Her mother no matter her age, she at least has a few more coping skills, despite the fact that she refuses to use them.
As is often the case in situations like this, there are no easy answers. But the first step is checking with an attorney who can help your brother establish his legal rights.
Do you have an issue you would like Rene to take a crack at? You know she pulls no punches. Click here and fire away!