My husband has a child out of wedlock that he has seen 8 times in 7 years. The mother got married when the child was 6 years old to a man that the child calls "dad." The times that my husband was allowed to see the child, he was not allowed to tell the child that he was his dad. He was introduced as a friend and by his name.
Since my husband and the child's mother were never married, child visitation was never set in place by the court, only child support was. Therefore, the mother will not let my husband see his son.
The child has experienced many behavioral problems and was suspended 4 times from Kindergarten in the first semester. The last time my husband saw this child was in December 2009, when the mother allowed us to have Christmas with the child (under her supervision) at a Pizza Hut.
My question is, how will this affect the child later in life when he does find out that my husband is his father?
FYI: We are in the process of saving money to take her to court to get visitation rights.
From: MKI, Auburn, AL
This mom is making a mistake and, if you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you know I don’t use that word often (if ever) or lightly. She is not only hurting her child by withholding information from him, but she is also placing her own relationship with him in jeopardy. Sooner or later over the course of his life, he will stumble upon the truth, and his anger and feelings of betrayal will be directed toward the mother who lied to him all those years, not to the biological father. That's a long way of saying that the biggest fallout from him learning later in life about the secret she kept will be to her relationship with him: It could erode his relationship with her.
Also, keep this in mind: The behavioral issues he’s having now have nothing to do with his mother's lack of honesty. That’s not to say that his father’s consistent presence in his life couldn’t be a positive influence, but you’re on shaky ground trying to link the two facts.
Good news: The court case you are saving for may not be as expensive as you fear.
Since you are paying child support, you clearly have already established paternity. “The court will accede promptly to your request for parenting time,” Klungness predicts. “No court wants to stand in the way of a biological parent having a relationship with a child.”
Once you get a court order for parenting time, the big question is when and how to tell your son you are his father. You do not need the mother’s permission to do that but, obviously, it would be in the boy’s best interest if the adult conflict is resolved beforehand. If the mother is unwilling, however, your husband certainly has a right as the biological father to tell him the truth.
Here's Klungness' advice about that: “Hold off saying, ‘I am your dad,’ until you are able to also say, ‘I am so happy we will be spending time together every xxx.’ The child needs a clear view of how this revelation will fit into his daily life.”
What’s more, she says, “The father would be the bigger person if he is able to avoid blame or recrimination toward the mother. The child loves his mother, don't create conflict there. Simply say, ‘Your mom and I had some difficulty working out the details [of you and me spending time together], but that's past now. I want us to grow to know and love one another.’” Also don’t try to diminish the feelings for the man who is in truth his step father, she said.
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