Donnie needs to establish paternity

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  November 10, 2011 06:00 AM

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My question is --- Would it be bad for me to come into my daughter's life later than a year old due to financial reasons of having to move? Her mother says babies have stranger anxiety and that if I can't move to her state before then, then I should stay away. And this is her ostensible reason for not doing an acknowledgement of paternity with me and making a parenting plan. She said she doesn't want me in and out of her life. I suggested some visits and showing her my picture until I can move there but she refuses and says, "go through the courts but don't be surprised if they agree with me." Her mother also says my daughter doesn't need to know about me if I can't move there anytime soon and that her husband will be her father. I'm doing the best I can with what I have and she says it's not good enough but that she's not trying to exclude me even though she refuses to work with me on something I can actually do.

From: Donnie, Portland (Ore or Me?)

Dear Donnie,

It's true that babies go through a stage called stranger anxiety, or separation anxiety, when they are unsettled by people they don't know, and it's true that the more they see a person, and the younger they are when they are introduced, the less likely it will happen and the less stressful it will be. There are ways to ameliorate that stress, however, (see the link above), and I'm not aware of any research that shows lasting or harmful effects from a baby's exposure to someone new.

The thinking today is that it is better for children to know the truth of their beginnings but it's also true that having an absentee parent pop in and out of a child's life is not easy on a child, either. What's in the child's best interest is for you and the mom to work together to figure out your role. Sounds like you need to start by establishing paternity. This site, The National Fathers' Resource Center, is a good starting place.

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7 comments so far...
  1. Sounds to me like the mother in question is raking this father over the coals and SHE is the one who doesn't want him around, but is employing the time-honored tactic of using the child as a pawn in her game.

    Donnie, I feel for you. Your child has every right to know who her father is, especially if you're making every effort within your means to be part of her life. I've seen a few male friends devastated by exes who withheld their children from them out of spite and it's ... disgusting, to put it mildly. The impact it's had on them has been life-altering, and not for the better.

    If your intent is to move for your daughter, though, please be sure that when you make that move, you remain a steady presence in your child's life. Barbara is spot on - popping in and out causes a lot of stress and complexes for children. I understand that sometimes, mothers like this one may force your hand through the court system and give you little choice but to drop out of the child's life ... but I'm talking about just disappearing on your own and then re-appearing.

    My ex-husband's mother ensured that his father couldn't be in his life. She threw away letters, cards, and gifts all throughout his childhood. She refused visitation and never allowed him to speak to his son. He grew up bitter and angry with his father even though he was legally adopted by a step-father in his adolescence.

    He finally tracked his father down when he was in his late, late 20s and a lot of that anger, as he and his dad fostered a relationship, went away. Some of it was resurrected and placed over to his mother when he found out the lengths that his mother went to keep his father out of his life (and no, there were no mitigating circumstances - she's just extraordinarily spiteful and actually left his father because he wouldn't allow her limitless spending on clothes and jewelry on credit at the time!), but the last I knew, he's in a good and comfortable place with both sides of the family now.

    Just being with him through that time though ... and seeing how dramatically his mother's actions affected him all through his life until he met his dad again ... it makes me want to spit nails when I hear (too often) of mothers pulling this rubbish.

    I wish you the very best. Do the right thing for your child and if the worst happens, always, always make yourself known to her and available when she's an adult and doesn't have to listen to her mother anymore.

    Posted by Seen It One Too Many Times November 10, 11 08:48 AM
  1. You should always go through the courts. Get your paternity established -- she does not need to "agree" to do this, you can simply sue to demand it. Get your paternity established then get a schedule worked out, through the courts. Whatever your financial situation, you do need to make your child your priority, so figure out a way to visit regularly and then follow through. (And again, get it set up through the courts -- get your rights acknowledged in court and get a schedule set in court. Don't worry about her threat that the courts will agree with her ... you are the father, and if you want to be there for your child you can be. Just commit to actually being there, even if you do have to move. Don't drop in and out.)

    Posted by jjlen November 10, 11 06:16 PM
  1. I agree it sounds like the mother is the one trying to keep the father away. She seems spiteful to me, and like she just wants her ex out of her life. The statement that she wants her new husband to be the baby's "daddy" is COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS!

    The baby has a daddy, and it's the letter-writer, who, in my opinion, should do everything he can to make himself known to his child. If he has to go through the courts for that visitation, then that's what he should do, but to keep the baby from meeting him b/c he might have to move is just cruel, in my opinion.

    Posted by Karen November 11, 11 12:13 PM
  1. On the other hand, the mother may be attempting to manipulate you into marriage or something close to it. "Full-time or no time."

    Posted by JeanneDark November 11, 11 08:21 PM
  1. It definitely sounds like this woman did a number on you here, Donnie. I think she is awful for trying to keep you away. Don't let her manipulate you. You have a right to be a part of your child's life. I agree with other posters. Insist on it through the court system and follow through to be a regular presence in your daughter's life. The mom will have no choice but to accept it eventually. Good luck!

    Posted by Phoebe November 13, 11 07:04 AM
  1. Unless your wife is a family law lawyer, do yourself a favor and ignore her advice regarding whether or not the courts will agree with her. It sounds to my legally trained ears like she knows zippo about courts or family law judges and even less about what's best for her child. If a father in Russia can get visitation with his child in Boise, Idaho, there's no reason your situation should limit your parental rights.

    Posted by Linney November 13, 11 07:05 PM
  1. "Her mother also says my daughter doesn't need to know about me if I can't move there anytime soon and that her husband will be her father."

    Unclear to me if "Her mother" is the child's mother or the maternal grandmother. Likewise unclear if "her husband" is the mother's husband or the maternal grandmother's husband.

    In my initial reading I interpreted both as the latter, thus my seemingly clueless comment (#4). Upon review it seems more likely that LW means the former.

    If the child's mother is indeed now married I betcha she's aiming for stepdaddy to adopt the child as his own. Lawyer up Donnie!

    Posted by JeanneDark November 13, 11 10:00 PM
 
7 comments so far...
  1. Sounds to me like the mother in question is raking this father over the coals and SHE is the one who doesn't want him around, but is employing the time-honored tactic of using the child as a pawn in her game.

    Donnie, I feel for you. Your child has every right to know who her father is, especially if you're making every effort within your means to be part of her life. I've seen a few male friends devastated by exes who withheld their children from them out of spite and it's ... disgusting, to put it mildly. The impact it's had on them has been life-altering, and not for the better.

    If your intent is to move for your daughter, though, please be sure that when you make that move, you remain a steady presence in your child's life. Barbara is spot on - popping in and out causes a lot of stress and complexes for children. I understand that sometimes, mothers like this one may force your hand through the court system and give you little choice but to drop out of the child's life ... but I'm talking about just disappearing on your own and then re-appearing.

    My ex-husband's mother ensured that his father couldn't be in his life. She threw away letters, cards, and gifts all throughout his childhood. She refused visitation and never allowed him to speak to his son. He grew up bitter and angry with his father even though he was legally adopted by a step-father in his adolescence.

    He finally tracked his father down when he was in his late, late 20s and a lot of that anger, as he and his dad fostered a relationship, went away. Some of it was resurrected and placed over to his mother when he found out the lengths that his mother went to keep his father out of his life (and no, there were no mitigating circumstances - she's just extraordinarily spiteful and actually left his father because he wouldn't allow her limitless spending on clothes and jewelry on credit at the time!), but the last I knew, he's in a good and comfortable place with both sides of the family now.

    Just being with him through that time though ... and seeing how dramatically his mother's actions affected him all through his life until he met his dad again ... it makes me want to spit nails when I hear (too often) of mothers pulling this rubbish.

    I wish you the very best. Do the right thing for your child and if the worst happens, always, always make yourself known to her and available when she's an adult and doesn't have to listen to her mother anymore.

    Posted by Seen It One Too Many Times November 10, 11 08:48 AM
  1. You should always go through the courts. Get your paternity established -- she does not need to "agree" to do this, you can simply sue to demand it. Get your paternity established then get a schedule worked out, through the courts. Whatever your financial situation, you do need to make your child your priority, so figure out a way to visit regularly and then follow through. (And again, get it set up through the courts -- get your rights acknowledged in court and get a schedule set in court. Don't worry about her threat that the courts will agree with her ... you are the father, and if you want to be there for your child you can be. Just commit to actually being there, even if you do have to move. Don't drop in and out.)

    Posted by jjlen November 10, 11 06:16 PM
  1. I agree it sounds like the mother is the one trying to keep the father away. She seems spiteful to me, and like she just wants her ex out of her life. The statement that she wants her new husband to be the baby's "daddy" is COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS!

    The baby has a daddy, and it's the letter-writer, who, in my opinion, should do everything he can to make himself known to his child. If he has to go through the courts for that visitation, then that's what he should do, but to keep the baby from meeting him b/c he might have to move is just cruel, in my opinion.

    Posted by Karen November 11, 11 12:13 PM
  1. On the other hand, the mother may be attempting to manipulate you into marriage or something close to it. "Full-time or no time."

    Posted by JeanneDark November 11, 11 08:21 PM
  1. It definitely sounds like this woman did a number on you here, Donnie. I think she is awful for trying to keep you away. Don't let her manipulate you. You have a right to be a part of your child's life. I agree with other posters. Insist on it through the court system and follow through to be a regular presence in your daughter's life. The mom will have no choice but to accept it eventually. Good luck!

    Posted by Phoebe November 13, 11 07:04 AM
  1. Unless your wife is a family law lawyer, do yourself a favor and ignore her advice regarding whether or not the courts will agree with her. It sounds to my legally trained ears like she knows zippo about courts or family law judges and even less about what's best for her child. If a father in Russia can get visitation with his child in Boise, Idaho, there's no reason your situation should limit your parental rights.

    Posted by Linney November 13, 11 07:05 PM
  1. "Her mother also says my daughter doesn't need to know about me if I can't move there anytime soon and that her husband will be her father."

    Unclear to me if "Her mother" is the child's mother or the maternal grandmother. Likewise unclear if "her husband" is the mother's husband or the maternal grandmother's husband.

    In my initial reading I interpreted both as the latter, thus my seemingly clueless comment (#4). Upon review it seems more likely that LW means the former.

    If the child's mother is indeed now married I betcha she's aiming for stepdaddy to adopt the child as his own. Lawyer up Donnie!

    Posted by JeanneDark November 13, 11 10:00 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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