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since June 19, 2001


My girl needs her father

Advice to a mother who feels that her ex-husband wants nothing to do with her daughter

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Friday, December 12, 2003 3:41 PM

Elsie is 4 now, Todd [not their real names], her father, age 42, claims he wants to be a part of her life, but he will not have anything to do with her. He seems to be falling apart and I want to help him. He refuses help of any kind. I do not know what to do, and Elsie cannot understand why her dad is not around, what do I tell her? How do I help him? What can I do for them both? I support men's rights, but I am at a loss as to how to get my own situation sorted out.

Any ideas?,


Dear M.,

I would love to offer you advice that will help, but there is no universal prescription, other than to have mutual respect and love for one another.

You told me nothing, really, of the context in which help is required, but you left me with many questions.

Let me explain.

First of all, did you have a bitter divorce battle? Is there an ongoing custody battle? What does the custody order say, and who is paying what amount of child support?

"Elsie is 4 now, Todd, her father, age 42, claims he wants to be a part of her life, but he will not have anything to do with her."

Equitably shared joint custody is a a very powerful remedy for the problems you indicate. What arrangement for sharing parenting time do you have? What makes you say that your daughter's father "claims he wants to be a part of her life"? When is the last time you spoke to him? How do you know that he wants to be part of your daughter's life? Did he tell you that? How long ago was that? Even if you did speak with him about that, how do you know his true feelings? Is it possible that, if he refuses to see his daughter, he just has a defensive reaction to save himself from a complete breakdown?

What you describe is a very common reaction by fathers that receive only standard visitation rights or less, by fathers that have nothing left in the way of a home to take their children to and that are in financial difficulty. 

"He seems to be falling apart and I want to help him."

What are your standards for measuring that and for deciding that he is falling apart? Is he reacting abnormally? How would other fathers under similar circumstances react? When is the last time you saw him face-to-face and told him that you want to help him? 

"He refuses help of any kind."

If the help you offer has strings attached to it, how likely is he to take it? Has he ever had a chance to tell you what kind of help he wishes to receive? Who gets to decide what is the right kind of help for your ex and whether he needs any to begin with? What are the best standards for measuring and determining that?

"I do not know what to do, and Elsie cannot understand why her dad is not around, what do I tell her?"

You could tell Elsie that her dad doesn't spend much time with her because he has lost hope, that he is very sad for having lost all hope of having a normal life with her, and that every time when he has to bring her back after what little time he gets to spend with her, he feels that another piece of is heart is being cut away. You could tell Elsie that Dad just simply cannot stand the pain of dying a little or a lot after every visit by Elsie.

"How do I help him? What can I do for them both?"

I can't tell you, other than to repeat what I told you already, but not without asking a lot more questions, because I don't know what the problem is. Certainly, you told me what you perceive the problem symptoms to be, but you didn't tell me anything at all about the problem causes. Do you think that Elsie's father would be able to put his finger on the causes? Did you ever ask him?

"I support men's rights, ..."

Did you tell your ex that? Did you offer him equitably shared custody, and he refused your offer?  That would make his reaction truly puzzling, but most likely you could get a good handle on things by asking him whether anything is troubling him and what he thinks you can do to address the problems that seem to make him react in the way you don't like. Maybe he doesn't even know that you think he is not doing the right things? Maybe you have to understand your ex better before you make any attempts to explain his behaviour to Elsie. Maybe he asked for equally and equitably shared custody and you rejected his request. What is the custody arrangement that was awarded to you?

The standard arrangement is that the ex-wife gets kids, car, cash and castle (and maybe in your case the horses as well). What is your ex left with, just the mortgage payments, or is he left with an equitable share of the assets that you once both had wanted to work very hard to keep together, to nurture and to pass on to your daughter?

"...but I am at a loss as to how to get my own situation sorted out."

Maybe what I told you above will help to give you a start, but with what you offered for information, I didn't have much to go by. Let me list some of the things that often make divorced or separated fathers unhappy:

  • To see their ex-wife being able to have total control of their children;
  • To have all aspects of their lives controlled more after divorce than they were before they got divorced;
  • To have lost most or everything that once made their life comfortable;
  • To have been falsely accused of crimes they didn't commit;
  • To see the result of their life-work being handed over to the lawyers;
  • To have to live in poverty, even if it is only relative poverty;
  • To see their ex-wives having ownership of their children, and that the children are being used to control them and to force them to pay child support for children with whom they can spend virtually no time at all;
  • To be denied time with their children, and to see their requests to have access orders enforced being ignored;
  • To have been forced into poverty and to be denied access to their children on account of their inability to provide proper accommodations;
  • To be denied access to their children, but to see that their ex-wives use the child support money the fathers are forced to pay to hire a stranger to baby-sit, rather than to have the fathers receive equal parenting rights;
  • To be looked upon as pricks with wallets, as sperm donors and providers forced to keep up things that they no longer can enjoy.

The list goes on. If at least some of those conditions I mentioned apply in your case, then maybe your claim that you support  men's rights is less generous than it appears to be.

I hope that helps you a little and that it will enable you to determine what might be wrong, but I doubt that it will or can. It takes more than that.  Even the worst judge in the world makes at least a pretense of hearing both sides in a dispute. I've heard only from you.

How does your ex feel about all I mentioned? Maybe you should show my message to him and ask him for what he may have to add.  Whatever form the list may be in, it will give you and him the basis for a discussion that perhaps leads both of you to a better understanding.

All the best,


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Posted 2003 12 14
2007 12 21 (reformated)