By Julie Garrison
Special to DadsDivorce.com
If your children are complaining to you about their new stepfather, here are some things to ask yourself and actions you can take to resolve the problems.
Questions To Ask Yourself
- What are the children’s complaints?
- Is the stepdad disciplining the children differently than you did in your marriage with their mother?
- Have they complained about favoritism in their new blended family?
- Are you being talked-down by their mother and stepfather?
- Do you think that the complaints are of a more nefarious nature, i.e., some type of abuse that is sexual, physical or mental?
- Is there drug activity in their mother’s home?
- Do the children look like they are not getting enough to eat or like they are not being cared for properly?
Answers To Your Questions
- If the problems in the other home seem fairly innocuous and complaints are mainly over things like “sharing” issues with new stepsiblings or favoritism by the new stepfather, these can be dealt with by sitting down with your ex-wife and her new husband. Even some spiteful ex-wives are able to sit down and listen to complaints that the ex-husband is hearing from their children.
- You may want to contact your ex-wife by phone, first, to let her know what you are hearing. If she is still punishing you for the problems in your marriage with her, you will need to remind her that your break-up with her is an entirely separate issue than the issue at hand with your children.
- You may also need to keep a log of your children’s complaints about their stepfather for further reference. Don’t inform your ex that you are writing down anything. This may be your ace-in-the-hole if you have to return to court and have your parenting plan revised.
- Most problems between two households can be dealt with by regular communication. You may even try scheduling a monthly meeting with your ex-wife and her new husband at a coffee shop. Get a booth in the back and talk over problems without the children present. Don’t be undone if your ex and her new husband have criticisms of you. Try to take it in stride because your ex-wife and her new spouse may feel more willing to cooperate if they can gripe about you, too. Remember, your long-term goal is to have a limited problem exchange between the two households where your children spend their time.
- Another route you can suggest is an impartial family counselor to help the three of you sort through the issues.
- If you sense that there is anything fishy going on – even if the children haven’t told you – contact a family law attorney and proceed from there. He or she will probably want to bring in Child Protective Services and the Police Department.
- If you feel that your kids are in any kind of immediate danger, contact the police before you take the kids home. They may want to keep the kids with you while they investigate.
Remember, hurtful words and threats can be abusive, too. Keep a log of what the children tell you and contact a family law attorney – preferably a fathers’ rights attorney – to learn your individual options.
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Julie Garrison has been writing articles and short stories for the past 10 years and has appeared in several magazines and e-zines.