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Stepfathers don’t get enough credit, and because I know at least two that are exceptional, I feel obligated to pay homage to them in this post.
Some stepfathers enter into a second marriage trying to recover old wounds from his own past, build a marriage with his new wife, and settle into his new family with his stepchildren and often times, children from his previous marriage. Although it is a difficult situation for them, it must be handled with care because their new role can affect many people and many situations. There are those who take this challenge seriously and use their new role to help heal fatherless children. Those individuals deserve praise for stepping in to help raise another man’s child/ren.
The first man that I must honor is my husband who has been in my son’s life since he was 4 years old (he’s now 11). He is “dad” to him in every way that counts, and for the first time since my own father, he has proven to me that being a father is much more than just playing with a child and disciplining him. You can often find my husband picking up and dropping off at school, attending parent-teacher conferences, coaching little league, knowing my son’s favorite foods, watching his favorite shows (even the ones he can’t stand), making him laugh and loving away his pain. He basically does everything a good mother would do. The amazing thing about these types of stepfathers, including my husband, is they are not bound by obligation. Instead, they are with these complicated families by choice. That, in and of itself, is powerful! They make a choice to love us and our child/ren.
The second man that I must recognize in this post is my stepson’s stepfather. Ok…did I confuse you?? Even through all the chaos and turmoil that our respective families face (mostly due to his wife, my husband’s ex-wife), I can not deny that he is a great father. Through numerous conversations with my stepson, it has been revealed to me how much he adores his stepfather. He’s told me about his favorite dish that his stepfather cooks for him. He often picks him up from school. He’s the excited dad in the stands at baseball games. He’s the father who is primarily raising him in his home. Although his wife (my husband’s ex) would like for him to believe that my husband is on some sort of ego trip because another man is raising his son, this couldn’t be further from the truth. My husband actually appreciates the fact that another man can be there, full-time (we live in separate states) because he can’t. I, too, have come to learn, through my stepson, how invaluable this man is to him. Additionally, I realize that it can’t be easy because his wife comes equipped with a lot of emotional baggage. This baggage keeps us bickering, in and out of court, on a regular basis. Yet, through it all, he remains completely devoted, by choice, to this child and his mother. That, alone, deserves a major pat on the back!
One definition of a stepfather is “the man who is married to someone’s mother, but isn’t their real father.” It makes it sound like these men are more like boys/girls club mentors than they are fathers. Whoever created this definition obviously isn’t or has never had a stepfather because these men are real fathers in every way that counts.
Paula Biscare, Founder of Remarriage, LLC said it best – A stepfather is the man stuck next to you on the freeway on a Friday evening, relentlessly trying to get home to catch his stepson’s umpteenth baseball game this week. He’s the shopper at Wal-Mart at 4 a.m. December 24 trying to snag the last copy of the hottest video game. He’s the neighbor teaching his stepson to hedge the bushes, or his stepdaughter how to parallel park.
Stepfathers listen compassionately to their teenage stepchildren at the dinner table and skip golf on Saturday morning so they can take them to their SATs. They provide endless guidance and leadership, all while silently providing a secure and safe environment for their families. They often take on financial responsibilities, from medical bills, to college and wedding bills, and they do so without complaint.
Some stepfathers are unsung heroes that deserve honor, support, recognition and praise. I will continue to recognize them in my own way, and I hope that all you second and ex-wives and stepchildren take the time to show the stepfather in your lives just how important he is to your family.
I’ve experienced many family law disputes over the past several years and if nothing else, I’ve learned two things about our wonderful legal system: the justice system isn’t that just at all and money talks. The legal system simply doesn’t work because the rules that exist within it are supposed to be fair. It works because of the attorneys that persuade the Judges to interpret the rules in a manner that proves the most benefit to their client. In addition to that, the attorneys work best for you when they are paid a lot of money. Simply put, the legal system was not created for the average person, with average money, to endure. Have you ever heard of the saying “you get what you pay for?” If you have little to no money, you get a wack attorney, and a wack attorney produces wack results. As a result, you are left with a legal problem that leaves you financially, emotionally and mentally drained, not to mention less than favorable results.
My husband’s case is one in which little to no money got him a less than favorable attorney and less than favorable results (that’s putting it nicely). His ex-wife is an attorney who often uses her connections with the legal system to continually strip him of his paternal rights. Before you assume that I am being paranoid, consider my initial statement about our legal system. It truly doesn’t matter what’s in the best interest of the child. It’s about who can make the best case, and more importantly, who has the most money to keep up the fight. And, if you don’t have enough money to hire an attorney at all, then you can just hang it up because the Judge is not trying to hear YOU.
At any rate, my husband has been trying, to no avail, to get increased visitation with his son for quite some time now. The first couple of times we went to court we had an attorney that must have graduated at the bottom of his class, and his representation was indicative of that. All we requested was visitation in June and July instead of June and August, due to a conflict in both his school and our work schedules. However, her attorney convinced the Judge that it was in the child’s best interest that he spend more time with his friends (and for some reason July was the only month he could do so) instead of spending that time with his father. We fought back and forth for quite some time, but lost the fight once we ran out of money (we had actually used it all on my case, but we’ll talk about a little later). The next family court dispute we encountered was when we wanted to take his son to our Mexico wedding. One would think that this would be an easy decision for the Judge. Of course his father would want him to be at his wedding, and the Judge would agree, right? Not! Once again, her high-powered attorney beat out our inexpensive attorney on the grounds that the child might get sick and there would be no hospitals nearby to take him to. I’m not kidding. Now this child doesn’t have leukemia, bone cancer, a rare heart disease or anything like that. He had a simple peanut allergy that my husband and I had been tending to for years at this point. Furthermore, it sickens me that my husband had been the child’s primary caregiver for years before I came along. As a matter of fact, they had agreed that he would have custody of him up until I stepped into the picture. As soon as that happened she all of a sudden wanted to be mother of the year, claiming that if she gave my husband custody, then she wouldn’t have as much access to him. They also had agreed, prior to my arrival, that she would pay child support because my husband took out and was paying on the loan for her law school education, and he was also the one who was taking care of the child! Why didn’t the Judge take any of this into consideration? It seems as if most Judges have tunnel vision. They expect most fathers to be like my ex (we’ll get to that later) so they treat all these cases the same. All fathers don’t work hard to avoid paying child support. Some actually care about their children and want what’s best for them. I’m not even saying that the Judge should’ve granted my husband custody on this basis, but he didn’t have to treat him like he was a deadbeat dad. But, once again justice prevails for those who have the most money and power to withstand the fight.
My case, on the other hand, turned out a bit different. My ex is one of those people whose main objective is to avoid child support and responsibility for that matter. To this day, he tries to falsify his income so that he doesn’t have to pay a fair amount for child support, but he’ll get his. Hasn’t he learned by now that you can’t pull one over on me??? Better yet, why would you even try after the last battle that you lost in court?
At any rate, initially my ex caught me off guard by serving me with a notice to appear at an emergency hearing regarding visitation with our son. He alleged that I wouldn’t let him see our son, which was partially true. My ex would pop into town after being gone for 10 months out of the year (he’s an overseas basketball player), on a moment’s notice, wanting visitation with our son. If he was in summer camp, he wanted to remove him because he thinks the sun rises and sets on his ass. Not to mention, he had lied to the court so he wouldn’t have to pay a fair amount for child support, and my son didn’t know him well enough to even WANT extended visitation with him (this alone should prove that my ex was never around prior to this little stunt he pulled). Now, his request for visitation would not have been a problem if he was a consistent parental figure in our son’s life, but he wasn’t.
I didn’t have time to get an attorney. He had me served literally 40 minutes prior to the hearing – you got off. But, like I’ve always told him, “don’t start a fight with me that you aren’t prepared to finish.” He should’ve thought twice before faking his little temper tantrum to look like he was a concerned father just to impress his little girlfriend. I found the best attorney that my $2,000 retainer fee would buy, and I was prepared to finish the fight he had started. At this point, my ex was paying child support every now and then, and he only saw our son for about a week of nonconsecutive days in the summer. By the way, he saw our son as much as he wanted to. Something else was and still is always more important than him. If I was away from my son for 10 months out of every year, I would at least dedicate those 8 weeks to him. Knowing that because I had not been there HE might not want to see me, but it wouldn’t keep me from trying to see him. I realize that he has a family (his wife and other son), but ya’ll can’t sacrifice for 8 weeks so that you can spend some time getting to know your son. Not to mention that he refused to adhere to a set schedule, claiming that he could not do so because his professional overseas basketball work schedule wouldn’t allow him to. At any rate, by the time the nearly year long battle was over he was nearly in tears due to the child support payment that the Judge enforced. She made his payments retroactive from the time he started lying about his income so he wouldn’t have to pay more money (which was nearly 4 years prior). And, visitation would be at my discretion unless he provided me with 60 days advanced notice prior to entering into the country. After it was all said and done, I ended up with a legal bill of over $10,000. However, it was worth it because money got me an attorney that produced the results that were in my child’s best interest.
Are you starting to see how this works? In the first case we had no money and our wack attorney produced wack results. In the second example, we were able to pay for an experienced attorney who produced great results. Either case was never really about the child. It was about which attorney could present the best case, and more importantly, how much money you had to keep that attorney engaged in the back and forth arguing that is often necessary to persuade the Judge.
As a result, it’s a shame that serious decisions regarding children are generalized in this way. After all, the Judge and attorneys claim that these family court laws and regulations are designed to protect the interest of the child. For some reason it’s hard for me to believe that.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for SOME!
I get the opportunity to speak with so many ex-wives, second wives, divorced dads, divorced adult children, etc. on a regular basis. The conversation below is one of my interviews with a remarried dad that allows you to tap directly into the mind of a frustrated father, frustrated ex-husband and frustrated current husband.
Blending In: What was your relationship like with your ex-wife prior to you getting remarried?
Remarried Dad: It was pretty cool. We didn’t argue because there was nothing to argue about. She had her freedom, and i had the child (most of the time).
Blending In: When did you start having problems?
RD: As soon as my current wife and her child came into the picture. Well, as soon as my ex saw my current wife we started having problems. I had never seen my ex act that way before. But, none of my other relationships were serious either. My current wife started coming with me to pick up/drop off my son; she attended birthday parties; and overall, became a permanent fixture in my life. My ex didn’t like that for whatever reason.
BI: Didn’t you have some idea that you’d have problems?
RD: I knew there would be problems just because I knew what type of person she was. But, I underestimated the extent of the problems. I had always been an outstanding father (BI side note: I could see the sadness in his eyes as he spoke and hear the frustration in his voice), and I never thought she would purposely harm our relationship out of bitterness or competition.
BI: What was your relationship like with your current wife?
RD: In the beginning, before we even married, we fought all of the time about my ex-wife. My current wife felt as if I was allowing my ex-wife to control our family.
BI: How did you feel?
RD: I didn’t understand why my ex couldn’t see that I had moved on, and that my current wife would have a problem with some of the things she did when I was single. At the same time, I thought my current wife was just trying to make me adopt her way of thinking because she didn’t agree with my ex’s way of thinking. I thought this was just something that she was going to have to understand because she knew my situation before I got married.
BI: But, you knew your current wife’s situation before she got married. Did you attempt to understand her?
RD: I attempted, but couldn’t.
BI: How do you know that she didn’t attempt, but just couldn’t either? You seem as if you thought that she wasn’t even trying to do so.
RD: I didn’t feel like she was.
RD: I just didn’t feel as if her feelings were justified because they were pulling me away from my son.
BI: Are you sure it was your current wife pulling you away from your son; or, was it your ex-wife that was keeping you away from your son because of your current wife?
RD: At the time I thought it was my current wife.
BI: Then why would you marry such a woman? Are there any good qualities about this woman? Was she caring or loving?
RD: At the time I didn’t feel like she was.
BI: Let me ask you this: who took care of your son when he was in your home?
RD: My current wife.
BI: Who fed him? Cleaned up after him? Transported him to necessary and sometimes unneccessary activities, etc.?
RD: My current wife.
BI: Do you think she would’ve done that if she wasn’t loving and caring?
RD: No…I guess not.
BI: If you felt as if your current wife was doing all of these things to keep you away from your son, then why’d you marry or stay married to her?
RD: Because I loved…I love my wife more than anything.
BI: Are you sure you weren’t just using her to care for your son?
RD: No way.
BI: Then why did you give her the privilege (I’m being sarcastic here) of taking care of your son, but basically take away her right to be respected as the mother figure in his life?
RD: I didn’t do that.
BI: You did exactly that – every time you dismissed her feelings when your ex got involved. You made her feel insecure…like she had no say so regarding what went on in her house.
RD: I thought I was making her feel secure.
RD: I was there with her.
BI: So was the trash. How’s that any different? She was there too. Yet, that wasn’t enough for you. You still didn’t feel as if she was attempting to understand.
RD: I just felt that my ex would always do what was in our son’s best interest.
BI: And you didn’t feel as if your current wife would?
RD: I didn’t know.
BI: Again, why did you marry her then? Better yet, why did you get divorced from your ex? You seemingly had more trust in her than you did your current wife.
RD: Ok, Oprah. Why are you being so hard on me?
BI: I’m not trying to be. I’m just trying to give you some insight as to what your second wife might have been thinking at the time. Many times men think that their ex is going to always do what’s in the child’s best interest, and she might even try to convince you that her actions are doing just that. However, many times it’s just that ex-wife’s need to control the situation for a number of different reasons that I won’t go into now (read some of my articles for more details). Often times it has nothing to directly do with the child at all. In your case, I have to wonder why you and your ex had no trouble raising your son in the beginning. You stated that you didn’t argue because she had her freedom and you had the child (most of the time), but all of a sudden (when your current wife comes into the picture) serious problems began.
RD: Well, we didn’t have to have a routine prior to my current wife coming into the picture. We basically played it by ear.
BI: What do you mean?
RD: For example, my ex could stop by at 10:30 at night to see our son if she wanted to. But, when my current wife entered she had a problem with that. She didn’t think it was appropriate.
BI: Did you think it was?
RD: I guess I was indifferent. I mean she always did things like that?
BI: So, did you drop by your ex’s in the middle of the night for visitation?
BI: Why wasn’t there a set visitation schedule in place?
RD: We just never saw a need for one.
BI: You honestly didn’t see why your current wife would have a problem with these types of things? There was no order. Your ex-wife had no boundaries, while your current wife was just trying to maintain her family. She also had her own children and herself to consider.
RD: I didn’t see that then, but I do now. I made a lot of mistakes. And, had I known then what I know now, I would’ve done things much differently. Now, I wish I had heard, not just listened to my current wife. We wasted so much time fighting over something that should’ve been easy, but it just wasn’t. I should’ve respected, trusted and protected my marriage from the very beginning.
BI: Is there anything that you want to say to your current wife now?
RD: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for making you feel like you had to choose between my son and yourself. I’m sorry I didn’t undertand where you were coming from in the very beginning of our relationship. But honestly, I don’t think I would’ve . I think this is something that we had to go through. And although it almost tore us apart, it made us stronger.
I just got off of the phone with my husband, and he seemed really sad. As a matter of fact, he has seemed pretty sad for the last week or so. I wish there was something that I could do as I feel partly responsible for his sadness. My mere presence is causing and has caused his crazy ex-wife to act a fool over the past 7 years, and as in most baby mama cases, one of her first reactions is “you can’t see your child.”
We haven’t seen K since early January. Although I can not disclose specific details about what happened, I will try to give you some idea. You see, K did something that was very wrong ! Even though I don’t want this action to ever happen again, I was more concerned than upset. So, I suggested that my husband call his ex-wife to inform her about it. Especially since he spends most of his time with her (we only see him about once per month). I wanted her to watch out for certain types of behavior. My husband told me that he didn’t think it was a good idea. I told him that she is still his mother, and that there are certain things that she should be informed about no matter what she’s done in the past. I truly thought it was in K’s best interest to clue her in. What in the hell was I thinking? I expected her to react as any concerned parent would, but instead guess where we ended up – that’s right, court. She took my husband to court stating that I had devised this master plan to label K as a bad kid and get him out of our house. She went on to say that she felt like our environment was perilous to K.
Now, let me explain why this too is sooooo ridiculous! Number one, I am just now recovering after being sick for an entire year. My last house had mold in it, and it wreaked havoc on my system. I passed out about 12 times in an hour, lost a bunch of weight and even lost my memory at one point. At one point I didn’t even remember who K was! I was still very sick in January. So as you can imagine, the last thing I was thinking about is a master plan to label K as a bad kid to get him out of the house. Number two, I am the one who takes good care of K while he’s in our care. We actually have a really good relationship when he’s here. As a matter of fact, she has conceded to the fact that I was trying to replace her due to our good relationship. This is why she decided that she wanted to see him more, thereby, lessening the number of visits with my husband. So how can I be trying to replace her as a mother, but be trying to get rid of him simultaneously???
At any rate, at the end of the day my husband hasn’t seen his son in 5 months, and he is extremely uspet about it. Every time she gets upset this is the card that she deals. The question is – what can I do to make the man that I love with all of my heart happy? I have truly struggled with this. If I leave, then she will be happy, and my husband will be able to see his son as much as he wants. If I just give in to her ridiculous antics, then not only will I be unhappy, but it’s also not in the best interest of my son. My heart is telling me to continue to focus on my marriage and my family because I’m going to be the bad guy (in her eyes) no matter what I do. I keep telling myself that we have made it this far, we’re happy with each other, we truly love each other, we have a solid marriage, and it will get better. But, it’s been 7 years – do I really believe that???