Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

"He Didn't Take Responsibility When They Were Younger." Divorce and Children

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

"He Didn't Take Responsibility When They Were Younger." Divorce and Children

Article excerpt

"He didn't take responsibility when they were younger."

"My former husband want to have my daughter, Jill, spend three weeks with his new family this summer," Joan Rice, A dark-haired, slender woman in her late forties, spoke sharply. Since our divorce, Jack has never used the two-week summer visiting rights to which he is entitled. I am prepared to challenge two weeks; never mind three. I spoke to my lawyer. I guess he and Jack's lawyer spoke together. For whatever reason, they both thought that it would be better for everyone, including Jill and my son, Jim, if we could settle this through some kind of mediation. That's why we're here. I have to tell you that it is against my best judgement. I'm not sure what we are going to accomplish. But my daughter, as well as my parents, thought I should give it a try.

"Let me at least tell you where I'm coming from. Jill is now 15. When she was a little over three, I had a son, Jim, who is now 12. Jim was born with a severe problem with his legs. From the beginning, he required multiple surgeries. The surgeries took place over a period of six years.

"Our marriage, which I thought had been good up to the time of Jim's birth, rapidly went downhill. It was a tough time. There were a lot of expenses. During each of the surgeries, Jim was in the hospital for a week or two. Since the hospital had a live-in arrangement, I spent every bit of time with Jim in the hospital.

"At the beginning, I was so busy I didn't notice how little Jack was doing to help me. It was my family that pulled together. My parents, especially my mother, was available for babysitting and help whenever I needed her. By the time the last surgery was over and Jim was about six, Jack came home one night and told me the marriage was over. For a few years, he had been working longer hours because we needed the money -- so we never seemed to have much time together.

"Everybody has told me since that I should have been aware of what was happening. But what can I say? I wasn't. And even if I should have been aware, it seems to me that Jack should have had the decency to say something to me -- that there was a problem. Instead, he just said that he had given it a lot of thought and tht it wasn't working. He had come to the conclusion that the marriage wasn't going to work and that there was nothing I could do to change this decision. He said it wasn't worth trying anymore; the marriage was ended. Later on, it became clear that he had been running around with his current wife for at least a year. Shortly after the divorce was finalized, he remarried.

"Over the last nine years, he's been an occasional father to my children. He has, I will say, kept the financial commitments he agreed to in court. Of course, since that decision was made early in his career, it really isn't a lot of money. If it wasn't for my own parents' support, as well as the fact that five years ago I was able to go back to work, I would not be able to manage. Of course he'll tell you that he's done whatever he could. That's what he would tell me whenever I have asked for more support. And now, he has two little children and a wife to support.

"About two years ago, he began to call my daughter, Jill, more frequently. He's actually had her visit on a few weekends. It's been difficult for my daughter as well as for me. About a month ago, he asked whether Jill could join his family for a summer vacation. In all of this time, he's hardly had any contact with Jim. In many ways, I think it's terribly unfair that he calls Jill and not Jim. He does manage to speak to Jim briefly whenever he comes to pick up Jill. When I objected to the summer visits, Jack told me that Jill is now 15 and she has some rights to make decisions for herself--including what to do about her father.

"In many ways, I feel like I did when Jack told me he was leaving. I am being told that Jill is going to visit and the decision is being made without me. …

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