Step parents obligations


#1

Technically, you have no obligation his daughter. Unless you are harming her (which I don’t think you are doing), then there is nothing the mother can do. You have every right to leave your own home whenever you choose. Sadly, it is sometimes the case where the kids “play” one parent against the other. That appears to be what this pre-teen is doing. Due to her parents’ bitter divorce, she is going to be more loyal to her mother than to you. If the mother is feeding her stuff about you, then the daughter is going to listen and there is nothing you can do about it. However, you are her father’s wife. Sooner or later, both the ex and her daughter are going to have to accept that. It’s never easy when a divorce occurs and the children do pay a heavy price. Keep in mind, what this child is doing is not all her fault. In my case, I have kept my mouth shut about the girlfriend that my ex has. My kids have figured it out for themselves and cannot stand her. Your husband’s ex should have done the same and maybe this child would have been more receptive to you because you appear to have tried to get along. There’s nothing the ex wife can do to you. Maybe counseling would be a good idea. Good luck.


#2

a sad but familiar situation for me. Too bad that even though you met this little girl at a young age she has so many issues about her parents and the divorce that she takes them out on you. You are and will always be the scapegoat as long as she has this anger to her parents that she cannot or will not be able to address. I would highly recommend therapy for her but it sounds like you may run into some resistance from mom. The bad thing is that this is going to shape her adult relationships. Do NOT let her kick you out of your own home or force you to “hide” in your room while she is there, this gives this child power over you and she will feel that she is in control of the situation. If she cannot be civil to you then do not interact with her. Your husband needs to support you on this. You may try sitting down and having a one:one talk with her and lay your cards out on the table. I did this and it helped…for a while. Unfortunately it will take this 12 yr old a while to realize she is just playing mom’s games.


#3

You can certainly choose not to spend time with your stepdaughter. However, the more open you are about the fact that you are doing this the more likely it is to be a problem. Is it possible to just start spending less time with her without making an issue of it?

P.S. Please feel free to bring up this or any other topic on our live call-in show every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. EST. Visit radio.rosen.com for details

Helena M. Nevicosi
Attorney with Rosen Law Firm

4101 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 500
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607
919.787.6668 main phone
919.787.6361 main fax

Charlotte Office
301 McCullough Drive
Suite 510
Charlotte, NC 28262
Main Phone: (704)307.4600
Main Fax: (704) 9343.0044

Sutton Station
5826 Fayetteville Rd. Suite 205
Durham, NC 27713
Phone: (919) 321-0780

ROSEN.COM

The response posted above is based upon the limited factual information made available and is not intended as a full and complete response to the question. The only reliable manner to obtain complete and adequate legal advice is to consult with an attorney, fully explain your situation, and allow the attorney sufficient opportunity to research the applicable law and facts required to render an accurate opinion. The basic information provided above is intended as a public service only, a full discussion with an attorney should be undertaken before taking any action. The information posted on this forum is available for public viewing and is not intended to create an attorney client relationship with any individual. These answers are provided for informational purposes only, a person should consult with their own individual legal counsel before taking any action that could affect their legal rights or obligations.


#4

Thank you for your responses. First let me say that I would in no way ever harm this child. From the time I have met her I have treated her like she is my own child. When her mother could not afford to buy her clothes I bought them. The first two years I was with her father, her mother was single and things were financially hard for her so each season I would purchase the child all her clothing, shoes, jackets & anything else she needed. I have always made sure that for Christmas and birthdays she was treated no differently than my children. My children are grown now (21 & 26) but still live here in my house but have very little interaction with her mostly because of their work schedules and full time college schedule. This has given me alot more time to spend with her, I even worked two jobs three years ago to take her to Sea World in Florida for her birthday. I will admit that we are much stricter than her mother though. At 12 she is not permitted to wear make up or skin tight clothing when she is with us and she is allowed to do this at home. We do not allow her to use her cell phone after 11pm (which I opposed a 10 year old having a cell phone when she got it) and at home she is on it all hours of the day and night. She now has a stepfather who she tells me is mean, verbally abusive and she wishes her mother would divorce him which I really feel is not my business unless I took her mother to court for custody which is not going happen anytime soon. My point is that she definately plays both sides. She goes home and discusses with them anything I do that she doesn’t like but never talks about the good things we do, but she does that to us about her mother & stepfather as well. My head is just spinning about all this and what I may be doing wrong. As stated earlier she is permitted to wear make up at home, however, the makeup she wears is gobbed on black eyeliner and black mascara. My stepdaughter is blonde and fair skinned and this make up looks atrocious, so we bought her a light brown eyeliner with the reasoning that if she was going to wear make up I would at least like it to look nice. She was told she still couldn’t wear makeup but that if she was going to wear it at home I wanted it to look nice. When her mother argued with me that if I didn’t want her to wear make up I shouldnt have bought her make up, I argued that if she was 16 and having sex I would give her birth control to keep her safe but I wouldn’t let her have sex in my house.
Anyway I have discussed with her that I will not allow her to do this to me anymore and that all her visitation would be with her father and that if she needed something she would need to discuss it with him and that he would be responsible for gifts and holidays from now on. I told her if I didn’t care about her that I wouldn’t do all for her that I do and that I wouldn’t care how she looked or if her clothes fit. I’m just tired of being walked on. This weekend I have stayed in my bedroom which is a place I love. I have everything in here I need; my computer, a comfortable chair, a big tv to watch football and a bathroom(need that) and I have only spoken to her on an as needed basis. The only thing that will be affected is that I usually pick her up every other Friday when I get off work at 5 and I have advised them that from now on her father will pick her up after work at 7:30.
Thanks again for all your responses and again I assure you she has no reason not to like me except that I am not as lenient (sp) as her mother and when she is over there she gets all the support she needs to bash me.


#5

been there…I bent over backwards for my husband’s daughter when I met her at 12. Tried to buy her things that I thought she’d like, take her clothes shopping, planned trips for all the kids…things were ok for a while and then when we started to enforce more strict rules when she was 16 and 17 she wasn’t happy w/ us. Who did she take it out on? Me. Your stepdaughter has issues and anger at her parents. She has no where to direct them but you. I have nothing to do w/ this girl/woman now and haven’t for the past year+. I let her father talk to her, buy her gifts etc. We treat each other politely when we see each other but she doesn’t come over except for an occasional meal about once or twice a year. We hope and pray that someday she will be able to work towards resolving some of her issues now that she is in college and not so influenced by mom.


#6

I too have been in a similar situation. My youngest stepson was always the sweetest kid. At one point even taking up for me to his mother saying that I didn’t talk about her and he didn’t want to hear her talking about me anymore because he loved me and he knew I loved him.
Now at 10, with his mother’s influence, I can do absolutely nothing right. I tell him to do something and he gets mad saying that all I had to do was ask. I ask him to do something, he doesn’t do it and then gets mad saying that I should have told him to do it…
The last time there was a big “blowup” my husband talked to him. The conclusion is that he resents me for “taking his mother’s place”, he wants them back together, and he’s angry at his dad for her leaving him. We’ve been together around 5 years now but he sees that his mother’s not happy where she is in her life. He sees that we are happy and thinks that if it weren’t for me, they would both be happy.

The only thing I’ve done is try very hard not to treat him any differently. My husband will not ignore the issue and has confronted it head on several times. He has been told that this is how things are and it’s not going to change. He has been told that he does not HAVE to come over. He has been told that if he is with us, he WILL respect and listen to me regardless of whether or not he wants to. I’ve always tried to treat them both with respect and he has been told that we expecet the same treatment from them. It’s slow going but I’ve let my husband handle most of the big issues, especially those where his ex is pulled into it.
My husband has told both boys that we both make the rules and if I tell them something it should be as though he said it. Neither of the boys are allowed to just be in our room for any reason. There’s nothing in there that they is any of their business and we’ve made it a point that we don’t go looking through their room. If we have to leave them there for any length of time, we lock our bedroom door. Basically, my husband is at the front lines of this, but he supports me against his ex and we discuss any “real” issues with the boys.


#7

I know it doesn’t make you all feel any better but at least I don’t feel like I’m in this alone. Even though I probably shouldn’t have said anything I kinda let into her on Saturday night after her father picked her up because I had decided they would spend his visitation alone and I would relax in my room I was eavesdropping on their conversation. She is such a brat that he was saying to her that she should be thankful that I do what I do for her and that if it wasn’t for me she wouldn’t have all the clothes and things she has. He told her that I am the one who makes sure they do things together all the time and that he spend quality time with her. She just said ahuh and he said “Am I wasting my breathe here?” She said “uhmm no you’re wasting your words because I know this is all stuff she told you to say to me this isn’t what you really think. Like where is she now?” Well that was all it took I came around the corner and said I’m here now and just went on about how if I didn’t care for her I wouldn’t care what her make up looked like and I certainly would not have ordered the winter jacket off the internet that she wanted and go out of my way to bring it to her house the day it came in the mail and things like that. I informed her that our time together was over and that I thought we were friends but obviously we are not. She talks to me all the time about her problems and her stepfather and how her mother embarasses her all the time and I always keep that between us. I left the room after telling her that I thought she and I would never get along and that how important it was for her to spend time with her father and I that I would just not be involved. I spent the remainder of my weekend in my bedroom (which is where I usually am anyway). She just is not permitted in there anymore.
Thanks again for writing your stories. It really makes me feel better.


#8

Jeez. I am so sorry. It sounds as though this child has more than enough on her plate. Apparently she is hell on both households. Her parents definitely need to get some counseling for this young lady. Her life is a battleground and retreating from her doesn’t seem like the right answer. At your stepdaughter’s age of 12, you have a long, long way to go with this. She appears to be a very angry, very manipulative 12 year old. I cannot imagine that she is “happy”. I’ve gone through periods of hell with my own children just over the divorce itself without any “outsiders” in the picture on my part. If both parents have remarried, then there should be no need for the animosity to linger at the level it appears to be. After 5 years, this young lady should not continue to “fight the battles” between her parents nor should the parents use the child as the fuel to feed the fire. You guys have got to find a way for a “cease fire”. First step. Stop listening to her about her mother and stepfather. She’s playing you. Stop hiding in your bedroom. If it’s ok for her to wear some makeup at your house, then let her wear the makeup you bought. When she’s at her mother’s she can look like an Egyptian queen if her mother allows it. Set YOUR house rules. YOU do not have to defend those rules to her mother if your husband is in agreement. Don’t talk to the mother about it. Let your husband do that. If she doesn’t like an item of clothing you purchased for her, take it back and get a refund, but tell her she will dress at your house according to your rules. I think this child is screaming for some discipline and she needs it. Good luck.


#9

Well thank you for your reply. This child does have more than enough on her plate and I have tried to be the constant in her life. We have a set of rules in our home that she is to abide by. The thing between her mother and father will never go away. We have already tried sitting down all four of us & her at their house and discussing this and although they are very cordial with us, they are obviously talking behind our backs. I know what my stepdaughter is telling me about her life at home is true because I live in a really small town and I know people who know the mother and she is miserable. She married a man for his money and now with the economy the way it is, he is not making good money and she has to work two jobs to pay the bills and he is gone 4 to 5 days a week for work. I can tell you that retreating from her and not giving her access to my life is the best thing for all. The child is manipulative and lives a life at home that is more than lenient that allows her to do whatever she wants and when something doesn’t go her way she explodes and there is no talking to the mother so I just have to bide my time until she turns 18. There is part of me that believes at some point she will abandon her mother and ask to live with us because she has no rules and she is embarassed by her mother’s appearance and behavior. I believe eventual children seek structure which she doesn’t have right now. In the meantime I will sit back and be a spectator. She has rules to follow in our house that her father can enforce and I believe by this being the way it is, it will also force her father to see the big picture which I think right now he doesn’t see. As for the make up the point is that she isn’t allowed to wear make up in my house. The clothes we buy I cannot take back because her mother will not send her clothes here and the clothes she does wear at home she is not permitted to wear here. We shall just see how this plays out. Thanks again for your input.


#10

Just have to chime in here. [;)]

Your reaction MAY be exactly what she’s after. You retreating to your room and not spending time with her may be what she wants…so she has won the control battle.

You can’t force the girl to love or like you. IMO I do not think you as a step-parent, can dictate what she can and can’t wear. That needs to come from Dad. Now if she is being disrespectful to you, that is not acceptable and you CAN say something about that AND your hubbie MUST back it up.

Like I said…just my opinion. If you have visitation (as opposed to her living with her Dad mostly), I think you can have ‘household’ rules (curfews, activities, mealtime, no running, slamming doors, yelling), but I don’t think you can dictate ‘personal rules’ as far as a person’s being (eating, clothes, haircut, makeup, haircolor). Those rules, if any, need to come from her Dad…with your support. You can choose not to invite her out if she’s not dressed appropriately in your eyes…you are then giving HER the choice. If she won’t wear the clothes you buy, then don’t waste your money—it only adds to the control battle.

Lastly, you’re on a losing battle if your husband does not 100% support you and your feelings. I believe ignoring her or keeping away from her only shows her that she has control.

I do agree that she is in a bad spot, and I do believe she should get some individual counseling, then group counseling with the family.


#11

I agree and again want to say that even though you like being in your room and on your computer you should not have to hide from this 12 year old to avoid confrontation. Boy, does this give her a lot of control of the situation.


#12

Well now that you have chimed in twice let me clarify some things. I thought I kind of made myself clear in the previous postings, however, I must be mistaken. ALL the rules in our house are agreed upon by both myself and her father and she is aware that these are our rules not my rules. She also is very aware that the rules that apply to her apply to my 21 year old daughter who is a full time college student and lives at home. My daughter of course is permitted to wear makeup, however, she dresses in a manner that I approve of and is respectable and age appropriate. I assure you my reaction to not spending tiem with her is the last thing she wants which is why I chose to do it. Her father isn’t much of a talker and because he was raised in foster care he really had no example of how a good father acts and I believe a father/daughter relationship is a very important one and because of this I am the one who makes sure they do things together and he has come a long way in five years. I make daddy/daughter lunch dates for them and have them spend time alone and do fun things together. I buy all her clothes, her gifts and anything she has asked for. I believe by backing off she may learn that I’m not the enemy here and that what she is being brainwashed of at home isn’t true. I’m doing myself a favor here because honestly at my age, having raised two children as a single mother I happen to enjoy the peaceful escape I created in my bedroom and enjoy my quiet time. Their visitation is now their visitation and my husband and I have 24 other days of the month to spend alone together and do things. I think this will be a learning experience for both of them. It will force him to take more responsibility and be more of a disciplinarian and she will have only her true parent to answer to.

As far as liking me you are right I cannot force her nor do I want, but I do expect respect in MY house. As far as dictating what she wears it is something that her father and I have discussed and agree upon. Some men cannot judge at what age young girls should and should not be wearing. He is definately behind me 100% when it comes to how she should be speaking to me.

As for our ‘personal rules’ regarding her clothes and make up I never dictate these, again we are in total agreement. As for her haircolor that is entirely different issue. We realize we have no control over this and my husband has tried to talk to her mother about the bleaching of her but since her mother has Peroxide Blonde hair she feels it’s ok to do it to the child too. As for clothes again as earlier stated I have to buy her clothes because we cannot get clothes from her mother even just to bring to wear for the weekend nor would we allow her to wear the clothes she wears at home.

Lastly, I am definately winning the battle here because she knows believe me that she has lost a friend and my husband backs me 100% in my decision to do with my time what I feel is appropriate which is not spend it with her. I was the one who always made sure her time spent with us was fun and that is now up to her father. This will give her less ammunition against me and less ways to make up a story and then if her mother wants to call my house and have issues with anything it’s between her and him. I married him not his ex wife. I believe ignoring her or keeping away from her actually puts me in control and forces them to have a more bonding relationship.

As far as counseling her mother believes she is the perfect mom and that there is nothing wrong with the way that the child behaves is perfectly normal. There is no talking to her (the mother) and I have no intention of speaking with her for any reason. All that happens is between her and MY husband. The sooner she realizes he is my husband now and she gets over the fact that we are happy and she isn’t the better off we will be, however, I do not see this happening. All I know is we are both counting down the days until this child turns 18 and we are NEVER obligated to speak to this woman ever again. I plan on moving as far away from here as fast as I can once she turns 18. Living in a small town is tough when you are trying to avoid people.

Thanks for your input.


#13

Mal I just saw your posting and I want to assure you I’m not hiding. Everyone (me, the hubby, my kids, his kid) in my house likes to hang out in our master bedroom. It’s a great place with a huge amazingly comfortable King size bed, really comfortable big cushioned wicker chairs, two computers, a stereo, dvd/vcr, dvr & big screen tv. Honestly I come home from work 3 hours earlier than my husband and after I do whatever has to be done in the house I head straight to my room and hang out in my wicker chair, with a good book and my cat. It is where I spend the majority of my free time. My stepdaughter loves spending time in our room anytime I am in there, she is in there. The way I see it is that by me hanging out in there and her not being permitted in there I am spending my time the way I always do with or without her being there. I’m sure she is the one losing here and I am in the one in control. I’ve raised a daughter and I know how shrewd and manipulative they are, however, I’m just a little older and a little wiser. Even my 21 year old thinks this is the best way to handle it, she said it would have driven her crazy if I had done that to her. I am not trying to hurt anyone here but i am trying to make a point. The point being that my time will be spent exactly the same just minus her when she is at the house and that she will have to adjust because of her poor behavior and disrespectful attitude.


#14

Let me see if I can get you to see another side of this…
To some extent I can understand where this is coming from. You have devoted yourself to the care and well-being of this child. You have become her “friend” and in return, she is disrespectful and unappreciative. By choosing to cease all contact with her, you have essentially quit dealing with the problem. You are forcing your husband to deal with it. By her own words to her father, she doesn’t believe that she has affected you. She seems to believe that you are trying to manipulate her into acting and doing as you want her to. Which is essentially what you are doing. Now, she has no one to talk to and is being punished for doing what she has always done which is play her parents against each other.
Personally, I could not imagine not having contact with my stepchildren for days at a time. But we make it a point to have “family nights” and meals together.
I understand that this is a difficult situation and that everyone would react differently. I would expect your daughter to agree with you. Your daughter has not had to live two different lives as your stepdaughter does. She has to be one way at her mother’s and one way at your home. My stepsons are in a similar situation. It usually takes them a couple days with us to settle back into our routine…
Your stepdaughter has a couple days a month in a stable, safe environment where she is taken care of and provided for. The rest of the time she is in chaos and has to fend for herself. This is what she is used to and what she is comfortable with. Every few months if there is not already something “stirred up” then she will get something stirred up.
If you only have the child there approximately 6 days out of the month, how long do you intend to “punish” her in this way. A couple months? A couple years? She believes that you are trying to get her to change her life from what her mother allows her to do and act. Do you think that her behavior, dress and attitude will change because you are NOT in the picture?
What mal and the others are attempting to get you to see is that regardless of the situation, you are in a thankless, often very stressful job as a stepparent. That does NOT end when the child turns 18. What you are showing her by your actions is that when a difficult situation comes up the best thing to do is to let someone else handle it. That way you still get your peace of mind. I’m glad that you have your husband’s support and that you agree where your stepdaughter is concerned, but you have given up on her at the beginning of her teenage years. When she needs someone the most. Would it not be better to show her how a responsible senseable adult handles a difficult situation? Treat her the way that you expect to be treated and let her know that’s what you are doing?
Forget the mother…if there’s no reasoning with her then she is not your concern. Let your husband deal with her or not deal with her. Yes, it’s a good thing to enforce a relationship with her father, but without your guidance then she is likely to become more and more the person that you do not want her to be. You can be a positive influence on her even if there’s not much time. But if you are not around her then she will be influenced by those that are…


#15

ok, I understand, sounds like you have a good handle on what makes this little girl tick. Hopefully this will wake her up to the reality of the situation. Sorry you have to go through all of this. Speaking as another stepmom, I know what you are going through.


#16

I understand your stance on this but I have been dealing with this now for 5 years and I’m tired and I am sorry i do not feel the same way you do about my stepchild, but the last 5 years have been somewhat hellish with her. My husband has a good relationship with my children and they are always respectful when speaking with him. As for my daughter agreeing with me, she was raised in two households. I was not with her father from the time she was 2 so she knows exactly what it is like to be raised in two households, however, I did not permit my daughter to speak to her father in this manner whether I was angry with him or not. You are right I am forcing my husband to deal with this because it is his responsibility and I should not have to do this. I totally understand where you are coming from and I wish I had that kind of relationship with my stepdaughter that you have with your stepchildren, and it is not that I didn’t try because I have. I spoke with my mother in law last night and she agrees as well that maybe if I step away for a while it may give the child some clarity and help her to realize what I was doing for her. Believe me this child has issues and I do not feel that continuing to put myself in a place where I will be disrespected and give her mother ammunition is a good idea. I work in the medical field and I have spoken with a medical professional who also agree with what I am doing so I have to try this since everything I have tried has not worked. I have high blood pressure and an ulcer and do my best to maintain my health and I believe stepping back may not be what is best for her but it is certainly what is best for me. As for this ending at “18” I can tell you that having raised two children as a single mother my dealings with their other parents ENDED at “18” and I have not spoken to my son’s father since that day. I have, however, maintained my relationship with my daughter’s grandmother and am very close to my ex’s family so I am fortunate for that. I do not, however, speak with him more than maybe once a year to say “Happy Birthday”.

I must say this though, all your feedback and opinions are greatly appreciated even the negative things. It helps me have some greater perspective on things.

I do want to say this. I do not feel I am “punishing” the child. I feel the child is receiving the treatment she deserves because she knows exactly what she is doing and she knows it is wrong.


#17

I am not trying to be negative about your situation. I am trying to be realistic. When you married this child’s father, they were a package deal. You cannot turn your back at this point. It appears this child was about 5 when her parents separated. At that age, she could not have been “poisoned”. This poisoning has occurred over time! And both households are to blame for that! I am currently “dating” an older man with children ages 9 and 11. These children desperately need a female role model in their lives, but neither child is vindictive or hateful. To be honest, their mother’s life is a mess, but she does not harbor resentment towards the childrens’ father and he does not towards her although she had an extramarital affair that ended the marriage. They are so excited when I am around because I play with them, make cookies with them, make faces at them, and take an interest in what they are doing! I always, always defer to the mother and understand that I am not there to take the mother’s place. Ever! While it is true that some children are “difficult”, they don’t get that way by themselves. Please. Get counseling. This will not go away when she reaches 18. You don’t get to quit at that magical age. In fact, adult children can be worse than pre-teens. Sometimes, tough love works! I had to do that with my own teenager who is now 24. As hard as that was, he and I now share a bond that cannot be broken after many, many difficult times. And yes. I wanted to retreat to my room, give up, but I could not. Because I had to be the adult. I wish you all the best. I sincerely do and I feel for your situation. Only trying to help. Take care.


#18

I have been with my husband for 5 years. Over the course of this 5 years I have tried to have a relationship with his now 12 year old daughter. This has been an unsuccesful attempt because every couple of months when she asks for something and she doesn’t get it she goes psychotic and anything she thinks I have done over the past few months which she mostly blows out of proportion or likes about she has her mother start a father with my husband about. She hates him so much that even if she agreed with him about what he told the child no to she will take the child’s side just to have a reason to fight with him and it is mostly at my expense. My question is this; my husband has visitation every other weekend and I want to know if I can choose to not spend time with her when she is here and let them just spend time alone. I feel like she is always nosing in my business and I really am just besides myself. I have asked my husband that she not be permitted in my bedroom where my computer is and where I find my peace of mind. Am I permitted to do these things or can the mother make a case about it?