Friday, February 26, 2010

Ex Remarrys. What Are Your Rights?

Angie writes: I just have a few questions regarding my ex-husband’s remarriage. I feel that it is important to know that I do, normally, get along great with my ex-husband, and I am, well, was happy that he was remarrying and that the woman was nice to my girls. However, a wedding invitation was sent to my girls at our home; they reside with me. I was helping them choose the dinner that they would be enjoying at the reception. I glanced at the invitation, and to my utter shock, the date of the wedding is my eleven year old daughter’s birthday.

I immediately grabbed the phone (my daughter was at her friend’s house), and called my ex. I first made light conversation about the meal selections, debating whether I was even going to go there! However, I thought of my daughter and blatently asked him “Whose brilliant idea was it to get married on her birthday?” Noting, they are getting married on March 12 at the JP’s office with their 7 month old twins (my girls’ half-sisters), and her parents; my daughters are not invited to the private wedding ceremony and I had to explain that to them. He gave a million excuses, blah, blah, and I told him “hey, whatever, but it seems really insensitive to me, and absolutely wrong, but I understand that you have your logic, so whatever.”

Is this practice of getting married (wedding is in two months, JP office open most days) on my daughter’s birthday acceptable? And, is it common practice to exclude the groom’s 10 and 11 years olds from the private ceremony? My oldest daughter is a daddy’s girl, and just loved his fiancee, and she is really hurting because of this. She doesn’t openly display this, but when she and I were alone, I told her that I found out (she wouldn’t tell me) about the birthday/wedding bullcrap. I asked her if she was okay with that, and she is not. She is wondering why they did that, and I don’t know what to say. I just told her that when she has feelings like this, and if she hurting, that if I can’t help her myself, that I would get her counseling or she can call on my sister, or people close to her when she is feeling sad.

While speaking with my ex (very brief conversation), he said that he can’t believe that I even commented on his wedding date. I left him nine years ago, for no other reason than we were very incompatible and I couldn’t stand him - noting this because this could come off as jealousy. I am just concerned for my daughter, and wonder if this issue is one in which I can say that it is totally inappropriate for this to occur on her birthday and not look like an idiot. I just can’t believe that this would be happening. And now, my daughter said that his fiancee knew her actual birthdate, so it’s hard not to wonder if the fiancee didn’t plan this to hurt my daughter.

Please get back to me as soon as possible. My daughter is not one to share her feelings, but she asked me to take the long way home last night when I spoke to her about this issue. Tears filled her eyes, and I just told her that if the date is not changed, that life will have to go on, but somehow she will be stronger by getting through it, and every step of the way, she can let me know what she needs, or if she needs to talk to someone, or see a counselor for tools to deal with this. I just think that people are just brushing this off as oh well, what’s the big deal–she’s eleven, and now has seen the other part of her life, at her dad’s, turn into a hurting situation. She loves going there, and now I just see this wave of sadness when she thinks of her dad. She does not know how to handle the confusion, and the questions she has, well, I really feel that he should deal with them.

Also, one more question. If this is totally unacceptable, would it be absurd of me to insist on another date and that they be included in the private ceremony? Would it be distasteful for me to say that if they are not included in the private family wedding ceremony, then I am not sending them to the reception either? I will not let my girls be thrown to the wolves. So what rights am I entitled to as far as even speaking about their wedding?

Chuck and Jae reply: Let’s start with your final question. Yes, it would not be a good idea for you to insist on another wedding date and that your daughters be included in the private ceremony. Moreover, you would be doing your daughters a great disservice, as well as causing potentially serious damage to their relationship with their father and his fiancee, by not allowing them to attend the wedding reception. We assure you, letting them attend will not be “throwing them to the wolves.” It’s not about your “rights,” or “entitlement” - it’s more about what would be best for your daughters.

You didn’t mention what his reasoning was for choosing that particular date or why he chose not to invite the girls to the private ceremony. If you were not satisfied with his explanations, we would recommend the next step be that you encourage your daughters to take up both subjects with him. The main objective would be for them to let him know that they are having some feelings about his decision. Then they should be prepared to accept his response. We don’t believe that this situation, however disappointing to you and to your daughters, merits the kind of response you are suggesting.

Your letter indicates that your daughters have a very good relationship with their father’s fiancee; therefore, we can’t imagine the fiancee deliberately trying to hurt your oldest daughter in this fashion. On the other hand, it is important for the future of their relationship, as the girls go through the critical adolescent years, that this ceremony not be marred by a major conflict if it can be avoided. We believe it is very important for divorced parents not to be disparaging of each other to their children. This confuses them and puts them in loyalty binds. Under normal conditions (unless the situation is particularly egregious, such as abuse, etc.), we think it best that the children be encouraged to express their feelings directly to their parent. This would be much more effective and will minimize the appearance of the other parent using the children as a pretext for expressing his or her own agenda.

Your desire to protect your daughters from harm is praiseworthy. You must be careful, however, not to inadvertently deny them opportunities to learn to speak up for themselves and to directly influence the satisfaction of their needs.

Forgive us if we have misinterpreted the tone of your letter, but it suggests to us that you have a lot of anger toward your ex-spouse. For your sake, as well as your daughters, we recommend you take a look at that anger and try to find a way to resolve that.

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