Divorce Issues with Young Child

Reader’s Question

My son’s ex has remarried. She is allowing his 4 1/2-year-old daughter to call him daddy. Is this right? It hurts my son and he has asked her to please not do this. He feels that if this marriage doesn’t last (a lot of her relationships haven’t, although this is the first marriage), this will affect his child. Now she is keeping her real dad away from the child, not even letting him talk to her on the phone. He feels this is her way of putting distance between him and his child. Could he be right? Will this hurt his relationship with his daughter until he can get the money together to go to court (and that could be awhile)? What should he expect now? He loves his daughter very much, and she has done this in the past, keeping him away when she gets angry, but the child was younger then. How far back does the normal person remember things, I mean when they are young? I guess we just want to know if his child will be affected by this and if they divorce, what then?

Thank you.

Psychologist’s Reply

While children witness many adult situations such as divorce, they have little memory under the age of four years. Children also are very flexible. His daughter can recover from this current situation without much difficulty.

The ex may be trying to keep your son at a distance. She may do this to both irritate him and be supportive to the new husband. The child may call the new husband Daddy without any encouragement, as children don’t understand social/legal status at her age. As time passes, your son may have better luck working with the new husband in the best interests of his daughter, assuming he’s a healthy character. While ex’s may hold resentment and still want to fight, new spouses have no dog in that fight and may be cooperative in maintaining the relationship. In a reverse situation, many women protect their children during visitation by making a good relationship with the stepmother rather than the ex-husband.

Your son should work to keep his presence in his daughter’s life. If the adults in the situation remain cooperative and healthy, the daughter shouldn’t have problems.

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