Daughter Expecting, While Long-Distance Father Threatens

Reader’s Question

I am at my wits’ end. My daughter is 16 and pregnant. I am getting texts and voicemails from her father, who hasn’t been a part of her life for many years. When she used to visit him, she would get physically ill, throwing up, shaking, and wanting to come home. She stated that it’s too stressful to visit, because she feels she is always in trouble. He would tell me that she is grounded the next time she comes over. She got to where she wouldn’t go anymore. It is stressful to talk to him, as his girlfriend is always in the background yelling something, then he repeats it.

They blame me for her pregnancy, which was expected. My daughter started therapy, as she tried to have a relationship with her father last November. He instantly told her she couldn’t see her boyfriend because he didn’t like him or know him. There was instant tension. He has repeatedly filed in court for motion to enforce visitation, when she was 15. He didn’t appear. Now he wants me to stop using his insurance for her, wants to take me to court if I allow her to the the high school completion program, and stop taking his child support. Her current therapist is treating her as if she is there due to her pregnancy, when she feels that her father is destroying her emotionally. Since trying to have a relationship with her father last November, her grades have dropped dramatically. He, all of the sudden, talks to her teachers, principal and faculty. He’s never been concerned before. He and his girlfriend, text her nice things, then hateful things. It’s different every time. What can I do?

Psychologist’s Reply

Her father is trying to control the daughter’s behavior from long distance. He’s also trying to control your behavior as well. Her father is exhibiting many of the characteristics I describe in my article entitled Identifying Losers in Relationships — available on this website. Her father may see this as a great opportunity to force his will, attitude, and rules on both of you. He is also trying to bully you and your daughter into doing things his way — ignoring what might be good for the daughter or parent of custody (you). You can get an idea about his goals by what he wants done. He wants you to stop using his insurance policy for her (saves him money), not allow her to participate in school programs (punishment), and he wants you to surrender child support (probably his major theme in all of this!).

He also sees this situation as a great opportunity to bully you personally. The fact that he blames you for the pregnancy tells me that he blames you for other things as well. It also says that he views situations strictly from his perspective, as he’s more concerned about how the pregnancy affects his insurance and child support than this daughter.

As the parent of custody, in my experience, you are not required to meet any of his demands such as

  • removing your daughter from his insurance,
  • punishing her with his restrictions,
  • surrendering child support, or
  • taking his advice on the pregnancy and related issues.

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He may continue to threaten and bully you — especially threatening to return to court. If you think about it, a good offense is better than a good defense. His threats and bullying are designed to intimidate you when in truth, he may be fearful that you will take him to court for additional child support once the baby is born — plus the baby may be placed on his insurance by the court. When he threatens a return to court if you don’t obey his every goal — you might want to casually remind him that a return to court will be helpful for both sides, as the daughter’s new baby must now be considered.

I’d review your legal rights with an attorney if possible. Are children of dependents (your daughter) considered an additional dependent regarding child support? He is being aggressive because you have the upper hand legally. He may be hoping you don’t realize that and that he can slide by this family incident without much change in his current legal arrangement.

In short, don’t lose your wits…collect them. Do your legal research. Do what’s best for your daughter and refer all his demands and bluffs to your attorney. You may also encourage your daughter to recognize how her father operates and rather than focusing on repairing or making a relationship with him, she should focus on being in her best health — emotionally and physically — for her new child.

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