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My son will be six years old in another month and since he has been 1 years old his dad has been in and out of his life. He has been to prison twice and spent a year both times he went, so that automatically cost my son two years without living the other three years with his dad coming in and out of his life.

He would visit him for a few weeks, disappear for months at a time, randomly show up, and want to see him again. Well, the last time he did a year in prison was recently. He got out in January, and he has sent messages to my mom wanting to see him. My question is: Should I?

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    Hello and welcome here! How is your legal status? Who has custody, does he have visitation rights.... Depending on this, we may have to answer differently or recommend that you talk to a lawyer. – Stephie Feb 17 '15 at 18:52
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    Is a third prison stay likely to make the choice for you ('3rd strike')? If so, is that a risk that changes the father's approach to life? – user2338816 Feb 18 '15 at 4:39
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    If you respect your child to be mature and intelligent, let him decide. And you would be surprised how mature 6 year olds can be when need to be. I don't think parents should decide these things except in extreme cases (at which point the law will decide), the child may grow up to be angry at you for taking their dad away from them even if you only meant to do good for them. Which you don't want to happen. I believe its better for the child to know their father even if hes a bad father. He can learn not to be like that in his own future that way. – Dave Feb 18 '15 at 20:49
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    Is the Father a recovering addict or alcoholic? I don’t know enough about him to say for sure. But both of those things would matter in the decision. Does the father want to stay out of the recidivism? – user13685 Feb 19 '15 at 4:25
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My unpopular opinion is it's not your call to make. Your child is definitely old enough to know if he wants to see his father or not. If he's not in any actual danger, I think a parent has every right to see their child. If you're concerned about a negative impact, then supervised visits may be best.

I can say that I personally had a father that was in and out of my life. After just three years of what one might call regular visits (one weekend every 3-4 months), I decided I didn't want him in my life. Your child needs to feel like he has a say in this or it will be "mommy kept me away from daddy" until they are old enough to understand otherwise.

  • Courts may disagree with the statement "You child is definitely old enough to know...". I've had friends with custody issues, and the judges they've dealt with want the children to be at least 12 before they're allowed any input in any visitation/custody arrangements because they "don't know what the want" yet and are too easily influenced by one parent or the other. – user11394 Feb 18 '15 at 3:58
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    Yes, but most people don't realize that judges are a political and often exceptionally uneducated in child development. It's also an elected position, so you're going to get wildly different judicial opinions on that based on local politics. Furthermore, our custody system is innately biased to the mother over the fathers, even when the mother is the damaging party. If you look at some of the case studies, its a little sickening to see some of the decisions some judges have made in this area. – Oedhel Setren Feb 18 '15 at 12:51
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    I'm not disagreeing with that, but the opinion that children are "definitely" old enough to know by the age of 6. It's not a universally shared opinion, and when it comes to custody/visitation agreements the assertion may fall completely flat on an officials ears. If the father contests the arrangement made by the child's "decision", what the child thinks they want may have little bearing on how events play out in the legal system. – user11394 Feb 18 '15 at 15:56
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    When I was six, I definitely knew I didn't want to know my mother. When she later forced the issue, legally, I was but 12 years old, and nearly committed suicide over it. She cared enough about me to let me go back to the situation I was in before. While it's true that the courts have their own input (and their word is final), the child should have input, because even before they reach the teenage years, many children definitely know that I don't want to be around that person. Ignore that message at the child's peril. Six isn't a magic number, but for most children, it's way before 12. – phyrfox Feb 18 '15 at 16:36
  • @OedhelSetren Without knowing the location of the TS, your comment is too localized. – Mast Feb 19 '15 at 8:58
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Without more information about your legal status, we won't be able to give a fitting answer. However, I will try based on the given information.

"We need not destroy the past. It is gone."

- John Cage

If there is no indication the father has had a bad influence on him or might expose him to the wrong people, I can't find any cause for your son not to see his father. If he has done so in the past, it's time to figure out if he has changed or not. People make mistakes and sometimes those are severe enough to go to prison. But that in itself does not provide enough information whether he is a dangerous person or not. Even if he used to be, your question does not give enough information to determine if he still is or not.

In the end it may not matter. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 7, 8 and 9 your son has a right to family ties. To answer the title of your question:

Should I cut my child's dad out of his life?

Unless there is a high amount of risked involved letting the father see his son, it's not up to you.

Also keep in mind the opinion of your son. He may not have one yet, but he will get one. Whatever your choice will be, you better be prepared to explain it to him when he's old enough to understand.

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    I wasn't expecting quotes from Mortal Kombat characters on a parenting forum... – Mikey Mouse Feb 18 '15 at 16:26
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    @MikeyMouse Johnny Cage is not afraid to provide parenting advice. – Zibbobz Feb 18 '15 at 18:56
  • I really liked this answer, because it says evertyhing I feel is important. Until the point where it says it isn't your choise. Maybe it shouldn't be your choice (which I would disagree with) but it is. You're here for our advice and our advice is not to make the decision yourself (in certain circumstances) but even the decision not to decide yourself has to be yours. – Jasper Feb 19 '15 at 12:29
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This is mostly a legal issue, perhaps quite unfortunately. Because this man is your child's father, he likely has legal rights to see his child, and may push for those rights to be enforced if denied the chance to see his child.

You can challenge it in court, but I don't know how far you get - we are not legal council, and cannot offer you legal advice.

What we can offer you is some ways to cope with this, whether or not there is legal action involved.

First of all, you need to consider how much of a danger this man is to your child - and if he is a source of physical and voilent danger to him, then you should start seeking your own legal council for the safety of your own child.

If he is not a physical threat to the child, but you worry about the influence he may have, the best way to counter that is to be a positive influence on the child yourself, and to surround him with other positive role models. You, your friends, and your family can all have a great impact on the child, moreso than a single negative influence can overcome.

If you are worried about what he may do during his legal visitations of the child, and that you may not have the ability alone to prevent it, consider getting somebody to be there with you during those times - a friend or a family member who you can trust. This is especially important if you feel that the man is a danger to your child, but cannot legally prevent him from having visitation rights.


In short, your primary focus should not be on whether or not to bar this man from seeing your child - that is a legal battle, and we cannot advise you on how that will turn out or what you should pursue legally in that regard. What you should focus on is giving them a positive role model to follow, and in protecting your child in any situation that may arise.

  • Note that local authorities may support you with supervised visits. In Germany, authorities ("Jugendamt") will help organise supervised visits, and in particular help find a neutral place and a neutral third party (typically a social worker or child care worker) who will supervise the visit. – sleske Dec 21 '16 at 12:31
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Your child has a human right to see both parents. Withdrawing a human right is something you need to do as a measure of last resort.

Sometimes parents are abusive and so the child needs to be protected from harm. These protections range from simple setting of rules and "contracts of acceptable behaviour", through contact in public places, to one-to-one supervised contact in a specialist child contact center with trained staff present at all times.

That protection should be the minimum to ensure safety. There are very few situations where a parent is so abusive that they should not be able to see the child at all.

Your son is too young to give consent. Your son is old enough to be asked his opinion about contact. He should be encouraged to see his father unless he very clearly says he does not want to.

There are things you can do to make the process easier for you. In your contract of acceptable behaviour you specify who the father contacts and how he contacts them when things need to be arranged; you can specify hand-over of the child in a public place (somewhere with CCTV is sometimes re-assuring) or that other people do the handover. You can write a sheet of things that are okay and are not okay.

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I am presuming that the kid loves his dad and wants to see him. is that the case?

with few details in your story, my answer to you would be that no, you should not purposely cut a father out of his son's life. it is cruel and they would both be very bitter about it. if it were me I'd want to see my dad. sure, having him around only intermittently is not ideal, but having no dad at all is worse. what would you even tell your kid then? maybe talk to the father and explain to him that you think he needs to be more reliable and consistent in his appearances.

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    When discussing it with the other parent, ensure that the context is about what's best for the child (good = "our son is hurt when you are unreliable or do X/Y/Z when he's around"), not your own feelings (bad = "it bothers me that you aren't reliable") – Acire Feb 18 '15 at 18:16
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I'm wondering what needs of yours and your son's are being met by having his father in his life. I am imagining for you it might be wanting the best for your son, and I am imagining for your son it is the love of a father. I infer from your post that perhaps other important needs aren't being met for either of you. For you, I am guessing support, understanding and ease, and for your son I am guessing consistent presence. I agree with the above comment that the legal custody status is important. I don't think there's a definitive answer anyone can give you about what will work for you. Only you know that. I do think sometimes we need to have boundaries in our lives so we can best meet the needs of ourselves as parents and our children, and where you put those boundaries is a matter for you to decide given what's the best way to meet yours and your son's needs.

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