To try to keep the story short... I got divorced almost 4 yrs ago and I have a 11, 12 & 15 yr old.

Now I had my suspicions, but I guess I wanted to look the other way and not find out whether it was real or not.

Going through the divorce I found out that my 12 yr old (middle child) was not my biological child. That of course broke my heart, but I was more upset about what it was going to do to her when she found out. In a way I decided not to say anything. Every now and then my daughter asks "you do that?" and then says "I must of have gotten that from you". Recently she had a seizure and when the doctor asked about family history the ex-wife was quick to say no history of seizures. All of that got me thinking if I was doing the right thing, I'm trying to protect my 3 kids from the heart break, she just trying to protect herself.

What are your thoughts?

  • 11
    In regards to her looking for similarities with you, even if she isn't yours biologically, she still will have picked up habits from you. Your influence has been there her whole life! She is still going to be like you because you've been raising her. These similarities can be a basis for showing her that even though she may be not yours biologically, she still is very much your daughter.
    – user19750
    Feb 23, 2016 at 17:35
  • I think 12 is a very tender age, and a lot of this depends on her strengths and experiences. She went through the trauma of a divorce at 8. Is this the best thing for her now? If so, why? That question - what's best for her - is difficult, and should determine your actions. It doesn't matter that your wife is protecting "herself" if it's best for the child. Feb 23, 2016 at 18:17
  • 4
    @anongoodnurse I never wanted to tell her, but I knew at some point or another she would find out. Now more than ever I hate lies and in a way I feel she deserves to know the truth, but the question is when. I don't think I'll ever be ready for it, but more importantly when would it be the best time if there's ever any to break that to her.
    – I Woodland
    Feb 23, 2016 at 19:06
  • One of our jobs as adults is to manage our own feelings. My belief is that What is ultimately best for our children is what should guide us. As I said, the "when" depends on her. Feb 23, 2016 at 19:35
  • 2
    Have you considered the effect on your other two children? While you are considering how to handle this with your 12 yo, you should also be thinking of them. Making the revelation that their sister is really a half sister will certainly rock the boat. Also, if/when she seeks her bio dad, he may not be receptive. That is a tough blow to take.
    – Jax
    Feb 24, 2016 at 4:08

4 Answers 4


She has a right to know, yes, but under the circumstances it should be your ex's job to tell her. You raised her as your own and I assume that you love her just the same. I know I love my biological and non-biological children with equal might. but if you are the one to tell her "I'm not your Dad", that may be really hard to do without her taking it as a form of rejection.

What she needs to know is that you're her dad, you will always be her dad, and that it doesn't matter one bit to you how she came out to be born. And that you will always be there for her no matter what. Period. And if your ex breaks the news, and your talk with her is "I also didn't find out until recently, and frankly it doesn't matter to me and I will always love you no matter what! And I sure hope that you feel the same!" That is what she will need to hear.

And I'm not going to sugar-coat how hard it will probably be on you should she seek out getting to know the other half of her biological family tree. but you're the one with the history with her. You're the one who stars in all her memories.

She may have a different father, but you will always be her Dad if that is what you want. And I hope that you do for both of your sakes.

  • 2
    I agree, I think I'll have a talk with her mother and take it from there. Since I've known I never treated her any different. I've been there since she was born and I'm not going anywhere. That's my baby.
    – I Woodland
    Feb 23, 2016 at 22:30
  • 3
    Glad you feel that way because unfortunately some might not. Love ain't about biology, it's just love. and I would also argue that while your daughter has a right to know - her siblings don't need to until they are much older. It would frankly affect how they view their mother, and how they may view their sister - all at an age where it could have harmful results. If your daughter wants to tell them when they are all adults, thats her choice. But there is zero merit in burdening them with this during their teen years. Feb 24, 2016 at 14:58
  • 2
    +1 for the second paragraph. Unfortunately, -2 for the first paragraph - the OP can't possibly trust his (likely, antagonistic, and not implausibly based on facts presented, sociopathic) ex to present and especially frame the facts to the child in a way consistent with your intent in paragraph #2. More likely, she will deliberately do it in a way to sabotage the child's relationship with OP (A compromise to resolve the discrepancy between #1 and #2 paragraphs would be to hand the ex an exact script of what to say AND insist on OP being present when the conversation happens).
    – user3143
    Mar 2, 2016 at 20:17
  • 1
    The ex had an affair over a decade ago, with no context given on the relationship whatsoever. Regrettable, but hardly uncommon. And that is a long way from assuming that she is antagonistic or sociopathic. Nor is there any indication that the ex wants to damage their child or the child's relationship with the OP. In fact, were that the case the ex would have more likely to have told the child already and interfered with the relationship at some point over the past four years. That hasn't happened according to the OP, so I'm not sure why you are jumping to those conclusions. Mar 2, 2016 at 20:30
  • 1
    They are co-parents to three children, one of which he has no biological tie to but whom he still loves and wants to continue to coparent... and you think the solution is to try and dictate what the mother can say to the child? No offence, but wow! That would certainly be one of them being antagonistic - but not the ex! It is damned hard work co-parenting when there are hard feelings between former spouses. Sounds to me like that is what the OP wants to do. And if the ex isn't onboard with the approach then other options can be considered. "IF". You have to give her the chance first. Mar 2, 2016 at 20:38

I discussed this issue at great depth ten years ago when my best friend's egg-donor-generated child was born. Our discussions went back and forth many times. In the end, my friend decided to tell her as soon as she was old enough to understand. The moment happened around age 8 for her.

While we all were anxious about what would happen, the child took it naturally, because it had been introduced naturally. My friend did it very lovingly, and explained that she may not have been her biological mother but she was her mother. Four years have passed since that moment: for the child, this is an unimportant fact, which she knows and periodically refers to casually.

I know you must be anguished. I am not sure if anyone's experience can apply 100% to any other person. But, based on this one data point, my suggestions would be:

  • Do it earlier rather than later
  • Do it lovingly and fairly casually (i.e. not with drama)
  • Make the theme "I am your father. I love you. Your biological father is someone else."

This must feel like such a big issue right now. Fifteen years from now, you and your daughter will not see it the same way. You will still be her loving father, and that's all there will be to it. Wishing you the very best.

  • I think the consensus is to tell her early. Before I was leaning towards letting her find out and having the mother explain it, but I've realized that's the wrong way to go. Since everyone that has gone through this have said that they would rather know early. Thank you
    – I Woodland
    Feb 23, 2016 at 22:32
  • 1
    I know a person who feels the opposite. Her mother admitted to her in her early twenties that her dad adopted her as an infant. Her bio dad was someone she had a brief romance with, and he was married. She sought her bio dad and found she had three half brothers. She met them once and then they all brushed her off. She was traumatized by the rejection and felt alienated from both families. She always says she wishes she never knew.
    – Jax
    Feb 24, 2016 at 12:00
  • 3
    Possibly when you get notified later on in life, it impacts you more? That was the conclusion my friend drew after much discussion and investigation. But, in this case, what is appropriate for one may well not be for the other. Feb 24, 2016 at 20:12

I think the best answer is "as soon as possible". She has a right to know, and the longer you leave it the bigger the shock and the more upset she will be about the delay. But first you need to talk to your ex about it so that she is prepared for the inevitable questions and accusations.

(You don't say how you know, and hence how sure you are. I'll assume that its something 100% like DNA)

Also at some point she will be studying genetics, and basic stuff like eye colour can give the game away. You need to sort it out before then.

And finally, genetic history matters for some conditions. If her biological father has a history of epilepsy then the doctors may need to know. But I can understand if that would be complicated (e.g. if the biological father is married). Maybe you should have a quiet word with the doctor to find out how important the information is.

Edit: one more thing. I can well understand that you feel hurt by these events, and you are probably angry with your ex-wife as a result. But try to help your daughter maintain her relationship with her mother. Your daughter is going to need that relationship in the years to come, as well as her relationship with you.

  • 2
    Do the doctors really need to know? If she has epilepsy, she has it, and it will be treated; if she doesn't, she doesn't. Family history can assign risks, and very, very few of them are life threatening, especially at the age of 12. If told she is not the biological child, will her real father then be questioned about all the possible diseases in the family? Does he even know he's the father? I don't think things are as cut and dry as presented, that's all I'm saying. Feb 23, 2016 at 18:13
  • @anongoodnurse: Agreed. I've toned down that paragraph. Feb 23, 2016 at 18:39
  • @Paul Johnson I really don't know who the biological father is the ex never said and after a while it didn't matter to me. I already knew what I needed to know.I think it was more of little things here and there that has brought this up tonthe forefront. I found out by blood type, sad part was that the doctor at the hospital were my daughter was born cover up for my ex-wife. Didn't think too much about it until I found out for sure.
    – I Woodland
    Feb 23, 2016 at 19:15
  • @Paul Johnson honestly I was very angry in the beginning, but not anymore. I want to do what's right for my daughter. I know my 3 kids need her mother and I would never get in the way of that.
    – I Woodland
    Feb 23, 2016 at 22:28
  • 1
    I can't agree that the best answer is "as soon as possible," nor with the assumption that "the longer you wait, the bigger the hurt." Adolescence is a tough time to go through for both parent and child, and dropping this bombshell now might open the door for a wedge down the road. I think this can wait until college, when the child has more maturity. And if the question is asked, "Why didn't you tell me sooner?" the O.P. can answer (with complete honesty, apparently), "Because it didn't matter to me. I have always loved you as my daughter, and always will."
    – J.R.
    Feb 26, 2016 at 19:26

I have no expertise in this area, but I think it's right to provide a different view..

I don't think this is at all equivalent to egg or sperm donation, due to the mother's deception, so I'd be careful not to assume it should be approached in an equivalent way.

I think you need to get the facts straight before you do anything. Eg the who the why and the when. Does the biological father know? I'm sure she will want the answers to these questions.

Ignorance is bliss. Is there really a compelling reason to tell her now? Given that she is a teenager, she is well past the age where she will just accept it and move on, but before an an age where she can approach it in a mature way.

One reason I can think of for telling her is to avoid the possibility of her independently forming relationships with any of her relatives. That would cause more damage!

If you do decide to tell her now, I think you and the mother need to be present and the mother do the talking.

  • you make a good point. I think we're past the point of best time (if there's any) to tell her. I really don't know if he know, but I think he doesn't. I know at some point if we don't tell her she'll find out and I think it will be worst and this is why I decided to bring here to hear everyone else's thoughts.
    – I Woodland
    Feb 25, 2016 at 19:22

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