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My son will be 3 years old in a couple of months and his father lives out of state. He did live here when my son was born but was not there and would not sign the birth certificate. It took a long time for him to become a part of my son's life and it was all me forcing the situation and then I believe he just liked the attention he got from others.

He has a drinking problem as well. He moved out of state about 6 months ago and wanted to do the Skype thing (when he wants). I don't like the in and out father thing and then to be a father when he wants to. What do I do about this situation?

He is not on the birth certificate, he has no rights and he hasn't seen my son in 6 months and about 5 months on Skype. My son has a speech delay so he has never been able to talk to me about him, and for the most part he never asks "dada?" which he can say.

  • Hi Kristen, welcome to parenting.se! I edited your question a bit to make it more readable. Feel free to re-edit (button "edit") if I made a mistake, or if you want to add to the question. – sleske Apr 27 '16 at 11:25
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    About the question: Could you clarify why exactly you are hesitant about allowing contact? How is the interaction between father and child when they do have contact? How is your relationship to the father? – sleske Apr 27 '16 at 11:26
  • Related question: Absent Father vs. Father with alcohol addiction. – sleske Apr 28 '16 at 10:56
  • Just so I understand clearly: You forced the situation of him being part of your son's life at all, and now you want to cut him out again? You don't think that sends a very confusing message? – Weckar E. Jul 19 '17 at 11:14
  • This is largely opinion based, so a comment rather than an answer. While I have a strong opinion that fathers should be present for their kids, I have a stronger opinion that adding stress to a stressful situation is not likely to turn out positive for anyone. You cannot change the father, and you should not force the situation on the chance that he might change over time. – pojo-guy Mar 9 '18 at 4:48
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Only you can decide whether or not any problems arising from contact to his father outweigh the benefits. However, in general I believe it is important for a child to have contact with both parents, to the extent possible and practical.

From your question it is unclear if there is behaviour by the father that poses a danger to your son (such as violence or neglect). You mention "drinking problems", which must be taken seriously, but can be controlled to some extent. Apart from that, the main problem is that you do not like the fact that the father does not accept his responsibility as a parent, and only does what suits him.

While this is a deplorable situation, I don't see how (further) limiting contact would make it better, either for your son or even for you - as long as the father does not show harmful behavior.

My personal advice would be:

  • Try to encourage and support the contact the father is willing to have - not out of gratitude towards him (which you do not owe), but for your son.
  • At the same time, do not feel obliged to go out of your way to accomodate the father. If he wants to visit at a time that is inconvenient for you, or do if he does things that bother you, set clear boundaries. Do not put up deliberate obstacles, but also do not feel obliged to make up for any lack of responsibility or planning by the father.
  • If he later chooses to share more responsibilities, you can always re-asses the situation, and choose to accept this, or not, or conditionally.
  • Keep an eye on the father's behavior and your son's interactions with him. If the father's addiction causes problems, you may, should and possibly must intervene. One can only hope the father gets his addiction under control, but that is not something you can influence.

That way, you maximise the good things your son can get from his father, while shielding you (both your familiy and you personally) from further problems.


Finally, do not begrudge the fact that the father is (sometimes) shirking his responsibilities. While this is a sad situation, there is nothing you can do about it. Just limit contact to whatever if beneficial for all of you, and let him make his own decisions otherwise.

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    I disagree with your assessment that the dad's behavior is not harmful. Having a parent in and out of a child's life and suffering from alcoholism ARE harmful. Maybe not at age 3, but cumulatively, the effects will not be positive. – Jax Apr 27 '16 at 17:13
  • @Jax: Oops, yes, I missed the "drinking problems" mentioned in the question. Thanks for pointing it out. Edited. – sleske Apr 28 '16 at 6:34
  • @Jax: About the "in-and-out": As I explain in the answer, I believe that "in-and-out", while sad, is still better than "out forever" (and I recall research underlining that, though I have no citations). However, I do realize this is to some extent a judgment call. If you have a different perspective, consider adding your own answer. After all, this site is about having different points of view available :-). – sleske Apr 28 '16 at 6:39
  • @Jax, unless she surrounds him by strong role models. Having that kind of contrast has the power to highlight the differences in a man's actions and their consequences. Call me old fashioned, but the boy needs a strong male role model in his life. I do slightly side with the notion of "weak father, strong son," as it were. – two black lines in the middle Mar 9 '18 at 5:20
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Absolutely yes! Let the child decide in their own time what they want from their father. Never, ever encourage a separation of your child's father. Over time the father may change and see your child more.

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