I have full-custody of my daughter (age 7). We're call the other parent 'X' for ease and anonymity.

This past Saturday I granted overnight access since X's other child was going to be over too. After picking up my daughter on Sunday, I found out the following:

  • She puked twice
  • One of the times she threw up was on herself
  • She didn't have a shower or bath afterwards
  • I found puke in her hair
  • She didn't brush her teeth that morning or afterwards
  • She didn't have lunch
  • Her hair wasn't combed during the visitation (she has long hair and it should be combed at least twice daily)
  • She didn't have lunch
  • Didn't have anything to drink on Saturday or Sunday before I picked her up
  • Her half-brother can't sleep without a TV on and she can't sleep with a TV on; my daughter was the unlucky one and stayed up a few hours extra because of that
  • She was awakened a few hours before her normal time and had to start her day accordingly
  • She watched a lot of TV

Some other minor things happened. This is not an atypical synopsis of a visitation. X is an absentee parent. Despite a custody agreement granting them generous access, they schedule two visitations a month on average (sometimes zero, very rarely 4). Usually they are afternoon access without an overnight. We don't get along well.

I'd like them to take better maintenance of our child while they have her but I don't know how to start or broker the conversation. Well I try to be nice to them, they are hostile towards any perceived criticism or outright denies any issue. Or will attack me.

How can I talk to my child's mother about how I'd like her to properly take care of our daughter's physical needs while she has our daughter in her care? In other words, how can I convince the other parent to not be neglectful while they have our daughter?

  • if you have full custody, doesn't X need your permission to have your daughter? How old is the child? Is she old enough to say she does not want to visit? Does she want to visit? Is there a custody agreement that says X can spend time alone with your child?
    – WRX
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 22:53
  • The custody agreement is such that the other parent has limited access but access none-the-less. In the jurisdiction I live in, the child needs to be much older to decline going. My child primarily wanted to go over since her half-brother was going to be having a sleepover too.
    – Lan
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 23:04
  • @Catija Her hair gets wicked tangled if combed or breaded. It is naturally quite wavy. Thanks for noting the mistake on lunch.
    – Lan
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 0:06
  • are there things you could do to help? Braid her hair, send her with snacks?
    – WRX
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 0:20

2 Answers 2


I think the important thing here is to pick your battles. Every kid in a two-family home situation is going to have different rules at their primary home as with their secondary. Personally, I would treat it as if she was at a sleepover with a friend, particularly since you're not sharing custody - this is a rare occurrence and makes it easy for you to treat it as a "treat" situation.

The other person is responsible for their general well being but shouldn't necessarily be expected to adhere to all of your standard chores and "maintenance". As such, things like TV time restrictions and bed times/wake up times aren't necessarily expected to be followed but you should talk with your daughter to be clear that she understand the difference between home time and this special time at her mother's house. Though, with maintenance tasks you should expect your daughter to manage these things herself to some degree.

At 7 she's more than capable of brushing teeth and hair on her own, provided that she has the necessary equipment. And, if she doesn't, that's a good time to talk about consequences.

  • If her hair gets uncontrollably tangled if she doesn't brush it twice a day, then she will have to work more to brush it out when she forgets.
  • If she doesn't brush her teeth, she could get cavities which will be painful and require going to the dentist to fix.

But take it at the level of seriousness it deserves - tangles can still be worked out, even with a couple of missed brushings and a day without tooth brushing isn't going to harm otherwise healthy and cared-for teeth. So long as your daughter understands that these aren't to become regular habits when at home, this isn't going to do much harm.

You say she wasn't given lunch... was she hungry? I've skipped lunch many times over my life, including as a kid, because I was so busy having fun and playing. As with missed teeth brushings, the occasional missed meals really aren't that big of a deal. Sometimes, if you ask a kid "What did you have for lunch yesterday?" and they say "nothing", it's important to ask the follow up "Why?". The same is true when discussing drinks. If she wasn't thirsty and didn't ask for water or milk or whatever beverage, then she's probably fine, particularly if it wasn't a very hot day likely to cause dehydration.

On the other side of things, if she was hungry and thirsty and asked for it, it's good to know why it was denied to her. Is your ex low-income? Is it possible that food was unavailable because they can't afford it? Even if this isn't the case, there's nothing wrong with packing a few snacks for your daughter to have if she gets hungry... heck, you could even send a few extra along to share. If confronted, you should be able to play it off as "they're her favorites and I wasn't sure if you had them".

One of the things you never mention in your question is what your daughter thought of the situation. You have a long list of things that are different from your home way of doing things but does that make them wrong? If your daughter had a good time and didn't cry to you that she never wants to see her mother again because it was awful, perhaps you're overthinking things. The goal is a happy, healthy kid and a day of excesses isn't going to harm either of those things.

This isn't to say that your list of grievances are all without concern. Some of the things on your list are important. Your daughter vomiting twice and not being cleaned up afterward (or encouraged to do so) seems important to me. If she vomited twice, that sounds like something that needs to be checked out unless she's prone to vomiting. Is she sick? Was there a clear explanation for the vomiting?

You're clearly concerned for your daughter, which is good but I think that expecting her time at her mother's to be identical to her time at home with you is going to drive you batty, hence my comment at the beginning to pick your battles. This will also help in your interaction with your ex. Instead of coming with a litany of wrongs, address the important ones and come to the interaction looking for information, not making accusations.

  • Jane came home and said that she threw up twice last weekend - what happened? Was everything OK?
  • Can I give you the contact info for her pediatrician in case something like this happens again?
  • Would you please call me the next time it happens?
  • Actually, I think "pick your battles" is basically the answer. All the rest is just (good) elaboration on that point.
    – sleske
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 10:29

A 7 year old can help herself. This does not mean you do not address the situation. She could take snacks like peanut butter and crackers that she can share. She could take fruit or baby carrots, her favourite cereal, things that are not meant to be comments, but help her to stay fed and yet friendly. She can take a change of clothing and I assume she has access to the bathroom. She could have washed herself after vomiting. She can brush her teeth, wash her face and hands and even brush her own hair, unless she has a disability. You could send a dirty clothes bag and extras like a face cloth and her own soap and toothpaste. She is a big girl. You could braid her clean hair before she leaves. You could teach her how to cook one dish that she could share with the other family... all positive and friendly ways to help your child.

If she is not afraid, she could have asked for food. If she is afraid, you need to address that with a lawyer. Assuming of course that she is actually afraid and with good reason. I also assume you would have spoken to your ex first.

You want to address this but you do not wish to have a straight conversation with your ex. While I think that is best, I also know I do not understand the situation. Your daughter is old enough and understands the problem as well or better than you. Give her the tools to look after herself. Trust me, she is old enough. You might consider giving her a travel weekend phone. Tell her she can always call you.

I think if you talk to your ex you do not accuse or bring up old problems. You say simply that your daughter reported she was hungry and that you will send her with snacks. Say you are concerned that your daughter needs reminders to keep herself clean. Say she was concerned with the TV, and ask is there another solution? Just be polite and respectful.


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