56

About 8 months ago, I and the mother of my 1-year-old child separated. Everything was mutual and amicable and we have a reasonably good relationship now - if a bit awkward.

This weekend, when I returned my daughter to her mother, she told me that she's moving in with her boyfriend (of 3 months or so). I have a couple of concerns about this however.

  1. Her new boyfriend is (I'm told) a policeman, and so theoretically is safe to be around children. I don't know this man (even his name) and I feel like I ought to if my daughter is living with him and at least be able to verify his identity.

  2. Whilst I can't dictate how quickly their relationship moves along, I'm concerned that my child's mother has moved in with her new boyfriend so quickly so that she can leave her mother's house. I'm concerned about my child being exposed to someone that she gets used to only for them to break up.

Are my concerns valid? Should and how should I address them?

  • 35
    If she were to be moving from him to you, how would you feel about him wanting to verify your identity, being concerned about his child? -- Take it from there, allow for him not quite reacting like you think you would do, and be adult about it. – DevSolar Jun 12 '17 at 15:57
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    @DevSolar - if I was to start dating a freshly divorced mom who moved with her child to my place, and childs father wanted to know who the hell I was, I would consider him an example of a good, concerned father and I wouldn't mind one bit. Perhaps asking such leading questions while expecting others to agree with you is not the smartest thing to do. – Davor Jun 13 '17 at 9:08
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    @Mandrill: I consider that a rash statement. Three months is plenty of time to get to know each other; while being on the quick side, it's certainly not short enough to label someone untrustworthy. – DevSolar Jun 13 '17 at 9:25
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    I can't imagine bringing my children into the home of someone I've known for only 3 months. – stannius Jun 13 '17 at 16:41
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    @DevSolar Statistically speaking, step-fathers are the most dangers people a child will ever encounter. Most step-dads are fine, but they're certainly not all. The poster is perfectly right to have some reservations. It means he's being a responsible dad. If the new boyfriend had issues with this, then I would say this would be cause for great concern. He doesn't have a right to dictate who his ex can associate with (obviously), but he certainly should be allowed some input into who his baby daughter associates with. – user1751825 Jun 14 '17 at 5:47

13 Answers 13

152

I suggest you invite the guy out for a beer to get to know him. Make it clear that you are not jealous, that you wish them well, and that the only thing you care about his how he treats your daughter and her mother. Your concern for her mother is exactly that, concern for your daughter's mother. Not concern for your ex.

There's a lot of crappy stuff in this world and your daughter having another person who cares for her and looks out for her is a good thing.

  • 28
    I really like the second paragraph. – Pascal Jun 12 '17 at 16:54
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    Sounds nice, but I would just like to point out that saying "how he treats your daughter and her mother" might make it more awkward, or might make the other guy less interested in accepting your offer, as it sounds like you are being protective of your ex. That definitely is not a bad thing, as being protective (not stalker style) of your ex demonstrates good character, but many people don't see that and would take offence, "YOU want to protect her from ME? I am going to be protecting her from YOU, now get lost and don't come back." If it's just the daughter mentioned though... – Aaron Jun 12 '17 at 17:49
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    I agree with Aaron's point, but I also think Kevin was right to include that concern. OP does not have standing to complain about how someone treats his ex-wife, but he does have standing to be concerned about how his daughter sees someone treating her mother. – R.. Jun 12 '17 at 18:45
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    Also keep in mind delivery is everything. Politely asking to meet someone who will be spending significant time with your child is completely reasonable. Demanding to meet your ex's new partner (for whatever reason) would make many people defensive and will likely cause unnecessary drama. – Suspended User Jun 13 '17 at 1:16
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    @Kevin I would recommend leaving out the bit "...and her mother". His rights as an ex-partner start and finish with the daughter. Expressing any concern about the mum will not be well received. – user1751825 Jun 14 '17 at 5:53
25

I don't think there's anything you can do about this. Imagine it was the other way around - would you let her tell you who you can live with?

To 1: Just because he's a policeman doesn't mean he's safe for kids to be around. But really shouldn't you look at it from the other end? Shouldn't you assume that he's okay until he gives you reason for suspicion? The vast majority of people aren't child abusers. Your ex chose you, which was hopefully a good choice. Doesn't that say something about the type of person she likes? Do you think she'd put her BF before the well-being of your daughter?

To 2: I wouldn't worry about this, especially at your daughters age. When she gets older, she might get attached to some of her mothers BFs, but unless one becomes a surrogate father figure, I doubt she'll be permanently hurt by a separation. I'm a divorce kid and never minded the string of BFs and GFs much, though I was older at the time of separation (school age). I'm also happily married - and have been for longer than my parents were - so I didn't somehow internalize that relationships must always break.

My suggestion would be to give your ex some time and then suggest an activity with all of you - maybe take your daughter to the zoo for her next birthday and invite your ex and her BF to come along. Then do some small talk with the BF to get to know him a bit. Maybe repeat if it isn't too awkward.

  • 22
    I felt morally compelled to down-vote for the dangerous advice about assuming people are okay for your children to be around without you until they give a reason for suspicion. It does not take the vast majority of people being abusers to cause problems; it only takes 1 person, and the ratio of abusers to not-abusers is way too high. Abuse is very common, even if you don't know about it, and being too trusting is generally what facilitates the problem. Unfortunately for OP, there is little to nothing he can do about it, but the trusting advice is, in general, a dangerous idea. – Aaron Jun 12 '17 at 17:45
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    I see what you're getting at. I prefer to live in a world where I don't suspect every coach, teacher etc that has access to my kids of wrongdoing, but to each their own. [OT: It's been shown over and over that parents are notoriously bad at detecting dangerous people in their kid's lives, so I think it makes more sense to make sure that your kids trust you enough to tell you when something happens that makes them uncomfortable. That doesn't work with the OP's daughter, as she's way too young yet]. But there is a mother to vet the BF, and the OP once trusted her enough to have a child with her. – Pascal Jun 12 '17 at 18:13
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    Upvoted for the reasonable advice that the vast majority of people are okay for your children to be around. The emotional harm from assuming otherwise is significant. – kbelder Jun 12 '17 at 18:26
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    @kbelder The issue is not whether someone is okay for children to be around. The issue is whether someone is okay for your children to be around without you also being present. There is a big difference. Neglecting the latter is the problem. The percentage of children who are abused is unreasonably high, much higher that most people believe. Go look it up, I implore you. I am one of those odd sad-sap-magnets that lots of people confide in, so I can back up the statistics anecdotally. Many believe their children are safe and don't realize their kids were already abused and remain silent. – Aaron Jun 12 '17 at 19:00
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    @Aaron While your concerns are rooted in reality the advice here is not very useful. The OP will not be able to establish much of anything by chatting, vetting or even stalking the new BF. If there is a sexual offender register in the region then I expect the fact that the new BF is a policeman will rule out any prior knowledge without further effort on the OPs part. Your own example relates how easy it is to not detect abuse. – KalleMP Jun 13 '17 at 4:38
19

I agree with those who have advocated communication. That's the only option open to you at this point.

Are you being unreasonable? About your daughter living with a stranger, no, I don't think so. The way to deal with that is to get to know this person. Invite the three of them out to dinner and get to know him. If it goes well, do that from time to time; as your daughter grows up, you'll be seeing much more of him if you attend your daughter's functions. If the relationship dissolves and a new relationship forms quickly, you may have a point. But you don't have a choice right now and this is only one data point in addition to your own separation.

Are you being unreasonable about your concern for your wife? I don't know, but I can say you're on very shaky ground here. It depends on why the two of you separated, what kind of person she is, whether you have reason to distrust her motives, etc. If she was reasonably trustworthy while you were married, and you trust her as the mother of your child, then trust her here as well. What decisions she makes about her personal life is no longer your business unless you believe it will harm the child. It sounds right now like you have no reason at all to raise any objection.

This is hard. if you only have verbal agreements about custody, you might want to consider firming them up (i.e. hiring a lawyer and getting the court to approve your custody arrangement) before it possibly becomes an issue.

  • 2
    I'd like to underline your third paragraph. A lot comes down to how much the OP trusts his ex to make good decisions for their child. – Pascal Jun 12 '17 at 18:19
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    I like a lot about this answer, but I've seen too many otherwise smart people make bad choices in their love lives. A person in love is just in no position to be objective about such things. – T.E.D. Jun 12 '17 at 22:00
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    I like the fourth paragraph. I find that it's usually best (in anything) to first get to a verbal agreement, then get that written down and agreed upon by all parties. – SQB Jun 14 '17 at 7:19
  • Thanks for your response, in a more general sense. This is what I'll do. @Pascal I trust her almost without reservation. If anything she's a little on the strict side when it comes to parenting. I can see now with hindsight she's more sensible than I thought when I asked this question. – Throwaway Jun 15 '17 at 8:21
8

Communication is key. I believe you should talk to your ex-partner and see if/when you could come by for a visit to get to know him. It's the adult thing to do.

If you regularly go to pick up your daughter that may be a good time to take a few extra minutes to talk to the guy and get to know him a bit as well.

If you are an extremely concerned parent you could also have a background check run on the guy. But personally I'd only go that far if you get a weird vibe from him after meeting in person.

  • Regarding your last paragraph, regardless of if I am concerned, I have no evidence to suggest he's anything other than the full shilling. I'll keep and eye on the situation. I'll definitely want to get to know him more as time goes by. A good response though :) – Throwaway Jun 15 '17 at 8:23
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    Plus a million on the background check - police officers are not the paragons of morality people expect them to be. Many people are drawn to police work because they enjoy meting out violence, and police have a HIGHER incidence of domestic violence than the general population. – Jasmine Jun 15 '17 at 19:27
  • "#notallofficers" but they also deal with all kinds of problems, and at least the ones that I've known personally they've had struggles dealing with that sort of thing from a mental health perspective. Top that off with the "good ol' boys club" and you can get problems. But I've also known totally healthy and balanced officers. – Wayne Werner Jun 16 '17 at 15:43
7

This is a tough part of coparenting when not together for sure. There really is not much you can do realistically about it, but there are options on how you handle it. I loved the suggestion above to get together with him. While he might not be her forever guy, he could be. Either way, it would likely make you feel better for him not to be a stranger to you. Anyone who will be important to your child is someone worth taking an interest in yourself. If you have no unresolved junk with your ex I have seen times where the new people coming in have made great friends with the ex & if that can happen it's the best situation for everyone.

Any reasonable person would understand wanting to meet them. I don't think he will have any trouble understanding that. I would personally just keep a casual "get to know you" sort of thing. I don't think it is necessary to actually specify your concern about his relationship to your child nor your concern that he treat her mother well. You won't be able to dictate a thing about her & his interactions, so no sense acting as if you could. Instead I'd just keep the focus on the fact that he will be a daily part of your child's life & as such, you would hope that everyone would work together toward her best interest & you all getting to know one another & being on great terms is the best way to achieve that.

4

All you have to do is read the news on the internet and find hundreds of examples why moving a baby in with a man that the mother barely knows is a bad idea.

I am a single parent who years ago was left with a young child and no partner. I really wanted to have help and a companion, but not really knowing someone who would be alone with my children was a terrifying idea.

  • 5
    And all you have to do is look at all of human history to find millions of examples where this situation was completely fine. – AakashM Jun 14 '17 at 9:13
  • @AaKashM worth taking the risk with the kid's welfare then ? – user1450877 Jun 14 '17 at 11:58
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    @user1450877 worth keeping it in proportion. – AakashM Jun 14 '17 at 11:59
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    Thanks for your response. Definitely worth keeping it in proportion. News and the internet are also full of stories about friends and family who had no idea anything was going on. That doesn't mean you should stay away from all other people because they might be abusers. – Throwaway Jun 15 '17 at 8:27
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    Also remember that news is exactly that - things that are noteworthy (well, before the 24h news cycle, but that's beside the point). So the hundreds of thousands of people who have a great day with no complaints don't actually make the news. – Wayne Werner Jun 16 '17 at 15:45
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What raises a red flag for me is that the Mother doesn't seem too concerned about how the choices she makes will effect your child.

To introduce someone new into a child's life after knowing them for such a short period of time, yet alone move in with them, shows a high degree of carelessness and that she is willing to take a risk with the child's welfare in order to do what she wants to do.

The fact that he is a cop is irrelevant, there are plenty of bad cops, it also means there will probably be a gun in the house.

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    Admittedly, this was my initial concern; albeit poorly worded but I realise now that I can't put a time frame on these things. No guns in the UK. But thanks for your response. – Throwaway Jun 15 '17 at 8:30
3

Yes your concerns are valid, and yes you should address them.

As a stranger from the internet, I don't feel I'm in a position to tell you how to address them in any detail, but I would start by bringing it up with the mother. It sounds like you have at least a cooperative relationship with her, and I assume she'll agree that you have a right to know that your daughter is in good hands. It would be best to proceed in a way that she's comfortable with, and that would have to start by talking about it with her. Other answers have more specific suggestions about what to do, which you could discuss with her before making a plan.

2

You really have a legal means to object only if the new BF is a sex offender. Other than that, he may be a lousy individual, but doesn't endanger your daughter in a way which the court will recognize.

Your ex-wife almost certainly must provide you your daughter's new address. Check the sex offender registry. If you've got a match, raise hell. If not, just be the best dad you can be.

2

Not only do you have valid concerns, the situation obliges good parents to manage it appropriately. However you are way off base on one point which I'll mention below.

First what should be obvious: You cannot, and should not, try to dictate the terms of your ex-wife's life. Not just because it's futile and wrong, but because it would almost certainly make things worse.

Do maintain good lines of communication with your ex. Treat her like a good friend and be considerate of her life and feelings. This is an investment. It will benefit your child in a lot of ways over time. Specific to your question, it makes it easier to gain insight on how the situation is unfolding.

Pay close attention to how shes responding to the environment, how her personality evolves and any changes in behavior. If it's all benign, then great you should be paying attention anyway.

Wrong thinking to be cautious of:

This "give people the benefit of the doubt" crap in the comments is wrong and dangerous. It's a virtuous thing to do most of the time, but when a child may be left alone with a new adult it's absolutely correct to error on the side of caution. The fact the guy is probably harmless is irrelevant. Say the odds of him mistreating her are only 1 in 10,000. You just can't ignore risk when the stakes are so high if there's a practical way to mitigate it. Risk of driving a car maybe you can't avoid, but this is different. Find out whatever you can about him and don't feel bad for a second.

[he's a] policeman, and so theoretically is safe to be around children

This is so wrong you are scaring me. Without condemning cops, why would you think they are better in their personal lives than the average person? Secondly, I hate to mention the worst case but sexual abuse has come from every respectable, prestigious, honorable career you can think of. Again he is probably a great guy but without knowing that yet, someone's career choice should give you zero additional confidence about the safety of your kid.

On commenters saying 'how would you feel if someone checked up on you': How we should feel is that we should not give a rats ass about a perceived slight when someone tells us they are taking good faith precautions regarding safety of the most important thing on the planet. Of course this should be done with as much consideration and respect as possible. But if you are going about it right the right way and always being polite, then don't even bother worrying about what he thinks.

  • I'm curious if there's a difference between UK officers and US officers. I suspect they're a lot better in the UK, but I could be wrong there. – Wayne Werner Jun 16 '17 at 15:46
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    @WayneWerner I guess you suspect that due all of our negative police press? i was more trying to point out that people in positions of public trust can be good/evil in personal situations like anyone else, on average they're no better. Not sure about UK/US cops, iI think it's a really interesting question but I haven't seen any data. – whitneyland Jun 16 '17 at 19:34
2

It is not unheard of people moving in together in a few weeks after knowing each other; while that is common for people without responsibilities, sensible people with a child should give it some time to get a more solid relationship before exposing a child to someone that has the potential to disappear from their lives quickly, for the sake of the children. Unfortunately, not much can be done about it unless there is a documented pattern of unstable relationships, which it is not the case.

That said, both parents have the duty to communicate the full address in which they are living with the child to the other parent per law. All in all, it is positive you were warned in advance by her mother, and not by some legal letter arriving by mail.

As being in a similar place of yours, I can say it is important to keep an open channel to whoever is (also) helping taking care of the child. I would found it strange being buddies or organising an exit with the boyfriend, as I am not so closer with my ex. Such stance depends highly on the culture, the terms about the (ex)couple, and how often you all see each other. I certainly do some smalltalk with him when he delivers my daughter about the child.

I do however try to make an extra effort to keep an open channel and be in very good terms with the father of the mother.

1

No sane woman would ever move her and her children into some mans (police officer or not) (that’s even worse in my opinion) home after only three months. To the lady that said that’s enough time to know someone...she’s wrong. This is a very unhealthy decision and you have every right to walk up to his face and tell him how you feel. You’re the father, no need to spare his or your ex’s feelings...you tell that man how it’s gonna be like a man. When I say this, I mean in a very firm and direct diplomatic way.

It is your right and if this police officer has half a brain he would commend your concern. If he takes offense to your concern then that validates your gut feeling and should get your child out of that situation. Don’t take him out for a beer, befriend him or act nonchalant.

I hope you haven’t taken most of the advice on here already. You have two recommended options. Do what what I said or nothing at all. Do not complain, or say anything, be the best father you can be and trust that everything will be OK until a problem arises and then take action. No in betweens.

-4

You have no rights to know who he is. When you stepped out of her life that's what you forfeited. That's what "stepping out" means.

You really don't like him because you see him as a rival. You need to get over it. You stepped out of their life. That's what "stepping out means".

Your concerns are all about you, not about your girlfriend, daughter or the policeman and you are selfish. Stop kidding yourself this problems you're dreaming up are about them. They're from your inadequacy fearing you'll be replaced.

If you really wanted to support your child and see it grow up well you wouldn't have amicably agreed to step out of their life.

You wouldn't expect your girlfriend to have any say over who you wanted to move in with, and neither should you.

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