My Daughter is 12 years old. I split with her mother when she was 2, and since then I have had her every weekend through her younger years. Now she tends to spend most of her time with us during school holidays etc.

The mother met someone who she now has a child with. He has very little to do with my daughter and hardly talks to her. The mother has just had an operation but he never picked my daughter up from school or anything.

He has another daughter who is around 14ish who picks on my daughter. She has threatened her with a bb gun etc, to the point where my daughter took a knife upstairs to defend herself (this was a while ago).

My daughter is now saying she doesn't want to live there anymore, she doesn't want to return there.

Where do I stand as a father ?

  • 12
    First, the answer depends on the state or country you live in. Have you spoken to the mother about any of this? If so, what was/is her response? Do you have a lawyer? Have you asked anyone involved with Child Protective Services/Child welfare/Crisis Intervention/Family Law? What, exactly, are you asking (it sounds like you're asking what your chances are to legally obtain full custody of your daughter. If not, please edit your post to make your question more clear.) Thanks. Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 20:06
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    If you are paying child support, just because she is living with you doesn't mean you can just stop paying. Everything has to be done through the courts, otherwise, you could end up with several years of back child support down the road because it wasn't done right.
    – rtaft
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 20:40

9 Answers 9


To be honest, seeing the threatening situation, this is more of a legal issue then a parenting issue...

The best you can do is first discuss your daughter's wishes; after that have a civil discussion with your ex-wife about what your daughter wants.

If she really cares so little about her she might not care about it and be happy you take her off her hands... alternatively you might be forced to escalate it to the authorities.

  • 5
    I hate to think the worst about people, but "she might not care about it" might change if there is child support involved. Yes, the money is "supposed to go to raising the child" but we all know cases where it isn't viewed that way.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 13:49
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    Frankly (US perspective) this sounds like a legal issue, no matter what. Now that the daughter is 12, while she still has no legal standing, I believe that she can speak for herself. I'd expect that custody arrangements can be changed to match with a child's wishes. Of course, it should start with as civil a discussion as humanly possible with the ex-wife, but even if both parties are in agreement, getting it "in writing" (with, sadly, lawyers involved) is a prudent step for the dad.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 13:50

This applies to the UK.

Quote taken from page 54 of The Family Court without a Lawyer: A Handbook for Litigants in Person by Lucy Reed:

It is often said that it is the child's right to have contact with his family not the parents' right. What this really means is that children are not a possession and that a parent has no automatic right to contact where that is in conflict with the child's own human rights or needs.

If you are based in the UK, I do highly recommend purchasing this book, as well as seeking independent legal advice from qualified lawyers.

My daughter has lived with me 100% of the time since the age of 12 (she is now 15). This started during the first 2020 lockdown. My daughter was lucky enough to get locked down with me, and as lockdown started to ease, and there was talk of going back to her mother's, my daughter begged me, with big tears rolling from her eyes, "Daddy, please never send me back there again."

And so, against the advice and recommendations of everyone I knew, except my closest of friends (parents who knew both me and the mother), and with the help of that book, and other legal advice, I decided to have my daughter's back. She never went to her mother ever again.

My only regret, is that I didn't do it earlier.

One thing that is apparent, in the UK, is that approx from the age of 12 and onwards, the Family Courts will listen more and more to the opinion and wishes of the child, until they reach 16, when it's not even a question anymore.

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    i have never heard that is how the UK courts work. I like it. Children frequently get turned into game prizes to be fought over and won. Its not pleasant.
    – greg
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 21:18
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    @greg Definitely not pleasant. I did everything I could to avoid. Although the courts tend to listen to child from 12 onwards, accusations of "parental alienation" abound, and often what happens is the child is privately interviewed by psychologists from Cafcass, who then report to the court their opinion. I distrust the entire system, and was lucky to not get sucked into that. It spells nothing but extended trauma for the child, as far as I'm concerned.
    – Stewart
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 21:54
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    @greg the UK courts are also very serious about the right of privacy of the child, which is why you won't have heard about it - family cases do not appear in newspapers
    – pjc50
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 9:58

As A.bakker says, this is more of a legal issue. It sounds like you have good reason to fear for your child's safety. If both children are at the point of carrying weapons it doesn't matter who is at fault here, the situation is too dangerous to let it continue.

I think you should call your ex ASAP and try to talk about it. Get her to agree to remove that BB gun and protect your daughter.

If that doesn't work, or if you don't think the two of you can have that kind of conversation, then talk to a family lawyer. Depending on where you live and the terms of whatever arrangement was made when you split up, it may be possible to stop sending your daughter back there until things are stabilised. If you go to court, its quite likely that the judge will take your daughter's wishes into consideration too now that she is old enough (again, depending on the laws where you live).


I speak as someone who has worked in family law courtrooms and closely with judges for about three years.

  • First, you must follow the current custody order, meaning that yes, she has to return to her mother.
    • However, you sound like you have a strong case if you are trying to get primary custody.
    • You need documentation. Your daughter must report the unsafe environment to an outside source. I suggest the school social worker.
  • Next, you and your daughter must record all exchanges supporting her allegations.
    • You also need to file for an emergency hearing. Not sure of your financial situation, but you can get some help filing the paperwork at your courthouse.
    • Also, depending on your state, your daughter may be old enough for her preferences in primary custodian may hold some weight in court.

Good Luck! Please remember in the courtroom, it will be all about what can be proven, not the stories that are told.

  • 3
    "you must follow the current custody order" - I don't think you do, if it's harmful to the child. The most you need to do is provide the opportunity to the child. But if you pull up at the other house, and your child refuses to get out of the car, you document that and then leave. What's going to happen? The police raid you and take the screaming child under threat to "go play happy families". Obviously get legal advice for the jurisdiction they are in, but we really have to drop this idea that a parent must be compelled to harm their child.
    – Stewart
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 10:58
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    @Stewart - I'm not a lawyer, but have been put in the middle of custody disputes often, as feuding parents will bring the child to the Emergency Room as the weekend begins and the weekend ends, each alleging abuse by the other parent. We do a physical exam then contact Crisis intervention, to report the presence of injury (they then do the legal stuff) or parental abuse (yo-yoing a child to the ED every weekend with false allegations is considered emotional abuse.) The answer is correct, unless you can reliably prove there is an immediate danger to the child, which is usually not the case. Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 18:33
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    That is so horribly, terribly sad, @anongoodnurse.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 20:13
  • @anongoodnurse I believe you. What you describe makes me nauseous. But I didn't say anything about ER. I'm simply disputing that a parent can be compelled to put their child in a harmful situation. Especially when the child is aged 12+ and can voice their own opinion about it.
    – Stewart
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 20:44
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    @anongoodnurse tells a familiar tale. I got accused 3 times of abuse. Oddly, all right before school ends. Alls fine... my kids spent the summer w/o ever seeing me and all was resolved right as school started back up. The courts finally , reluctantly have no choice but to admit mom is playing games... and yes, the game can be played by either parent,
    – greg
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 5:27

As others said, your first advice is that you're talking to a bunch of randoms on the Internet instead of a lawyer which is what you should do. Also, there's a Law StackExchange although they obviously can't give you legal advice - but at least they may be able to advise what laws/precedence cases exist in your jurisdiction.

Second, this may not (yet) be applicable to your situation - - but at least in USA family court system, there is a concept of a child reaching the age when they have a say as to which parent they wish to have custody. At the very least, the judge must take that opinion into account, although presumably not as the sole decision point but combined with other facts in the case. Whether your jurisdiction has that concept, and if so, whether your child is old enough to have it applicable to them - again, talk to a lawyer.


"Where do I stand as a father?"

Leaving aside the existential elements of this question, I would answer this based on your obligations.

  • Moral - your daughter must be safe first and foremost. This should take precedence even if in conflict with your legal obligations.

If you believe that your daughter is physically or verbally unsafe in your ex's home, then you cannot allow her to return. If you go down this road, you will be going against a judges legally binding order and you should immediately seek to set your relationship to those obligations on the right footing (see below).

Simply not having a good relationship with your ex's family will probably not sway a judge, especially given the numerous criteria a judge will use to make a custody decision.

Where the line falls between any mental/verbal abuse and just not getting along would be much more challenging to parse out, and if you're not clear on this, then seeking professional guidance on this issue would be in order.

  • Legal - if you have shared custody defined by the courts, you have a legal obligation to abide.

In the US, some states allow or require a judge to consider the child's preference and in some cases allow the child to speak in court about that preference, but it will always be the judges decision. Georgia stands alone in allowing a 14 yr old to choose as long as the judge does not disagree.

If you want a different situation and cannot come to a mutually agreed upon arrangement with the mother (the best solution in my opinion), then you will have to appeal to the courts to change the arrangement and take steps to ensure the presiding judge is aware of your daughter's preference.

  • Dad - you have to be there for her.

As a father of three girls who split time between their mom's and my house, I have an obligation to be clear with them about the realities we are living with. They understand what our households have to do live by the legal obligations that separation has created.

Further and personally, I do the hard work of maintaining a relationship with my ex that works best for my children, not me. For my situation, this means bearing, without rancor or resentment, responsibilities which are not fairly divided. This is a purchase, a transaction, that I pay for two reasons. Firstly, because it's the path to peace for both our households. The burden of their parent's split should not be borne by my kids. Secondly because if I carry anger toward their mom, then I steal peace and contentment from my children and my home.


First thing first!! It is your responsibility to protect your daughter. You should hire an attorney today. No point in going and trying to have conversation with ex and boyfriend. It will end up bad when you start throwing accusations at them. This is about your daughter not your relationship with them. If all is true your attorney would be able to get you temporary emergency custody until all is sorted out. And then hopefully you would gain full custody. But don't just not send her back unless she is terrified and if that is the case then the police should be called and children services. Don't take matters in your own hands or you'll be in jail. Get a lawyer now! PROTECT YOUR DAUGHTER. I hope it all works out and your daughter is ok. Good luck


First off, in many states there are laws about mandatory reporting of just the suspicion of child abuse. So I would first report this matter to the police before anything, not just to protect yourself, but also to ensure that if you need to fight for custody, you have a paper trail. Just report what is happening exactly as you have heard.

The other thing can do is file for an emergency custody hearing. This is something that could cause serious friction between your child's mother and you and your child, so I would be careful about getting the facts straight before doing this.

However, what I would not do is try and go over there and talk with the mother. If there are dangerous people within that house then you could get yourself hurt or could make the situation worse. Instead try and schedule a public meeting with just the mother, ensure it's a safe place and bring a third party to ensure you have a witness to the conversation in case it turns ugly. Give the mother the benefit of the doubt though, I know all types of things happen and all types of stories, so it's best to get the facts straight.


everyone here is saying the same thing. Ill say it more clearly...

You have listed a lot of facts. Thank you.

Based on those facts, the answer is : Yes. Daughter has to go back to moms. Sick, holiday, tears, overdue school project. The custody agreement is the law, literally.

If ANYONE tells you different. Realize you are losing the high ground and putting yourself at risk.

Other people have listed good things to think about and/or pursue. I will say A conversation is always the best place to start. I will also say sometimes that advice doesnt go far if 2 people are challenged in their communication.

I would add that you might consider chatting with your daughter. If there was a threat of a bb gun, and your daughter countered w/ a knife... it could be she turns out to be the one getting in trouble. Just consider for a moment how police would see that story. It doesnt matter what happened in the past... today there is a BB gun, a knife and 2 people w different stories.

  • down vote if you want. point to one thing i said that isnt true.
    – greg
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 5:14
  • "Daughter has to go back to moms." That isn't true.
    – Stewart
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 22:30
  • we disagree. i dont know you live, but in any of the 50 states in the US, the custody agreement is binding and one party cant change it. The courts can change it. It stands to reason it is like that everywhere. Otherwise, no one would follow the order.
    – greg
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 0:01
  • "Otherwise, no one would follow the order." That is also false. The court order is binding on the parent, not the child. The parent is forced to make visitation possible. But no court can force a child out of your car, across the street and into the other house, if that child finds it traumatic.
    – Stewart
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 8:19
  • As a parent, your first and most primary job, is to have your child's back against danger. To protect them. What you have posted takes away hope, and makes the reader feel powerless. Your viewpoint is one of apathy and subjucation. It's a "give up and die" viewpoint. That's why I downvoted.
    – Stewart
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 8:22

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