Family Custody Battle | Wishing vs. Having | Date Redux

Family Custody Battle


About six months ago my husband’s nephew came to live with us after his mother started battling cancer. Things have worked out well with him in our home. He has become a full fledged member of our household and we really like having him. Here is the crux of the problem. My sister-in-law is not going to get any better in the long run. We are completely happy to have him continue living with us until he grows up but we aren’t actually the legal guardians designated in her will. That honor belongs to my husband’s sister and her husband, who have no room for him and are probably not the best suited for raising him. Things were different when that will was drawn up and things have changed now and we are the better option. The problem is my sister-in-law is really ill and bringing all this up could cause rifts and spites here at the end of her life. My husband and I don’t know what we should do. I hate to say this but there will be some money involved too and that is probably going to be a motivator for my in-laws to fight to keep my nephew.



Dear Lauren,

Sounds like you need to consult an attorney fast. I am just a guy with loud opinions. I’m not really qualified to give you real advice on this matter. With that said, I will offer an opinion. Rifts and squabbles and hurt feelings are really just insignificant here. A woman is dying and she has a young son. Presumably, there is no father in the picture. If he is dead and that boy is truly better off in your household than his other aunt and uncle’s, then it is everyone’s priority—especially his dying mother’s—to be tying up the legal ends to make sure he stays with you. If the boy’s father is not dead, he is going to have to be factored into this somewhere. He may return and want custody himself, or you may have to reach out to him to have him sign his rights away.

Regardless, if your sister-in-law is too ill to come to an attorney’s office, hire an attorney to come to her. Get everything wrapped up legally ASAP so that she can die with some peace of mind. If her health is unfortunately beyond that possibility, then I’d suggest calling a family meeting that includes all interested parties, except the child of course, and lay the cards on the table so that all of you as a family unit can arrange things legally yourselves after she’s gone. Talk to your brother-in-laws, sister-in-laws, mother-in-law, father-in-law, anyone who is a part of the greater family picture and explain to them that no one has been living according to the will, which is an old will from many years ago. Explain that the boy has been living very happily with your family all this time and how you do not feel that should change when his mother dies.

It is doubtful that the couple originally specified in the will to raise him will want to step up to do so now. They would have asked for him by now. In my opinion, the only reason (after all this time) for them to cause a stir now would be because they want the money that comes after this poor woman dies. So, before this family meeting, I would also have preemptively made arrangements with the attorney to draw up papers which will place that money into a trust for the boy’s future. If those papers are in hand at the meeting, everyone will understand that your family is willing to raise this child yourselves with no financial help at all. That announcement also puts a great deal of pressure and expectation on the other family that they should do the same if they end up sticking to the will and taking the boy into their home. Without making any accusations or demands, you will have just set up the precedent that no one has a right to that money except the orphaned son.  Once that thought is tossed on the table, I don’t think there is any way they could justify taking and using the money. And since they haven’t had the boy these last six months, I doubt they’d take him in now at their own expense.

There’s my opinion, but again, you need an attorney to guide you through this complicated matter. Just consider my words as you would your nosey next-door neighbor who has an opinion on everything.


Wishing vs. Having


Dear Micah,

My son wants a car for his birthday. He has a used one now that is in reasonable shape. The one he wants is pricey, and frankly we just can’t afford it. But his heart is set on it. Most of his friends have new cars so I hate to keep making him drive the old one. It’s a case of wishing versus having. I just don’t have the money or credit to get him a new one. He’s such a good kid, good grades etc. I hate that I can’t reward him. How do I tell him we just can’t afford that?



Dear Lynn,

You say that you just can’t afford that. It really isn’t difficult. He isn’t entitled to a new car just because he makes good grades. He also isn’t entitled to one simply because the parents of other kids have more money or credit than you do. I didn’t have a new car until 1999 and I was 26 years old then.   It’s great that he’s a good kid. And if he really is a good kid, then your praising him and telling him how proud you are that he’s a good kid is enough to make him feel good. If he is going to get hostile and angry, throw a tantrum, or stop making good grades just because you don’t buy him that car, that kind of negates that whole “good kid” thing. I think you’re worrying too much. Parents want to give their kids all the things they never had. I know I sure do. But there is a limit to what you can do and at some point it gets reached. As long as your kid knows you love him, like him, and think he’s turning into a pretty great guy, I think that’s all that he necessarily needs. Just tell him the truth. You don’t have the money to get it for him. If he’s really a good kid he will totally understand. He’ll be naturally disappointed, but he’ll understand.


Date Redux


Dear Micah,

Is it a dumb idea to go back and date somebody I used to date all over again? Have a girl on my mind that I used to see but it didn’t work out—no big drama when it happened—and want to look her up again now that she’s divorced. Couple of friends said if it didn’t work the first time…what do you think?



Dear Vann,

Go for it. Whether or not it worked the first time is irrelevant as long as neither of you harbor ill feeling towards each other. Your friends are wrong. People can change direction and evolve and end up being slightly different people than they once were–the girl you didn’t click with then could be “the one” for you now. And even if you try and still don’t particularly like her, there’s no harm done. Plus, you already have experience breaking up with her, so it should be a cinch the second time.

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