Leaving a marriage: that, I understand. Abandoning your children? That, I don't.

Without going into details which could potentially identify the people involved, this scenario has reared its ugly head in my extended family. (They’re relatives by marriage.) Granted, I’m only getting her side of the story, but it sounds like that’s what’s going on here.

That they’re splitting up probably surprises nobody, except for her. We’ve been talking about the possibility of that for more than 20 years. The main reason I’m not surprised right now is that the past few months has seen one Facebook post after another, from both of them, about how much they love each other and how happy they are, yadda yadda yadda, and I’ve seen enough of that to know that doing this if you’ve been married more than a year or two is a big red flag, and sometimes even then. Come to think of it, I remember the same thing in the pre-social media era with her first husband (which is another story altogether).

Anyway, I know this kind of thing happens all the time. Like I said, I’m not shocked, but I still feel bad, mainly for the kids who don’t deserve this.

“Abandoning” is a strong word here. A parent who chooses not to exercise the right of partial custody is not “abandoning” a child, who still retains the fundamental care of a loving and responsible parent. In many cases, if not most, a child with separated parents ofteh experiences more angst and emotional trauma then a child of a single functional parent. A parent is not necessarily doing the child a favor by maintaining that thread of contact.

I doukbt that any parent who has conceded their children to the other custodial parent would fail to harbor the children if they in fact ultimately became “abandoned”.

I’m a non-custodial mother which makes some people’s heads explode, but I’ve hardly abandoned my kids. More importantly they were part of the decision that led them to stay in their same house and school with their dog and friends. Nowadays even non-custodial parents can be deeply embedded in their kids lives - my teen just texted me and we worked on a homework essay together in a google doc while facetiming.

Your post doesn’t specify that anyone is actually moving thousands of miles away with the intention to never darken the children’s doorstep again and a vow to never-ever call even on birthdays and Christmas, which I agree would be hard to understand without knowing more of the individual circumstances. But you can’t see inside of anyone else’s lives and the most important thing for children is to grow up feeling safe and loved and respected by the adults around them and to not be in chaos or fear. If that is best achieved by a custody set-up that is unconventional, who are you or I to judge really.

I doubt we’ll ever see a finer example of confirmation bias in the wild.

Actually, it appears that this is exactly what’s happening. They are living several states apart due to work issues (that they agreed to this was really what tipped me off that the marriage was in serious trouble, whether they wanted to admit it or not) and she said, “He doesn’t want custody” which I interpreted as “He doesn’t want to parent anymore.” I’m not going to ask any questions, and let them tell me what they want me to know.

Their daughter is disabled and he always seemed devoted to her, which is why his apparently new disinterest in her is puzzling.


Either you’re right, OR there’s a ton of stuff about this situation that you’ll never know. I expect it’s the second one.

A divorce and separate households and addition of step parents can be tough on children. It is so rampant now it is almost unusual for families not to be blended. My kids were the few who lived with both their parents in their school. It doesn’t have to be bad. Your relative needs to get counseling if the kids need it. It might be okay, especially if they were fighting and bickering all the time. Don’t count it as a bad thing yet.

Your interpretation may not be correct. It’s common for a non-custodial parent to be an active and engaged parent.

Your latter statement is probably correct. Like I said, I only have her side of it.

If they are living several states apart, what would both of them claiming custody entail? Would the kids have to move back and forth? Would the father have rights to certain holidays? Is it all up in the air until a custody agreement is reached?

Sure, it could be “I don’t want to parent anymore”. It could also be “I don’t want to parent badly enough to add the complexities of mandated ‘dad’ time to my children’s lives.”

My dad vanished from our lives within a few years of divorcing my mother, and I turned out, uh, great. :dubious: Actually it didn’t bother me and was something I rarely thought about growing up. Now I’m closing in on fifty years old, I do sometimes wonder what it was like for Dad to leave us behind, and what ever happened to him.

My ex-husband also had a child that he doted on, until he married me and dropped her like a hot potato. He had done the same thing to the children of the marriage before that. It was not a topic I was permitted to delve into.

The mother of my oldest more or less abandoned him. Maybe not if you’re going to take “abandoned” to strictly mean “left in a dumpster four cities over” but after she left and I took custody, she wrote him out of her life within a few years aside from an annual “Happy birthday” on Facebook. In this case, it was no huge surprise as she viewed him as an imposition from the start and was more than happy to give up custody if it meant she could go off and live responsibility-free.

Fortunately, since then I met someone else who has been a loving mother to him for the past twelve years and we’re also blessed with a family support system of his grandmother and aunt’s family. But sure, sometimes a parent (even the mother) just doesn’t really give a shit.

A disabled kid and a work situation which puts them several states away from each other implies that there may be significant financial issues at play as well.

A non-custodial parent can actually work best in these situations. When you share custody, then you tend to share the expenses of the kid. For my divorced with kids girlfriends this means that whenever the kids are in their care they need new shoes, and someone to pay the fee for baseball, and a winter coat, and a trip to the doctor, and when they stay with Dad they eat pizza every night and watch Netflix and Dad never worries about a lost pair of gloves or a semi formal dress. With custody split 50/50, it was assumed expenses would follow, so my girlfriends are all out of pocket for a lot more and see little or no child support from their higher paid ex’s.

I’m not sure what you don’t understand. People are basically selfish. Not always and not completely, but at our base level, we are selfish. When I say selfish, I don’t want to imply that we’re all Scrooges hoarding our money and oppressing others, but we tend to desire our own wants and needs and prioritize them over others. Society has been aware of this basic fact for thousands of years, so we invented (or were given depending upon your view of things) things like religion and societal norms to encourage or force individuals to make decisions that are in the interests of society as a whole. We discovered a long time ago that kids without parents are not a good thing for society, so we created very intricate rules regarding sex, marriage and child-rearing so that people who would otherwise make decisions in their best interests are encouraged to make decisions in the interests of their children. These rules worked fairly well for a long time, but were far from perfect. What has happened is that communities that were able to enforce these social rules have largely broken down due to the availability of cheap travel and the extremely large population that is easy to disappear into as well as a number of philosophical movements that have emerged over the past few centuries. This means that religious and social rules that once served to protect children are weaker and weaker. It’s not surprising that when encouragers of a behavior become weaker, that behavior becomes more prevalent. This doesn’t mean that the social rules have completely disappeared, after all, you posting this is essentially reinforcing a social norm. It just means they are weaker and easier to ignore or evade. If we ever God-forbid end up with no social norms or behavioral limiters, we should expect to end up with many more abandoned children and the emergence of people like Trump :slight_smile: , so it goes.

When were rules protecting children better than they are now?

I assume he means stuff like social stigma of divorce and having children out of wedlock as well as strongly defined parental roles.

Eta: I’m certainly not calling those “the good old days” but those are social/religious rules that have weakened.

I’ll bite. How about 14th and 15th century England where church courts would track down and bring back absentee husbands? They nearly always sided with the wife and used tools such as excommunication (simply the denying of the eucharist and official rejection from the church) and ‘full excommunication’ which was a complete and total shut-down of all social, business or other contact with the offending party by all members of the community. Ecclesial courts would contract with secular courts and use a bailiff to physically bring back absentee husbands. Secular courts were even harsher. In at least one case, the court confiscated literally every piece of property that the offender owned until the marriage was reconciled. Secular courts were also much harsher than religious courts regarding those that aided in abandonment. Manorial and common law courts would confiscate property of anyone who helped people leave a marriage and it was common for fines to be levied against the family of the offending party even if the offender couldn’t be found. In the case of women leaving their families, the charge of rape was commonly brought against any man that she may have been living with. The death penalty was rare in these cases and typically they resulted in the confiscation of his property, but hanging was not unheard of. They would also resort to corporal punishment and we see many cases where a party would be beaten by the courts for leaving their spouse and threatened with more beatings should the offended spouse report back to the court that they were not a good husband or wife upon their return.

I also do want to clarify that social stigma is really more of what I was speaking of and I think it’s fair to say that there have been many, many times in our history when social stigma for spousal and child abandonment was much stronger than it is today.

I agree that there have been harsh marriage laws in the past. But I do not equate harsh marital laws and protecting children, and I’m not willing to assume that these intended to or succeeded in protecting them.

ETA: Social stigma for spousal and child abandonment when? I’m not sure if history really bears out a notion that previous eras did a better job protecting children (to be clear, I’m talking about children in general, including poor children) than today’s laws and mores.

This post though is talking about child abandonment, not child labor or child abuse or any other issue impacting children. Specifically, it’s talking about abandonment, as was my post above. The laws and stigma surrounding abandonment were much harsher in earlier eras, so we should assume that child abandonment will be much more common now.

But the laws you quote are not about child abandonment. They are about spousal abandonment, and appear to have a bent toward spousal abandonment when property was on the line.

Child abandonment, especially abandonment of poor children, was extremely common in the west. Yes, there was social pressure on women not to have children outside of marriage, but that didn’t actually mean it didn’t happen. And when it did, men generally were not obligated to do anything about it. The children starved or were literally abandoned—exposed or put in foundling homes or orphanages and in many cases put to work—with no social standing or benefits.

Child labor and child abuse would be strange to leave out of a conversation on “protecting children” as well. But we can stick with abandonment itself.

So, could you provide a time when rules protecting children from abandonment were better than they are now? Again, if you want to equate harsher marriage laws with abandoning children, I think there should be some evidence that such was the intent and the effect.

I think we would find that fewer children are abandoned now in the west than at any time in history.