legal question - initiating contact between two parties..

Hi All,

I have a good friend who is estranged from his family. I don’t know the complete details, but the question I have doesn’t really need them anyway. And I did ask him if this involved anything sexual, like inappropriate touching and he said no. (I would find that scenario impossible to believe, but I thought it important to ask.)

Anyway, my friend and his brother are not speaking and haven’t spoken for about 10 years now. My friend was very close to his brother’s children when the rift occurred, and the children were approximately 7 and 8 when this happened.

My friend’s nephew is going to be 18 later this year, graduating high school and all that, and he’s hoping he can now contact his nephew without getting himself in any legal trouble. He has truly missed his nephew and niece, but he’s also been careful not to try to reach out to either one of them until either one reaches his/her 18th birthday. It would be very embarrassing if his brother slapped him with a TRO, for example.

So my question is this. Does my friend have anything to worry about by contacting his nephew either on his 18th birthday, or on his high school graduation (the nephew will be 18 by then) ? My friend is not looking for any confrontation with his brother, or any problems at all. He just wants to wish his nephew happy birthday and congratulate him on graduation. Contact in this case could be a birthday card/letter, graduation card/letter, or maybe an email-facebook message. He also wants to visit in person at some point to let him know that the lack of contact was not the nephew’s fault and that he still loves him and his sister.

Does anyone know of any reasons that this could have legal ramifications?


In Ireland, if the child is 18 he is legally an adult, and no longer under the legal control and protection of his father. I assume that the son is not subject to any mental disability, and his father does not continue to be his legal guardian or protector under the local legislation.

I assume it’s the same story where you are.

If that is the case, then it is none of the brother’s business who contacts his son. The son is entitled to live his own life as an adult, and can forbid the contact if he wishes, or encourage it. Clearly he may not wish the contact to occur if he is aware of the hostility which exists, but legally it is his choice.

That’s what it means to be an adult in any modern society.

Has the estrangement been legally enforced in any way? Did the brother ever take out a restraining order in the past? If no, all is fine.

You can’t take out a restraining order preventing another legal adult from contacting another legal adult, if that’s what you’re asking. Not even if one of the legal adults is your dependent-for-tax-purposes child (assuming the kid is going to college).

I hope you are right. I should have mentioned this is in the States, the land of the lawsuit.

Or a vengeful parent. I personally would hate to see my friend’s nephew get his college money taken because he spoke to his uncle.

I think you are confusing negative repercussions, with legal repercussions.

In the absence of a restraining order, there is no (legal) reason why your friend can’t speak to his nephew who is past the age of majority. Actually, in the absence of a restraining order, there was no (legal) reason why he couldn’t speak to his nephew who was a minor. Being “estranged” is not a legal status. It just means you don’t like each other.

However it would be perfectly legal for the father to take away the nephew’s college money, because he spoke to his uncle. Unless the father’s support is court-ordered, he can give or withold his money to influence his children any way he likes.

Legal consequences are unlikely unless there was something actionable that occurred way back when (and he says no to this). If it’s just a family squabble the more immediate issue is what the parents will do if he presses the issue.

Most 18 year olds are still plenty dependent on their parents these days so getting a kid revved up for drama with their parents, especially if the parents are (apparently) the take no prisoners type, might not be all that wise.

What happened, and how it would be viewed 10 years later is kind of critical to to what would probably happen in re-establishing contact.

Simplest thing would be for the guy to send a letter or email (email is so much easier)to the person just saying “Hi, I know your parents and I dont talk, but if you want to, here’s my contact info” and leave the decision up to them. (Hint - try Facebook…)

If the parents are mean and still hlding a grudge, and likely to express an opinion backed up by pressure that Junior should not talk to Uncle, then don’t expect a response. OTOH, if Junior has grown up with douchebags for parents, he either recognize this and knows to hide things form them, or is a douche himself. Or, he will wait until Junior has left home for good to expect to hear from him…

As to legal repercussions - I can’t imagine any grounds for a restraining order that could be asked for, even against contact with a minor. There has to be demonstrable threats, trespassing, or annoyances. Not taking the hint “get lost” and persistently trying to contact someone’s underage children might constitute harrassment (stalking), but I wonder what a judge would do if the child was 16 and said they did not resent the intrusion? You can’t just say “I hate my brother because Ma always liked him best, so I want the judge to restrain him from talking to my kids…”

Thank you all for the thoughtful responses. Based on my knowledge of this situation, (which I believe is pretty good) the biggest concern is how this might impact his nephew. The nephew’s parents ARE the vengeful type (I’ve never understood this… what is wrong with people? Life is too short), so if there is a college fund, my friend would hate to see that jeopardized.

He also has no idea what has been said about him vis-a-vis the kids and his “disappearance”. I fear that this could be a bad story and the reunion not as fulfilling as my friend hopes it will be. I really don’t want this to end badly for either party.

I also did not know that contacting a child without the parent’s blessing before 18 would be ok, and I’m positive my friend didn’t; My friend was always worried about being accused of stalking, or perhaps something else because of trying to contact his nephew. He is counting down the days to the 18th birthday, so this will come to a head soon. My fingers are crossed for both my friend and his nephew.

<sigh> family. Where would psychotherapists be without them?

Yes, there are no laws against talking to anyone; just threats, harrassment, inappropriate touching, trespassing etc.I don’t know how often you have to try to contact someone and be told “get lost” before it’s considered harrassment or stalking. Even so, a restraining order can turn into a court fight that would require some people to appear in court and explain things they might not want to explain.

As I said, I’m sure there are ways - facebook, email, chain of acquaintances - to pass a message without making it apparent to the parents. Then, it’s up to the nephew to decide how or if to respond. As I said, if the parents are douchebags, I’m sure the kid has learned long ago what not to tell them. I’ve known the “if you talk to my ex you’re out on the street” types, and the general reaction of the kids is to not want contact with anyone, get as far as they can from the whole mess.

If he’s worried about what has been said about him and the split, then perhaps a quick summary of his side of the story (i.e. “We got into a dispute about your grandmother’s inheritance, and they broke off contact with me”) might be an enticement for the nephew to contact him for the full story. However, if he comes across just as nasty as the parents, don’t expect Junior to want to initiate contact. And, Junior may be the type of weasel who ingratiates himself with his parents by telling on dear old uncle.

I assume he wants to be sincere. if he then turns around and rubs it in the parents’ face - “Ha ah, I’m talking to Junior and you can’t do anything” then Junior will drop him for the douche he is. If he tells lies that can be checked by any high-school kid, then Junior will also not be inclined to be his friend. If he expects a warm and frequent relationship while Junior is still depended on dear old dad, he may have to wait quite a few years.

All he can to is try. Good luck!