And if so, why?
Before I run down the basics, let me just say that this matter is probably going to be decided in court this summer (she entering college in the fall), and I’m trying to figure out my moral responsibilities rather than my legal ones (though opinions are welcome on all counts.)
My daughter stopped speaking to me at age 15. (Her mother and I divorced when she was six, and we had a close relationship for the next nine years, as far as I can tell.) I asked to explain why she had taken such a powerful animosity to me all of a sudden, and she said I frightened her and had created a hostile atmosphere (her exact words). When I asked her what I did to frighten her and create such an atmosphere, she refused to discuss it. Over the last three years, I have asked her repeatedly, mainly by e-mail, which is all the access she (involuntarily) gives me, if I ever struck her or spoke harshly to her or even raised my voice to her–I vigorously deny ever doing any of these things, and they are about the only things that might frighten her, as far as I can tell. Her response was to refuse to discuss it at first, and over the last year or so, to refuse to answer my e-mails.
The only other relevant information is that I have been proposing that she and I see a family therapist virtually throughout this period, as soon as I discovered that she felt uncomfortable talking directly to me, and researched the names of various child psychologists in her area. At first she told me, she needed to see a woman therapist, so I interviewed two female therapists in her area (she lives about 150 miles away from me), but when I’d set up an appointment with one of them, my daughter refused to go.
Her mother, my ex-wife, fully supports her in breaking off with me, and maintains that of course I have created a poisonous atmosphere, so why would my daughter want anything to do with me. Meanwhile, my younger daughter (now 14) continues to spend weekends and holidays with me, and assures me that she isn’t the least bit uncomfortable with my behavior and doesn’t understand what her older sister is going on about. (I’ve tried not to put my younger girl in the middle of this, but I did ask her a few questions to see how this crisis was affecting her–she seems to be getting through as well as can be imagined.)
Without consulting me–or specifically, rejecting all my best advice–my daughter applied to her mother’s alma mater, a Seven Sisters school in the city I live in (and one of the most expensive schools in the country), got a partial scholarship, and recently presented me for a bill for half of the remaining sum–which is still a gigantic bite.
I intend to argue in court that her actions are those of an emancipated minor who has willfully cut off all contact between me and her for three years, has resisted repeated attempts on part to repair the rift, and so is no longer entitled to financial support while maintaining this stance. (My attorney tells me that sometimes this argument is entertained by the courts, and sometimes not, but we have a strong case.)
I feel awful about doing this–but maybe not as awful (in a different way) than I would if I shelled out a small fortune for the education of someone who treats me with such contempt and indifference. My attorney assures me that I am, after all, a parent and not an ATM machine, which is how she’s treating me, and I don’t think I have much choice but to follow through on this legal action, but I feel all emotionally jangled. I showered such love on her as she was growing up, it’s very hard to turn all of that love off and treat her as someone antagonistic to me, even though Ive gotten very little other than antagonism for three years from her. I’m just sick over this, and it’s eating away at my enjoyment of life, as my younger girl prepares to spend the next few weeks with me. The prospect of being compelled by the court to pay for this expensive education is also making it hard for me to spend any money lately. I bought a new TV the other day (my ten year old TV died) and I couldn’t believe the anxiety I felt about spending that money when I had this financial disaster looming over me.
I guess I feel very conflicted, and would be interested in hearing some of your opinions, even from those of you whose divorced fathers meanly tried to get out of paying for your educations and who are angry about it. That’s the part that bothers me the most–if there was any chance of repairing this rift, this court action is going to wreck it, I’m afraid for good. OTOH, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for repair even if I do pay for it.