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Untying the Common Law Knot

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Dear Annie: I have been with "John" for more than 10 years. We have children together. I have reached the point in my life that I wish to be married. I never wanted to be a girlfriend forever, and he knew this from the beginning.

John says stupid things like, "If you did such-and-such, then I'd marry you." I don't believe marriage is about how much I can do for him. It's about loving each other enough to commit. I love John, but he is unwilling to take that step, so I have told him if we are not married by next summer, he has to move out and let me get on with my life. I'm not trying to force him to the altar. It's simply that if a legal commitment isn't in the cards, I need to plan my future without him.

The problem is, John tells me he will not leave. I don't want things to get nasty by involving the authorities, but I want more out of my life than he does. Over the past few months, I have made myself completely miserable just thinking about all of this. Am I being unreasonable? Am I putting myself and my needs first by demanding he make a choice? — Dazed and Confused

Dear Dazed: No. John's needs have come first for the past 10 years. But aside from that, you already may have a legal commitment in place. When a couple lives together as long as you have, it is recognized in many states as a common-law marriage. So, although you haven't had a ceremony, you may, in fact, be legally tied.

You also have children, and a separation will entail custody, visitation and child support arrangements, so you might consider counseling before disentangling yourself. Even something as simple as tossing him out of the house becomes a legal matter. Check the laws in your state regarding common-law marriage, and if necessary, get the assistance of an attorney.

Dear Annie: We have a home in another state and allow family members and friends to vacation there.

Recently, when we went to the house, we found several framed family photographs of our guests throughout the family room and bedroom.

I think this is in poor taste and that our guests have overstepped their privileges. Should I say thank you and simply put the photos away? Or should I allow others to decorate my home? — Concerned

Dear Concerned: Well, this is certainly nervy. You are obviously such an accommodating host that your guests feel a little too much at home. We suggest returning the photographs to the owners, saying, "You must have left these at our house when you last stayed there. I know you would want them back so you can appreciate them in your own home."

Dear Annie: I am "S.W. from California," the 88-year-old who had a falling out with his daughter. She and her husband cut off contact, so I cut them out of my will.

After the letter appeared, I got a call from my son-in-law, who referred me to some online comments about your column. I was surprised by the negative response. It seems there is a generation gap. I was a Depression kid, and there was no help from the government. If you couldn't pay for food, you starved. Having gone through such rough times, we wanted to make things easy for our kids, and we gave them everything. It only resulted in spoiling them, and they, in turn, spoiled the next generation. These kids expect everything to be given to them and show no respect for their parents. My generation always showed respect.

Fortunately, as a result of your publishing my letter, my daughter contacted me, and we are now speaking again. She doesn't see things my way, and I don't see things her way, but we have agreed to disagree. — S.W. from California

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

85 Comments | Post Comment
"I was a Depression kid, and there was no help from the government." Maybe, S.W., you're remembering only the Hoover years, when he waited for private business to end the Depression on their own. When it didn't happen, Franklin Roosevelt started one program after another to create jobs and stimulate the economy. I suspect your parents received more help than you were aware of at the time.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Kimiko
Sun Feb 3, 2013 9:08 PM
LW1 - I'd skip counseling and go straight for the lawyer. I wouldn't wait for next summer either. John has already made a choice, a choice not to legally marry you, and waiting a few more months is just going to make you miserable for a few more months. Only about 12 - 15 states still recognize common law marriage so the odds are in your favor that you're free of this man. If John is insistent that he won't leave, consider leaving yourself and finding a new place to live.
LW2 - not only would I return the photos with a pleasant note saying they must have left them behind, but I would not allow them to use your house for the next few years to let them know they overstepped. Don't be unpleasant about it, but make it clear whose house it is.
Comment: #2
Posted by: kai archie
Sun Feb 3, 2013 9:10 PM
LW1 may well need to call in the authorities, but first she needs to talk to a lawyer ASAP to find out what her rights and obligations are. You can contract a common-law marriage in only 9 states and DC, but to dissolve it you apparently have to go through a divorce-type procedure just as if you had formally married. If her state doesn't recognize common law marriage, and she still wants out, the attorney would have to negotiate child support, property settlements, etc.
Comment: #3
Posted by: redcybra
Sun Feb 3, 2013 9:19 PM
Can someone explain to me why women who are not Angelina Jolie and Kourtney Kardashian (gag at the latter) have not one, but several children with men to whom they are not married? I think it is not in the best interests of any children when they are born out of wedlock, even taking into consideration the high divorce rates. How does any thinking woman intentionally bear children with a man who does not make her his first priority? How does a woman intentionally get "knocked up" so she has children with a man that is not good enough for her, but he might be, hopefully, a reasonably good daddy?
I guess marriage is really outdated, and I have no problem with women having children they can support, emotionally and financially, but I am sick of the parade of women who willingly have babies they cannot afford. And with creeps that get threatening when you want them to leave. I guess I have no sympathy for really stupid women. And, sadly, this generation of children will have even less respect for the good things that come from a loving family, formed because of love, and not threats. So sad, and so Jerry Springer.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Carly O
Sun Feb 3, 2013 9:39 PM
LW2: I think the guests were just trying to leave what they thought was a nice gift. You don't like these people well enough to have a few pictures of them, but you let them use your vacation home? I think saying that they have "overstepped their privileges" is rather extreme. It's not like they repainted the house! If they had left some bottles of wine would you also return those? I would be very embarrassed if I left a picture as a gift and then it was returned to me. If you don't like the pictures just get rid of them. I have pictures of many of my friends and relatives around my home to remember fun times with them.
(long time BTL reader...my first post...can't believe this is the issue that has gotten me all worked up!)
Comment: #5
Posted by: SusanP
Sun Feb 3, 2013 9:48 PM
Re: kai archie

Good point, kai, about re-establishing boundaries.

My husband and I have a vacation home, and we have never allowed anyone to be there except at our invitation, and while we are there also. Those are the conditions we are comfortable with, and of course, with those rules, we are never disappointed.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Carly O
Sun Feb 3, 2013 9:57 PM
Re:

Susan, you raise a good point, but they left "several framed family photographs of our guests throughout the family room and bedroom". I think it might be cute to find a group photo around, but this photo display seems excessive and invasive to me. I might be overboard on privacy issues, but that is why I keep my space my space.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Carly O
Sun Feb 3, 2013 10:02 PM
LW1: Why would you choose to have kids with someone who thinks so little of you? And what's so magical about this year that you suddenly want to be married? If it's for the kids, you should have done it years ago. If he did cave in to your ultimatum, would you really want to go through with it now? And what's up with "by next summer"? You want to be married, you go to a courthouse. You could do it this week if it were really important to both of you--but obviously it's not, so you shouldn't do it at all. Sounds like you've set an artificial deadline for yourself. 30th birthday coming up?
It's bad enough that you're tied to this guy through your kids. Don't make another mistake hoping that it will somehow validate the poor decisions you've made over the last 10 years. Because you have kids together, there's no way to get out of this without involving "the authorities." The longer you put it off, the nastier things will get. See a lawyer.
LW2: I'm with Susan. The photos were probably gifts, a way for your guests to share their good times with you. (It's also possible that they put the photos out for their own enjoyment during their stay and forgot to pack them when they left, but the former explanation seems more likely.) Putting them around the house rather than wrapping them and including a note is a litte presumptuous, but if they're close enough to you to be staying in your home, they probably thought you wouldn't mind. And if they're that close to you, there's no reason you can't get over yourself and ask.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Baldrz
Sun Feb 3, 2013 10:35 PM
* * * * PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT * * * *

LW3 refers to the first letter on 2 October 2012, and was also discussed on 28 December 2012.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Miss Pasko
Sun Feb 3, 2013 10:37 PM
I hate to sound like Princess Bride, but before people get too emotional in defense of LW1 and her "nasty abusive husband who refuses to let her throw him out into the street" (the brute!) --- consider how one might feel if the letter had been written by a man, i.e.,

"Dear Annie, I've been living with a woman for ten years and am the father of her children. She won't marry me so I want to ditch her and keep the kids. But the stupid b--tch won't leave. What should I do?"

This letter does not pass the gender test. LW1 does not necessarily deserve our impassioned support. If she wants her (possibly) common law husband out of her life, she needs to do so with advice of a lawyer. If he wants to stay (or separate from her and fight for custody of the kids), he needs to do so with advice of a lawyer. Aint life fun.

P.S. Re: the comment that "If you did such-and-such, then I'd marry you" --- it's hard to respond without knowing what he's asking her to do. Take out the garbage once a week? Get a job and contribute to the household income? Shave her armpits and use deodorant? She may have a perfectly valid point, but it's not evident from her letter.
Comment: #10
Posted by: sarah morrow
Mon Feb 4, 2013 12:06 AM
LW3's letter was interesting. I remember the nasty comments about his original letter, and remember thinking at the time that we (BTLers) may have been a little hard on the old guy, in the harsh tone of some of the things that were said. (He does sound silly and stubborn, but his family does too.) To me it's a reminder that there is a pretty good chance the people writing to "Dear Annie" may actually end up reading these comments. So we should try to be tactful about what we say. (And I include myself in that, I've sometimes been a bit caustic and offhand when I reply to some of the people who write in.)

Then again -- I have to say -- It's interesting that the BTL comments, not the Annies' reply, were what caught his family's attention. I wonder if they are what ultimately have led to a partial reconciliation with his daughter.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Nowhereman
Mon Feb 4, 2013 12:24 AM
Annies, Annies, Annies..."Even something as simple as tossing him out of the house becomes a legal matter." Really? Seriously? A human being is not a bag of trash, Annies. I cannot imagine what alternate universe you live in that tossing someone out of their home would be considered a "simple" matter. ESPECIALLY when that human being is the father of your children and probably owns half the home! Let's back up here. The LW, for whatever reasons of her own, agreed to get togther with this man, agreed to stay with him for ten years, agreed to have children with him, but NOW that SHE has decided she has "reached the point in my life that I wish to be married" he's supposed to jump or get kicked out of his own home? Not choosing a man who wanted to marry her and not getting married before she had kids and spent ten years with him was her own dumb chocie. Since she's the one who wants it so badly now, why doesn't SHE move out?

The LW says, "John says stupid things like, "If you did such-and-such, then I'd marry you." Why the lack of detail? Unless we know what "such-and-such" is, we have no idea whether his demands are reasonable or not. If "such and such" is to quite your drug addiction, to go to AA, to stop gambiling, to pay off your debts, to get a job, to stop having affairs with men, to take your meds, then the guy is making a reasonable demand.

You are right, Annies, that she better consult a lawyer, but she better be prepared to find she's the one out on the street. And to say that John's needs have come first for the last ten years is stupid. You have no idea whether that is the case or not, and it amacks of sexism to imply that women somehow want marriage more than men. One thing is for sure. Neither one of them has put their kids' needs first, and that should have been pointed out.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Jane
Mon Feb 4, 2013 1:20 AM
Re: Jane, somehow I doubt that LW1 left out that fact that she's a cheating drunk with a gambling problem. If that's the case, why isn't the BF the one threatening to take custody of the kids and leave, married or not? It's much more likely that he knows she wants to get married and is using it as a carrot to get what he wants (anything from a home-cooked meal every night to a three-way). Also, even if they live in a common-law marriage state, they are not common-law married unless they have been representing themselves as husband and wife, using the same last name etc. Apparently this isn't the case, but they will still need a lawyer for division of property and custody.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Lucy
Mon Feb 4, 2013 2:11 AM
LW1 - This is a very difficult situation to analyze, since the LW doesn't give us too many details, or why she stayed with John AND had multiple children when she wanted to be married and apparently he didn't. Frankly, I don't blame John for not wanting to leave his home and children after 10 years, and I agree with Jane that his reasons for saying "if you'd do such-and-such" he'd marry the LW aren't stated. His "such-and-such" could very well be perfectly legitimate issues. The LW could be terrible with finances and John could be worried that she would ruin his credit if they married and he became liable for her debts. We just don't know.

We also don't know their living arrangements -- are they co-owners of a house? renting? LW living in John's house? John living in LW's house? All these things would make a difference in who leaves and how much trouble it would be legally for one of them to force the other to leave.

As far as common law marriage is concerned, there are very few states that still recognize it, but the welfare of the children should be considered if John and the LW part company after all these years. And whether it's the LW who leaves or whether John leaves an attorney should be consulted to work out the support of the children and visitation. THEY should be the first concern for both John and the LW. They are the innocent parties in all this, and whatever the decision their welfare should be considered before anything else.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Kitty
Mon Feb 4, 2013 2:43 AM
LW1: @Jane - I agree with most of your points; especially the kids coming first - the LW makes no indication of whether the kids are better off with the father in the house or not. If they are, regardless of marriage, then obviously he should stay. If he's a lay-about drunk, then maybe he should leave. It's not all about her; it's way past the point where she should have made an ultimatum about marriage.
However you missed the Annies' point about tossing out a human being (like they were trash). It CAN be a simple matter; I have tossed out 2 roommates for not paying rent. The Annie's clear point is that this is NOT a simple matter, it's a legal matter, because of the kids (and also if it turns out she is common-law married).
Comment: #15
Posted by: Steve C
Mon Feb 4, 2013 2:44 AM
LW2 - I think the LW is making way too much of this. It's entirely possible that the guests simply forgot to take the photos with them, or that they were meant as a gift. The LW should simply ASK them. Write or call the guests and say that they left several photos behind when they left and ask what they should do with them. That will answer the question of whether they were overstepping the bounds of a guest or whether it was an oversight, OR whether they thought the LW would like to have them. Once the LW has the answer to "why", then a decision can be made as to what to do with the photos. It never ceases to amaze me that people continually write to the Annies for advice when a simple phone call to the people involved would solve the problem.
Comment: #16
Posted by: Kitty
Mon Feb 4, 2013 2:48 AM
LW1 - I have no idea why you are waiting until next summer. John will never marry and you know that. He won't leave? Fine. Then you leave. But contact a lawyer since there are children involved (and make sure you're not married under common law). I don't know what the laws are but there are times when a parent taking the kids and leaving and is considered kidnapping but if you leave the kids behind it's abandonment. A lawyer can help you out.

As for the ol' "If you did such and such, then I'd marry you," please understand that it's just a cop out excuse and even if you did everything on his list, he'll just create a new one. And I highly doubt that the LW is a cheating, alcoholic gambler as some people have suggested. I can pretty much bet you that it's stupid stuff like, "If you were a better cook, then I'd marry you," or "If you would scrub the bathroom properly, then I'd marry you." I say that because my abusive ex-H said similar stuff to me, except it wasn't for marriage. He would yell, scream at, cuss at and berate me for the smallest thing and then say, "If you folded the towels correctly than I wouldn't have to yell at you!" It didn't matter what I did...he was just looking for an excuse to yell. No amount of perfet towel folding or whatever was going to stop it.

Nothing is going to change. Contact a lawyer now and see your options.

LW2 - I agree that they overstepped their privilages. If I were you, I'd pack them up and send them back with a note saying, "You seem to have forgotten these." If they continue to treat your home like theirs, stop allowing them to use it.
Comment: #17
Posted by: Michelle
Mon Feb 4, 2013 3:44 AM
Steve, you could be right, I read it that they were saying that throwing your spouse out of their home is usually a simple matter.
Lucy, uh, you might want to reread my post and yours and ask yourself if you're not being a wee bit hypocritical. I said that WITHOUT details we have no way of knowing whether his demands ARE reasonable or NOT. I said IF (that's IF) the conditions are things like going to AA and stopping a gambling addiction (that's IF) then his demands are perfectly reasonable.
You say (ignoring the fact that I noted we had NO details of what the conditions ARE) that you doubt whether the LW would leave out the fact that these are an addition, etc problem. Really??? Why, because never in the course of human history has a person downplayed their addictions, faults or vices? If that was the case, the Annies' column wouldn't exist. And then, after chastising ME for saying the man MIGHT have just cause to state conditions before he will marry the LW (but we don't know because no detail was provided), you then proceed to assume that it's "much more likely" that he is instead asking for a home-cooked meal every night or three-way sex. Okey-dockey...so I can't possibly know what "such and such" means, but you are almost certain you do. Hmmmm.
Oh, and in answer to your question, "why isn't the BF the one threatening to take custody of the kids and leave, married or not?" Because in case you haven't noticed, even though custody arrangements have come a long way, men still only get sole custody of their children in 15% of cases, and even then, it is a long hard and costly haul to get the abuse proven. And if she is an addict or child abuser, he wants to be there for his kids full time. Even joint custody will not do. Bottom line, my theory makes a lot more sense than your idea that the father wants his girlfriend to have three-way sex before he will marry her. Would make a good novel though.
Comment: #18
Posted by: Jane
Mon Feb 4, 2013 3:51 AM
Re: Jane #18
Well said!
Comment: #19
Posted by: Kitty
Mon Feb 4, 2013 4:00 AM
LW1: my opinion is that John is coming up with excuses not to be married, putting their relationship's lack of legal status on her only. Counseling might help, but it sounds like he just doesn't want to be married. Since he knows that's what she wants and keeps making her reponsible for the reason they're not, it's not likely they ever will. I suppose she could have significant problems that make him wary of marrying her, but, since it's not addressed in the letter, we should give her the benefit of the doubt. The missing detail could be because his reasons are or too numerous to mention. Or could be very embarassing.

LW2: If the vacation house belongs to them, then the guests leaving framed photos of their family seems odd. I don't bring photos of my family along on vacation. They may have brought them to make themselves feel at home...or they may think of the vacation place as an alternate home. If it's the latter, the LW is right to make sure they are returned. That action should clarify the reason for the photos being left.

LW3: A perfect example of why we commenters should be careful not to make a bunch of negative assumptions about the LW's motives. I see comments here that are far out of left field, drawing conclusions more likely based on the commenter's own personal history rather than what the LW actually wrote. Fortunately, it doesn't appear that the daughter is letting the comments solidify her position enough to continue avoiding contact.
Comment: #20
Posted by: Wordsworth
Mon Feb 4, 2013 4:09 AM
I am SO sick and tired of the Annies not having Clue One what common-law marriage even IS. You're not common-law married no matter HOW long you live together, unless you intend to be married and represent yourselves as married. It's not some big legal "gotcha" that comes out of the blue! And these two alleged advice columnists have consistently failed to LOOK IT UP when this has been pointed out in the comments (and no doubt in other communications) again and again and again and again. How incompetent ARE you, Annies?
Comment: #21
Posted by: Sheila
Mon Feb 4, 2013 4:15 AM
LW3: S.W., first of all, I am glad you and your daughter are speaking again. That all said, you needed to state your situation IN the FIRST PLACE about why you were not speaking to each other. This way, we'd be FAR MORE OPEN to your side of things, rather than jumping to conclusions about who is in the right or wrong or what the disagreement is about.

I sincerely hope both of you, with now a reconciled relationship, can maintain it through your the rest of your life and beyond.
Comment: #22
Posted by: Bobaloo
Mon Feb 4, 2013 4:39 AM
Re: Sheila

You're right. According to the legal dictionary online:

A common-law marriage has three basic features. When a common-law marriage is challenged, proof of the following elements is critical in most jurisdictions.

A present agreement to be married. The parties must announce to each other that they are married from that moment forward. Specific words are not mandated, but there must be evidence of an agreement to be married. Proof may consist of Circumstantial Evidence, including evidence that the partners have cohabitated and held themselves out to the public as being married. However, neither cohabitation nor a public holding out constitutes sufficient proof to establish the formation of a common-law marriage, either by themselves or taken together. An agreement to marry must be proved by the party asserting marriage.

Cohabitation. The parties must actually live together in order to support a claim of common-law marriage. Whether maintenance of a separate home by one of the parties will nullify a common-law marriage is a Question of Fact and depends on the circumstances of the particular case.

Public representations of marriage. The couple must consistently hold themselves out to the public as married. A married couple is expected to tell people that they are married. They should also file joint tax returns and declare their marriage on other documents, such as applications, leases, and birth certificates.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The LW and her BF do not have a present agreement to be married and do not hold themselves out to the public as married, therefore, there is no common law marriage.
Comment: #23
Posted by: Michelle
Mon Feb 4, 2013 4:54 AM
@Jane,
If that's the case, the bf isn't a jerk, but he's an idiot. I'm not all that old-fashioned, I don't really give a hand if people marry or not. But I guess living with someone for 10 years and having children with them, then setting "conditions" to get married, is a little, uh, late to the party. The horse has left the barn. As old-fashioned as it sounds, if she's good enough for him to live with and have children with (and his "refusing to leave" also suggests this), she should be good enough to marry. If she has flaws so severe he'd hesitate to marry her, why on earth are they living together with children "without the piece of paper?" My own theory is that "such-and-such" has changed over the years, which is why she didn't put a specific thing there. I guess it struck me that this conversation had come up a few times, and each time he'd set some new "condition."

@Sarah Morrow: I don't know if it fails the gender test. Even leaving out the marriage bit, it's a story of a declining relationship. If a man had written in saying that he'd been living with a woman for years, had children with her, but the relationship was on the rocks now (for whatever reason), and he wanted to move on but she refused to move out, I think there could be room for sympathy there. Complicating factors is that it's not mentioned in this letter "whose" house it is (after 10 years, it's pretty well "their" hours regardless of whose name is on the lease). To me, the answer is the same regardless: if s/he won't move, then move out yourself.

I don't know the laws in the US. Here in Canada, you're common law after living together for 1 year- I know this because I'm considered common-law with my bf at this point. Last year when he spoke to Collections about a large debt he's paying off, they REALLY wanted to factor in my income- I only got out of it b/c "we'd only been living together 11 months." The collections agent made it clear that should his debt payments be re-evaluated again, my income WOULD be factored in, b/c we'd be common-law by then. (And before anyone says anything, bf had been and is making religious monthly payments on this debt- it's a bit of a weird story why collections got involved in the first place, as he's never missed a payment). Now it's not usually that much of a legal hammer, but legally, that's what we are.

Anyway, my advice to LW1 is what I said to both Jane and SM: if you're good enough to live with and have children with, you're good enough to marry- if he has such deep doubts about the relationship, he never should have had children with you. And if he won't move, then you move (unless you left out some detail, like you actually own the house). With kids involved, you need a lawyer no matter what. The lawyer will help you divide assets (resolving the "who moves out" question), and set up support payments for the kids, if applicable. Whatever common-law rules are in the US, I imagine custody and child support goes about the same whether the parents are married or not.

LW3: People like you really bug me. In case you haven't noticed, we're in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression you grew up in. I'm barely keeping up with my bills and am flat broke half the time, so it really burns me when some old fogie goes off about how my generation is spoiled and expect to have everything handed to them. I wouldn't mind someone handing something to me!
Comment: #24
Posted by: Jers
Mon Feb 4, 2013 5:10 AM
Dear Annie: I am an 88-year-old father with three grown daughters. I have a substantial amount listed in my will, which originally was to be equally divided.

A year ago, my youngest daughter and I had a falling out. I said something that irritated her, and she said I am not allowed to bring up that subject again. I replied, "Don't tell me what I can talk about. If you don't like what I say, don't call," and I hung up. She took that literally, and even though I made numerous attempts to reinstate myself into her life, I was rebuffed.

I recently had major surgery. My daughter neither called nor visited. But her husband sent several emails blaming me for the estrangement, saying I should have apologized and what he really thought of me. Frankly, if my daughter had simply acted like nothing happened, it would have been over. Considering how I've always helped her financially, you'd think she would have cut me some slack.

When my daughter made no attempt to end this hostility after six months, I had my attorney remove her as an heir to my estate. I have since learned that my son-in-law is quite upset about this. I think he's been very instrumental in influencing my daughter's behavior. I also believe the only reason he was ever pleasant to me was to ensure my daughter's inheritance.

Wills can always be changed, and if my daughter behaves better, I'm happy to reinstate her. But right now, I'm still angry and hurt by her intolerable treatment. Even if this gets resolved, I doubt I will ever feel the same toward either of them, and time is running out. — S.W. in California
Comment: #25
Posted by: nanchan
Mon Feb 4, 2013 5:30 AM
The comments about LW1 pretty much sum up my opinions on this one, but I'll summarize.

1. You say that you John knew from the beginning that you didn't want to be a "forever girlfriend" yet you allowed yourself to become one. The time for ultimatums and threats has passed and the only one you can blame is yourself.

2. You brought CHILDREN into this fantasy life of yours and yet all you can do is go on and on about marriage and John and throwing him out of the house and You You You. Not a mention of how many children (2? 4?) or how old they are. It's possible it was edited out, but I doubt you mentioned them much at all, since if you were more worried about the impact on THEM (which is what you should be) then it would come across in your letter which it does NOT.

3. We don't have enough information to give you legal advice. Go to a laywer. If you can't afford one, go to social services and see about other options. Your first concern needs to be about the children, custody and support. You come second.

And a further piece of advice from me. PLEASE DON"T DO THIS AGAIN!!! Don't fall right into another permanent girlfriend situation! My personal opinions on this is that it is wrong for people to live together without being married if there are children living in the house as well. I cannot TELL you how many women I know who have gone through "boyfriends" who have lived in their homes, one boyfriend after the other, and the kids are messed up. From now on, your children come first. Got it?

LW2: I guess I'm confused. It's possible that you misinterpreted gifts as decorating: maybe your friends thought they were being nice by leaving behind pictures of their time at your home? At any rate, I'd clear the air by calling them and saying "I noticed that you left some pictures at the house, did you want me to send them?" and let them explain what they did. Don't look for reasons to be offended here. They probably thought they were being nice.

LW3: I went and reread your letter and have re-posted it above. We WERE hard on you BTL (assuming you meant us) but.... I still think we were right.

In your original letter, YOU hung up on your daughter because she didn't want to listen to what YOU have to say, she didn't do what YOU wanted her to (visit YOU in the hospital), and YOU cut her out of the will. And YOU have the NERVE to respond to our comments and say "My generation always showed respect. " No, sir. You weren't showing ANYBODY respect. You were acting like a spoiled child, the spoiled child you accuse the next generation of being.

I've said it before that the LW's often DO read BTL, and while we can come across as harsh, I think it would be good for you, sir, in particular, to realize that YOU were being quite selfish in how you were acting. I hope the reconciliation works, and I urge you to try to understand your daughter's opinions and side of things in the future.
Comment: #26
Posted by: nanchan
Mon Feb 4, 2013 5:52 AM
Re: nanchan (#26)

Regarding your remarks to LW3, I think to that end perhaps the LW and those from his generation should understand that despite a perception that the next generation, and the ones thereafter are spoiled isn't necessarily so. They have struggles and everyday issues of their own.

I would say that most kids of the Depression did have to work. They had no choice. Without anyone to ask immediately, I'd suspect that you could get six people working at various jobs for mere pennies on the hour ... and it would barely be enough to pay for even a basic meal. (By that, I mean bread, maybe a vegetable and a cheap side of ham or hamburger.)

I agree that if our generations do attempt to understand where the others are coming from, we'd be a whole lot better off. They're such a precious resource, and now they're dying off. We're starting to really lose that perspective.
Comment: #27
Posted by: Bobaloo
Mon Feb 4, 2013 6:05 AM
Re: Jers (common law spouses in the US)

The short answer is, it varies state to state, and sometimes even county to county. Most places in the US require a significant time period (I believe it used to be 7 years of cohabitation in CA), nothing like a year, which sounds pretty short to me, but I'm sure there are reasons for it.

I"m not so sure about the fact (although I'm not doubting the online legal thing posted above) that the couple has to present itself as being married. I have a friend (you knew this was coming!) who has lived with his girlfriend for over 20 years. They have NEVER presented themselves as married: in fact they both go out of their way to tell people they are "only living together". However, a few years ago, he fell in love with someone else. We (his friends) were very happy because he had been very unhappy for years with his girlfriend who is a manipulative, lying snipe. He IS very wealthy however and owns several properties, so he went to his lawyer to see what would happen if he moved out (he was willing to give her the house). His lawyer told him since they live in CA (community property state) she could go after 50 percent of his assets. This, coupled with threats from her and his family to cut him out of their lives if he left her was enough for him to reconsider and he's still living with her.

Also, in CA (and I believe elsewhere) there are the so-called "Palimony" cases, where a long term girlfriend (usually mistress) of a wealthy man has petitioned the courts for support when the relationship breaks off. There have been cases of people going after ESTATES as well (I believe there was a long term boyfriend of Rock Hudson's who successfully sued his estate for damages, or something like that).

What seems to be the common thread (no pun intended) is that significant amounts of time was involved and promises were made to continue the relationship. No promises of marriage were needed.



Comment: #28
Posted by: nanchan
Mon Feb 4, 2013 6:37 AM
LW2 - What's the big deal? Gather up the pix, put them in a closet or cabinet. Don't make a special effort to call them, but the next time you talk to them say, "By the way, you left a bunch of your pictures at the house so I put them in the closet and you can pick them up the next time you're there."
Comment: #29
Posted by: Rozelle
Mon Feb 4, 2013 6:40 AM
Re: Bobaloo (27)

I agree. Both my parents are/were of that generation. My father, had he lived, would have been 88 this year and my mother is 85. Both of them were raised on farms during the Depression.

However, when we came along, we were all told, you want something you EARN it. Nothing was handed to us. You wanted a new bike? Go out and babysit for the money or do small tasks to get the money together. We never got an allowance. When we asked for one my mother said "Your allowance is the roof over your head and the food you eat. Now be quiet." I suspect Chris will relate to that one!

BUT, even my mother will concede exactly what you said that we have struggles and issues that she can't even fathom. AND we were taught from day one to respect our parents and what they had been through. We respect our parents because (here it comes!) THEY RESPECT US. They respected us as children by teaching us to stand on our own two feet, they respect us as adults by listening to us and we respected them by living by their rules and by taking care of them in their old age.

The LW is likely "reaping what he's sowed" because he's not showing his daughter the respect she needs and deserves as an adult. He hangs up on her because she didn't like his opinions and says so? What kind of respect is that?

There were many times I disagreed with my father (holy COW! The fights we had! I'd give anything to go head to head with him again!) and there are many times I still DO disagree with my mother. BUT neither of my parents would ever EVER disrespect me by telling me I don't have a right to my own opinions. In fact, in my family, your opinions are valued! You were EXPECTED to have an opinion. My mother even once told me (after i had a little tiff with CC, age 8) "You're lucky. Only the good kids will question you." THERE you have it. The ability to think for oneself, not to follow the status quo, to "boldly go where no man has gone before"... these are qualities my parents encouraged and still do (as I do with CC)!

I guess that's why this LW irritated me the first time and today he REALLY irritates me. Not only is his own daughter not allowed to question him, now the entire Annies Universe is supposed to feel sorry for him. Yikes. Talk about ENTITLED!
Comment: #30
Posted by: nanchan
Mon Feb 4, 2013 6:54 AM
Re: Sheila
I'm with you on how ignorant the Annies are about tossing the common law marriage thing about, despite how easy it is to look up. You aren't legally married just because you've lived together or have children.

There aren't any automatic triggers that turn a boyfriend into a common law husband. It's a myth. Most states don't allow it anyway. Worse, overwhelmingly the only reason people go to court to prove a common law marriage is because they want a divorce. They do it by convincing a judge that they have met the statutory requirements for a common law marriage in one of the 11 states that permit it so they can have a judge rule on custody and child support, rights to retirement benefits, and division of marital property.

To do this you need to show credible evidence that you have openly lived as a married couple. Does she has photos of a wedding ceremony that was just shy of a license? Joint tax returns where she was listed as a spouse? Documents that show he has covered her as a wife with his employer for health insurance benefits? A life insurance policy listing her as a spouse? I doubt it. She should get rid of him and move on if she ever wants more than this.
Comment: #31
Posted by: LouisaFinnell
Mon Feb 4, 2013 6:57 AM
LW3 - Everyone's always against you, huh? Maybe some inner reflection is in order. Frankly, LW3, this isn't a generational thing, it's you. Even my grandmother would be scandalized by your attitude. Every generation thinks theirs is the best and the next one sucks, but it's really easy to look back and think everything was so wonderful. Are you so sure that everyone was respectful and peachy "way back when"? There was a TON of crime, child abuse, spousal abuse - oh yes, so wonderful, so respectful. Do you respect your adult children the way you expect them to respect you? I bet you don't. I'm glad you're speaking with your daughter again, but I'm disappointed that you still have the attitude about it.
Comment: #32
Posted by: Zoe
Mon Feb 4, 2013 6:58 AM
I recognize that most people here are probably American, but then again, most is not "all". So, for what it's worth, at least in Canada, common-law marriage IS recognized nationally, and it is fairly automatic if a couple cohabitates for more than a few years (I forget how long--2 or 3 I think--it's shorter than most people think). The stringent tests others describe here do not apply. And, most importantly in this case, if they have a kid together and cohabitate, then they short cut to the end and are common-law married automatically (even if they've only cohabitated for a few months). (I think the point here being that if you're gonna make babies, then you are automatically bound to that family unit and responsible to it, as if you were married.)

Ending common law relationships DOES vary by jurisdiction. In most provinces, there is NO entitlement to equalization of assets (you get what you own and I take what I own, no 50/50 division of anything), but there may be spousal support obligations (what Americans call alimony). And of course, there are child support obligations (because those always exist, no matter what--even if there was only an anonymous one night roll in the hay after a night of drinking).
Comment: #33
Posted by: Jpp
Mon Feb 4, 2013 7:00 AM
LW3 - Also, I'm not entirely sure what your old man complains have to do with anything. Your daughter basically flipped your money the bird! That's not a sense of entitlement, that's dignity.
Comment: #34
Posted by: Zoe
Mon Feb 4, 2013 7:01 AM
Further thoughts on LW2

Not that this is something you have to do by any means, but maybe your friends could start a trend? Ask the people who use your vacation home to leave a framed picture or two behind as a momento of their stay. You could even have a "Wall of FRame" with some of these pictures (maybe with a little description on the back?).

Man, I hope the coffee kicks in soon. WAY too early to think craft projects!
Comment: #35
Posted by: nanchan
Mon Feb 4, 2013 7:31 AM
LW1- Clearly you and the BF have different ideas about your relationship. I know this sounds cliche, but I would consider counseling first rather than "throw him out". 10 years has to be worth something. While only a few states recognize common law marriage, each has specific laws and details that differ from the next. If counseling does not produce positive results, it is imperative you seek legal council to, not only guide you through those laws, but to make sure the children are protected through child support and visitation. I stress 'children' because many times when a breakup occurs, the children end up on the rotten end of the stick. Parents, regardless of intent, need to make their children first and foremost.
LW2- I'm deeply sorry that some of the comments were less than stellar. People can be emotionally charged, be it through personal experiences or the need to be the underdog. Though, it seems those responses may have motivated your children to seek communication with you. Or... maybe they didn't like the idea of being written out of the will. Either way, the outcome was positive. While 'welfare' was initiated back in your day, the mindset of those then and those now are much different. Many people did not seek or receive benefits because of the strong internal pride to care for themselves. You are right, you lived within your means and didn't ask for anything. Nowadays, many think the world owes them and using creative brainpower or restraint to survive is no longer a viable options. While I do understand the need to give children everything you did not have, this is the decision you made and one you must now live with. Unfortunately, you are the creator of the children you raised.
Comment: #36
Posted by: jajjaaj
Mon Feb 4, 2013 7:48 AM
Reading through some of the comments, and the ongoing debate about common law marriage, I think it's really the TERM common law marriage that has people upset.

Wikipedia says:" Common-law marriage in the United States can still be contracted in nine states (Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Iowa, Montana, Utah and Texas) and the District of Columbia. New Hampshire recognizes common-law marriage for purposes of probate only, and Utah recognizes common-law marriages only if they have been validated by a court or administrative order.[1]Common-law marriage can no longer be contracted in 27 states, and was never permitted in 13 states. The requirements for a common-law marriage to be validly contracted differ from state to state. Nevertheless, all states — including those that have abolished the contract of common-law marriage within their boundaries — recognize common-law marriages lawfully contracted in those jurisdictions that permit it. Some states that do not recognize common law marriage also afford legal rights to parties to a putative marriage (i.e. in circumstances when someone who was not actually married, e.g. due to a failure to obtain or complete a valid marriage license from the proper jurisdiction, believed in good faith that he or she was married) that arise before a marriage's invalidity is discovered."

HOWEVER, when a couple breaks up, there can still be complications about property division and child custody regardless of whether or not they are considered MARRIED (common law or no).

For example, although according to Wikipedia Washington State does NOT and never has recognized "common law marriages", a man is entitled to visitation rights EVEN IF HE IS NOT THE BIOLOGICAL FATHER of a child he has been living with (with the mother) for over a certain amount of time. He doesn't have to have been married, he just has to have formed a relationship with the child.

In CA, many long term relationships, such as my friend's, are considered maybe not to be MARRIAGE but to have been PARTNERSHIPS. This is where the term is confusing. I agree with the other posters that the Annies need to stop throwing out legal terms without being properly informed (don't they have LAWYERS looking at this stuff? You'd think the liability alone would make them check) but the fact remains that there are laws out there that protect people in long term non-marital relationships. It's really just the term.
Comment: #37
Posted by: nanchan
Mon Feb 4, 2013 7:53 AM
LW1's boyfriend sounds like an evil, manipulative man.

It doesn't matter that LW1 lived with him for 10 years and they had kids together. She wants to marry him and he should accept it now.

And how dare he not want to move out of the home that he likely pays for. A good man would give everything up so his partner could live comfortably.

MEN. They're to blame for EVERYTHING.
Comment: #38
Posted by: Princess Bride
Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:05 AM
Re: nanchan (#30)

Agree for the most part. But I think what I was getting at was that most kids worked just to survive. Just to get a simple meal on the table, such as what I described earleir – not an elaborate one (e.g., steak and chicken and potatoes topped with butter, sour cream, chives, minced green onions and bacon bits, creamed corn, warm biscuits with melted butter and strawberry jelly, and such as what a Daddy Warbucks might have had).

I think getting a bicycle – either as a gift or working for it by doing odd jobs – was the farthest thing from their minds.
Comment: #39
Posted by: Bobaloo
Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:07 AM
LW1 @ Carly O: I totally agree. As for his not committing, I'm reminded of the old saying, "Why buy the whole cow when you're getting the milk for free?" Unfortunately it's become common for people in recent decades to simply move in together and play house, including having kids, without benefit of marriage. Then when the wheels fall off, they don't have the legal back-up that "stupid piece of paper" (aka certificate of marriage) gives them. The LW needs to get legal advice asap. Of course she can't just toss him out, though what she could do if at all possible is pack up the kids and leave herself. Again, this is where an attorney should be consulted first,in order to ensure financial support for her and the children.

LW3: No matter what the circumstances, it's HIS money, HIS property, HIS accumlated wealth, and he should be able to leave it to whomever he d*mn well pleases. Let his descendents earn their own money and quit salivating over the anticipation of somebody else's.
Comment: #40
Posted by: Linda
Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:14 AM
Re: SusanP
I am totally with you. It's family and friends. They probably saw pictures and thought it would be fun to ad some to collection. I think they should just tuck the pictures away if they are so bothersome, but what's bothersome about pictures of your own friends and family? We use a cabin that is lent out generously and it seems like everyone leaves something - a quilt on the couch or some candles, it's fun to see all the stuff that's collected over the years. I think she's taken it the wrong way.
Comment: #41
Posted by: MSS
Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:27 AM
Re: SusanP
I am totally with you. It's family and friends. They probably saw pictures and thought it would be fun to ad some to collection. I think they should just tuck the pictures away if they are so bothersome, but what's bothersome about pictures of your own friends and family? We use a cabin that is lent out generously and it seems like everyone leaves something - a quilt on the couch or some candles, it's fun to see all the stuff that's collected over the years. I think she's taken it the wrong way.
Comment: #42
Posted by: MSS
Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:27 AM
Re: SusanP
I am totally with you. It's family and friends. They probably saw pictures and thought it would be fun to ad some to collection. I think they should just tuck the pictures away if they are so bothersome, but what's bothersome about pictures of your own friends and family? We use a cabin that is lent out generously and it seems like everyone leaves something - a quilt on the couch or some candles, it's fun to see all the stuff that's collected over the years. I think she's taken it the wrong way.
Comment: #43
Posted by: MSS
Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:27 AM
Re: SusanP
I am totally with you. It's family and friends. They probably saw pictures and thought it would be fun to ad some to collection. I think they should just tuck the pictures away if they are so bothersome, but what's bothersome about pictures of your own friends and family? We use a cabin that is lent out generously and it seems like everyone leaves something - a quilt on the couch or some candles, it's fun to see all the stuff that's collected over the years. I think she's taken it the wrong way.
Comment: #44
Posted by: MSS
Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:27 AM
LW3: I have less than zero sympathy for this guy. Some BTL'ers are “warning” us that this is why we should watch we write on here. Why exactly? Calling this guy out on his b.s. is exactly what he needed. His poor daughter was probably too scared to do it herself. This LW rubbed me the wrong way the first time, and his follow up letter rubs me again the wrong way. He tried to manipulate his daughter with money. I appreciate that he's a Depression baby, but that doesn't give him leeway to act however he wants. He goes off on this (unnecessary) tangent about how spoiled each generation is, yet his daughter never complained about being cut out of his will. He just assumes her husband cared about the money (he never said he did.) It sounds like the only thing his daughter wanted was respect and this putz refused to give it to her.
Comment: #45
Posted by: Casey
Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:28 AM
@LW2: I wonder if the guests tried to pass off the vacation home as their own, and that's why they brought their own pictures. OR are the guests family members of the owners, and the framed pictures are of the guests with the owners. For example, if Mike H. and Ike owned the house, and Cousin of Mike stayed there, maybe Cousin put up a framed picture of her with Mike and Ike from Grandma's 90th birthday.
Those are my two guesses. I can't figure out why else you would bring your own pictures to someone else's house :@
Comment: #46
Posted by: Casey
Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:34 AM
@LW1: While part of me has a pretty low opinion of women like this, another part of me feels sorry for her. It seems SO common sense that if you want marriage, the answer isn't to get knocked up and play house for 10 years. She should have been a strong, assertive woman who made it very clear that she wanted respect, an equal partnership, marriage, before having children. If he ran, great. She could have found someone better. However, some women are just so desperate for love, attention, children (whatever it may be) that they live in some fantasyland, pretending the situation they're in will get better. It won't.

But my advice is 10 years too late, so let's focus on the now. This is your reality; your fantasy is over. The time of “you” and what you want is over. You need to be focusing on your kids. So make the most with your time with them. Spend quality time with them, let them know that they are loved. If their father is a good dad, then make the break up as easy as possible, so that they can spend quality time with him as well. Stop this teenage, drama queen cr*p. Your boat for marrying this guy has sailed; he's made that very clear. Focus on your kiddos, not dating. Let them know they are your number 1 priority. If love finds you eventually and you do finally get to walk down the aisle, fabulous. But don't let that be your life's focus right now (or ever for that matter.)
Comment: #47
Posted by: Casey
Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:50 AM
LW1: If you knew that you wanted to be married and not be a girlfriend forever, you should never have moved in with John and had children with him. This mess is on you. Your chances of getting married to him now are slim. However, if you decide to separate, he will have to pay his share of child support and you will need to arrange visitation. Is that what you want? Do you love this man? Is he a good father? Are you happy with him? Do you have a good job? Can you thrive as a single parent? I don't like the "If you did such-and-such, I'd marry you" statement but you have taken on the role of The Convincer and that is not working well for you. Here are your choices: You can stay, remain miserable, and continue to whine to John about getting married, you can stay, change your attitude, and create the best family environment that you can for yourself and your children, or you can leave and disrupt everyone's lives for the hope of someday finding someone who will marry you and be a good stepfather to your children.

LW2: Say thank you and put the photos away until their next visit.

LW3: I am very glad that you are at least speaking to your daughter. You don't have to agree about everything - or anything. Your job as a parent is to love your child unconditionally. I again invite you to think of the legacy you leave when you cut someone out of your will. It strikes me as punitive and just plain mean. I hope you will have a change of heart so that your daughter can remember you fondly after your days on Earth are done. I encourage you to leave a legacy of love and wish you many more days of health and happiness.
Comment: #48
Posted by: PuaHone
Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:52 AM
Re: Linda, #40

Did you read the original letter? You have it backwards. His daughter was NOT interested in his money at all. LW3 tried to use that to get back at her. He can do what he wants for his money, and good for her for not groveling for it.

Re: Casey

I agree with you on LW1. Frankly, it's a little late to start demanding change. I get it, she wants to be married, but she had a long time to consider that before today. It's kind of a cruel trick to play on your boyfriend and father of your kids. Not that he sounds wonderful, either. Maybe they deserve each other.
Comment: #49
Posted by: Zoe
Mon Feb 4, 2013 9:04 AM
Re: LW1, I agree that the lack of detail makes it difficult to take sides. For one thing, I have to wonder, if she's so certain that she needs to live her life without him -- why doesn't SHE leave? If he's paid for the house, or most of it, then making HIM leave seems grossly unfair.

If the house is in her name, or both their names, and they've paid equally (or she's paid more), then I think she has a point. But we don't even know if they own a home or rent an apartment (in which case, if she's renting, it makes it even more weird that she just doesn't take the kids and go).

And since we don't know what "such and such" that he is asking LW to change, so it's impossible to tell her if she's being reasonable or unreasonable.

Even more, though... I have to wonder what she thinks that marital status will add to her life and her relationship that she doesn't already have. He's obviously committed in that he hasn't left her and I think if he were having affairs she would have mentioned it. They have a home and children together. So... what about the trip to the altar is so essential that her life will be awful if she doesn't get that?

Because, here's the thing... if she leaves him, there's ZERO guarantee that she will find a man she's more compatible live, and she may spend the rest of her life as a single mom. That's a harsh reality that she needs to contemplate carefully before she decides to end a 10-year relationship where children are involved.

What is it exactly that LW thinks will change, will be better, about her current relationship if they walk down that aisle? Because in my mind, the commitment should *already be there* long before you have the ceremony. The ceremony doesn't CREATE the commitment, it simply recognizes it and celebrates it.

(Unless she's talking about all the legal benefits of governmentally recognized marriage, which I would completely be on her side about, but she's even vague on her reasons for needing to get married. It's important to her, but we don't know WHY it's important to her).

This isn't to say I think she's wrong to want to get married. I want to get married myself, actually. But I think she needs to be really, really thoughtful, clear, and honest with herself about what she has now, and what she may lose, before taking any step. And there's no real indication in the letter that she's done the self-reflection that I think she really ought to do before blowing her current family apart. Which is exactly what she's considering.

What is it about her current relationship that is lacking *aside from being unmarried*? Is the lack of marriage certificate the *only* issue? If so, I think she might want to reconsider. Or are there other issues going on, and the disagreement about marrying is simply the concrete reflection of that? In which case, she may very well want to end the relationship, and should seek counsel of both the legal and therapeutic variety.
Comment: #50
Posted by: Mike H
Mon Feb 4, 2013 9:05 AM
LW1: the posters who are advising you to see an attorney are correct. I would add: TODAY. I don't know what the consequences would be for your family re ‘common-law' marriage, but you've got plenty of trouble, regardless. Let's assume you were also foolish enough to comingle finances, perhaps credit and debt as well.

You are no more entitled to your home, property or children, than John. And but for your children, courts are not interested in arbitrating for cohabitating singles, with perhaps a major exception - if you own your home jointly. Unless you agree – or until you force – a sale and split or a re-fi to buy the other out, you both have a right to remain. And if he chooses not to leave, then you will have to in order to accomplish your break-up. The court will grant relief relative to the house most likely as the custody issue is decided. As to property you take with you – again, that should be amicably worked out between you as much as possible. Do you have property you can both agree was bought with his money? Your money? Then what's his is his and what's yours is yours. JOINT assets? Negotiate! He keeps the armchair, you get the couch. He gets the bedroom set, you get the kitchen…

As to the children, custody is decided ‘in the best interest' of the child. To that point, primary custody typically remains with the principal caregiver to give the children continuity. Who is that in your family? If he is not agreeable that the children move with you, you have a choice: get a lawyer, stay in the home with the children and file the appropriate case for custody and support (assuming the judge agrees with you, he may order John to leave until the matter of the house is resolved, or you can pack your children too when you pack to move out) – OR move without the children and file the case, which is very, very risky in terms of getting them back as primary custodian. Whatever you do, keep in mind that if you leave with the kids over his objections and he decides to assert his right to full custody you will have NOT endeared yourself to the family court – they don't like it when one parent 'decides' custody by TAKING the kids from the other.

As to your other issue – girlfriend vs. wife – he could be the LW today, getting his ducks in a row and getting YOU out of the house. As his wife you would have had claim to other assets such as retirement, investments, profit-sharing, other financial and savings accounts (and not just those jointly held) that could be used to help you and the children start over. As his girlfriend, you cannot count on a court to grant you any share.

Comment: #51
Posted by: shar simonelli
Mon Feb 4, 2013 9:07 AM
Re: LW2, I think everyone is missing the rather obvious fact that the friends who stayed in your home were using it as part of a long con to scam some evil businessmen out of their profits, and they had to pose as the owners of your house to do so.

Sheesh, didn't anyone watch "Leverage"?
Comment: #52
Posted by: Mike H
Mon Feb 4, 2013 9:07 AM
LW1--'John' is a loser and he's managed to string you along for ten years by slowly eroding your self-esteem while simultaneously making himself seem like Prince Charming. He's sitting pretty with a home, a live-in maid and presumably sex whenever the mood strikes. Meanwhile you have no commitment and only a vague future. Look honey, breakups are not violins and rainbows; yours is going to get messy. Forget about your ultimatum; you don't want to marry this jerk, trust me. If the house is yours, then Inform John he has thirty days to vacate the premises or you will do so for him. If your state considers your relationship a common-law marriage, then see a lawyer and file for divorce. If John refuses to leave, call the police and have him escorted off the property. Then throw his crap on the curb, change the locks and get a restraining order.

LW2--Your guests are taking advantage of your largesse to the extreme extent that they apparently feel that your home away from home is indeed THEIR home away from home. Look honey, if you're running a bed and breakfast or operating a rental property then call a spade a spade. My advice is to remove all your guests' personal property and ship them back to their respective owners. Then send out a notarized letter to guests who have used your vacation house that due to the downed economy, you've decided to rent your property going forward. Include a list of basic property rules and a rental agreement (you can get example rental agreements online and customize them for your use). If your guests are suddenly uninterested then consider two birds killed with one stone.

LW3--I guess we BTL have some power to reach the LWs after all.
Comment: #53
Posted by: Chris
Mon Feb 4, 2013 9:11 AM
LW1: Why is everyone assuming that the home is jointly owned or that John is contributing to the mortgage or rent? She says that she "doesn't want things to get nasty by involving the authorities" - that could mean that she's the homeowner and that she has the right to evict him.
Comment: #54
Posted by: PuaHone
Mon Feb 4, 2013 9:27 AM
LW1 -
You've been with this guy ten years. Regardless of whether the laws in your state recognise marital living as common law marriage, you have children together and probably property. There goes a need for a lawyer just there.

Frankly, I don't understand why you would want to give him yet more time. Waiting until summer is just prolonging the agony - this guy has not only made it clear he's perfectly happy with things the way they are and has no intention of changing anything, but this little number about "If you did such-and-such, then I'd marry you" is just toying with you, with emotionally sadistic overtones. Yrrrrch.

You don't mention who the house you are presently living in belongs to. If it's rental or in his name, my first reaction would be to tell you to move out. But you need to check with a lawyer if your moving out doesn't cancel some of your rights through "abandonment of the family home". You also need to check if leaving with the kids cannot get you charged for child adbuctment.

If it's in your name only or in both your names, you may need legal intervention if he refuses to leave. I know you said you don't want that, but it may be that or continuing forever the way things presently are (which may be why he says he'll refuse to leave - sounds like a class-A manipulator to me). You're going to need a lawyer no matter what.

It may very well take you more than the time from now to the summer to extricate yourself, so I suggest you start now. Legal counsel time.

P.S.: You say your intentions were clear "from the beginning". Knowing that, if John had had ANY intention of marrying you ever, he would have done so the minute you got pregnant with the first. Then why did you have not just one, but several children with a man who obviously had no intention of marrying you? If you were hoping for an miraculous epiphany, I sure hope you're older and wiser now. Because, frankly, stating you were always clear on wanting marriage and then hooking up with a man and getting started in the family way big-time makes you look like a bit of a floozy.

P.P.S.: I gave you the benefit of the doubt on the "If you did such-and-such, then I'd marry you" bit, but... Details, please? Some demands are unreasonable, some are not, and right now, we don't know for sure which category his fall in...

LW3 -
I'm glad the story had a happy ending, but I still say that cutting her off your will over what was nothing but a tiff (and one where you were dead wrong at that) was overly punitive, vindictive and tyranical. Re-reading your original letter (Thank you, Miss Pasko), I still find you incredibly entitled, arrogant and dictatorial, as in, it's your way or the high way, and anybody who won't jump through hoops to "cut you some slack" has to be prepared to suffer dire consequences, "so there, THAT'll show you".

You keep talking about respect, but you sure didn't show any yourself. Newsflash, true respect is a two-way street. What YOU're talking about is not respect, it's the serf's shock and awe in front of a totalitarian regime.

"Generation gap"? Sir, generation gaps (among other things) are about what style of clothing people wear, what kind of music people listen to, attitudes towards sex thanks to the advent of the Pill, not being able to imagine life without cable TV and the Internet, the possibility of falling back on a social net in times of hardship and the facility "younger" people often have with computers. They're not about treating your children like indentured slaves expected to answer 'how high' when you order 'jump'.

And if it comes to that, people of your generation were brought up to believe that calling black people niggers, shoving them at the back of the bus and putting up "no coloured allowed" signs was perfectly fine. What made all that repulsive (including your strong-man attitude towards your family) is not a generation gap, it's human evolution. Try hard so it doesn't leave you behind.

Comment: #55
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Mon Feb 4, 2013 9:30 AM
Re: Casey

Oh c'MON NOW! If Mike H and Ike had pictures posted, no one would be sad. They seem like the happy couple that everyone would want to have pictures of on the wall :)
Comment: #56
Posted by: nanchan
Mon Feb 4, 2013 9:32 AM
Re: Linda #40
If this was about children bitching about an elderly's cruise trip because they want their inheritance to remain bigger, you'd be absolutely right. But this is not about money and inheritance itself, this is about an old dictator using money and inheritance to punish people when he doesn't get his way.

@MSS #42
I would agree with you if they had left anything else of use, rather than just mementoes of their precious selves - like a dog peeing on the carpet to delimitate his territory. Mike H was being facetious (#52), but he may not be so far off from the truth.

Comment: #57
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Mon Feb 4, 2013 9:43 AM
Re: Lucy
Thanks, Lucy, for clarifying the record about common-law marriage. Even in the states that do recognize common-law marriage, you don't just suddenly find yourself married against your wishes, as the Annies made it sound (Surprise! You might be married and didn't even know it!). In Texas, for example, the three baseline requirements are (1) domiciled together in the state of Texas; (2) agree between yourselves that you are married; (3) represent yourselves to others as married. It's certainly no surprise to either party.
Comment: #58
Posted by: krunchy_kitty
Mon Feb 4, 2013 10:01 AM
Actually, Ike and I like to sneak into other people's homes to leave pictures of ourselves there. Even strangers. The local police have asked us to stop, but we just can't help sharing the love!

#20, Wordsworth, re: LW3 -- but for all we know, it was the negative assumptions made BTL that caused the LW to wake up and re-think his stance, leading to the partial reconciliation. Sometimes seeing yourself as others see you can be a powerful reality slap.

Also, given how he still justifies himself (and discounts all the government programs that helped get people out of the Depression!), he might still need another one or two wake-up calls, still.

But it sounds like he's at least meeting his daughter half-way, and that's VERY encouraging -- and it seems to be in no small part to the BTL discussion *exactly as it was*... so, good job, us! :-)
Comment: #59
Posted by: Mike H
Mon Feb 4, 2013 10:03 AM
Re: Mike H
Personally, I don't write anything to the LWs that I wouldn't be ready to tell them to their face. I'm not one of those who becomes different because I'm on the Net.

Comment: #60
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Mon Feb 4, 2013 10:12 AM
Hey Jers - I'm curious, If you're legally married by common law anyway, then why haven't you had the ceremony?
Comment: #61
Posted by: Paul W
Mon Feb 4, 2013 10:16 AM
Lol, nanchan! You crack me up :)

and Mike, thanks for letting me use you as an example! Not sure if I made a point or not, but I'm glad you and nanchan played along.
Comment: #62
Posted by: Casey
Mon Feb 4, 2013 11:19 AM
Re: Wordsworth (#20)

Well, from what I remember, when the LW originally wrote in, I assumed that this had to do with bringing up inappropriate topics that his daughter found offensive. It had nothing to do with what he's implying – some "lack of respect" being shown his generation because they went through some incredible hardships during the Depression while others have it easy.

Lise makes an interesting point in #55 about treating children like slaves and minorities (often, African Americans) even more deplorably. I'd also add to the list – and I bet it's true – women who were expected to endure whistling and catcalls and accept flirting, and take it all like she wanted it – a la Flo from the early years of the TV sitcom "Alice." (Meaning, that if a woman didn't want to endure the catcalls and such, too damn bad; she had no legal recourse and would be called even worse names if she got someone in trouble because of it.)
Comment: #63
Posted by: Bobaloo
Mon Feb 4, 2013 11:20 AM
Re: Bobaloo #63
Exactly what I was thinking. His original letter, and the one tody, are like two totally different letters. I was wondering what on earth one had to do with the other (unless he equates 'respect' as being that he gets to do and say whatever he wants to his kids, and if his grown child doesn't like it, that is 'not respecting him'.
.
Respect gets EARNED, I believe. And handing out money and material things does not even translate to deserving of respect, anyway.
Comment: #64
Posted by: jennylee
Mon Feb 4, 2013 11:36 AM
@Lise, that's generally a good philosophy, and I rather try to do the same myself. I'm hopeful that most of the time what I type about the LWs is something I would say in person.

@Casey, but of course, your example was both pertinent and fun, and there was no reason NOT to play along! ;-) And it's also a good point, too -- for myself, I actually do live in a house where friends *ask* if they can house-sit while Ike and I are on vacation... and if they left behind framed photos of themselves, especially if the photos were of them enjoying themselves at the house, I'd be charmed rather than offended. Or if they were nice photos of them with Ike and I, then I'd also likely appreciate the gesture more than anything else. (Unless, of course, they took down wall art and replaced it with photos, or banged giant ugly hangers into the wall to display these photos... then I'd be peeved... but I don't get the sense that's the issue here).

@jennylee, even as a young'un I always rankled at the idea that some older adults liked to push -- that they "deserved respect" regardless of how they treated me or anyone else. Never bought into that philosophy, ever. Some disrespects me, or treats me poorly, they forfeit their right to assume respect.

On the flip side, though, my general attitude is to presume the best first, so I'll generally be quite respectful to someone *until such point* as they demonstrate that such respect isn't deserved.

And so, going back to the LW's original LW, there was speculation that the attitude that came through pretty clearly was one that had surfaced before... that he expected a lot of respect without giving a lot back in return. Which, if true, is an attitude I don't have a lot of sympathy for.
Comment: #65
Posted by: Mike H
Mon Feb 4, 2013 12:13 PM
@ Zoe & Lise: Oops, my face is red! I misunderstood the situation, and should have reread the original letter before attacking the keyboard. Thanks for setting me straight....
Comment: #66
Posted by: Linda
Mon Feb 4, 2013 12:16 PM
LW2 - The guests may have put pictures of themselves throughout the house so they could pass it off as their own when the people they picked up in town came over for drug-fueled orgies. I'm getting images of Jerry Lewis putting up pics of himself in a smoking jacket as soon as Dean Martin leaves his swingin' Vegas bachelor pad. Or Jon Cryer putting up pics of himself in yachting cap after Charlie Sheen clears out of his Malibu beach house for the weekend. You score way better with the townie chicks if they think you *own* the vacation house. I could forgive that. But if they're using pics of their whole family to seduce other vacationing families into giving up some out of town strange ... man, that's just nasty. You should probably burn that house and build a new one.
Comment: #67
Posted by: Darryl
Mon Feb 4, 2013 1:11 PM
Dear Annie - re: Concened's vacation home. I feel that your comments regarding their ability to make people feel at home is likely part of the issue. However I also feel that your advice to return the pictures was not very gracious and bordered on a slap in the face. Lots of people travel with a picture or two of their close family, particularly when away from home a lot for business travel or vacationing for an extended period of time. What is wrong with making a space for people to keep a few personal pictures in a drawer so that they can put them out when they are there. Particularly if these are relatives or friends that come a lot. That would seem to me to be a much more gracious way to handle the situation.
Comment: #68
Posted by: Linda McKnight
Mon Feb 4, 2013 1:26 PM
Re: jennylee #64
"unless he equates 'respect' as being that he gets to do and say whatever he wants to his kids, and if his grown child doesn't like it, that is 'not respecting him'."
Considering his orginal indignant "Don't tell me what I can talk about. If you don't like what I say, don't call", I would say that is EXACTLY the way he equates respect.

@Mike H
"I always rankled at the idea that some older adults liked to push -- that they "deserved respect" regardless of how they treated me or anyone else."
I'm not a young'un anymore, and it stll rankle me that there are some people who seem top th9ink that old age gives them license to be rude, hostile, entitled, overly-demanding, dictatorial, vindictive and just plain ol' nasty.

"On the flip side, though, my general attitude is to presume the best first, so I'll generally be quite respectful to someone *until such point* as they demonstrate that such respect isn't deserved."
My sentiment exactly. Which is why, when they DO behave in a way that loses my by-default respect, I don't see the need to pull punches!

@Linda McKnight #68
Personally, if I wanted to feel at home somewhere, I can think of a few things that would be a lot more relevant than a picture of myself. A favourite comforter and doubles of favourite kitchen ustensils come to mind. But a bunch of pictures of themselves, and nothing else? That is a bit weird and, frankly, it does look like they've been trying to pass off the house as their own to some visitors, God only knows who and why.

Comment: #69
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Mon Feb 4, 2013 2:11 PM
Re: Linda
Don't worry about it. We all make that mistake at one point, and kudos to you for being big enough to admit it!

Comment: #70
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Mon Feb 4, 2013 2:13 PM
Now I'm having this image in my head of Mike and Ike breaking into homes (wearing black turtlenecks and playing the Mission Impossible theme song) replacing beloved family pictures with their own!
Comment: #71
Posted by: nanchan
Mon Feb 4, 2013 2:57 PM
@Paul W.

'Cause living together is cheap, weddings cost money, and I'd rather wait till I can actually afford to wear a dress and feed people on "the big day." Even a JoP in this neck of the woods is over $200, which is about $150 more than my monthly disposable income.
Comment: #72
Posted by: Jers
Mon Feb 4, 2013 3:06 PM
Re: krunchy_kitty

It's very similar in Kansas. The curious thing is that you can't find yourself married without having done something to make it happen, but you really can be divorced and not know it. If your spouse files for divorce, serves you by publication and sells the reason for doing so to a judge, then he can grant a divorce and if you have left town for a while you may not know. A judge can't grant custody, child support, or property division without both parties being involved, but you can get a divorce all by yourself if the circumstances are right. And there's common law marriage, but no common law divorce. Weird.
Comment: #73
Posted by: LouisaFinnell
Mon Feb 4, 2013 4:20 PM
The whole world would be better off if people didn't have kids before they get married, and if people don't get married until they are emotionally and financially ready. LW1 is an idiot.
Comment: #74
Posted by: Soozan
Mon Feb 4, 2013 4:43 PM
LW1 - "I never wanted to be a girlfriend forever, and he knew this from the beginning."

Really? How exactly did this discussion go on Day One of this relationship? "You have ten years before you MUST marry me, because marriage is very important to me." If it was really that important, you and he either would have married several years ago or you would have moved on with someone else.

The only question you should ask yourself is the classic one: "Are you better off with him or without him?" It seems like his only fault is that he doesn't wish to marry, never mind that he has commited to ten years with you as his partner AND the father of your children.
Comment: #75
Posted by: JeffM
Mon Feb 4, 2013 5:39 PM
Why, if this man says he will marry you if you do X, Y and Z, do you actually want to marry him? You've clearly assessed the situation as being better off without him. Yet you seem either desperate or insecure, as you will still marry this loser if he does in fact propose. At this point, if he does propose, it is ONLY because he doesn't want to move out. Have you actually lived with him for over 7 years? If it's less, then maybe it's not common Law marriage. But if you've lived together for 10 years, then yes. Remind him that you're basically already married, and it's a divorce you now need, not a marriage.

Make sure he earns enough for child support and such. And keep in mind that if it's your house, you may lose it in the process, and you should be prepared financially and mentally to get you own new place, and start afresh. Be okay with that, and things will be better.
Comment: #76
Posted by: Salty
Mon Feb 4, 2013 6:04 PM
LW3 - "Having gone through such rough times, we wanted to make things easy for our kids, and we gave them everything. It only resulted in spoiling them, and they, in turn, spoiled the next generation."

I don't recall what was in the original letter, but it appears that therein lies the problem. You gave your kids everything but never taught them to appreciate what they had. You spoiled your kids so, naturally, they expect you to give them anything and everything. Ask yourself how often you answered "no" to their demands. Ask yourself whether you took the time to teach them about respect.

What's truly unfortunate is that you lived through a time when even the little things like food, clothing, and shelter were hard to afford. You had the opportunity to teach your kids the lessons you learned from those experiences, but apparently you didn't.

What's even more unfortunate is that you are responsible for two generations of this behavior. If there ever was an example of the classic phrase, "you reap what you sow," this would be it.
Comment: #77
Posted by: JeffM
Mon Feb 4, 2013 6:06 PM
Re "Annie's" answer to LW1: When the Annie's say "John's needs have come first for the past 10 years" where does that come from??? What is there in the letter that says that John's needs have come first? All the letter says is that they've been together 10 years, they have kids, and LW1 wants to get married. Nothing about who is doing what for whom. (sorry if this has been discussed to death already, it's late and I just couldn't bring myself to go thru all the answers including the sniping at each other).

And I'm sure others have mentioned that having kids out of wedlock was probably not a good move (but maybe was a "need" of LW1).
Comment: #78
Posted by: dave
Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:07 PM
Re: dave
You're perfectly right that nowhere in the letter is there any indication that everything in the past ten years has been about him and his needs only, except for the fact that she wants to marry and he hasn't acquiesced. Considering it doesn't look like she's been pushing that hard ands that this hard craving seems a rather recent development, I don't see this sole thing as a proof that he's a malignant narcissist, although it does appear that he could bit quite manipulative.

This being stated, you will notice when you get around to reading BTL that we haven't exactly spared her.

All has been quiet on the waterfront so far today - no snipers, elite or otherwise.

Comment: #79
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:32 PM
Re: Jpp I guess you missed the Supreme Court decision last month. Quebec does NOT recognize CL Marriage. People here still have the right to be NOT married even if they live together. Frankly I'm relieved. If you want the benefits of marriage GET MARRIED (for those who want to say "but but but they don't let gay people marry!" we do allow that up here and are managing the floods and locust infestation just fine. It created more jobs. Highly recommend it!) Side note, I've never understood why the people railing about the "sanctity of marriage" somehow have no problem at all with the concept of common law marriage. What is that about?

Jane, I know you hate women and all and are ever so concerned about those poor dreadfully oppressed men in the world, but the reason men only get custody 15% of time is because they don't ASK FOR IT more! Most men in divorce cases still ask for or claim they cannot POSSIBLY do more than standard every other weekend crap. The only men I know asking for full time custody are doing it not because they want their kids (they will tell you the mother is unfit but yet she was fit enough for him to have three or four kids with her, and for him to leave the kids with her when he initially moved out) but because they want to stick it to the mom and not have to pay any child support. Because you know, single moms use child support to party and get their hair done and should be living like paupers before having the audacity to ask him for money.

Before you ask, I have precisely zero tolerance for women who have kids with idiot men too. I'm always amazed how many women I know go on and on about their horrible awful evil nutso baby daddy... that they willingly got into a relationship with and purposefully have kids with. Way too many women out there PURPOSEFULLY procreating with loser men, who were always losers, long before they ever got pregnant, and then after they want to complain about him and whine and turn it into some Lifetime Movie Struggle of the Week. Please.

(Yes, I know some jerks don't show true colours until later or sabotage birth control. I am NOT talking about those cases!)

I live somewhere it is assumed from the get go that shared custody is the preference (it's been this way at least 15 years) and it's worked at from there. Custody is determined on the child's needs and interests, no one else's. Coincidentally, most couples I know have something close to 40/60 time split and it varies which parent has the kids more. And no the kids don't mind having two separate homes because usually the parents stay in the same city and the courts require they keep the kids in the same activities whether they are at moms or dad's (so none of this "you can't go to soccer this weekend since you're at my house and not mom's" crap).

Sorry but the far more likely scenario is John knows she's not going anywhere and he just doesn't feel like putting on a big wedding or any of this nonsense and it's more likely he wants her to lose 15lbs (I have a friend whose husband pulled that crap... I was disgusted... she already weighed 120! and was over 5'!) or some other silliness. He just doesn't want to shell out the money and thinks she's being ridiculous is more likely than the drug addicts and gambling silliness.

I'm really tired of your thinly veiled misogyny and male ego fellating posts here. It's really revolting. And please before you call me a man hater I point out regularly that children in homes with a single father statistically have better outcomes than those from homes with single mothers. There's a lot of reasons but the main one is men who are single fathers almost always are BY CHOICE whereas women are often stuck with it when they should have never had kids at all in many cases.
Comment: #80
Posted by: wkh
Mon Feb 4, 2013 11:41 PM
Oh some people asked why she would have more right to the home than John especially if she was renting... well we were renting at a time I was seriously contemplating ending my marriage and I was looking into how to have him removed (it's pretty miserable to do so here actually if his name is on the lease :-/). Why didn't I just up and leave? Well for one, my name was also on the lease, meaning I'd be liable for this place, AND any I moved into. Meaning he could be a jerk and pay for half the rent and make me pay half AND I'd have to pay all my rent on a new place. Plus, why should I and my children and animals have to go through the drama and hassle of moving when HE was the problem? (substance abuse and infidelity... this was many, many, MANY years ago and I don't consider it relevant to today). That made exactly zero sense to me. I wasn't the one behaving badly. Why should I lose the home I love? Why should my kids? Plus a home of similar size and features would cost significantly more as we moved into this home when it was still in renovations and got it for about $500 cheaper per month than it would have gone for at that time. So no, I wasn't going anywhere. Forget that.

Comment: #81
Posted by: wkh
Mon Feb 4, 2013 11:51 PM
Re: Jane OK sure, I suppose the LW could be an alcoholic, cheater, etc. and left some vital details out, but we've read enough of these letter to know that it's usually it's the partner of those people who write in. She said he says "if you did such and such I would marry you" over "stupid" things, therefore it's reasonable to assume that it's a scenario like Michele #17 described (and yes, I do recall a call on "Loveline" once where the caller and her BF had a kid together and he wanted a threesome before he put a ring on it. Truth is stranger than anything you can make up). As for putting the kids first they can co-parent without being together as a couple, and especially of the kids are girls it's better for them to see their mother being strong enough to stand up for what she wants.
Comment: #82
Posted by: Lucy
Tue Feb 5, 2013 2:27 AM
Send the photos back with a note saying "You must have forgotten these on your LAST visit."
"
Comment: #83
Posted by: NJGill
Tue Feb 5, 2013 7:56 PM
If someone left framed pictures in my house, I'd look at it as "Great, free frames!" and replace the pictures with my own.
Comment: #84
Posted by: Joannakathryn
Tue Feb 5, 2013 10:43 PM
Re: Joannakathryn
Great idea! I second the motion.

Comment: #85
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Feb 6, 2013 8:10 AM
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