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Margo Howard

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Mom Purloins the Diary Dear Margo: I found out last week that our 17-year-old high school junior is having sex with her boyfriend! First of all, I found out the wrong way: I snooped in her room and read her diary. Second, she would never admit to it, so my husband …Read more. The Bad Seed Dear Margo: I never thought I would write to an advice columnist, but here goes. I've been dating someone for about a year now, and we talk of marriage occasionally. He's ready for commitment and very gung-ho about us getting married, which is …Read more. Oh, and, Uh, By the Way... Dear Margo: I am soon to be 27 years old, and my only serious relationship ended a few years ago. In hopes of avoiding the standard meat market of dating, I'm considering registration with eHarmony.com. I've also had my share of casual relationships.…Read more. It Is in the Bible, but Not in the Stars Dear Margo: I have been dating a wonderful man for four months now. He is very kind and sweet in every way. We are much in love and happy together. There is only one problem: We are different religions. I am a Christian; he is agnostic. I have …Read more.
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Demon Rum and Demon Mum

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Dear Margo: My husband has custody of his three sons from his first marriage. The boys' mother is an alcoholic, and at the time of the custody battle, she was also addicted to meth. Her current husband shares her addictions. Visitation with the mother was limited by court order to four hours a week, and she rarely shows up.

Last year on Mother's Day, after not seeing them for months, she did pick the boys up and took them to a local lake. During the visit, her husband, in a fit of anger, physically assaulted one of the boys. We filed and received a protective order against their stepfather the next day.

Since that day, the mother has been verbally and emotionally abusing the boys on a near daily basis via telephone. She calls, drunk, dozens of times a day to tell them they don't love her, that they'll be sorry one day for the way they "treat her." (They are actually respectful, but tired of her abuse, they are starting to stand up for themselves.) If the boys turn off their cell phones, the messages escalate into the hundreds. When she calls to talk to one of us, she accuses us of taking her boys from her, as well as causing her addictions and problems.

We spoke to our lawyer about terminating her rights. We were told that as long as she shows up, even if sporadically, and pays her child support (garnished by the state for the first two years when she did not pay), there's nothing we can do. (Though she did lose her job yesterday for regularly showing up drunk.) We cannot make her stop. We cannot make her change. We cannot make her face reality. We can only be there for the boys and try to comfort and counsel them through the anguish. If you happen to have any advice about how to make the situation better, I am all ears. — Helpless Stepmom

Dear Help: Isn't alcoholism a terrible and destructive thing? One thing you can do is send your boys to Al-Anon so they can gain understanding and get support from people who have "been there." On a practical level, because this woman has lost her job, there will be no child support, meaning that you may be able to stop the visits.

Regarding the drunk dialing, you all might consider changing your numbers.

The good news is that the visits are sporadic. And ... though you don't say how old the boys are, there comes a time when kids can make their own decisions about seeing or not seeing a parent. Good luck. The turmoil will at some point be over. — Margo, thornily

Do We Ask About Face Lifts?

Dear Margo: I've been close to "Maggie" for 30 years, from the time we were young mothers in our 20s. We've always had a joke pledge that we would never do anything to our faces. I don't know what your position is, but we both thought it was unnecessary and phony. Well, lo and behold, Maggie, after some weeks away ("visiting a cousin"), returns looking, uh, quite refreshed. I mean, the wrinkles are gone, and so are the jowls. What would you suggest I say to open this discussion? — Longtime Friend

Dear Long: Nothing. In this case, her face speaks for her. Unless she brings up the subject, why cause her embarrassment? Often, women who don't wish to fess up will tell you they are just "well rested" or they've "changed their makeup." The kindest thing would be to play along, telling her the "rest" did wonders for her, and let her think you've bought her story. Where's the harm?

As for myself, I am not looking for reasons to go under general anesthesia, and I must say I'm interested to see how my face goes to hell on its own. As I've written before, facelifts are a dicey business. You can wind up looking like a Picasso, suffer nerve damage, or look pulled and shiny. Some faces are so changed that friends might think you're in the Witness Protection Program. 'Nuff said. — Margo, naturally

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers' daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dearmargo. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

COPYRIGHT 2012 MARGO HOWARD

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM



Comments

18 Comments | Post Comment
Come on, Margo. Child support is not a fee a non-custodial parent pays in order to see their children. The two things are separate, and should be. You are correct, however, that the children will have some say (and the older they get, the more say they will have) about how much and under what circumstances they see their mother.

There's this, too. Since the mother is verbally and emotionally abusive, and her husband has physically abused at least one of the boys, the writer could try to get her parental rights terminated. In any case, it certainly seems like a relationship with this woman is not "in the best interests of the children."
Comment: #1
Posted by: Laura
Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:02 AM
"The turmoil will at some point be over."
No it won't, Margo. That mother is going to make those boys miserable the rest of their lives, even if they attempt to cut off all contact with her.
Comment: #2
Posted by: SopSop
Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:45 AM
I second Laura - child support and visitation are separate issues. However, the boys' father can do something - he can tape the calls and keep copies of all the messages, then take them to court to have a protective order issued or have her rights terminated. Even mothers are not allowed to harass innocent people non-stop. Hundreds of phone calls a day for almost a year is intolerable and should be stopped.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Michelle
Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:50 AM
LW2--"What would you suggest I say to open this discussion?" Personally I would mind my own business out of good manners and respect but since you're obviously an obnoxious busybody then feel free to open the discussion with "Gee Maggie, who's your cousin, Joan Rivers?"
Comment: #4
Posted by: Chris
Fri Mar 23, 2012 4:08 AM
Agree with Michelle, get those calls on tape. Also get the boys new cell phones and don't give Mom the numbers. I'd consider a new lawyer, too. I find it hard to believe that "nothing can be done" in the face of this kind of harassment and abuse.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Annie
Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:44 AM
To LW1: For heaven's sake! The first thing you must do is get new phone numbers for the boys cell phones, which they should NOT give to their mother. That ends the first, most intrusive harassment. Then you put an answering machine on your phone, and you record every single one of her phone calls. You make sure you have caller i.d., and you do NOT pick up her calls. Record them all. Let her spew. Do not engage with her. You don't have to listen to her messages; just fast forward past them. Don't let her poison your day. Sooner or later she will start making threats. At that point, you can do something about her legally. You are under no obligation to help this woman make her children's lives a misery. I have a long association with Al-Anon, and I can tell you that you should never, ever enable a drunk. With the best of intentions, that's what you're doing.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Zelda
Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:09 AM
Team Mobile has a parental controls feature that allows you to block numbers as "never allowed". I'm sure other carriers have something similar. They don't need to be bought new phones; at the most they need is a number change. And if these boys are under 13, why do they have cell phones anyway?

Keep detailed records of the abuse and get a new lawyer. An abusive alcohol/drug addict married to another abusive addict should be restricted to SUPERVISED visitation at the very least.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Kelle
Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:50 AM
Call the cell phone company, or look on the website. You can block numbers. On Verizon at least, there is a time limit, so you may have to re-block occasionally.
But criminy Christmas, go to court and get rid of her.
No child support is way better than a horrid parent.
Comment: #8
Posted by: sabrina free
Fri Mar 23, 2012 8:39 AM
Get new numbers and don't give them out to anyone. Get Google Voice numbers for each boy to give their friends, associate with their new numbers, and set it up so her number always goes straight to voicemail, if she calls from a different number add it to her phonebook entry. They don't have to listen to those messages but you will have them all on record.
Comment: #9
Posted by: nonegiven
Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:07 AM
@SopSop: I think you hit the nail on the head. A parent, no matter how addicted, unstable, or abusive, is always entitled to One More Chance to abuse his or her child some more. The courts will back up this entitlement no matter what. It is more important than the ongoing health of the children in question.

This is one of the reasons abusive individuals feel as entltled as they do to keep on dishing out the abuse. Their sense of entitlement really does have a basis in fact. Deep down, they know that no matter how badly they hurt someone else, they will always be entitled to the benefit of not having done it. There will never be meaningful consequences and things will always basically go back to the way things were before provided they first become pathetic enough or annoying enough. So they never have to do what normal human beings do, and develop actual consideration for others.
Comment: #10
Posted by: R.A.
Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:44 AM
To Zelda and other posters about blocking or changing cell numbers:

Some courts have required that parents provide cellphones so that non-custodial (or custodial-during-visitation) parents can have unrestricted access to the kids. This is based on the presumption that the parents will behave in a reasonable manner. I actually know of divorced families where this is the case.

Sigh. This means taking phone records and recorded conversations (that, at least, the kids are aware of - how stressful for them) back to court to revise the terms of their visitation.

And yeah, Margo, child support is not a fee that guarantees visitation. The two are separate. And when the divorcing parents try to put the interests of the child first, this is a relief.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Lori
Fri Mar 23, 2012 12:15 PM
Just pointing out that Margo based her statement that ties visitation to child support on what was said in the letter. In the letter, it says: "We spoke to our lawyer about terminating her rights. We were told that as long as she shows up, even if sporadically, and pays her child support (garnished by the state for the first two years when she did not pay), there's nothing we can do." So, apparently at least one lawyer believes that there is some sort of tie between child support and visitation.

But I definitely would take Margo to task for saying that the "turmoil will at some point be over." As others have pointed out -- not true. The only way this turmoil ends is when either the mother and/or the children die. It is highly unlikely Mom is ever going to let this rest. And just because someone turns 18 and decides not to see Mom anymore doesn't mean Mom can't find ways to continue making these kids miserable. For that matter, depending on just how good of a job Mom does at making her kids miserable and guilty, it's very possible that this turmoil doesn't end even after Mom dies.

LW -- keep trying to fight the good fight in court, keep on loving those kids, and get them into counseling (if you haven't already). And as just about everyone has suggested -- start keeping the ranting messages Mom leaves on their cell phones, with a log of dates and times. If you are going to continue to try to fight this in court, you will need all the ammunition you can get.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Lisa
Fri Mar 23, 2012 1:06 PM
LW2 -- your friend will not be the first person to have trumpeted about how s/he would never do this or never do that...and then go right out and do it. I would leave this alone, personally. But if you absolutely MUST open this discussion, I would recommend an envious, "you really look terrific, what's your secret?" But honestly, I can only assume that the only reason you want to have this conversation is so that you can rub her nose in it (if she admits it) or so you can make sure she knows you know what she did, and you disapprove. As a general rule, that doesn't usually nurture a friendship. So, ask yourself what's more important to you -- continuing your friendship, or expressing your disapproval. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure right now it feels like the white elephant in the room. If all you want is to get past the white elephant, and you think you can do this without somehow expressing disappointment/disapproval/judgment, then by all means go for it. If not...
Comment: #13
Posted by: Lisa
Fri Mar 23, 2012 1:44 PM
Some courts have required that parents provide cellphones so that non-custodial (or custodial-during-visitation) parents can have unrestricted access to the kids. This is based on the presumption that the parents will behave in a reasonable manner. I actually know of divorced families where this is the case.
*****
Yah, maybe. Court can't mandate that a kid always remember to bring their phone, pick up the call or return the missed call. Or remember to charge it.

If these were my boys, I think it would be worth the cost to get 2 new phones/numbers, (because they have a wacko mom and there's no telling what she'll do) and keep the old ones at home, ringers turned off (because they have a wacko mom and there's no telling what she'll say).
Comment: #14
Posted by: hedgehog
Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:30 PM
LW1: Please contact another attorney. You may also want to contact social services to see if they have any suggestions. Parenting plans are extremely difficult (at least in my state) to change, but you may well be able to get an order amending the original plan saying that continued drug testing is needed for any visitation to occur. Be careful about changing the phone numbers without consulting the parenting plan: it varies case to case. You may never have her parental rights revoked, but you can definately limit the contact she has with the minor children and ask for supervised visits.

LW2: Oh for goodness sakes, just let it go and be happy for your friend! What business is it of yours?
Comment: #15
Posted by: nanchan
Sat Mar 24, 2012 8:57 AM
LW1: Please contact another attorney. You may also want to contact social services to see if they have any suggestions. Parenting plans are extremely difficult (at least in my state) to change, but you may well be able to get an order amending the original plan saying that continued drug testing is needed for any visitation to occur. Be careful about changing the phone numbers without consulting the parenting plan: it varies case to case. You may never have her parental rights revoked, but you can definately limit the contact she has with the minor children and ask for supervised visits.

LW2: Oh for goodness sakes, just let it go and be happy for your friend! What business is it of yours?
Comment: #16
Posted by: nanchan
Sat Mar 24, 2012 8:57 AM
LW1 -
I find it hard to believe there is "nothing you can do" (dixit your lawyer) considering you have a protective order against the man the kids' mother is married to. This calls for visits outside of her home to say the least and, considering the shenanigans she's been performing, supervised visits at that.

Start documenting everything - you need to prove all of this, ortherwise it's (legally speaking) just baseless allegations.

So you've got a few things on your to-do list here:
1. Star documenting everything.
2. Get a new lawyer. The one you've got seems lazy, or worse yet, on the mother's side in a passive way.
3. Keep the restraining order current - these things have an expiry date. That's when documentation comes in handy.
4. Get a second cell phone for the kids, leave the one Crazy Mama has the number to at the bottom of a drawer at home.
5. Get these kids (and yourself) into Al-Anon. Can't hurt, may help.
6. LOVE THOSE KIDS. It's quite amazing what kids can sustain without permanent damage when they're loved the right way by at least one person. Don't rant against their mother - they can reach their own conclusions. Just love them.

@SopSop, R.A., Lisa
You're right that turning 18 is not going to make Crazy Mama stop. However, once they do turn 18, they have more options, such as moving out without a forwarding address (at least to Crazy Mama) and getting restraining orders on their own. Yes, Crazy Mama can try to continue her harassing ways. But there are laws against that, and the big difference between before and after 18 is that Crazy Mama no longer has any parental or visitation RIGHTS.

LW2 -
Here's the deal - it was a "joke pledge". Even if it has been a "serious" pledge, this hardly would constitute a written contract. What do you think you can do, sue her for damages to your self-esteem?

Look. She changed her mind, okay? A lot of women think cosmetic surgery is "unncessary and phony" - until they themselves need it.

And what exactly do you intend to do about it? Rent out a billboard screaming, "So-and-so had SOME WORK DONE ON HER FACE, what a phony!"?

Botton line - get over it and let it go, Miss Genuine-with-the-Wrinkles.

P.S.: Do you have a problem with covering the grey too?

Comment: #17
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Sat Mar 24, 2012 4:17 PM
LW1: She's not evil or stupid because of alcohol. I hate people who are stupid enough to think that alcohol or drugs change you into different people. They don't. They're enablers. They enable people to lower their inhibitions and let their inner ugly out to play and destroy. Change their cell numbers or block her from contacting them directly. Also make sure they know their value isn't based on anyone but themselves.

LW2: I would suggest after 20 years you should be able to say anything - you've probably earned it. Or you can torment her by pretending not to notice.
Comment: #18
Posted by: Diana
Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:39 PM
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