Ideas on children and divorce and Dads


A freind of mine is in a situation. She was married to a man who shortly after having their first child, became violent to her. He also excessively “disciplined” the baby. She became very depressed and he treated her so badly, she felt she was losing her mind. She thought he would end up killing her and was certain abuse was going on. She divorced him and for the child contact arrangements, she ensured by the courts that he could not see the child unsupervised. The courts assessed the situation and agreed with the mother, all visitation rights must be supervised. He refused to see the child supervised and as such never saw the baby again, from the age of 16 months onwards. This lady subsquently remarried (the Church annulled her first marriage)and had further children. Now her first child was so young at the time and never remembers the biological father. The first child believes that his father is the same as the father to all the siblings and knows nothing to the contrary, that the first child has a different Dad. As the first child is still young (6) my friend feels that to tell the truth would be to disturbing and is waiting for the child to be old enough to ask questions, whereupon she will answer them. But how does she explain this to the first child and all the other children. And at what stage does she discuss this with the child?? Anyone been in this situation and can help??


This is a difficult situation.

First off, the new husband is DAD. The first guy might be the biological father but he is not the DAD. A dad is about behavior, not about genetic material.

Does the bio-father have to pay any kind of child support? Or is there any kind of contact between his family and the child? What last name does the child use? The answers to those questions kind of come into play here.

The ideal situation would probably be to have the step-father adopt this child, if he hasn’t already done so. But that requires the agreement of the biological father.

I’m not sure what is the best way to tell the child. Or if he/she needs to be told before asking. But I do think that the parents need to be very clear that all children share the same* DAD*.

My husband was adopted by his mother’s second husband. He had two older sisters who did have some contact with the biological father but my husband says he never really understood what the situation was until he was a teenager. No one really tried to hide the situation from him; they just never elaborated. Today he kind of feels like he missed out on meeting the bio-grandparents but he has no doubt that his DAD was the real father.


Family secrets always come to light. If your friend does not tell the child, some other family member or family friend will.

How to go about it - well, that is for smarter folks than me :slight_smile:


Thanks for that. My friend has kept her maiden name and so all her children have the same surname so that there would be no differences especially when they went to school. The biological father has no contact whatsoever and nor do any of his family.

I agree, the new husband is the Dad is every way. He even forgets otherwise! To him they are all his and he loves them all equally. He does everything for them all, corrects them all equally and loves them all equally. He is a really great guy and I think the first child will never look on him in any other way than him being Dad, even when he finds out. It’s just the pain that may be caused by the truth and at what age can a child deal with this? And how do you put it across??


I agree with all that was said so far. You’ve explained my own situation almost to a T, but that I was conceived outside of wedlock, my mother married another man who had a child from a previous marriage when I was 1 yr old, and he adopted me and has been a wonderful father to me. I never knew the difference until my mom told me.

My mother actually feared the secret would come out from someone else, so she showed me an old, antique telephone my bio-father had given her as a gift and said “You have two daddies. This gift is from your birth daddy,” or something to that effect – I was VERY young, probably 5. I was curious from then on about this “birth father” but my dad was always my dad! She would tell me very nice stories about my birth father if I asked about what a nice man he was. It was more “curious” than devastating at that age, and I just grew up sort of knowing it in the back of my mind but not really thinking of it because my DAD was the reality right in front of me, and this “birth” dad was sort of imaginary.

When I was 16 I decided I wanted to seek out my birth father. My parents had since been divorced and I was feeling a void (that’s a different story and was not the fault of my dad whatsoever). Literally by a miracle, I ended up finding him and his HUGE family (grown children) and attempted to have a relationship with them for about 2 yrs. Then something occurred that tested his loyalty and true devotion as a father to me, and he let me down totally… I realized that my “DAD” is not someone biologically connected to me… but the true dad who was there for me, supporting me all along. This put me at peace and I am more content than ever.

So I recommend the child finds out, although it may cause a sort of “curiosity” that is not fulfilled unlese he meets his birth dad, once he is old enough to understand. I think it’s up to his parents to decide when he’s ready, but for some reason my mom’s approach seemed to work well… it was better than having been devastated by the info when I was older. The knowledge was in my head but was not a “reality” so it never bothered me or hurt me while I was young. Maybe she could get some professional advice on the matter from a child counselor.


We can only speculate on the best way to tell this child who the biological father is and when to do so.

Each child is different and will have a different level of curiosity about such things as marriage date of the parents and why he probably doesn’t look as much like Dad as his siblings.

I do tend to think that it might be best to have the child learn the truth before he goes through puberty. Until that time his DAD will probably still be his hero.

What I see as the biggest (potential) problem is how this will affect the boy and his relationship with his Dad when he becomes a teenager. It’s sometimes easy for a teen to idolize the parent he didn’t grow up with if he’s having some major conflicts with the parent he does live with. Some teens will have these kinds of major conflicts and others will have the more typical ones.

This boy is likely to want to contact the biological father at some point and the parents need to understand this. This may be tough for the mother because the bio-father may actually be dangerous.


You raise the child honestly. You tell him when he’s old enough to understand the concept of two daddies that his daddy is the one who is there every day taking care of him. Know that family secrets ALWAYS come out, and I’ve seen it too many times that when they do, there is a complete erosion of trust between child and parent about the secretiveness. Even when the parents were “waiting to tell them when they were 18.” Someone will always get to them before that.

What you tell the young child when they ask “Why do I have two daddies?”

You say “Your first daddy did some illegal things and the courts made rules. And so he is gone.” If he is old enough to ask what legal things, you say “It was about your safety, and mommy wanted you to be safe.”

He will grow up knowing there were legal issues. You’re not slamming someone or badmouthing them. And eventually when the child is old enough, instead of lionizing a stranger, they may grasp the idea that there was a very good reason the courts had to interfere and keep the man away. But you let them grow into the details of the story as they can handle it.


I agree with helping the child understand in little bits at a time. My best friend was 9 weeks pregnant when her first husband died in an accident. He was not a very good man. She and her current husband have always just talked about things from her past from a very normal conversational level. As anything has come up they just answer the questions and don’t delve deeper. As her son has matured he has asked tons of questions and they were just answered with no untruths. She will only tell her son of his father’s character flaws if they come up as questions. Her son knows that she is “very happy” with Dad and wasn’t as happy before.

I really agree with the concept of “legal issues” in the case of the living parent presented in this thread. The child can ask and expand on it as he is able. With a loose term like “legal” the child won’t grow up distrusting police, judges, or courts.

The only thing I would say is to make sure the child hears some things younger so he can be curious enough about his background to ask questions. I guess I’m saying one shouldn’t wait for a certain age to have a “talk” about it. If a child just grows gradually in understanding he or she won’t really have a memory of it being any other way. Her other children have learned in this gradual manner too. The concept of “half-brother” means nothing to them, only that, “Oh yeah, D. had a different dad.”

God bless you and your friend.


I’d wait until the questions come. Why do we feel we need to burden our children with our mistakes? I really don’t think there is an optimum time for this one. It could make a child feel out of place or insecure. It could make a teen use this as an excuse for bad behavior. Really, would it make matters worse to have “You’re not my dad” thrown in the face.

I personally wouldn’t tell them until they were an adult with their own family unless I knew someone else would tell them before that. I think however it’s done it must be made to look inconsequential as possible and probably should be done by the one who isn’t his “dad” so that he can reinforce the fact that they have a close enough relationship that he felt he could tell them and talk about it.


I couldn’t agree with you more on this. That little pharse, “you’re not my dad” can absolutely destory a step-parent/child relationship. The other issue is children can be very cruel to eachother, if you tell the child the half siblings are going to find out. A minor scuffle between siblings could turn into a terrible experience if one decides to taunt the child by reminding him that their father really isn’t his father.
There are two ways to go about step parenting:
1.If the step parent is involved from early in the child’s life and is taking an active parenting role then the fact the child is not his/her natural child sould be minimized.
2.If the step parent comes in later there should be no active role in the child’s life. The child has a mom and dad, those are his/her parents. The step parent in this case should not be involved in displine issues, or paying the child’s expenses.


It would seem great if it could wait until after the difficult years if at all. There’s enough to put mileage between parents and teens. Like I said, I think the whole thing should just be handled if it comes up in a minimalized way as late as possible. If it should be accidently revealed it would seem a simple “I’ve loved you like my son. I’ve treated you like my son. You will always be my son - end of story. If there’s anything you’d like to know about you biological father, let us know. There’s nothing you can ask or do that will change our relationship.”


I disagree about #2. What a shame it would be to live that way. I was 13 when my mom married my stepfather. No, he’ll never be my dad, but he has been a great father figure for me for 27 years now. Yes, all of the issues of discipline took some getting used to, but we all eventually figured it out. We have a great relationship. In fact, we gave my youngest son his middle name in honor of my stepfather, and my sister gave her son his first name in honor of him. He has never made us feel any less his children than our half sister.

I think it would terrible to get married to someone and then treat them as if they were an outsider in your kids’ lives. I think it would be more important to marry someone who shares your values and your beliefs in discipline, then act as a united front. A husband should not be left in a position to be powerless in his own home. I think the parents need to support each other, and that is in the best interest of all the kids, no matter who they were born to.

I would just look at it as the child having more people who care for and support him or her.


I am one for the theory as the child asks questions, give them only enough answers to satisfy without causing worry.

I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.That said, in this situation, you might want to suggest to your friend that she think about having the current Dad adopt her first born. It is called a related adoption. With the bio-dad not having made any visits, it would probably be considered abandonment, BUT EACH STATE IS DIFFERENT. Still, it gives the current Dad (and real dad- the guy doing the work) the same rights as a any father, and it terminates the bio-dad’s rights, even though his contact is limited to supervisied visitation he does not take. Just :twocents:


As an adopted child, been there, done that. Also, as a step-child to a step-mother and to a step-father, there are many ways to avoid ugly battles regarding this situation. First and foremost, let ALL the children know, not just the child with a different father. Also, let them all know that this information doesn’t change the love they all have for each other and they are expected to treat each other as brothers and sisters, parents and children. Nothing changes.

When I was mad at my mom and dad when I was about 6 I remember yelling at them “you’re not my real parents anyway”. Later I cuddled with them. If a child (or teen) is having a temper tantrum they will say anything that they think will hurt the parent. A parent, as the adult and more knowledgable person, should be secure enough in their relationship with their children (biological, adopted, step, etc.) to recognize an emotional lashing out as what it is, not as a personal attack. My parents recognized that when I said what I said and they didn’t play into it.

As for siblings taunting, that isn’t a real issue if the parents approach the situation as I stated above. Lying to the child for all those years will do a WHOLE lot of damage as soon as the truth comes out. Better to be honest at their level of understanding now than wait. Besides, when that teen find out the truth he’ll feel justified in lying about why he was out too late or what he was doing or any other things teens lie about.


If it is possible for Step Dad to adopt this child then that is the natural lead-in to explain that while he his not the biological father, he IS the real Dad.

I think it’s a good idea that everyone, (and by that I mean the readers of this thread in particular,) is careful to avoid phrases such as “real” in reference to biology.

Adoptive parents are real parents. A non-practicing biological parent may have some legal rights but he/she is not nearly as ‘real’ as a step-parent who fulfills the parental role.


The “real” dad is the guy doing the work, not the guy who made the baby. I never said he wasn’t- just as my husband is my grandchildren’s “real” father, not my ex-son-in-law who abandoned them.


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