Natural Parent v. Third Party–In North Dakota, You Win Some, You Lose Some

There’s a recent case from North Dakota that illustrates some important points about the power of recognition as a legal parent.   At the same time, it also represents a less-common approach to the rights of third-parties.   Please note that it does not directly raise the issues about defining natural parents that I’ve been talking about, so I hope I don’t confuse things by discussing it now.   

Some time in 2001 or 2002 Robin McAllister conceived a child with Michael Tharaldson.  While she was pregnant she moved out of Tharaldson’s home.  She met Mark McAllister and moved in with him.   The child, EM, was born in 2002.   Robin and Mark raised him together.  They married in 2004 and had two children together before Robin left Mark in 2008.   When she left she took EM with her but left the two younger children behind.   Robin and EM moved in with another man, Jason Prosje.  

Robin and Mark McAllister got divorced.   They agreed on most things.  Mark got primary custody of the two younger children.   The one outstanding issue was the custody/visitation regarding EM.   Mark wanted decision-making authority and primary residential responsiblity for EM.   Robin wanted him to have no court-ordained role in the child’s life.   

 It’s clear that Robin McAllister is a parent of EM–she is a natural parent.   Tharaldson’s paternity had been established in 2o03 and he was also recognized as a parent, and for what it is worth, a natural parent I’d guess.  He’d paid court-ordered support.   He had been awarded some time with EM, which he exercised until EM was 2 and then again after the McAllister’s separated.  I do not know how much.   

With two legally recognized parents already, the court is not willing to find a third parent.  At the same time, the lower court determined that Mark was a psychological parent to EM.  As is often the case, the assessment of a custody evaluator seems to have carried significant weight.  In the end, the trial court concluded:  

“A person who provides a child’s daily care and who, thereby, develops a close bond and personal relationship with the child becomes the psychological parent of what [sic] child to whom the child turns to for love, guidance, and security. Here, Mark, on a day to day basis from the time of [E.M.]’s birth through March 6, 2008, and again through regular visitation, has been that person to [E.M.]. Mark has fulfilled [E.M.]’s psychological needs for a parent as well as [E.M.]’s physical needs. . . .

As a psychological parent, Mark should be granted liberal visitation rights. This visitation will not only further the bond between Mark and [E.M.], but also foster the bond between the three young brothers, the youngest two whom reside with Mark.” 

Mark ends up in a strange role here–he is not a legal parent, but he is a psychological parent.  This seems to put him into an unusual middle category:  He is entitled to the visitation rights we would often expect post-divorce–every other weekend, one night during the week and two weeks in summer.   He does not have decision-making authority, but he does have a right to be informed about the child’s progress in life and be included in events like school conferences.  

Most states wouldn’t recognize this sort of middle ground.  I’ve written before–long ago, I think and perhaps in a slightly muddled way–that legal parental status is generally an all or nothing thing.    If you are a parent, you get all rights and responsibilities, including the right to decide who the child spends time with.  If you are not a parent you get no rights and responsibilities and see the child only at the whim of the parent(s).   That is what makes recognition as a legal parent so very critical.   

With that in mind, it is useful to have an illustration of a middle-ground sort of approach.  That’s what I think this North Dakota case offers.   It’s always good to have a concrete example in mind as one thinks about whether a particular approach is good or bad, though of course one example isn’t enough to go on really.  

There’s one other point about the North Dakota case worthy of note–one that illustrates some of the potential problems of an approach like that adopted in the case.   At the end of the day, three different adult households are entitled to time with EM–Robin McAllister’s, Mark McAllister’s and Michael Tharaldson.    It doesn’t seem to me to be impossible that they could arrive at an arrangement that is good for EM, but it surely will require the willing cooperation of all the adults involved.    Of course it would be easier to eliminate one household–but in all likelihood that would be Mark McAllister’s, and as the court makes clear, it doesn’t see this option as being good for the child.   Be interesting to know how it goes from here.

23 responses to “Natural Parent v. Third Party–In North Dakota, You Win Some, You Lose Some

  1. Hello, my Name is Jason Prosje, I am married to Robin (McAllister), the defendent in the case ND McAllister vs McAlister mentioned in your article.
    I believe the most important thing that needs to be pointed out is the ND supreme courts intentional violation of the mothers (Robin McAllister) constitutional rights as the natural biological parent who was proven “fit” in this case. She has full decision making rights over EM but does not have the right to choose who is an influence in the boys life. This case was voted 3-2 by the ND supreme court, ND Supreme court Justices Maring and Crothers stated that they decided with this ruling since it was a “lesser intrusion on the parent’s constitutional rights.” How is ANY violation of a parents constitutional rights allowable in the US legal system. This ruling is an absolute violation of everything this nation was founded on. EM the child in this case is terrified that Mr. McAllister is gonna take him away from his mommy, because Mr. McAllister tells EM he will never stop fighting for custody of him because as Mr.McAllister tells EM: “mommy is broken, and does not love EM as much as I do”. EM is confused about having “3 dads” and would prefer that he is allowed to choose when he visits Mr. McAllister rather then have the courts decide, since it often interfers with his extra-cirricular acvtivies. EM has missed nearly every Boy Scout event, numerous family events, birthday parties etc. because Mr. McAllister has his visitations on those weekends and is not willing to wor k with us at all in making EM available to attend these events. Robin and I have of course followed all legal channels regarding Mr McAllister’s behavior while EM is in his custody,but to no avail.
    Cass County Social Services supervisor and head case manager stated: “all though lacking a maturity and showing poor moral and ethical judgment when talking with a child, Mr. McAllister’s actions are not illegal and not considered a serious enough form of abuse to warrrant any actions to be taken by Cass County Socail Services.” Robin and I are unable to persue any further court actions at this time due to our inability to hire a lawyer, we are preparing to file bankruptcy due to the extensive legal fees of over $100,000 as a result of this case. It is a sad, sick, twisted world when children can be used as pawns in the legal system. Isnt the American Legal system great!? After the smoke has cleared from this case my wife and I have lost all faith and beleif in the US legal system, Democracy, and the United States of America. We live in daily fear because of this ruling, the cost it has had on our lives financially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, but most of all we are worried about how much damage future legal battles with Mr. McAllister will do to our family and our children, and our life style, considering how much damage has been caused already. The ND judicial system is forcing us to allow our child (EM) to go on weekend visits with an adult that does not have truly have the childs best interest in mind, and who has mentally, emotionally abused him, shown poor judgment in caring for the child and who is intentionally trying to destroy or harm the relationship between a good, loving, mother and her biological child. Parents beware everywhere…. this could happen to you!!!

    • Those of us far away from the realities of the situations that become court cases cannot really know or fully understand the facts of any given case. It is, however, useful to be reminded that 1) the facts in most of these cases are disputed and 2) there are real human stories behind each case, with real people–real parents, real children–whose lives are at issue.

      Given these contraints I try to generally respond to the legal principles articulated by the courts. Those principles will be applied more generally and so have importance beyond that of the actual decision. But of course, the decisions that articulate the princples are always generated by specific cases with specific facts.

      I cannot comment on the facts as you recite them. But the general principle–that we need to respect and perhaps protect the real and substantial relationships that develop between children and the adults who care for them over time–seems like a good one to me. This doesn’t mean those relationships are always healthy, and you probably should want a court to examine the relationships involved.

      I don’t know what the outcome in this particular case ought to be–that does depend on the facts–but in general I do approve of the court’s approach.

  2. I would be interested to learn how such arrangements work out over the long term. I doubt there is much research on them.

    Another factor that is glaring in its omission is the sibling factor. I note that the child has no legal right to contact with his siblings. This is taken so for granted that it was not even brought up.

    • It’s a surprising to me that the court didn’t place some weight on the sibling factor. Allowing Mark McAllister time with the child ensures that the child will have an ongoing relationships with siblings, which seems to me to be a postive point. You may be right that the court didn’t stress this because we take for granted that there are no such rights.

      More generally, it’s interesting to contrast this case with the one I posted about after this–the one from Kansas where the child brought a paternity action after turning 18. They arise in quite different contexts and I don’t want to overstate the similarities. But the Kansas case rests on the idea that the child does indeed have indepedent rights that cannot be given up by parents, while the disregard of the sibling point here seems to suggest that the child has no interests of its own.

      • Ms. Shapiro:

        I am the attorney who represented and continues to represent Mark McAllister in this case. One disadvantage of reading published appellate decisions like that of the North Dakota Supreme Court in this case is that such appellate opinions by their very nature do not fully articulate all of the trial court’s underlying findings in the case.

        A review of the trial court’s findings, as well as the transcripts of the proceedings, would show beyond a doubt that the judge did focus on trying to ensure that E.M. would continue to enjoy enough time with his half-siblings to continue to develop those relationships. The custody evaluator also deemed this to be of critical importance in her assessment and recommendations. Indeed, the trial court fashioned a schedule for E.M. that allowed him, at least theoretically, to be with his siblings every weekend and one weekday each week and on some holidays. Some of this time would occur in Mark’s home, and some in Robin’s home, but the boys would all be together a lot.

        As to Mr. Prosje’s comments, thank you for pointing out that the “facts” as he states them are very much in dispute. E.M.’s confusion about having 3 daddies, which he expressed to a child psychologist early on in the litigation, stemmed from the fact that Robin allowed E.M. to identify Mark as “daddy” both before the marriage and after. She allowed Mark to serve as his “daddy” in every way other than a genetic contribution for the first five years of the child’s life.

        Robin did not dispute the fact that when she decided to leave Mark and the two children of the marriage, she for the first time told E.M. that Mark was not really his “daddy”. She then almost immediately allowed Mr. Tharaldson, his biological father, to have contact with him for the first time in years, resulting in “daddy #2”, and then within weeks moved in with Mr. Prosje, a former boyfriend she later married, resulting in “daddy #3” for E.M. Of course E.M. experienced confusion and distress — what five year old child wouldn’t after that many major changes were thrown at him BY HIS MOTHER AND ONLY HIS MOTHER in that short a period of time.

        Unfortunately for children, judges and supreme court justices only see the custody cases that go to trial, and this often leaves them with what I would call a “jaded and cynical” perspective for lack of a better term. In these cases, which are almost always the worst situations of divorce, children all too often are damaged from the conflict and labeled with “Adjustment Disorders”. Sadly, in contested litigation like this, it is rare not to see the children so damaged, which quite frankly has resulted in a desensitization to that form of psychological trauma for children reflected in Justice Maring’s comments during oral argumentto the effect that an adjustment disorder should not be considered serious harm and detriment or that burden would be met in every case.

        I respectfully disagree and note that the overwhelming majority of cases, with two parents or two or more parental figures, result in settlements that further the best interests of the children involved. These parental figures put their children’s needs paramount, and while they have occasional bumps along the way, they work them out for the children and never set foot inside a courtroom. Their children do go through adjustments, to be sure, but they do not qualify for a psychological diagnosis of adjustment disorder.

        The minimization of this harm is troubling in so many respects, not the least of which is the correlating failure to even address the underlying and very valid concerns about Robin’s fitness to parent, her ability to recognize E.M.’s emotional needs and to handle them appropriately. There was similar evidence of Robin’s failure to follow recommendations for psychological care for one of the children of the marriage.

        The justices comments to the effect that all divorcing parents cause this kind of harm to their children should cause all of us concern. First, I believe the statement is untrue and insulting to the millions of adults who successfully co-parent following break-ups of marriage or other relationships. Second, even if you assume this is true, that does not mean that we should accept that behavior and do nothing about it. I am reminded of my own parent’s advice to their five children, “just because your friends all want to jump off a cliff, does that mean you should too?” Third, I believe people rise to the expectations set for them — if we expect people will damage their children in this way and tolerate it, they are less likely to conform their behavior and decisions to a higher standard.

        As a practitioner that chooses to work only with those committed to their children’s best interests, I do not accept that a parent is fit merely because he/she puts a roof over the child’s head, food on the table, clothes on the back, and gets the child to school most of the time. That standard may be the least restrictive alternative for situations in which the government is talking about terminating parental rights, but situations like Mark’s are not analogous.

        Just as one may waive her right to remain silent or her right to have an attorney, in my opinon one may waive through their actions and statements over the years certain rights associated with a legal status of parent, such as the right to decide that you are going to sever a parent/child bond you allowed and encouraged to develop over the years regardless of the horribly emotional and psychological trauma that has and will inflict on the child.

        Let us not be naive – Mark had to get a court order to see E.M. on a consistent basis, as Robin denied him access at her whim until he had one. If she was angry or wanted to do something else, E.M. was not allowed that time with Mark or his two siblings. Robin’s behavior in this regard was the very definition of “using children as pawns” allegations tossed about in custody disputes.

        Let us also not be naive about another undisputed set of facts — Mr. Tharaldson’s only contributions towards this child have been genetic and financial, and his financial contribution is huge by most people’s standards. He pays $3,000/month in child support AND contributes each month to a college fund for E.M.

        At the risk of myself sounding like a jaded cynic, one cannot help but question Robin’s true motives for taking E.M., with his $3,000/month tax free income source, and leaving her two other sons from the marriage behind.

        As to Mr. Prosje’s comments about our founding fathers rolling in their graves — I say fantastic. Many of them also owned slaves and would have similar reactions to abolition. Many of them viewed their wives similarly as belongings and would have had a similar reaction to women’s suffrage. As a society, we have slowly evolved past that belief that grown ups can or should be property of others the rights too which should not be infringed upon by government.

        What we should recognize and address is that legal doctrines relative to third-party custody also have these children are chattel/property of their parents, rather than human beings with thoughts, feelings, and their own rights, at their core. Analytically, third-party custody disputes are similar to arguments about slavery and women’s rights, but the pieces of property are smaller and arguably even more vulnerable and in need of legal protections than their grown up counter parts.

        Our law’s evolution from treating grown ups as property was painfully and embarrassingly slow. Our law’s evolution from treating children as property has been even longer, more complex and more difficult, but many consider this difficult journey a worthy and necesssary one. As for me, I will continue to do all that I can to ensure that in situations like Mark’s, where two or more private parties have established bonds with children, the Court should be considering only what it is in the best interests of the child and not some antiquated notion that children are the property of their genetic contributors.

        • It seems to me that Mr. Tharaldson is fulfilling his parental role. Is he being witheld by the court or by one of the other parties from establishing an actual relationship? How injust to take a man’s money but not acknowledge his parental status in any other way.

          • Kisarita:

            If “fulfilling his parental role” means that his child support obligation is getting paid, then Mr. Tharaldson is fulfilling that role. Although he has had a court order that would have allowed him to establish a more meaningful “parental role” for years, he has not taken advantage of that opportunity.

            We have now way of knowing what his reasons are for that because in all the months and months of litigation, he never personally appeared in Court even once. Apparently, the custodial placement of his biological child was not a priority for him. He has not seen or communicated with E.M. in any way for at least 7 months that we know of because E.M. has been living with Mark. While living with Robin, we cannot be sure, but we have reason to believe there was no contact then either.

            And, I’m not sure if you reviewed Mark’s comments on this page — he has always wanted to adopt E.M., but according to Mark, Robin was opposed to it. One may only speculate as to why, but again, at the risk of sounding like a jaded cynic, the child support she would receive if the marriage ended may very well have played a role. Robin did not work, even at the time of trial, but the child support is roughly equivalent to a job paying $50,000/year because the obligor pays all taxes associated with support.

  3. I doubt you’ll even post this but i am gonna write it anyways.
    This case is a clear example of the the laws and courts over stepping there bounds and interfering in the homes and families of American’s. Democracy is DEAD! Communism is taking a foothold in the minds of Intelligent American’s, such as yourself. It is the natural parents job, if they are fit to raise their child, and choose who is an influence in their child’s life, it is not the job of any third party to decide., no court, government etc should ever have the right to make that decision unless the parent is found unfit, it is the parents job to worry about fear and detriment to the child, a fit loving parent knows best what is for the child. Any other belief or point of view on this particular matter is a move away from democracy and the natural order. there is no other way around it, this is to much power for any government to have over its people. the mother in this case was found legally “fit” to raise and provide for the child in question by a nearly half a dozen professionals and the court. Not one of them stated she was not fit in any form. End of discussion and case closed , the mothers wishes should have been followed! any thought to the contrary is a mute point because the mother is a legally fit American parent, who should have the right to raise her child as she sees fit without interference from the state or federal governement, the courts should have no legal basis for this ruling. The founding fathers gotta be turning over in their graves. this is a clear cut example of the kind of laws the people of Amercia need to be afraid of. the kind that allow “third parties” to invade your homes, lives, and families. This case is a clear example of what is wrong with America, the Judicial System, the Government and every other Tom Dick or Sally that thinks it is their business to interfer with what is going on in another persons homes or families. These are perfect examples of the kinds of laws that support oppression and tyrrany which in turn leads to fighting, war, and even sometimes revolution. I will never have faith or believe in any country or government that believes it has any right to interfer with a family, parent child relationship such as this case clearly does. Since when is it the courts job to make decisions for legally fit parents when both natural/biological parents are against the decision? If this is the way Americans truly feel on this subject i am very afraid and ashamed to be an American.

    • marilynn huff

      I agree with you. Its unconcionable that the court can interfere with a mother or father’s decisions about who they do and do not want in their child’s life – they should be able to end a relationship with an ex and have it end, period. It terrifies me that an ex can get recognized as having rights over a child that they did not adopt but merely cared for. What if the relationship between exes is really bad and the mother or father want a fresh start away from their ex? They can’t do that because the ex helped them raise their kid? Kids form bonds with babysitters and teachers and all sorts of people, then you move or whatever and its over. What if a single mom moved in with her cousin or aunt and lived there for 10 years then when she planned to move out the cousin or aunt filed papaerwork with the court saying that she was a parent of the child? Twisted.

  4. Jason,

    Firstly I want to tell you that my sympathies are very much with you and Robin, and that I strongly believe that non-genetic caregivers/parent figures should always have their relationship with a child subject to ‘licence’ from the genetic parents, unless they have become adoptive parents.

    I find it of great concern that parental rights are being distorted by the notion that a caregiver can possibly equate with parenthood. It seems that nowadays courts do not care about destroying the bond between genetic parent and child as long as it sanctifies the all-important cause of political correctness.

    I am sure the ND Court thought your case was a wonderful opportunity to showcase their pc credentials, by attacking the genetic parent-child relationship in such a way.

    I am always distressed by these sort of assaults on the family. I repeat again, my sympathies are strongly with you.

    • I will not comment further on the specifics of the case, as I do not know them. So this is really directed to Sandy.

      I am puzzled that you would (generally–without reference to this case) pay no heed to the emotional bonds a child may have formed with an adult simply because someone who is genetically linked to the child wishes to do that. It seems almost beyond debate that the termination of substantial emotional and psychological ties can do real harm to a child. It also seems to me clear that those ties can and do exist in the absence of genetic linkage. Is the interest of the person with the biological connection so strong that it overrides any concern for the child? Even if there is a preference for the genetically related parent, shouldn’t the court be somewhat concerned with figuring in the well-being of the child as well?

  5. Thank you, it is great to hear that, i have gotten very emotional on this subject and i apologize but it has been a rough situation over the past 2 years, and especially since the Supreme courts verdict came in March. The justices did state in court that they wanted to set a precedence here because they were seeing to many cases like this one coming up and there was no clear cut Legislation on this issue. Our Lawyer pleaded with the court to judge this case seperately, but when you read the Justices memorandum it is fairly plain to see that they had a larger agenda they were trying to serve than just the case they were presiding over. Again Thank you, and if you can offer any advice etc we would be happy to hear it. At this point we cant find a lawyer in our area that wants to help us or has any idea on how to help us fight this battle.

  6. I am just curious what position the guardian ad litem for the child took in this case. This had to have been tried in Family Court as it is a civil matter – at least that is my guess. In just my face reading of what is here, the half-sibling interests to me would have some bearing on how the GAL’s position fell on this case, especially since the father got primary physical custody of them. A very tough case that might prompt legislative action in ND.

  7. Julie, this article is fascinating, not just because of the case but also because one of the people so close to it has been active in the comments section!

    Something interesting to me that came from Jason’s comment is two things from this:

    EM is confused about having “3 dads” and would prefer that he is allowed to choose when he visits Mr. McAllister rather then have the courts decide, since it often interfers with his extra-cirricular acvtivies.

    First, that he refers to EM having three Dads. It seems very easy to see how Mr. McAllister could have become a Dad — the child was born during his relationship with Ms. McAllister even if EM was conceived before he met EM’s mother.

    Mr. McAllister married Ms. McAllister when EM was a few years old, and EM’s siblings call Mr. McAllister Dad (or Papa or whatever).

    It also sounds as though Mr. Tharaldson has provided financial support to EM, and had some sort of relationship with EM.

    That paternity was established after EM’s birth seems to suggest that either Mr. Tharaldson or Mr. McAllister wanted to assert parental rights or escape them when EM was about a year old.

    I would think that Ms. McAllister would have established some other form of address for EM to use for Mr. McAllister if he was determined legally not to be EM’s parent.

    Similarly, with all the drama and upset that the family has gone through, it seems surprising that Ms. McAllister didn’t set up a different conceptual relationship for EM with her new husband.

    A third father? Really?

    Why not just a step-Dad?

    Also, it seems that extra-curricular activities could be used as a custody strategy or at least a strategy to make a child want to follow the custody arrangement. Want to kill the kid’s joy in weekends with your ex? Just sign your kid up for fun stuff that happens every weekend, and sure enough, they’ll be missing out on a regular basis.

    I don’t know if there was a happy solution.

    It seems like EM was born into a difficult situation as far as parentage and parenting and it’s not getting any simpler or easier as more step parents are added to the mix.

    As others have noted, I think one potentially good thing from the ruling is that EM will have opportunities to grow up with EM’s siblings from the McAllister marriage. Both with Mr. McAllister, since he has custody of the other kids, and probably with Ms. McAllister since she’s their mother.

    I hope the McAllisters can work something out so that siblings can spend time growing up together without a lot of strife.

  8. Janaye Meisch-Johnson

    Knowing a small portion of this case and how it relates strongly with a similar one I have personal knowledge of I must comment on Robins struggle as a good mother to do what’s best for EM. It is only right that the child stay with his mother and discontinue visitation with her former husband. As it may be, the child now has a new male role in his life due to the love that Robin and J. have placed an othe under; he also has his birth father with whom he had relationship with scence birth. It is enough for a child to make all parties happy, but adding more may only cause the child excess stress. Children as a rule want to please the adult role models in their life, it is only fair to simplify this experience. From my perspective, the more adults involved as major role models the more confusing it is for the child as well as the caregiver… Simply due to different patenting styles or other such issues. EM in my opinion has a wonderful, caring, creative mother who knows what’s best for him.
    With that being said I also mean no disregard for thee other party because it’s hard,but sometimes it’s best to put ones self in the shoes of the child. Then only can we see what it truely just.

  9. Mark McAllister

    I am the Mark McAllister mentioned in the court case.
    I will clarify acouple of issues, first let me state that I now have custody of EM. Not because of the courts but because his mother (Robin) called me when I had him for a visitation and asked me not to bring him back. He has been in my cusody for about 7 months. I am currently entering court with the biological Father to try to solidify my custody. MIKE has not seen EM for atleast a year and a half again and has seen him only about 4 time from the age of 2 to 8.

    For Janaye in the last post who stated “Robin being a good mother”, Robin left our other 2 children with me. She also told me and testified in court that she resented them and did not want them, these things do not lead me to believe your statement is true. AS TO the custody investigtors opinion, the papers read that EM should remain with Robin as she did not find her unfit, but also notes that my house is the better enviroment and that it would be harmful and detramental to him to not see me or his brothers. If I had not fought for custody or visitation he would not have seen his brothers as Robin did not exercise her visitation for the other children regularly. She would sometimes go 3 months with our seeing them. When she left they were 17 months old and 2 years old, so very young and she did not come to see them for 6 weeks the first time.

    Next I would state that I would have adopted EM, we had discussed going to court to remove Mike’s right so I could adopt him that summer. She left before that could happen. If I had been able to adopt him I would not have had to spend the years in court and the money that goes with that to have custody of him. EM did not even know of his other dad until Robin moved out of the house and tried to explain to him that I was not really his dad.

    I have contact my state representives and discussed the action with them. I do not know if they will bring about a bill, but I hope they will. The court did clearly state that it is a matter for them to look at. Let me ask you, is biological more important then best interest of the child?

  10. Mark – your a helluva guy. When I read the original post months ago I thought to myself how peculiar it was that she did not share custody of her children with you which of course would lead to an ongoing relationship between her other child and his brothers. And of course if you were willing (and it sounds like you would have been more than willing) to have their brother at your house frequently everything would have worked out nicely – respecting the children’s relationship to each other and respecting the fact that you and her other son were attached as if he were your own flesh and blood.
    Your a good man willing to assume full parental obligations for another man’s child, truly. The law can’t force people to truely care if they are emotionally bankrupt, but it can force them to meet their financial obligations to raise the children they create to adulthood. I don’t feel that child’s father ought to have been let off that hook. Nor do I feel their mother should have been let off that hook either. The fact that your willing to suck it up and do it because it needs to be done makes you a great guy, but it does not make it right for them to be absolved of their responsibilities. That’s why the first senario I laid out would have been ideal and why I think your situation, should be an exception to the rule, but the rule itself should not change. There are good fathers out there, who not only financially support their children, they visit them frequently even though, that child may live with a fantastic step father. A rule that might unfairly allow men to become legal fathers of stepchildren, just because they’ve formed a bond – that would be wrong. I think from what you described your home is the best place for him, but actually I think the mother ought to be paying support for all three of her kids and his father should continue paying support for his kid. You know what I mean? Personal accountability should still be key in the law. I can see where you might just be willing to deal with it to stop the drama and get some peace.

    Good man. My full props to you.

  11. Mark I have a question: Why did’nt the court who found her fit to care for children, force her to have joint custody of your two children, force her to share responsibility for them with you rather than almost letting her off the hook like she was the mother of one but not the other two? That is what makes this particular case so odd. Had she not walked away, taking responsibility for one and not the others, the sibling bond of the three children would not have been interrupted by the separation and you two could have come to a mutually agreeable arrangement that would not have undermined the father’s financial obligations to his child. Her behavior is just not real typical. Not judging her, but to an onlooker its rather disconnected and cold. I hope thats not actually the case.

  12. Mark McAllister

    Ill clarify a couple more things. Both Mike and Robin do still have a financial obligation. I have not recieved any from either but they both do owe child support. To be fair Mike still maybe paying his, but I do not know. Robin was still recieving it and I can not refile to child support until after the next round of court.

    Also you asked about shared custody, she does have visitation every other weekend and 1 evening as well as extended visits during the summer and holidays, she has choosen not to exercise those.

    The judge left all 3 of us with visitation, this was her arguement for the supreme court that mine and Mike’s conflicted. By the rule of law they did not conflict, it just would have ended up that she only had EM about 2 days a week and the rest of the time would be divided between me and Mike. The original judge did not view this detail as important as Mike had not used any visitation for almost 6 years, and he would have had to exercise his visits for over a year before he had that much time.

    You say that it is not that common, but I know of quite a few fathers who had the same problem as me with the mother leaving their kids.

  13. Wow. Well thank you. I’m glad to hear that their accountability did not end just because your doing the heavy lifting of parenthood for them.

  14. Child support is for the child, not the Mother.

  15. Mark McAllister

    I thought that I should post that I do now have custody of EM legally

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