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HeyZeus's avatar

International Offspring, What Should I Do?

Asked by HeyZeus (24points) May 16th, 2011

I recently learned that I have a young son living overseas, I live in America, and my son lives in England. My son was born in America, but I was not informed of his existence until recently. He and his mother moved across the drink later on.

I’m not going to pretend I’d make a great father, my own situation isn’t stable, and I have no intention of interrupting this child’s life abruptly. His mother has gotten married, and I imagine her husband raises my son as his own, for which I must admit I’m thankful despite being childishly jealous. This kid seems to be having a decent youth.

Regardless I want to know my son. The mother did not likely put me on his birth certificate, I’ve not talked to her about it, she’s only responded me so far to confirm what I heard. I’d like to possibly get some sort of visitation rights, something, I want to know my son. Coming from a similar situation myself, never knowing my own biological father but having always wanted to, and long hunted for him to no avail, maybe I have a silly desire to just end the cycle.

So does anyone have advice for the proper steps to take? I don’t wish to alienate his mother, so some diplomacy is probably called for. But I’m so ignorant to this situation, I don’t have any real idea on how to proceed

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6 Answers

chyna's avatar

Do you realize that once you acknowledge this child is your own and you want in his life, his mother can get child support from you from the time of his birth until he is 18 years old? Are you ready for that type of monetary commitment? It doesn’t matter that you did not know of his existence until recently.

Kardamom's avatar

I’m not sure how the laws work in England, but they may be different, so you might want to start by talking with a family lawyer, here and let them know the situation. But you should definitely have a few good conversations with the mother to find out if she’s even open to the idea of having you in the picture. (In the U.S. she would be legally obligated to let you see him, unless you terminated your parental rights, which I don’t think you have done). And even though the child was born in the U.S. you should find out from the mother if she had his citizenship changed to that of the U.K. (which she might legally be able to do, especially if she had no one listed as the father on the birth certificate). Talk to a lawyer.

You also need to find out if the mother’s new husband has possibly already legally adopted the child (which may be the case, if only because of the laws being different in the U.K.) If this has happened, then you would have no legal rights to the child at all. So it’s important for you to find out right away.

If it turns out that the mother’s new husband has not adopted the child, then it is likely that you will be held responsible for child support, unless you choose to terminate your parental rights.

So you need to have a good long talk with the mother and find out exactly what the legal situation is, then you need to come some kind of an agreement on how to proceed from this point forward. If you aren’t in a stable situation, it might be in the child’s best interest if you simply let him live his life, without you in it, until he becomes of age. But if you and the mother decide that it’s OK for you to be in his life, think long and hard about what that will mean for all of you, and try to be in agreement with the mother. The more cooperative you are with the mother, the better it will be for all of you.

One possibility that she might go for, is having you relenquish your parental rights (which would also absolve you of having to pay child support) but that she might allow you to occasionally visit the child, correspond with him by mail, e-mail, phone or whatever is appropriate, and send him gifts, acknowledging that you are his bio-dad, but you are not in a position to raise him. And let the mother’s husband raise the child in all of the day to day ways.

This must have come as quite a shock to you. I hope it all works out for everyone : )

BarnacleBill's avatar

A lot of what you want is really going to need to take somewhat of a back seat to what’s best for your son. Does he know that his mother’s husband is not his birth father? That news in itself could be devastating to a child. Also, look at the practicalities of it from the perspective of distance—it would become all too easy to become a “Disney World Dad”, causing instability in his daily life, by both your presence and non-presence.

Before you insist on any rights, you are going to need to contact his mother and assess the situation. Depending on his age, it may be possible to visit with him, without telling him you’re his father, until he’s ready for that information. In the meantime, start writing letters, and sending pictures – of you as a child, of your family, of where you live.

If you don’t want to alienate his mother, don’t go in demanding your rights. The ultimate goal should be a happy, stable well-rounded child, who has all of his questions answered honestly. If he has no questions, there’s no need to destroy his security.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

If the child was born in the states, and the mother admits it, you have enforceable rights to the child. Yes back child support might be an issue, but she did leave the country without telling you about the child. That will give you some leverage in American court if you pursue legal visitation. It might be best if you could work it out with the mother without the courts. Good luck. I hope you get to know your son.

wundayatta's avatar

Deal directly with his mother. That’s the best. She will agree and be supportive and you won’t have to force it by going through courts. You do not want her to be resistant.

Open a dialog with her. Tell her what you want and why you want it and how often you might want it and what you’d be willing to do (would you pay child support?). Then take it from there. If you have to go to court, I doubt if you’ll ever see him. At least, not until he seeks you out.

6rant6's avatar

I agree that whether the boy knows a biological father is out there is a huge factor. You certainly don’t have any right to disrupt his life by telling him the man he thinks is his father isn’t.

I think I’d start by asking the mother if I could write to the boy. And make it clear that the letter will be sent to her so that she can read it first. Transparency in these things makes worlds of difference. You don’t want to be a wedge between him and either of his parents. Nor do you want them to be a barrier between you and the boy.

If she says no, I would consider waiting until he reaches adulthood and then approaching him. In the meantime, write him letters but don’t send them. When the time comes, those letters could make a difference between seeming a self-centered intrusive ass and a caring but respectful progenitor.

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