Care and Feeding

I Don’t Want My Dad to Share Custody of Me With My Mom

The breakup is very much his fault, and I just don’t like him anymore.

A young girl stands sadly between her parents, who are facing away from each other.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Slate Plus members get more Care and Feeding every week.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My dad cheated on my mom and is now living in an apartment by himself. I would have been mad enough at him for cheating, but I heard them fighting before he left, and he called her all kinds of terrible things and blamed her for his actions.

I don’t want to see him. I guess the divorce and custody process takes a long time, so he doesn’t have a schedule to see me yet, but my mom has gone out of her way to find the most time for him to see me around both his and my schedules, after school/work and on weekends. I’ve told both of them I don’t want anything to do with him, but my dad just gets mad at my mom and accuses her of putting ideas in my head instead of listening to me.

My mom says he left her because their relationship changed, but he would never leave me and he still loves me the same, but I don’t love him the same. I’m not saying I never want to see him again, but I can’t hang out with him and pretend everything’s OK. It feels like the only person who benefits from my having to do that is my dad anyway. How do I ask for space and express my feelings without him punishing my mom?

— Controlling My Custody

Dear Controlling,

You need to talk to your dad. If he won’t listen to what you have to say—if he interrupts you or shuts you down—then write him a letter. It’s fine and right to tell him how you feel and why you feel that way. And he is going to have to be a grownup and take in what you’re saying, respect that you have your own feelings and thoughts about what’s happened and about your relationship with him, and deal.

But your mother (who sounds completely great, by the way) is right to do everything she can to clear a path for your relationship with your dad to continue, despite what’s happened between them. What’s going on between them is between them. While I understand why you’re furious at him, he’s your dad, he loves you, and I hope you can give him room to be a part of your life going forward. You can’t possibly know everything about your parents’ relationship (and you shouldn’t, and you never will). Let your father know exactly how you feel, and see what happens—but please don’t shut him out. It’s not true that your spending time with him benefits only him.
It’s good for you to have a dad, too. I hope he can understand that this has been hard on you, that you are disappointed in him and hurt and probably confused, and that it’s going to take a while for things between the two of you to normalize. And if you want to spend less time with him than your mother has arranged for, I hope both your parents will understand if you ask for a compromise. Just don’t close the door your mother has wedged open for you.

— Michelle

More Advice From Slate

My question is about cannabis. I love to get high. My husband, not so much. He usually doesn’t mind if I do, but there’s been many times in the (not so distant) past that he hasn’t been so nice about it. He has strong opinions about how much is too much and would be upset if he knew I got high most days. I’m through with letting his opinion and temper dictate what I do. Sometimes I’ll let him know I’m going to smoke a bowl. Sometimes he’ll partake with me. But often he has no idea when I’m high