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Dear Pay Dirt,
My ex and I divorced four years ago. She remarried a man with two children six months later. It was very difficult, especially for our daughter “Jane”.
My ex expects Jane to make all the adjustments because she’s the oldest (her stepsister is a year younger than her and her stepbrother is 9). I travel constantly for work so Jane moving in with me full time doesn’t work. When I’m home, she spends as much time as possible with me. This was a real bone of contention with his mother.
My mother can no longer drive. Since then, I have taken care of her old car with the express intention of giving it to Jane when she turns 16. My ex agreed to the plan: Jane keeps her grades, gets a part-time job for gas, and we split the difference in the cost of insurance. Jane turns 16 in December and has held her end of the bargain. My ex dropped his.
She called me and said she didn’t want Jane to have the car until college. I was confused and said if money was tight I would just cover the insurance myself. But my ex wanted to go back on our deal and disappoint our daughter because she and her new husband can’t afford to do the same for her daughter-in-law next year. The girl would be jealous and it wouldn’t be “fair”. I told my ex that maybe rather than punishing Jane, she and her husband could step in and raise the girl. Life isn’t fair and 15 is old enough to understand the situation. Jane getting something from my side of the family has nothing to do with her.
I told my ex I’d be willing to sell him the car when and if Jane was done with it (her college dreams are overseas), but I’m still giving the car to our daughter. My ex told me that either Jane had to share the car with her stepsister or they wouldn’t allow the car at their house at all. At this point, I told my ex that I hoped this appeasement to please her husband was worth the lifetime of alienation it would cause Jane. I told her I would hire someone to be in the house while I was gone so Jane could move in. My ex accused me of wanting to destroy his family. We haven’t really spoken since. Jane can tell there is tension in the air and wants to know what is going on. I blocked because I don’t want to further damage his relationship with his mother. They disagree like that. What do I do? I feel like I’m sitting on a bomb instead of a birthday present.
Dear Final Countdown,
Give the car to Jane. Your daughter’s sister-in-law is not your responsibility, and it won’t be the last time in her life that different resources and opportunities are available to her sister-in-law. The good news is that Jane’s half-sister won’t be able to drive legally for another year, so this sharing issue is still moot. My nastiest side was tempted to suggest that you agree to let Jane’s stepsister share the car in a year, then backtrack on that deal later to give your ex a taste of his own medicine.
But, I think it’s better if you point out to your ex that her stepdaughter doesn’t already have an agreement to get a car like Jane does – the most unfair thing is to break a contract she had with her girl on base possible future jealousy.
Not to mention that no one is currently using the car. It’s just sitting there. Your ex’s approach to this whole process seems to allude to Solomon: if the two girls can’t have the car, no one can. It is simply inefficient.
In the end, if the vehicle is in your name, you have the right to give it to your daughter, even if your ex doesn’t like it. It’s also worth selling your ex for the benefit of Jane having a car when she’s home. If your ex can’t drive, Jane’s ability to run errands or drive her siblings could be a big plus for her. It is easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar.
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When I was pregnant with our first child, I cried constantly when my husband and I found out we were having a girl. I confessed to my husband that I was afraid he would hate me like I hate my mother.
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