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Saturday, March 25, 2000

Second wives' club
Donna Laframboise
National Post

Treating divorced men harshly is often justified in the name of supporting women and children. But the offspring, female relatives and second wives of these men are profoundly harmed by the current state of affairs. Many second marriages, for example, don't survive the associated stress. What follows are observations and insights (from interviews, e-mails and letters) that I've received from members of the second-wives' club, the women who are not generally heard from in discussions of divorce.

I cannot live like this anymore. Bio-mom tells my husband when he shall be a father (when she needs a sitter). Bio-mom was the one who wanted the divorce, bio-mom never got up with the babies, bio-mom gets $1200 /month tax free for three kids (one is 16 and doesn't even live with her).

Bio-mom has lied to the kids, gotten the kids to lie to us, has left 8- and 9-year-old at home alone on a Saturday night. She's done some damage, and it's only going to get worse. Why are the good fathers getting put in the same category as the deadbeats? God, is there someone out there who can help?

We just want a little fairness, maybe joint custody or equal access. They are half his, too!

Barbara, Manitoba

I don't like speaking in front of people, and when I went to the [1998 federal hearings on child custody and access] it was the hardest thing I ever did. I had been told it would be 10 people in a room, but it was a media frenzy: hundreds of people, cameras, you name it. What I told myself was: 'I'm not doing this for me. I'm doing this so the next sucker down the road gets fair treatment.' It's too late for us, but hopefully it won't happen to somebody else.

In the end, it's his [adult] daughter who has paid the highest price. That's what I said in my speech, when I couldn't get my last line out because I had too big a lump. The victims in this case are my children, myself, my husband, but ultimately the biggest victim here is his daughter. Because the system gave her an incentive to turn her back on the person that raised and cared for her. Her father is a good man, but she's doing without him as an adult.

Mrs. R, Ontario

In Oct. 1998, my husband fell off a roof while working (he's a self-employed carpenter) and broke both his heels. We had always paid child support of $200 a month for the past seven years -- and we have the receipts to prove it. But when he fell, I had been unemployed for about a year. He couldn't pay his child support because he had nothing: no pogey, no insurance, no compensation.

Well, that didn't seem to bother his ex. In fact, in the middle of all this, she announced she was moving to Toronto and needed MORE child support! We felt like we were dealing with somebody in outer space, since he was in a wheelchair and couldn't even wash his hair or go to the bathroom. He's just starting to get around now, but he'll never walk normally and never be a carpenter again.

Long story short, in Oct. 1999 we had to go to court and pay $500 to get the payments reduced. The only reason we were able to do so is I found a full-time job and we were able to convince a lawyer that we would pay him in increments. But the court order was PROVISIONAL, so until it goes through the Ontario courts, which could be months, he is still labeled a Deadbeat who owes one year's worth of child support which is going up every month.

Melynda, New Brunswick

I have reached the end of my rope over this situation and I don't know whom else to talk to. I married my husband in 1990. Even in those early days, there were constant legal battles with his first wife over child support and visitation. His first wife made false allegations, withheld visitation and generally harassed us.

On one occasion she came unannounced to my house when my husband was at work and abandoned her then 6-year-old daughter, telling me: 'take her, she's yours.' It was not until 12 hours later that she sent her boyfriend to pick up the child.

On another occasion she kicked our front door with enough force to crack it. [On another] she told me she would 'destroy my life, my career, and my marriage.' Little did I know then that that is precisely what she would end up doing.

After eight-and-a-half years of his preoccupation with his first wife, the final straw came in September 1998. It was [this judgment] that caused me to file for a separation. Had I known that his first wife could continually go to court and ask for and get increases by judges who were sympathetic to her lies and allegations, I would never have married him.

Mrs. O, Ontario

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