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by Abigail Van Buren

Readers Are Skeptical About Mom's Motives

DEAR ABBY: You missed the mark in your answer to "Mother Doesn't Know Best" (July 7), whose 8-year-old stepson arrives for visits in old, ill-fitting clothing, even though the father purchases new clothes for him on every visit.

I live in Ohio, and the state considers housing, food, electricity, gas and running water as part of the makeup of child support. I know this firsthand. You also need to know if the mother is working and if she contributes to her son's support. What about other expenses (toys, haircuts, uniforms, etc.)?

Part of the problem may be that Stepmom and Dad live across the country and aren't there to see what exactly goes on day to day. Yes, the little boy shouldn't be showing up at their home in clothes that are too small, but even Stepmom said he was putting on weight. -- MITZI IN DAYTON, OHIO

DEAR MITZI: Your points are well taken. However, the majority of the feedback I received about that letter pointed out that children arriving in old clothes for visits with their dads is a popular ploy that some custodial mothers use in order to get new clothes, and some even return the clothes for cash. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I had a divorced girlfriend I had confided in about this same problem. She said, "Don't you know? We always send the kids to their dad's in their worst clothing. That way, they'll have to buy them new stuff during the visit."

You can't assume that because a child arrives in worn or ill-fitting clothes that the custodial parent is unfit or that the child doesn't have lots of better clothing at home. -- MRS. D. IN VIRGINIA

DEAR ABBY: Please suggest that when Stepmom and Dad buy clothes for his son, they mark the labels with the boy's initials. The mom may be returning the items for cash and buying something she wanted for herself. -- MOM WHO KNOWS

Read more in: Marriage & Divorce | Money