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by Abigail Van Buren

Son's Mother Turns Co-Parenting Agreement Into Full-Time Free-Loading

DEAR ABBY: I'm 48 and the father of a 3-year-old son I love very much. His mother, "Chelsea," is 45. They live with me, although Chelsea and I are not romantically involved. Our son was an "oops" baby, but we chose to live together so we could have him in our daily lives.

Since moving in, Chelsea has decided she's not responsible for any part of the household duties, nor does she have to sustain herself as we had previously agreed. I work full-time, pay all the bills and provide everything. I also do the cooking and cleaning and pay for Chelsea's cigarettes and personal items. She claims she wants to be a stay-at-home mom -- although she is more "stay at home" than "mom." This infuriates me and has led to many arguments.

I have tried reasoning with her and talking rationally; nothing works. It has turned into one shouting match after another. What can I do to set her straight while not putting our son at risk of suffering from all of this fallout? Throwing her out is obviously not the answer. I'm just not sure what is. -- DOING IT ALL IN ARIZONA

DEAR DOING IT ALL: While it would have been nice for your son to be surrounded by two loving parents who get along, that's not how it has turned out. You should not be forced to shoulder as much of the responsibility as you have been saddled with, and living in a house with parents who are at each other's throats is not a healthy environment for a child.

Chelsea appears to be lazy, and I have to wonder about how conscientious a parent she is if she sits around smoking with her child in the house all day. Talk to an attorney about assuming full custody of your son. Because his mother refuses to work, it follows that she's in no position to support him. He is old enough for day care or preschool during the hours you are working.

Then thank God you didn't marry this woman, and tell Chelsea the free ride is over. If she can't abide by the agreement you two had when she moved in, she'll have to move out.

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