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by Abigail Van Buren

Husband Refuses to Tell Wife Details of Long-Ago Marriages

DEAR ABBY: After my sister got pregnant, she married the baby's father. They struggle financially, and my family helps as much as we can, but it still isn't enough.

Her husband has no high school diploma, and he has a criminal record from 20 years ago, although he hasn't been in trouble since. He claims he has dyslexia and health problems, but he still smokes and drinks. No doctor will sign off on his being disabled. He isn't motivated enough to find a job or help my sister with chores. She finally asked me to help by talking to him.

How do I start a conversation with him to say he needs to step up and contribute? We're cordial but not close. I don't want to alienate him. He has threatened to take my nephew, but he has no money or place to go. This man is 40 years old and lives like a teenager. Any advice? -- ANNA IN ILLINOIS

DEAR ANNA: Your brother-in-law isn't likely to listen to you any more than he has listened to your sister. If there are any male relatives in your family, it might be more effective if he hears the message from them. The fact that he may (or may not) have dyslexia is no excuse for his lack of motivation. Many successful people have dyslexia and are able to thrive.

Because your sister's husband is threatening to take their child and run, she should talk to a lawyer about what steps she needs to take in order to prevent this deadbeat from following through. Call your state bar association or contact a local law school for guidance about getting low-cost or free legal advice. She may also want to ask about divorce so she doesn't wind up supporting him forever.

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