DEAR ABBY: I just finished reading the letter from "Desperate Mother in N.C.," who wanted to terminate the rights of her son's emotionally distant father, including stopping his support payments. My daughter's father also wanted nothing to do with her, and regarded her as a financial burden.
A few years ago, I was scheduled to have surgery and decided it was time I made a will. I was shocked when the attorney told me that no matter what I stated in my will, my daughter's father would have full custody of her if something happened to me. He could even put her up for adoption!
At my request, the attorney helped me to terminate her father's paternal rights. I thought it was sad that in the courtroom, her father asked, "Does this mean I don't have to pay child support?" The judge answered, "Yes." He said, "Then let's get this over with!" and hastily signed the papers. We never saw him again.
Please, "Desperate," do NOT base your child's future on how much money you might lose or gain. I could have used the financial support, but sometimes there are more important things than money. Children are gifts from God, and if you work hard and believe in yourself and God, you'll be guided down the right path. -- DOING FINE IN KANSAS
DEAR DOING FINE: I took a scolding from fathers' rights advocates and single mothers for encouraging "Desperate" to go forward with her decision. However, in instances where the father hasn't bonded with the child and is relieved to be off the hook, and raising the child doesn't create an undue financial burden for the mother, I think it's best for everyone if he's out of the picture. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I did the same thing "Desperate" did 25 years ago. I raised my two children alone until I remarried and my new husband adopted them. There were no problems for 17 years. Then, my ex-husband contacted my 17-year-old son and wanted back in his life big time.
My point: The children did without my ex-husband's support money that was rightfully theirs. Like a bad penny, he turned up and laughed that he had "outsmarted" me.
My advice to "Desperate Mother" is take the support money and put it in the bank for your son's education. -- BEEN THERE IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR BEEN THERE: Having not been in your situation, I can't argue with you. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: A judge sets child support based on the parent's ability to pay and the child's needs. The child has a RIGHT to be supported by the parent(s). The mother can't waive the child's support, or rights, or needs.
Abby, your answer was neutral, but the above language sets out the important formula. -- MERRILL STEEB, CIRCUIT JUDGE, ST. JOSEPH, MO.
DEAR JUDGE STEEB: Thank you for your legal expertise. Single mothers, take note. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: So what if "Desperate" doesn't want the father to be part of her son's life? The money he sends is for the kid -- not her! If she doesn't need it, she should tuck it away in a savings plan for her son's education. When the boy gets older, he may want special sports equipment or a musical instrument. Whether "Desperate" likes it or not, this man is the child's natural father. The money she receives will show her son that his father cared for him in his way. -- A GRANDMA IN ARIZONA
DEAR GRANDMA: In his way? Children are not stupid. They know that a parent who cares about them takes time to be with them, and that a loving, responsible parent will give more than a child support payment.