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Man loses wife suddenly, horrified when grandparents demand custody of his daughter. AITA? UPDATED 3X

Man loses wife suddenly, horrified when grandparents demand custody of his daughter. AITA? UPDATED 3X


When this man is horrified by his daughter's grandparents' demands, he asks the internet:

"My daughter’s grandparents want custody?"

For a little backstory, I (31M) met Beth (30F) when we were in middle school. We became quick friends and saw each other every day. We did everything together and made a pact to always help each other.

Like she would help me talk to girls and I made sure she was safe at bars. She was the kindest person I knew and was my person. When we were in college, Beth got pregnant with Jenny (7F) from her boyfriend at the time.

She was excited at first, but her parents and the father were against her having the baby. Beth stood firm that she wanted to keep it. Because of this, Jenny’s father left her saying he wasn’t ready to be a father and never came back and her parents threw her out and told her to not come back.

It was a very hard time but I told her I'd never leave her, so we moved in together and we decided to do it together like everything else we did.

The day Jenny was born was probably the best day of my life. I’ll never forget the first time I saw that girl’s eyes and, even though she wasn’t mine, I felt like I was hers. I was her uncle until she started calling me “dad”, which we took as a joke. But we really never stopped her. Our little family was unconventional, but it was ours.

Two months ago Beth was killed in a car accident. It was the worst day of my life. Beth and I were never together, but she was my soulmate, my better half, my everything.

She was the best mother and person I've ever known. I still can’t completely describe the way I feel. Immediately, I became Jenny’s legal guardian. It’s been hard to adjust to it just being me, and I am so lost but want to do my best for Jenny.

Which brings me to last night, when Beth’s parents showed up at my door wanting to see Jenny. They want to be part of Jenny’s life and regret what they did to Beth, which I completely understand.

But last night they told me that they think it’s best if they take legal custody of Jenny because they’re “real family.” They hadn’t been involved in Jenny’s life AT ALL before then and only met her for the first time at Beth’s funeral.

I didn’t know what to say and told them to leave, which made them angry and they told me they want to keep talking about it or they’ll take me to court.

I’ve been so anxious all night and I can’t sleep. I’ve been googling to see if it’s possible for them to even take her just like that. She’s my baby and I’m the family she’s always known.

Beth and I never really talked about the legality of my role, because I was just her dad plain and simple. But maybe we should have. I don’t know who to turn to or what to do. I never thought I’d do any of this alone. I’m just scared and I miss Beth so much.

Before we give you OP's updates, let's take a look at some of the top responses:

agpay writes:

I'm so sorry for the loss of your dear friend. If you're J's legal guardian I doubt the grandparents have much of a case, especially since they have no existing relationship with J.

Nevertheless, consult a lawyer as i suspect these grieving grandparents are going to be a pain in the arse. B wanted you to be the parent and they need to back off with their demands. J doesn't even know who these people are.

Editing to say that you need legal advice first and foremost to ensure your parental rights before you allow these people anywhere near your daughter. Everyone is grieving and they must be out of their minds with regret from disowning their own daughter. They are not to be trusted alone with J.

infiniteawk writes:

If you’re in the US, this will be handled through Juvenile court. Get a lawyer and request a Guardian Ad Litem once the court is involved. The GAL will serve as J’s voice in this matter and should do considerable due diligence with the situation.

Also get J into therapy NOW, if she isn’t already. Our juvenile court offers counseling for ANY child, even those not using court services.

Expect that if the grandparents sue for custody the counselor will be called to testify and the grands will likely get some type of visitation or limited partial custody. Courts are increasingly conscientious of the mental health ramifications of removing children from the only family they’ve known and J’s counselor will address this through their testimony.

callmelynnn writes:

I know a lot of the comments are saying this already, but you definitely need to get the best lawyer you can afford and fight for your daughter.

You and B is all she’s ever known and for her to be taken away and put with people she doesn’t even know, and who abandoned their own daughter when she needed them most, will just add more to the trauma she already has from losing her mother.

And what grandparents said about them being “real family” is complete and utter bullshit, family can be absolutely anyone and doesn’t have to be blood related and even though they are blood related, they sure as hell haven’t acted like family to J in the last 7 years.

You got this. I know it’s going to be hard to have to deal with this legal trouble while also grieving the loss of your best friend, but you clearly love and care for your daughter, she needs you and I hope for the absolute best for the both of you.

consss writes:

I also want to commend you, OP, on stepping up into this role as a father. My son’s (7) father (49) didn’t want to be involved with my son. He’s not on the birth certificate and has never met him or financially provided for him.

Luckily my parents were supportive and loving - they were my rock, I can’t image the pain B had from her family stepping away from her. God Bless You. We need more people like you in this world.

I’m also wondering if the grandparents are super religious, or if the child’s father was a different race, or if there’s codependent issues or if there’s a history of some type of abuse, either emotional or physical.

They clearly have a toxic family dynamic with this black and white / all or nothing mindset, to totally disown their daughter and granddaughter because she essentially didn’t do what they want.

And now they suddenly want FULL custody because it’s the “right” thing to do… where they could start off by getting to know their grand daughter, like normal grandparents.

They are still, in a roundabout way, saying F U to their deceased daughter because they are trying to take control and clearly don’t trust her decision of you as the father figure. My guess is that this isn’t about your daughter, it’s about them trying to fix their guilt and grief.

This whole situation just breaks my heart and is beyond effed up. Keep us posted OP.

sweatlaywe writes:

Obviously, get a lawyer. But J being as old as she is, it comes to a point with state’s that DO have g-parent’s rights, it has to be “the relationship is for the benefit of the child” and “pre-existing relationship with the child stands”. Grandparents can’t come out of the woods 7 years later and demand rights.

She is 7 years old and honestly a family judge isnt going to look and say “oh well blood is blood”. That’s not how it works. It’s ultimately what is best for the child.

And if it DOES go to court, play dirty. Ask your lawyer to question on whether or not the seek to use J to replace B after they lost their daughter who’ve they’ve not spoken to since before J was born.

Ask them why did they turn B away when she got pregnant with J and did they plan on abandoning J (again) if she got into a similar predicament. Talk to your attorney about having been there when B was pregnant and you weren’t together. That besides her mother, you are the only consistent adult figure in her life.

Call J’s doctors, her school, club organizations and explicitly say that you are the only person allowed to pick her up or ask anything pertaining to her.

What my mom did was have a “password”. Like a legit password with my elementary school secretary and our doctor’s to ask for anything.

In my experience, again this is MY experience, the fact that 7 years has gone by and they havent made contact will make it hard for them to get any visitation rights, let alone custody. If they didn’t know she existed it May be somewhat of a different story, but they knew.

And finally, im so sorry for your loss above everything and having to navigate being a single dad but J is so lucky to have you. You got this.

Update 1:

I’m sorry it’s been so long and that I never updated. After I posted that thread last year, I read the comments, made my notes, and frankly I just forgot about it. I intended to come back and update but I didn’t feel like there was enough to say, and then it slipped my mind.

I had more important things to do, helping my daughter adjust and just trying to stay sane. But after the anniversary of Beth’s death (along with the news I’m sharing below) i remembered and felt really bad. So I’m sorry for not coming back.

Before I give my update, I wanted to clear some things up. We don’t live in the continental United States.

Beth’s parents (let’s call them Mary and Larry) are really devout Catholics and couldn’t stand that she “had relations outside of a marriage” and especially since Jenny’s dad took himself out of the equation. That’s why they kicked Beth out.

I have been coparenting Jenny for her whole life and contributed 50% of everything. I am committed to give that girl a good life.

My parents have always been supportive and have been pivotal in this whole ordeal. They saw Beth as a daughter and see Jenny as a granddaughter. It’s nice to have them.

I had always been labeled as a caregiver in her school records. I held her when she was born. Birthdays, her little kindergarten graduation, her first trip to Disney—I have pictures of it all. There are none with Mary or Larry in them. Beth purposefully threw away everything she had of them, not that she had much to begin with.

I had been dating someone at the time when everything started but I realized I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to be good to her, and I needed to prove stability in my home life. She understood and we ended things respectfully. We may reconnect some day. But my love life is not my priority.

I talked with Jenny about the situation and, from the start, she understood what they are to her. It broke my heart to hear her say, “why would they do that to mommy?”

Jenny and me are in therapy right now. While I am not 100%, I know that I have to be strong for Jenny.

Update 2:

After reading your comments, I did exactly like some of you said. I talked with her school and told them what was happening. I’ve known the staff there for years (My mom is a school counselor) and they were so good about Beth’s death.

Anyway, I told them that I, and only I, was allowed to pick her up from school. Thankfully the grandparents never tried anything like taking her. They have not been allowed to spend time with or around her. And that was on Jenny’s request. I respect her wants.

They did send her Christmas and Birthday presents, but I hid them. I didn’t know if accepting something from them would hurt this situation. I haven’t given them to her yet. It’s been so long I’m not sure I will at this point.

After my post, I talked with some lawyers around the city, honestly I spent a lot of money on this, but it was way worth it. Beth had a Will and requested for Jenny to be cared for by me upon her death.

She never told me this and I still don’t exactly understand it; but it was a really really happy surprise. My lawyer honored that and helped me—I took a loan out but the debt is worth it.

I compiled everything I could. Pictures, permission slips, stupid school mail, everything.

Grandparents tried to fight me the whole way through, calling social services and talking to all of my neighbors, trying to find anything possible to prove I was a bad father. It was brutal and messed up, I don’t think I’ll ever recover for the past year.

I could deal with the attacks on my character and them scrutinizing everything I’ve ever done as if Mary and Larry have always cared. However, in April once Jenny came into the conversation and was asked awful questions about me, I couldn’t help but double down.

Part of me is embarrassed and ashamed that I begged. At the meeting, after Jenny was take out of the room, all I could do was cry. I said something like, “please, I beg of you. Think about Jenny here.

Take you and me out of the equation. Take what you did to Beth out of the equation. Jenny does not deserve this. Think about her. Please. If you want to make it up to Beth, as you say, think about what’s best for Jenny.

I’ve loved her for her whole life. I’ve been there. I’ve held her. She is everything to me. I know you have regret. Be good now. Love Beth now. Respect her wishes. Please.”

The next part is probably anticlimactic, but dear reader, can you believe that it worked? Larry looked down at his hands in what I can only describe as shame and asked to speak with the lawyer privately.

When I came back. Larry admitted that they had made a mistake all those years ago and it wasn’t until Beth’s death that he realized it. He was tired of fighting. Mary didn’t seem too happy, but they dropped everything.

Since then, we’ve had no contact. I guess guilt runs deep. But onto the good news! Last month it became official, I am now legally Jenny’s father (I had been working on the adoption since Christmas).

I can’t begin to describe how happy this makes me. Jenny has been getting better and is slowly getting back to her usual bright self. But I can see moments when she shuts down, like sadness washing over her. That worries me, but we’re working with a therapist on this.

I still miss Beth and I will miss her every day of my life. All I can do to honor her is to make sure Jenny has a home and is loved beyond measure. I will tell Jenny about her mom and how every time she smiles, I see her.

Thank you for all of the messages and the comments—I am sorry I did not respond to them before. Thank you for your support and your faith in me. It means a lot to be supported, even if by some people in the void of the internet.

What do YOU make of OP's story? Any advice for him?

Sources: Reddit
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