Our daughter is 12 years old. Her father and I share custody 51/49. In the past two years our daughter has voiced to her father and myself that she isn't getting along with her stepmother. We took her to counseling because her father believed she was not being truthful and we discussed her relationship with her stepmother. For a while I was under the impression things had improved but recently things are beginning to go downhill again. My daughter approached me today crying saying that she doesn't know what to do anymore. She gets blamed for everything by her stepmother and her father always sides with his wife. She tells me her stepmother accuses her of having a bad attitude. She tells me that she doesn't want to live with her father. She really loves her father but cannot handle the stress of being treated like she can never do anything right by her stepmother.
It breaks my heart as her father is not approachable to discuss this issue. She asked me if she could make the choice to live with me over her father. I stated that we should go talk to someone where she could express her concerns without fear of repercussions from her father or stepmother.
I recommend family therapy with all 5 participating. If Dad or Step-Mom refuse, then I'd have your child get a therapist to help her cope and try to involve all 3 parents and to make a recommendation when the therapist is ready for any change in parenting orders deemed by the therapist to be appropriate. Your daughter is old enough to be heard but a therapist can develop a lot of details, perhaps bring the parents into line, and can address issues of attitude or manipulation that may be raised in the other household. Maybe Dad would agree to allow you primary physical custody with maximum visitation away from Step Mom, at least until a family/daughter's therapist weighs in.
Usually around 12-13 the courts will listen to the children, however each court has different local rules that deal with these issues differently. Good luck!
You will probably have to involve the court because dad is in denial; if you can communicate to him, don't blame step-mom but say that regardless of who is at fault, therapeutic intervention is necessary between dad, step-mom and child so the child can communicate her concerns in a safe and neutral environment.
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