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My daughter’s baby daddy wants back into their lives. What do we do?

The question

My daughter had my granddaughter when she was 17. The baby's father has not seen the baby since she was 10 days old. The baby is currently 13 months old. My daughter has full custody with no support from him because he is on welfare. He has no visitation rights in the agreement. My daughter and granddaughter now live with my wife and me. She is back in college, has a new boyfriend and is doing well. The problem is the baby's father is creeping her on the Internet. He tried to contact and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Plenty of Fish. She has been told to watch her privacy settings but I'm worried about the bigger picture of obsession. What can we do?

The answer

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Hmmm … this may be unconventional advice-columnist behaviour, but I'm going to have to disagree with you on what exactly the problem is here.

Don't get me wrong. I agree the baby's father "creeping" your daughter on the Internet is a problem. But it's far from "the" problem. I'd liken his behaviour to clicking a lighter near the end of a fuse leading to a barrel of gasoline under a tinderbox full of dynamite upon which your real problem sits.

As I often do when confronted with a family-friction situation with a) more than a soupçon of dysfunction and b) an intimation of litigation, I picked the brain of my go-to family-law guy, the excellently commonsensical Eric Shapiro of Toronto law firm Skapinker and Shapiro.

He speculated that since it sounds like your daughter and her ex aren't exactly sitting on a pile of shekels, the separation agreement you refer to was probably not brokered by a judge or lawyer.

True? Because it tends to take some pretty hair-raising circumstances for a judge to flat-out deny a father access to his own child, e.g. substance abuse or child abuse, and even then the dad will sometimes be granted limited and/or supervised access – and you didn't mention any of that.

Furthermore, he surmised the father probably wasn't given access because "he didn't really want it."

Why is all this important? Because, as Shapiro points out, imagine at some point your daughter's baby daddy grows up, mensches up, maybe even gets a job – then says, "You know what, I made a mistake. I want to reconnect with my daughter after all."

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You should know that, Shapiro says, family law is governed by two guiding principles: 1) The best interests of the child, 2) The belief that children tend to benefit from having access to both parents.

In other words, depending on how many years he waits, "Most judges will give access," Shapiro says. "Will it be supervised? Maybe. Will it be small steps? Yes."

But he'll probably be granted access. That's bad news if this deadbeat dude's stalking your daughter in cyberspace – he may wake up some day and say: "Screw Instagram, if I gain access to my kid I will also be able to reinsert myself into my ex's life – and make myself look like a more responsible guy in the process."

To you, the grandfather, I say: I think you need to ask yourself what's in the best interest of the child, which, no offence, you didn't even allude to in your question. And in this case I think the child's best interests are served by not making an enemy of the child's father.

Even if you don't like him, in the spirit of "keep your friends close and your enemies closer," invite him over for tea. Be nice to him. In short, defang, declaw him – and defuse the terrible threat this guy could potentially pose.

Because this could get so, so much uglier. I've seen it happen. He could make your life and your daughter's life, for the rest of her life, a living hell and have the law on his side to boot.

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Don't forget, eventually this mewling, puking little baby will get older and stronger and more independent and more willful and learn to talk and eventually may want, even yearn – insist on – knowing her dad. DNA is a powerful drug, addictive and not to be underestimated.

I have other questions about this situation, e.g. why is your daughter still on a dating website if she has a new boyfriend? But anyway, maybe let's address the big problems first and hope some of the smaller ones just sort themselves out.

What am I supposed to do now?

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