Eleven years ago, I started living with a woman with whom I now have a four-year-old daughter, but recently the woman confessed that she had been unfaithful to me on two different occasions…. After breaking my heart with that, she left the house with my daughter. I have always been responsible and have never been unfaithful.

After she left, I fell into a depression, but then I sought help from God and got spiritually stronger. However, I fear for my daughter, being constantly exposed to the bad example of her mother…. I want my daughter back, but she says that she wants to live with her mother. I’m afraid to seek legal custody because my little girl could miss her mother. Besides, I don’t have the money to pay an attorney…. What should I do?

Dear Friend,

We are very sorry for your situation, and especially for your daughter, whose life has been ripped apart. A child of four should not be asked who she wants to live with, as she is too young to understand all the implications. Every time that you speak with your daughter, instead of asking her questions, it would be better for you to assure her of your continuing and unconditional love.

We are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice. However, in most countries you could be awarded legal visitation or joint custody, neither of which would take your daughter away from her mother. And there is probably a way to accomplish this through social services rather than having to hire a private attorney. You need to do the research, ask a lot of questions, and do whatever is necessary to make sure that you are able to have a continuing relationship with your daughter. She needs you in her life. Of that there is no doubt. Research has shown that children who have no relationship with their fathers have a much higher chance of drug use, promiscuity, and even imprisonment.

You are not obligated to try and save your relationship with your daughter’s mother, as her infidelity and her attitudes may be unsurmountable hurdles. However, for your daughter’s sake, you are obligated to work out an amicable relationship with the woman. You will see her whenever you go to see your daughter, and any hostility or anger on your part will make those visits more difficult. Your daughter’s mother may be hostile or angry herself, but you can’t control her. You can only control your own attitudes, behaviors, and words.

There may soon be another man in their life, and it will be even more difficult for you to continue to control yourself. But for your daughter’s sake, you must be cordial even to another man who is taking your place.

We understand that what we are advising is very difficult, so we know that it will be extremely challenging for you. That is why you need God’s supernatural strength to be able to do it. On your own, it may be impossible. But with God, all things are possible(1) if you do things with His strength and wisdom.

We wish you the best,

1 Mt 19:26