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Divorce Doctor

Get healthy divorce advice from our in-house specialist.  Whether you need tips on choosing a mediator or you want an expert's opinion on post-divorce parenting, she has answers for your most troubling questions.  Ask away, the doctor is in!

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Dear Pam,

Help!  My ex is marrying my sister. I know! They both told me that they weren’t involved while we were together, but I don’t believe them. I was never that close to Lisa, but she did stay at our house once for a month when her place was being renovated.  Now, I wonder. Even if they didn’t do anything during that time, they must have been thinking about it. They want my blessing. Who the hell knows why? Lisa says that since I am seeing someone (I am, I have started dating a wonderful man, and I’m not introducing him to my sister.) I shouldn’t care who Tom sees. I know it’s technically not incest, but it just feels wrong. Family functions are going to be horror shows for me. I really don’t want to have anything to do with my ex and we have no kids tying us together, I just married him for all the wrong reasons. Actually, he is probably a better match for my sister. They are both very anal and conservative and I am much more liberal. Both are in finance and I am a jeweler. Tom actually had the nerve to ask if I would give him a discount on an engagement ring for my sister, that’s the kind of craziness I have to put up with. They have invited me to the wedding. I don’t have any strong feelings for Tom one way or the other, so it isn’t like I will be emotionally devastated, it’s just kind of embarrassing. Should I swallow my pride and go to the wedding to keep the peace, or should I pretend that these two don’t exist?

Keeping it all in the family

Dear all in the family,

If you really don’t have any feelings for your ex, and you have a new man in your life, why not go? Bring him as your plus one. Consider it your wedding gift, if it means that much to them.  If you want to give Tom a discount on a ring, that would be a nice thing to do. 

You said that they are better suited to each other, so maybe this will work. If you aren’t that close to your sister and don’t see her that often, you won’t be spending a lot of time together. This kind of thing happens more often than you would think, and a lot of people don’t have a problem with it. 

If you were very bitter and still had unresolved feelings about your ex, I would say don’t go, but if it isn’t going to cause you any heartache, why not? Don’t start badmouthing Tom to your sister, she isn’t going to see him in the same light. You don’t need to get into any intimate details about your sex life. Lisa and Tom’s relationship is completely different than the one you had with him.

As for it being embarrassing, you’re not the one marrying your sister’s ex. Who cares what other people think? Lisa is still your sister and if someone who couldn’t make you happy can make her life better, where is the harm? Accepting this marriage with grace has the added bonus of making you look good. Your new man will see that you can be forgiving, open and compassionate. Maybe you’ll actually learn to feel that way yourself. It’s a difficult situation, that’s for sure, but it doesn’t have to be. Once you break up with a man, what he does is his business. Don’t dwell on wondering whether there was a connection between your ex and your sister while you were together. That’s history and you have moved on.

I hope your new man brings you all the happiness you deserve, and one day you will be able to invite your sister and her husband, Tom to your wedding.


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Dear Pam,

My deadbeat ex never pays his child support on time. He hardly has to pay anything because he doesn’t make much money. He’s a musician. Evan plays in bars on weekends and you can imagine how little he makes – usually nothing. He works part time as a cab driver, but he doesn’t make much money at that. This is a guy who has a degree in social work, but he says he had to see if he could make it as a musician or he would regret it for the rest of his life. That’s one of the reasons we broke up. I still love him, but he’s really irresponsible. To be honest, he’s a pretty good singer/songwriter, but the music business is hard and I couldn’t wait around hoping he would make it big one day. I have a good job in sales and I pretty much supported us. When we had our son, Ronan, he said he would get a better job, but he didn’t. Ronan is one and a half now and we’ve been apart for six months. I have a lot of expenses such as day care so I can go to work. Evan comes over a few times a week to see our son because he has roommates and can’t take him to his house. Sometimes I think I should tell him he can’t come over because if he really loved our son, he would want to support him. I know you can’t get blood out of a stone so to speak, and if I couldn’t make him do anything when we were together, it’s highly unlikely I can make him do it now. He does love our kid, and you should see how Ronan’s little eyes light up when Daddy comes over. Should I try taking him back to court, or should I tell him he can’t see his son if he doesn’t man up? Other than this issue, he isn’t half bad. Oh, yeah, did I mention that I still kind of love him and we still have sex sometimes. To be honest, I was attracted to him in the first place because he was a musician and now it has backfired on me.


Dear Ex-groupie,

I’m sorry to say this, but you are partly responsible. You knew what your financial situation was when you got pregnant. Sure, you had help with that, but you could have waited to get pregnant. Let me guess, the condom broke? You didn’t use protection? Whatever the reason, your son is here and you are both responsible. You fell in love with a starving musician and once you had a child you expected him to give up his artistic dreams. Lot’s of us have to put our goals on hold when we have kids. He wasn’t ready to do that obviously, but he has to learn to find a way to do it. You shouldn’t have to support him, so you made the right move in that regard. 

Taking him to court won’t really solve your problem. It will just eat up money in legal costs. In some states, fathers who are delinquent with child support actually go to jail. What will that solve in this case? Can a court help him get a well paying job?

It’s wrong to use your child as a pawn for money. Like you said, he loves his son, just not in the most responsible way. Your son loves him and deserves to spend time with him.

The next time he comes over, sit down with him and show him all the bills you have to pay. Explain in detail how much things costs, actually show him. Get him to get grocery shopping with you. Talk, don’t get angry. If he is a good dad and he plays in clubs on weekends, maybe he could come to your house during the weekdays and take care of your son, at least part of the time. This could be in lieu of child support money. It’s win/win/win. This would save you hundreds of dollars in childcare. You will have a loving parent taking care of your child instead of a stranger, and your ex can spend less time driving a cab. Maybe while he is with Ronan, he will come to realize how much goes into taking care of a little one. The real winner here is Ronan. He’ll benefit from having both parents in his life. Maybe Evan will have more time to work on his music while your boy is napping and write a hit song. Who knows? Maybe if you solve these issues, you might end up back together. Miracles do happen!

You don’t have to go through the trauma of divorce alone. Need some advice or just a shoulder to cry on? The divorce doctor has been there. We welcome your questions at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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