Dear Savvy Auntie,

I have been raising my niece for the last two years after my sister's untimely death. My niece did not want to live with her father and the courts ordered in my favor and awarded me parental custody of my niece. She is 13 and amazing, but her father, who has access once a fortnight, is vile to deal with.

Since the court case, all communication has been via text and very blunt, his choosing. He is the devil with a smile and convinces everyone that he is fair, understanding, kind, concerned father but the reality is so different. He is not someone who you could talk to or go to mediation with as he will say anything and agree to everything in front of people then will go back to how he was. His actions are driven by a need to win and beat everyone not by love for his daughter, he is extremely competitive.

She has never featured first in his life and she knows this and it hurts her although she tries to pass it off and says: "Well, I didn't expect anything more from him." But I know it does hurt her. He thinks we all bad mouth him off to her, which we don't; her opinion is based on how he treats her, yet he can't or won't see this.

Thankfully the court reports did. and awarded me custody. but despite this. everyone around him and her friends parents thinks he is father of the year and such a good person (probably helps that he is quite well off which can make people blind to a lot of things). Even his own mother said when my sister was dying that he had done very little for my niece.

I fail to understand why others do not have doubts how he really is, yet with all of this, I have to deal with him as he is her father and despite him not doing it in reverse I ensure I notify him of all appointments or school related things in her life.

I want know how I can stop the stress reaction I have when dealing with him. I can feel the stress course through my veins when I see his message flash up on my phone and I just don't know how to stop this physical reaction from happening as I know it will only make me ill in the long run which wont be of any benefit to my niece.

BIL Trouble

Dear BIL Trouble,

I believe you know that your niece as she grows older will have more of a clear picture of her father and perhaps even decide to see less of him, despite his financial assets. She seems to have a good sense, even at thirteen.
Is it possible that your reaction to him is colored by the tragic and premature loss of your sister? If so, it is very understandable! You have my condolences and sympathy. I suggest you find a bereavement group in your neighborhood and this will help support your feelings of loss in a community of like minded people.
The fact that the court (and his own mother) share your assessment of him serves as a confirmation of your feelings. That his charming behavior in public and material “stuff” wears thin with wear and you will feel more and more “in the right”.
Your niece is very lucky that she is being raised by you. You are so wise not to bad mouth her dad to will pay off in the long run.

Best of Luck,
Natalie Robinson Garfield

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