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Caring Godmother

Dear Miss SmartyPants,

My sister is in the process of planning to take her children and move outside of Iowa. She has not told her soon-to-be-ex-husband about it. She plans to pack and move as soon as possible. She didn't tell anyone in the family and my mother only weaseled it out of her last night. I think what she is doing is WRONG and selfish and a large part of me is dying to call her ex-hubby up and tip him off to her plans before she can run. She claims her lawyer will be contacting him, but at this point I think everything she says is a lie.

However, my mother begged and pleaded with me not to do anything because she is afraid that if I get involved in the custody dispute I would tell the world the truth about my sister and she would lose her kids and that "would tear this family apart." My position is that my sister has already torn the family apart through her irresponsible actions (no abuse, but she's an alcoholic who drags men in and out of her children's lives and is a pathological liar) and that someone should step in and say enough is enough. Also, I am afraid that if she leaves the state I may never see my godchildren again, and I love them and worry about them constantly.

So what say you, MSP, should I stay out of this custody battle or speak up? I don't think she would ever deliberately hurt her children, but her complete inability to see how her actions affect other causes her to make really bad choices and do things that cause a lot of emotional pain.

Caring Godmother

Dear Godmother,

What an unbearable spot to be in. While the answer may seem obvious - tip off the soon-to-be-ex-husband - I hesitate to advise it because there might be things about him that your sister knows and you don't. There have been just too many cases where people thoughtfully, reasonably decided intervening was the only moral course, only to find out that they were missing a key fact that changed everything. And, obviously, I don't have all the facts, including whether you have them or not.

So. If you know or could find out who your sister's lawyer is, you could call him/her and just say, "I want to make sure that she's not going to get into any trouble if she leaves the state with the kids while the custody battle rages." The lawyer won't answer (lawyer's obligation is to the client), but it seems to me that leaving the state with the kids, unless the court has allowed it or the other spouse has agreed, could cause real problems for your sister. The lawyer will try to rein in the mom, if it's going to cause future legal problems. Good luck. This situation is brutal.

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