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Dear Annie: Son’s behavior needs attention

THURSDAY, JAN. 15, 2009

Dear Annie: My 9-year-old son, “Felix,” is headed down the wrong path. This year in school, he has already stabbed two people with a pencil, clocked a boy and told some classmates he had a bomb. He is very defiant, talks back, never smiles, has no emotion or remorse for his actions and has few friends. He also is starting to be mean to his 2-year-old sister. He even told me he would be in juvenile detention before he turns 17.

Felix has informed me that he does not like my fiance of four years. I’m at the point where I want to let him live with his dad full time. I told my ex that I want to get Felix into a local program for difficult children, but his dad says he doesn’t need it. Can you please help me before it’s too late? – Desperate Mom

Dear Mom: Your ex is foolish to ignore his son’s aberrant behavior. Felix has some serious problems and the sooner you can intervene, the better. We understand your frustration, but it doesn’t sound as if leaving him with his father will help. Talk to your pediatrician and the school counselor and ask for referrals to a child psychiatrist with experience in this area. Please call today.

Dear Annie: I have more than 30 years’ experience in domestic relations litigation. Your statement to “Troubled Grandmother” regarding common-law marriage may give many cohabitating couples the wrong impression.

Only nine states currently consider common-law marriages to be legally binding, so for the most part, couples living together for many years are not recognized as being married. Five other states have grandfathered such relationships if they met the common-law marriage requirements in existence at an earlier time.

Second, common-law marriage states have fairly rigorous requirements. Living together, even for extended periods of time, is generally not enough. Usually, the couple also must hold themselves out to the world as husband and wife.

Third, many cohabitating couples believe there is some stepparent status toward a partner’s child and that usually is not the case. In most instances, they have no better status than a baby-sitter.

Cohabitation is, with rare exceptions, not the same as being married – no matter what the couple wants to believe. If they do not understand that, unpleasant surprises may be in store for them. – Daily Reader

Dear Daily Reader: Thanks for setting the record straight. Readers who are curious about the laws in their state can Google “common law marriage” or contact their county clerk’s office or the local Bureau of Vital Statistics.

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar write for Creators Syndicate.

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