Dear Abby:

My brother, "Rick," recently went to court to get custody of his year-old son. He and the boy's mother, "Ellen," never married. Ellen took the baby out of state while Rick was at work and without his knowledge. Rick persuaded her to return, then got a restraining order and filed for custody.

The judge ("Hizzoner") ruled in my brother's favor, giving him primary custody with joint legal custody.

Immediately after the hearing, Hizzoner spoke with Ellen and invited her to come to work for him as a nanny for his children. He offered her room and board, tuition for college and the use of a vehicle. Ellen accepted and moved to the town where Hizzoner lives. The arrangement did not work out. Ellen didn't like his children and was homesick, so Hizzoner paid for Ellen to return home. Yesterday, he was in town and invited Ellen to lunch.

Abby, isn't this a conflict of interest? Isn't this unethical conduct? If Rick has to go back to court, wouldn't Hizzoner have to excuse himself from the case because following the original hearing he has kept in constant contact with the defendant?

Appalled in Nevada

The answers to your questions are yes, yes and yes. And this whole story should be explained to whoever represents your brother at that time. Frankly, your story has raised more than a few eyebrows here in California -- and I'm sure it will in other venues as well.

Dear Abby:

I have a problem with my husband, "Lyle," and my ex, "Charlie." They work together. Lyle and I are newlyweds, and he knows only too well the misery I went through with Charlie. In spite of that, Lyle goes to Charlie's apartment for drinks almost every night after work.

I don't like it when Lyle goes out drinking instead of coming home after work. Charlie knows how I feel, yet he continues to invite Lyle over. I suspect Charlie is trying to cause problems -- and it's working -- for the simple reason that Lyle isn't smart enough to say no.

Last night, Lyle went to Charlie's to "throw back a few." When he came home, we had a big fight and he said some very hurtful things to me. Then he stormed off in his truck. We haven't spoken since.

I am at the point where I want to tell Lyle that he needs to choose: me or my ex! What should I do?

Sick of it in the Northeast

Although it's tempting, I'd recommend against giving your husband an ultimatum. If you do, it could be the end of your marriage. However, if you think this is history repeating itself, it might be time for you to rethink this recent marriage.

It's interesting that both of your husbands have made it a habit to drink after work. Since it is having a negative impact on your present marriage, perhaps it's time for you to contact Al-Anon so that Lyle's problem does not become your problem.

Dear Abby:

A reader once asked what your definition of love is. Richard Burton said it quite well: "Love is the highest form of tolerance."

Annie From Florida

He ought to have known. He was not only a talented actor -- he was tolerant more than once in his lifetime.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2003, Universal Press Syndicate