Dear Amy:

I was married to a woman for eight years and had two children (now 15 and 18 years old). My ex left me for a woman. She wanted to remain friends and continue to have me be a father to the children.

I made the divorce easy for her and just wanted to have a life again with my kids.

Within a year, I met someone, remarried and now my wife and I have three children together.

My ex saw me spend less time with my children and sued me for full custody, child support and medical bills (thousands of dollars, which the court awarded her even though she cheated on me).

My wife has fought to have a calm family life and not be influenced by an adulteress ex-wife who is punishing me for moving on and caring for my three young children (ages 3,5, and 7).

I have gone the last few years seeing my older children only twice a year because of this battle.

My wife says I caused this mess by not being tough on my ex in the beginning, and my ex blames me for not putting my children first.

I feel that I need to take care of my wife and kids. I unfortunately let my oldest kids grow up without a father, but I've missed them.

Any advice?

Misery in Maryland

If you'll review the "no-fault" divorce laws, you'll see that your wife's adulterous behavior has no bearing on the disposition of support.

I understand how much it hurts to be cheated on. You feel the adulterous party should pay for messing up the marriage, but it doesn't work that way.

Courts tend to assign support based on how the parents divide custody, with the non-custodial parent paying because the custodial parent provides the full-time home.

Frankly, how the women in your life feel about your situation shouldn't be as important as how your children -- all of your children -- feel.

Your oldest kids came into your life before all of these other relationships and issues developed. It is patently unfair of you to let them "grow up without a father," as if your relationship with them is disposable.

In terms of your ex-wife's adultery, I would suggest that it's time for you to let it go.

Your current wife needs to understand that you have five children and that they all need nurturing and a little bit of you. (They probably could also have benefited from a kind and compassionate stepmother, but you don't mention that your wife is interested in them at all.)

See your older children whenever you can. Integrate them into your life with their half-siblings as much as possible. If you miss them terribly, then do something about it.

Write to Amy Dickinson at or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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