Bonus families with Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe
Q: My husband died suddenly last year and I am the executor of his will. I recently found out that during a problematic time in our marriage, when my husband stayed with friends in another state until our marriage issues could be resolved, he may...
Q: My husband died suddenly last year and I am the executor of his will. I recently found out that during a problematic time in our marriage, when my husband stayed with friends in another state until our marriage issues could be resolved, he may have fathered an illegitimate child while we were separated. Do I have to mention this to my attorney? Will my children and I be penalized for their dad's mistake?
A: First, we are very sorry for your loss. But we have to say we have a hard time with the terms "illegitimate" and "mistake" when talking about a baby that had absolutely nothing to do with his or her own conception. You were separated and you reconciled. He had a relationship while you were separated and fathered a child. As huge as it appears to you -- and it is understandable considering the times when all this happened, but it's really not that uncommon. More than one-third of all babies born in this country are born to single parents. Many people face the same issue.
Ex-etiquette rule No. 8, "Be honest and straightforward," seems to be the proper directive here. We believe the penalty you are talking about is financially based, and if that is the case, we're guessing that the child in question has just as much right to his or her father's estate as do your children. We suspect you know that, otherwise you would not have asked us.
The truth is, if you don't mention it to your attorney, the child may never know and you and your children can share equally in the bounty left by your husband. But that
doesn't make it right. It is also important to consider that you are not the only one who knows this child was born and there may be legal ramifications down the road if you do not contact him or her. For that reason alone, we suggest you consult your attorney.
JANN BLACKSTONE-FORD and SHARYL JUPE are co-founders of Bonus Families ( www.bonusfamilies.com ) and authors of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After a Divorce or Separation." Blackstone-Ford is married to Jupe's ex-husband. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org .