your baby mama is a crack head
March 13, 2008 5:22 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend's son's mom accidentally left her cellphone in my boyfriend's car this afternoon. He looked through it and found text messages about her buying and selling drugs. So... now what?

I know it was a bit shitty to go through her phone, but he's suspected that she's been on drugs for some time, and now those suspicions have been confirmed. None of the text messages mention the specific drug. He thinks it's meth based on her history, but maybe it could just be pot, which wouldn't be as big of a deal. Based on the times of the text messages, she doesn't seem to be doing anything when their son is with her.

So, what now?

He's torn between confronting her, or saving evidence of this for some time in the possible future when he tries to get custody of his son. But neither of us can think of a way of confronting her that will not lead to a lot of really ugly drama (refusing to let him see their son or moving far away or something equally insane), and neither of us know how to save the text messages for 'evidence' after he returns her phone.

posted by kerfuffled to Human Relations (42 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Do nothing.
posted by stubby phillips at 5:38 PM on March 13, 2008

I'd turn the data over to the cops and let them decide what to do. Drug dealing is a nasty crime, family or no.
posted by trinity8-director at 5:43 PM on March 13, 2008

Cops, or nothing. Your choice.
posted by SirStan at 5:47 PM on March 13, 2008

(of course he shouldn't have looked through her phone.)

He should get in touch with his custody lawyer, and then, perhaps, DSS.

I don't know the legality of his having gone through her phone, he needs to talk to a lawyer about it. He also needs to talk to a lawyer about what options he has.

It's perfectly reasonable to not want the woman who takes care of your son doing meth, but in order to make sure she's clean, he'll probably need some outside authority.
posted by OmieWise at 5:49 PM on March 13, 2008

I'd turn the data over to the cops and let them decide what to do. Drug dealing is a nasty crime, family or no.

I doubt this would be evidence legally admissible in a court of law. Not to mention that turning someone you know in to the police based on illicit snooping through their private correspondence is contemptible.

Please, do nothing. Unless you want your boyfriend's son to despise you for the rest of his life for scheming to put his mother in prison.

If she's really a meth head, that will become very clear very soon, and then you can try to alter the custody arrangements (if that's what you want to do). In the meantime, pretend like you never saw these messages.
posted by nasreddin at 5:49 PM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

If she has custody of the son, "do nothing" seems like bad advice. This woman's right to fuck up her own life doesn't extend to her children, and it's your boyfriend's responsibility to get his kid out of a (potentially) very bad situation. Talk to a lawyer first (your boyfriend's snooping may have been illegal), then talk to the police and to child protective services. It's possible that her phone company can be subpoened to turn over all of her text messages. Don't confront her first -- she'll delete the evidence and it will be much harder to pursue.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:53 PM on March 13, 2008

Document what happened with times, dates, places, etc, and talk to a lawyer.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:56 PM on March 13, 2008

Contact the police, advise them that you have evidence that PersonX is involved in drug trade of some variety. Go to the station with the phone and demonstrate this evidence. They now have reason to suspect, and can arrange for proper prosecution - Subpoenaing phone records and the like will surely be in the cards.

Alternatively, surely there's some variety of crime tip line that you can call, that is often answered by a human, that may be able to advise you on the best approach to take when presenting this evidence.

Consulting a lawyer to ensure all involved expose them to the least liability is also well advised.
posted by Rendus at 5:59 PM on March 13, 2008

Since somebody already said 'talk to a lawyer,' I'll direct my answer at another aspect of the situation.

If it was me, I'd change my email passwords, and resolve to keep a good eye on my phone--maybe even lock it when I'm not using it. Your boyfriend's opinions about personal privacy are clearly very different than mine, and so, yeah, better safe than sorry.
posted by box at 6:00 PM on March 13, 2008

You need to contact a lawyer, stat. The problem is that if he does nothing, it could be considered a failure to care for the child and wouldn't help him.

You know, I wouldn't worry a moment about him checking out your phone or anything else--this was about his child and way different than the normal adult relationship stuff. Ethics are way different when a child is involved.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:04 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Looking through your earlier questions, it seems like you've had problems with her before. Definitely ask a lawyer before you do anything.

But again, don't be too hasty in bringing this to the police. Children of separated parents are hypersensitive about stepparents' criticism of the other parent (I can vouch for this personally). If your boyfriend's son is entering into adolescence, his finding out that you were involved in locking his mom up will be the perfect thing for driving a permanent wedge between you. This will make your and your boyfriend's life even more miserable, as he attempts to avenge her by acting out and getting into trouble. Seriously, be careful. Imagine what your boyfriend will go through if his son starts hating you.
posted by nasreddin at 6:07 PM on March 13, 2008

Not sure how incriminating the evidence is based on your vague post (None of the text messages mention the specific drug.)... But, honestly, MYOB. If your boyfriend is that concerned about his child's welfare he should a) have a talk with the mother (novel idea: communication!), b) contact social services with his concerns of the child's welfare, or c) let it go until he has some real evidence.

First of all, the cops are going to do close to nothing if you present them with some text messages that don't even explicitly reference drugs...that's a waste of their time unless you can present them with imminent danger scenarios. And if you said it looks like she's doing this when the kid's not around---really, isn't that the more responsible thing to do?? If she was a meth addict you would know it. If she's smoking pot when the kid's gone and your boyfriend is ok with that (as you said in your post), what's the big deal?

Maybe it would be a good idea to document what you saw on the phone so you can connect it to anything suspicious that might happen in the future, but there's not much you can do with what you have. Think of it this way: if you found a ton of empty liquor bottles in her trash or you read some emails about how she went out and got wasted every single weekend she didn't have the kid---it might be something to keep on your radar, but it doesn't necessarily mean she's out of control or endangering the kid.

(Of course, your post was pretty vague and didn't include the history of anyone involved,
so I may be way off the mark. YMMV.)

But maybe a more ethical and compassionate plan of action would be to ask the mother how she's doing. People use drugs and alcohol for a variety of reasons---sometimes to cope with stress or mental illness. Why automatically go into attack mode? How about showing some concern and feeling out the situation before jumping to conclusions? It may be more helpful than you think.
posted by hulahulagirl at 6:23 PM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

nasreddin, yes the odds are the phone messages will not be admissable. Providing that data to the police will give them a starting point for their own investigation. Kinda like an anonymous tip.

BTW, I believe that everyone here who is suggestion action expects it from the boyfriend not the OP. I did but re-reading it I see that it was not clear at all in my comment.

Doing nothing will have it's own set of unintended consequences for which can only be claimed, "But I didn't know."
posted by trinity8-director at 6:24 PM on March 13, 2008

Before you Seriously Fuck Up Somebody's Life Forever, please examine your motives.

Do you want to get the upper hand? Go ahead and rat her out.

Do you want to protect the welfare of the kid? Well, she's not dealing crack or crank. He wouldn't 'suspect'. Is she dealing heroin? Really? Ok, turn her in.

So there are four other possibilities:
1) She bought a quarter and split it with a friend Do nothing.
2) She's slinging weed. Do nothing, It's low-risk and it'll work itself out AND you'll get the upper hand.

3) Pills. Bad bad pills. This is the crux of the biscuit. This too will work itself out, but usually not well. Not well at all.

4) It was all a big miscommunication and Lucy will 'splain it all to Desi and we'll all have a good laugh. (This is my favorite outcome)
posted by stubby phillips at 6:35 PM on March 13, 2008 [5 favorites]

What the hell is wrong with people that they are willing to put a family member in jail over personal problems? You really think tipping the cops off is a less dramatic way of handling things than bringing up possible drug use in a custody case (hint: the custody case will be dramatic either way).

The fact that this all happens when she's not around the son point to it being more of a hobby, less of an addiction. I really don't think there are meth addicts out there who do it once or twice a week.. Give her the benefit of the doubt.
posted by shownomercy at 6:35 PM on March 13, 2008 [4 favorites]

Wait! You need to think this through very, very carefully. Consider for one that once the police are involved, things are completely out of your hands. They don't much consider the fate of the child or make as big a distinction between marijuana and meth as you might think or make much real distinction between someone who is low level or high level or anything much. They just arrest people- they don't help them.

Also, all drug users are not automatically bad parents-- this has to be considered in light of the alternatives. Here, it sounds like your boyfriend could take custody-- but in many instances, you are committing a child to a life of multiple foster care placements, many of which are much worse than the bio parents. Each transition of a child from one set of caregivers to another is like a divorce, sometimes even like a death. Even going from Mom to Dad. These transitions no matter how well handled-- and usually they aren't, and if Mom is arrested, they almost certainly won't be-- are traumatic.

So, the best thing to do is keep a close eye on the situation and he should ask his ex-- or have someone like her mom or sister ask her, someone without a dog in the fight, basically-- what is going on generally and try figure out what's actually happening, without giving away the source of the concern.

like someone said above, people don't typically use drugs in such a situation because everything's good and they are happy and doing great.

if the child is being endangered by what the mother is up to, you may have to go to the authorities but the "system" is something you generally want to minimize everyone's exposure to because it is frequently arbitrary and often harms those it is supposed to be helping.

Also, are you sure these are really drug related messages? If they are that obvious to someone just reading through the phone, she is either very stupid or very low level as a drug dealer and possibly just a user arranging something for herself and her friends and it might not be that she's very drug-involved. So, I would definitely suggest caution and investigation, not calling the cops.
posted by Maias at 6:52 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Talk to a lawyer first (your boyfriend's snooping may have been illegal), then talk to the police and to child protective services. It's possible that her phone company can be subpoened to turn over all of her text messages.

Unless you live in the most boring suburb of the most boring town in the US (or in an episode of CSI) the police are not going to care. Your "evidence" is a series of text messages on a phone you've had in your custody for at least one day and that don't explicitly mention any drugs by name? Gill Grissom will most definitely not be on it. In fact your SO will be lucky not to be slapped with an restraining order for harrassment.

Your SO needs to talk to his ex and to his son, seperately. I'm sure it won't be a pleasant experience but it's his repsonsibility as a father. Talk to her, ask if she's using and if she is if she's willing to let her son live with him until she's clean or at least more of the time. Talk to his son, he doesn't have to be all "your mom is a big fat druggie!" but let him know that he can confide in his father, that he can call him anytime day or night if he's afraid of his mother's friend, or his mother is "sick" or he's left alone. If he doesn't have a cell, get him one. He knows what his mother is like, kids aren't stupid, but I'm sure he loves her anyway.
posted by fshgrl at 6:56 PM on March 13, 2008

nasreddin, yes the odds are the phone messages will not be admissable

This advice is likely wrong and not provided by a lawyer. Do not take advice from anyone but a lawyer that you are paying.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:09 PM on March 13, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you for the answers so far... I think we'll be leaning towards doing nothing for now, but keeping a close eye on things. And he'll probably try to talk to a lawyer, just in case.

Well, she's not dealing crack or crank. He wouldn't 'suspect'. Is she dealing heroin? Really? Ok, turn her in.

She's lost about 60 pounds in the past couple months, which is why we're thinking it's more than just weed. And she has a history of using meth, crack, crank, heroin, and just about everything else, really.

he should a) have a talk with the mother (novel idea: communication!)
That's one of the options I mentioned he was considering (although the word 'confront' might not have been the best choice), but neither of us think there's a chance of that conversation going well. They don't have a friendly relationship, and it would most likely cause a lot more bitterness, and that's not good for anyone. I'm sure she has "reasons" for doing drugs... she is broke, living with parents, unable to keep a job for more than two months, has no car or other method of transportation, etc.

And just to quell some of the concerns that have popped up: looking out for the best interests of his kid is the top priority, he's not planning on getting the cops involved, and I am not going to have anything to do with this beyond providing moral support to my boyfriend (and I would never say anything about her in front of their son).
posted by kerfuffled at 7:15 PM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

If it was me, I'd change my email passwords, and resolve to keep a good eye on my phone--maybe even lock it when I'm not using it. Your boyfriend's opinions about personal privacy are clearly very different than mine, and so, yeah, better safe than sorry.

QFT. How do you know he isn't snooping around on you?
posted by nickerbocker at 7:16 PM on March 13, 2008

Cops. Let them decide what's admissible. It might not be enough to prosecute, but it may be enough to terminate (or suspend) parental rights.
posted by Doohickie at 7:16 PM on March 13, 2008

Response by poster:
How do you know he isn't snooping around on you?

I wouldn't care because I'm not hiding anything and we have a very open relationship, but that's besides the point, I guess. He's never done anything at all to make me think he's snooping on me or anyone else, and he's never gone through someone's phone before. We both agree it was a stupid thing to do, but I think the temptation was just too great to see if she was using drugs, and this is his kid. I think if I had been in the same situation I would have done it too. As Ironmouth said, this was all about his child. If he had been snooping on an ex-girlfriends phone or something, maybe I'd be worried, but as it as, I don't see any reason to get all paranoid.

posted by kerfuffled at 7:28 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Um, is crazybabymama borrowing his car or just a passenger in it this afternoon? If she borrows the car for kid transportation purposes, I'd be concerned about her being under the influence or in the process of acquiring or distributing drugs while driving.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:28 PM on March 13, 2008

I change my vote:

Do nothing, but keep your eyes peeled.
posted by stubby phillips at 7:28 PM on March 13, 2008

Response by poster: She was just a passenger. She's totalled three cars in the past two years and doesn't have one now, so, yeah, she's not allowed to drive his car.
posted by kerfuffled at 7:30 PM on March 13, 2008

I'd add the the byproducts of meth manufacturing and the behavior of meth addicts are both toxic to young children. The evidence may not be admissible, but go ahead and ask a lawyer anyway.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:41 PM on March 13, 2008

If the only practical effect of this woman's alleged habit is that people who read her mail find out, she's not really harming anyone is she?

How about don't read others' mail?
posted by pompomtom at 7:42 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Talk to the cops. Ask them if they can use it. Forget custody, think about the welfare of the kid. Meth is fucking nightmare: your boyfriend, you and every joe off the street has a responsibility to keep the kid away from this shit. Personally I smoke pot about once every two-three years. But dealing with a kid in the house is not cool.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:56 PM on March 13, 2008

I wouldn't worry a moment about him checking out your phone or anything else--this was about his child

posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:58 PM on March 13, 2008

This is not your problem.
posted by zippy at 8:21 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

What did the messages say? Everyone wants to know...
posted by CreativeJuices at 8:23 PM on March 13, 2008

How old's the child? I'm less worried about a 15 year old, then, say, a 1 year old. You say she's lost weight and has a history of hard drug use. Does she have other concerning behavior going on?

I work in child protection, and I'm not super-concerned about pot-unless it impacts parenting, which it does for some folks. When we get reports about parental drug use in my state, we really need to be able to tie it to some specific parenting deficit before we respond. For instance, the mother who uses when the child is gone at summer camp? Not something we'd go out on. The mother who is so high she forgets to feed herself and her child (common with meth); that's a big deal. Regular meth use really IS the nightmare that it's made out to be, and meth addicts who are parenting without another adult supervising are a recipe for disaster. I'm really not a huge anti drug nazi-this is based on my experience working for more than 15 years with folks who are trying to use and parent. If someone's dealing, I'd be worried about dangerous activity around the child-some really bad guys tend to drift into the circle of addicts.

I think telling your boyfriend to mind his own business would be good advice if there wasn't a child involved. His child is more important than anything.

Talking to the mom is worth a try. If she's been using for a long time, and they've been down the road before, your boyfriend knows it'll be excuse and denial and blame. Have a plan "b". That plan can be calling child welfare, getting other friends and family involved in a formal intervention (get some training first!) or filing for full custody.

And yeah, I agree that prison is a crappy solution to this, and that treatment is what's needed, but man, that's a whole other political discussion, isn't it?
posted by purenitrous at 8:28 PM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

If this woman is such a bad mother who deserves to lose custody of her child, I'm sure you can find more evidence than a couple of vague text messages.
posted by kamelhoecker at 8:29 PM on March 13, 2008

posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:28 PM on March 13, 2008

My dad has a drug problem. I don't really now what to tell you. The only thing I have learned it that these situations are incredibly complex and incredibly painful.

Above all else, be there for that kid.

Trust me, he's going to need it.
posted by MadamM at 10:55 PM on March 13, 2008

Agree completely with kamelhoecker - there has to be other evidence that she's an unfit mother than just text messages.

IANAL, don't think there's a question of legality viz how he found out about the dealing. Her phone, yes, but left in his car. Found property.

Nthing the plan of talking to her about it, letting her get her crazy out of her system, and then go with plan B. What exactly were these texts? Just how explicit are they? If they're as vague as you're presenting them to be, they may not amount to much in terms of evidence on their own.If you plan on using this info for custody, you need to document it actually happened and isn't just custody battle mudslinging. Did you get copies of the texts somehow? That plus a positive drug test from crazybabymama would be just about all a court would need.

If she isn't dealing as a pro or semi-pro? Telling her what he found will maybe wake her up to what she has to lose if she continues on.

Devil's advocate here: she may have lost that weight on a crash diet of some sort and be reliving her adolescence as a result. When you say "drug use", do you mean she was a serious user or one of those occasional "couple of lines at a party" sort of user?

I'd also agree that your bf does have some issues with privacy. I'm sure he only peeked in this case because of his suspicions (dramatic weight loss, crazy behaviour), but if he had suspicions about you cheating, for example, and had "evidence" (working late, not really responsive in bed, close male coworker friend), what would stop him from doing the same to you? You may just be stressed out with work and have found a supportive friend, and your texts may show that, but he'd still have crossed the line. Trust me, you're OK with it now, but if it actually happened, it can cause all sorts of relationship problems. Just password protect your phone and stop it from even being a possibility. It isn't a question of if you actually have something to hide - it's a question of how he views other's right to privacy vs his need to know.

Just sayin'.
posted by Grrlscout at 11:18 PM on March 13, 2008

Calling the police? Please don't do that if there is no evidence of neglect. You already said you weren't going to do that, so the below is mostly just for other people to consider. There is usually no turning back once you've gone that route. As other posters mentioned, once the police are involved, things are out of your hands. People can screw up their lives pretty bad with drugs. But a few people do manage to crawl out of that hole. That's much more difficult to do when you have a drug crime on your record. For one thing, she may be prohibited from receiving student loans with a drug conviction. There goes community college. The police are an important and integral part of our society, but things like mandatory sentencing and our drug laws make things much more complicated.

Obviously, the most important thing here is the kid. I'm not sure how old he is. If he's old enough to talk to, maybe your boyfriend can ask him how mom is doing lately, ask him what he's been eating, that kind of thing. Check how he's doing in school. If he's still a toddler or infant, make sure she's taking care of him. Make sure there are no obvious issues like infections or malnutrition.

You mentioned that she's staying with her parents. How are the grandparents? I know some young parents where much of the parenting is actually being done by grandparents or extended family living in the same house. Maybe your boyfriend could express his concerns to them, although if there is an issue, they probably already know. But building a relationship with them may help if custody issues come up later on.
posted by formless at 11:20 PM on March 13, 2008

As far as I'm concerned.....well, let me try have some tact:

Cops serve only complicate situations. I've yet to be in a hairy spot where a cop or two makes things better. Avoid whenever possible. Save the info for later if you must, but to attract the attention of the state to your state is rarely, if ever good.

Never underestimate the value of a beer or two and some powerful (to the point of discomfort) REALLY frank talk. You don't want the force of today's moral majority raining down on anyone's head, if at all possible. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as it were.
posted by nevercalm at 12:02 AM on March 14, 2008

she is broke, living with parents, unable to keep a job for more than two months

Obviously there's a whole lotta dynamics at play here, but if your boyfriend has a halfway decent relationship with his ex's parents, the kid's grandparents, then that's the route I'd take. Their daughter lives with them, has a history of drug problems, and is dropping almost 1lb/day. They can't help but notice. Can he express his sincere concerns to them, see what they know, and try to find some support?

I agree with most everyone that involving the police at this juncture without proof of endangerment or even of actual drug abuse (though it does sound likely) wouldn't do anything good for his relationship with the kid. Or be likely to accomplish anything but stirring up a hornet's nest and making enemies. If you can approach this from a position of concern about everyone's welfare, the ex included, there's more hope for a happy outcome.
posted by mumkin at 1:20 AM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have your boyfriend increase his child support payments?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:48 AM on March 14, 2008

MYOB. Your boyfriend and his ex sound like they have quite the little drama going on, and it takes two to keep something like that going. If he can't tell anything real specific from these messages, but knows this is a drug deal!!!, I have to wonder how much of what you guys think you know is inference anyway. Go for a walk or something, seriously.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:52 AM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow ya'll are a bunch of spitefuls today. Regardless of her level of neglect, a drug using or dealing momma isn't good for any kid, even if that chick on Weeds is the hottest woman on TV. If you talk to anyone, talk to the social worker who handles visitation and custody. Don't accuse, say that you have reason to believe, and ask what you should do.

Anyone worth their salt will have a good answer. If they don't, ask their supervisor. You can be polite. You can say "I don't want her to get in trouble and she's a great mom, but I'm concerned about what the consequences could be for my child."

He shouldn't talk to her unless they are close. They're probably not, since they're...uh...separated and he's with you now.
posted by TomMelee at 6:46 PM on March 14, 2008

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