Help. 19 Year Step Daughter Wants to Move In

Updated on September 28, 2019
S.C. asks from Livingston, NJ
16 answers

My husband has a 19 year old daughter who currently lives with her Mom. But she wants to move in with us. She has some behavioral issues, and is very unmotivated and unproductive. I am not happy with the idea of her moving here b/c I feel like we will be stuck with a grown adult who refuses to become responsible. I told my husband now is not the time for her to switch parents. She should be going off to college or the military. When they first came to me with the idea I asked that she set a goal (sign up for school, talk to a recruiter etc) before she moved here so that I could see the seriousness of making changes. None of that happened and now my husband says he wants to go get her without even taking the steps I suggested. I feel like this is going to cause major issues in our marriage and I don’t want to say it but could cause the D word. My question is was my request for a goal/expectation too much to ask? What do I do when she moves here and does nothing or I say here for months and made no changes?

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So What Happened?

To answer everyone’s question related to her behavior; it has nothing to do with mental disabilities. She’s had issues with drinking, using drugs, staying out late, they practically had to hold her hand through school and she recently got in big trouble and is awaiting trial. She did graduate high school.

Also I stated she needed to sign up for school or get with a recruiter prior to her moving here b/c these are all things she said SHE wanted to do. But had taken little to no steps to start the process for any of it.

I am not a procrastinator and I have no tolerance for people who make a lot of excuses. If you want to do something, do it.

My husband and I do have other issues that need to be resolved but I feel her moving here will be more tension on an already sensitive marriage.

Also, her mom has never been that great. Shes lackluster and does the bare minimum. They don’t get along that well from what I understand. But I think it’s a combination of not wanting to follow rules and bad upbringing.

Thanks for all of the replies.

Featured Answers



answers from Washington DC on

I would be nervous too, but maybe mom needs a break. Maybe dad needs to deal with her behavioral issues in his home now?

5 moms found this helpful

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answers from Atlanta on

Wow, if having an adult child move into your home would case a divorce? You need counseling. NOW.

What is sad is that you and your husband aren't talking and listening to each other.

Please. Don't let an adult child divide a marriage. If your problems are above this adding an adult child to the mix? Maybe you need serious counseling or maybe you shouldn't be married? I don't know. I just know that this is something you and he need to talk about together. Set plans and goals.

Find out why she wants to move in
Find out why she isn't doing anything. What behavioral issues does she have? Does these issues constrain her from working or going to school? Did she graduate high school??

So many unanswered questions here.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

So, the first (of several) huge questions is, why does she want to move in with you vs. stay with her mother? Does her mother have rules/expectations, and the daughter thinks Dad will be the big pushover? She's already unmotivated, and are you saying that is too difficult for her? Or is there a big problem with her mother and she really should be out of there? Does she want to have a boyfriend sleeping over and Mom said no? Does Mom have a boyfriend the daughter has problems with? What are they? See? Many questions, and I don't know which are relevant.

Who are the "they" who first came to you with the idea? The daughter and your husband? Or the daughter and her mom? If daughter/dad, that would piss me off totally that my husband decided to spring the idea on me with daughter in tow. That should have been a husband/wife discussion at first; then you could bring her in after you two were on the same page. If mom/daughter, how come they came to you and not the dad? That's weird and unacceptable too, to bypass Dad. I'm assuming the former - but that's a big red flag on your marriage, frankly. Like he thought the two of them would outvote you?

Your problem is not the daughter, not really. Your problem is your husband's refusal to discuss with you, or to work out the details before deciding to "go get her." His dismissal of your feelings is a problem.

Now, I agree that daughter/Dad were together before you came into the picture. I'm a stepmother and I understand that dynamic. My husband has done some stuff I was opposed to, but nothing major like this. And we discussed the kids at length before we got married and regularly throughout their youth and adulthood. We worked together, and we worked with a counselor.

I get that your husband going to support her in some ways beyond 18, and that he may not agree with you about college or military. A job would be fine - but you haven't said anything about plans for that, or an agreement about what bills/chores she'd be responsible for. Is he going to foot her bills and require nothing of her? That seems to be your fear. So she'll be moving into your house, and your husband doesn't seem to think that affects you. Unless you are being totally unreasonable about what you expect of her and you're being some sort of drill sergeant, I think your husband is dropping the ball here. Even if he's entirely right and you're entirely wrong (which I'm not saying is the case), he's not doing anything to reach an accommodation with you or acknowledge your views. Red flag.

Counseling is vital. I wonder if there have been warning signs about this, and now this is just the last straw? Does he feel guilty about not having been there for her before? Is he lax in his parenting in general, and did that have anything to do with his divorce from this daughter's mother? That's all stuff that can be worked on - but he's got to get serious about it. If he would give up his marriage to you so easily, that's pretty awful.

I also feel that, in general, parenting is done when they are adults. She is how she is because of the parenting she's received up to this point. If he was lax, that's on him. If he stepped back and allowed the mom to be lax, that's on both of them. I realize he couldn't control what went on in their house, but his open-ended approach to her living with him and with no ground rules/house rules at all...well, that's a disaster. In any case, counseling is vital so you can figure out what comes next.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I think you’re forgetting two hugely important “D” words - Daughter and Dad. That relationship existed before your marriage.

Your husband needs to parent in the way he sees fit. Let him do that. Feel free to “speak with your feet” - for example, you can rent yourself a separate apartment for when you need alone time, etc - there is no need for you to stick around feeling like a victim - but don’t tread on your husband’s parenting decisions.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

tough situation. it's a pity your husband didn't discuss your suggestions with you- is this normal for him?

it's hard to say without knowing more whether or not your pre-move-in criteria are reasonable or not. i can see arguments for both sides.

but the bottom line is that you should have a say in who lives in your home. you shouldn't get to set all the rules, and your stepdaughter should have a say too, but i'd be pretty unhappy at having my concerns swept aside without so much as a discussion.

i think the best place to start is to insist that both your husband and stepdaughter sit down with you and hash out the expectations and ground rules. you'll have to be willing to compromise, of course. but they should be too.


7 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I suggest you start a conversation with your husband during which you will be willing to work towards a compromise. She is his daughter. He has a responsibility to listen to her and decide how to help. He also is responsible to work this out with you. That's hard to do when one person isn't willing to compromise.

I hear you. You don't like the daughter. How well do you know her? Has she visited? Did her father have and take parental time? (Visitation)? does she have diagnosed mental/emotional issues? Have you and your husband talked with her mother to know what is going on at home?

Is your marriage already headed toward divorce and this is the last straw? Have the two of you been able to talk and make decisions together in your marriage prior to this?

I suggest you and your husband are in a power struggle? No one wins. I urge you to find a way to work this out together. I suggest that talking with a counselor will help.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

If you and he decide she can move in with you, I would sit down with your husband before she arrives and come up with a plan. 1. Have him talk to her mom and find out what is going on exactly and how has she been behaving 2. Come up with house rules (chores, cooking dinner some nights, clean up after dinner, keeping things picked up etc.) 3. She has to have a job. 4. She has to come up with her goals and a timeline to try to follow. 5. She has to contribute towards living expenses. 6. Dad needs to have a deadline for how long she can live with you until she has to spread her wings and fly, be responsible for herself, and get her own place or move in with roommates. -------------------She is a very very young adult and it takes some young people longer than others to figure things out. The main goal here is getting her out and supporting herself and working on her own goals in life. She most likely does not know yet what her goals are. I remember many friends finally figured it out at the end of college or even the next year or two after college. Dad can't make her life too cushy...remind him he can offer advice and an ear to listen but don't start paying for everything for her. She needs to know a deadline for getting her own place and supporting herself. Right after college I lived with 4 roommates and worked at an ice-cream and coffee shop! Being crazy broke all the time made me want to go to grad school but it took like 4 more years for me to figure things out and apply. Good luck!!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Welcome to mamapedia, S.

You need to talk with your husband before this happens!!
WHY does she want to move in with you? Is her mother pressuring her to get a job? I would talk with the biological mom and find out what is going on in HER home so you can be prepared in YOUR home.

You and your husband MUST be on a united front. PERIOD.

She's 19. She is a legal adult. She should be supporting herself or at a minimum has a job and pays rent at home if not in school.

If this is going to cause a "divorce" in your household? WHY aren't you fixing your marriage first? Does your husband feel the same way? Is your marriage so tenuous that adding one person the house will cause a divorce??

You need to work with your husband and a counselor to get where you need to be and will both be happy. Boundaries need to be set and maintained.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

You mention behavior issues. Does she have a diagnosis? If she has a diagnosis (behavior disorder, neurological disorder, learning disability, etc), then, yes, it is very possible you are asking too much.

You need to lovingly discuss this with your husband. Forget about the fact that she is 19 and therefore a legal adult. This is his daughter, his baby. While I'm sure he would like to see her get a job and grow towards independence, right now she needs her Daddy.

It's not that I don't think your concerns have validity, but you are jumping the gun. You skipped over the part about a daughter being lost and needed her Daddy. Let him reach out to his daughter and show her unconditional love. You can still talk to him about how best to help her become more independent, but slow down.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

No way.
This has disaster written all over it.
She's moving in with no expectations, responsibilities or goals - and - no move out date set in place.
Hubby wants to rescue her - out of guilt maybe? (maybe he should think about and be more clear about his motivations for doing this) - from growing up.
This could easily turn into YEARS of enabling.
Tell Hubby - if she moves in - you will move out - and mean it.
Don't hedge around the D word - talk to a lawyer now and get a plan in place.

I realize his daughter came before your marriage and he will always have a connection with her - but he has no plan for helping his daughter mature into becoming a responsible adult.
What he wants to do will not help her - and you will be stuck with her behavioral issues under your roof, in your home - you will be cornered with no easy way out.

Perhaps your husband could put her up in her own small apartment or trailer home for awhile.
That would keep her out of your home.

A friend of ours tried to help his nephew.
Nephew was just 18, had been in trouble and his parents would not take him back anymore.
So our friend took him into his home with his wife and daughter, helped him, fed him, put a roof over his head.
Nephew brought in some 'friends' and robbed his uncle - stole all the electronics, and pretty much everything that wasn't nailed down.
Our friend had to evict him, change his locks and install a security system to try to not get robbed again - they come back for more sometimes after items have been replaced.

If your husband wants to help his daughter he can help her but not where you live.
He can put her up in her own apartment for awhile.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Why does she want to move in with you? You don't mention that part.

I don't think this is up to you - whether she goes to college, goes into the military, etc. That's up to her and she can discuss with her parents.

If her mother has been talking to her and they are at odds - that's not for you to get involved in either.

If it were me, I would say that you are ok with an adult child staying with you for set amount of time or until ... Or, if the are going to school and you're ok with her living with you during that time - then say so. You need to figure out what you are comfortable with. That's to do with you and your hubby. I think that's totally fair where she's an adult. He then communicates that with his daughter.

However - what your step daughter decides to do with her life - is up to her, and she discusses with her mom/dad. You don't get involved. During this process and when she does, you support her as a step mom. That's what my friends do.

* I have a friend with an unmotivated adult step-child. She went through something similar. She had limits. She expressed this to her hubby. They help out during transition periods, but they don't allow child to move back home for unlimited amounts of time. They would rather help out with rent, etc. There are alternatives here. You don't mention those either.

ETA - I fully agree with the point Diane makes about if the daughter isn't up to being an adult at this point, it's on the parents or she needs some help/intervention with her behavioral issues. You are leaving all this out of your question - so it's hard to give you any advice. I also agree that you can't come between Dad and Daughter. Such a wrong move.
She should get support so she can help herself - and that's up to her parents - but the fact you and hubby aren't communicating - is the issue in your marriage. Good points made by everyone.

No one can really advise you well without more info.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Your wish for her to have goals seems reasonable enough, but that isn’t your call to make. You sound pretty angry with her already, which makes me feel more understanding of your husband moving ahead without consulting you. In general, I would think it important that the two of you work together, and that he not make major decisions without you. But you refer to her as your husband’s daughter, not your stepdaughter, so I wonder what kind of relationship you have had with her so far. Is there any kind of friendship there, or have you kept your distance? How long have you and her father been married?

A 19 year old may be legally an adult, but her brain is not yet fully developed, and growing up is more of a process than something that's completely done at 18. College or the military are not her only options, why are they yours? When you say she “ should be going off to college or the military”, that is a big red flag for me, this is not your call, it’s hers. You say nothing about why she wants to move from her mother’s house, whether she graduated from high school, what sort of behavior issues she has, etc. The details would be helpful in knowing what you can do if she moves in and you decide to stay in the marriage. My tendency would be to suggest you be a friend to her, get to know her, listen to her and provide her with some support. Of course it would be good for her to develop and pursue some life goals, but that is on her, hopefully with support from her parents.

I suspect there are other issues in your marriage that would benefit from counseling, so that you can figure out what you want to do either together or apart.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

There is no way you can dictate that a parent cannot help his child. You're right - that is a marriage ender right there.

If your goal is to stay married, then you need to step back. Let Dad handle ALL the decisions, the work, the pain, the joy, everything. She needs a ride? Let Dad handle it. She needs money? Let Dad handle it. She parties and leaves a mess? Let Dad handle it.

Rather than YOU telling Dad that his daughter is heading down the wrong path, she will do it for you with her actions (or inactions.)

Be supportive of Dad - this is going to be hard for him. Getting a reality check about your kids always is (especially if his child's mother has somewhat sheltered him from the daughter's true colors). However, if he wants to parent a 19 yr old, let him.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I’m going to say tougher stuff than a few on this thread so far. The idea that you would ignore that she’s 19 is preposterous to me.

You have strong feelings about this, and I don’t blame you. An unmotivated adult with poor behavior in your home is going to make you a stranger in your own house. Considering that your husband wants to just go get her without any caring about your feelings on the matter means that he will stick up for HER against YOU in your own home. I would stand up now and say NO.

The only way for this young woman to better her circumstances is for her to get a job and take responsibility for herself. She needs to stay where she is, work and save money and then get her own place, like adults DO.

Stick to your guns. Go see a divorce attorney and find out what you need to do to protect yourself. Change things in advance as the lawyer recommends-your husband will see you are serious if you separate your finances from his with what the attorney recommends.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Oh I can imagine! Absolutely not! Your expectations are normal of a step mom or any mother that has a child that needs to start their life!
You should sit down with your husband and set some rules. You guys should have some lines she should never cross and if ever she does- have consequences. ( you both should be on the same page on this one, otherwise you will be that “horrible step mom”) he should be backing you all the way! ( I hope he knows his daughter..( character)?!

You guys should inform her what is expected of her.. she needs to agree to this. Heck put it in writing!

19 year old already an adult.. so she should have plans .. I get there will be some adjusting period but by no means should she not have a job or college/military etc. discuss it before she moves.

By the way .. why all of a sudden she wants to move in with you guys? What does her mom say? Did she have enough of fighting with her daughter? Discuss all of this with hubby and her.

Lots of luck! Keeping fingers crossed for you!

( I lived in NJ.. love Livingston! Best schools!!) if it wasn’t for ridiculous property taxes!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

It might be good for her to experience some proper parenting. Since your husband seems determined to do this, I think you should make a deal with your husband that you give it a try for X amount of time, and decide upon the conditions. You and he must be very clear on all of the details before she moves in. You should probably put it all in writing, so that you and hubby remember what you are agreeing to. Then, these conditions must be very clearly laid out to her and agreed upon by her before she moves in.

If you and he don't agree upon some guidelines before she moves in, then yes, your marriage is probably going to suffer. But if she's had a so-so mother until now, then I think it's worth giving it a shot, for her sake.

Good luck.

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