DEAR ABBY: My mother and father have been separated for four years. They are not yet divorced. A year ago, Dad started dating this woman from another country. She is not a U.S. citizen; she is here on a work visa. Well, she wanted to get married, and Dad never told her that he was still married to my mother. They ended up being married last month. Needless to say, I was not happy to hear about it.

Dad told me he had filed the papers and his lawyer told him it was OK for him to go ahead and get married. I called my mother a few days after the wedding; she has never received any papers regarding a divorce. On his marriage license to this new woman, it says that Dad divorced my mother in 2004. I went to the courthouse, and there is no record that a divorce ever happened.

So my father is married to this new woman and it’s not legal. What should I do? Should I tell my mother and get my father in trouble? – STRESSED IN N. CAROLINA

DEAR STRESSED: Your mother should absolutely be told, so she can consult an attorney and her local police. Your father is guilty of fraud and bigamy, which is a felony. And the poor deluded woman your father is leading to believe is his wife should also be informed. Being given that information now would be far kinder than receiving it when her visa elapses and she must leave the country.

DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law recently accused my 6-year-old daughter – her granddaughter – of stealing jewelry from her. She called me one day and made the accusation. I was stunned at the undertone and the manner in which she approached me. I know for a fact that my daughter did not take anything from her. There were other grandchildren in the house as well.

I told my mother-in-law that I didn’t think my daughter had stolen anything, as she was with me the entire time we were there, but that I’d talk to her about it to make sure. My daughter confirmed what I already knew, and I believe her.

My mother-in-law has now called two of my sisters-in-law to tell them that I need to “control that girl” and “that girl is so devious she probably threw the jewelry away to keep from getting into trouble” – and that if she did, I would cover it up to protect her, which I would never do.

I don’t know why she’s treating my little girl like this. How should I respond? She has also told my sister-in- law that I’m going to make a “big deal” out of this and “turn her son (my husband) against her.” I am hurt and lost and don’t know how to handle this. She’s bad-mouthing my child to all the family members. – APPALLED IN HOUSTON

DEAR APPALLED: If you haven’t already done so, you need to talk to your husband about this. It might also be helpful to speak to your sisters-in-law. I say this because it is possible that their mother needs to be neurologically and physically evaluated. Among the symptoms of dementia are losing things and paranoia that someone is stealing from the sufferer.

If your mother-in-law is of sound mind, then it is also possible she harbors a resentment toward you for some reason and is now directing it at your child. If that turns out to be the reason for her behavior, then common sense would dictate that you limit your child’s exposure to her.

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, CA 90069.

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