After I received the following letter, I reached out again to prolific commenter, “Addie Pray,” our resident legal expert who has contributed some law-related advice in the past. She was nice enough to extend some of her superstar legal expertise again to answer the following letter:
Let me preface this letter by saying that my relationship with my mother has been a downward spiral since I was about 12 years old. Along with being verbally abusive and a compulsive liar, she may, I think, have psychological problems that fuel her erratic, irrational, and manipulative behavior. Still, most of my life I felt guilty for telling her off or ignoring her (I am 23 now). About 9 months ago (August of last year), I severed ties with her after a particularly explosive argument over something rather insignificant. She tried to get back in touch around Christmas and again around her birthday in February, but was rather hostile and controlling about it, so I told her I did not feel comfortable having a relationship until she got a better handle on her emotions and anger issues. She said she had no plans to change and I made no further contact either time.
Just as I began to feel guilty again for cutting her out of my life, I found out today that she forged my signature on a refund check which was mistakenly sent to her house last October. I contacted the bank and they promised to get my money back and said they “might press charges” against her. However, since the check was only for $60, I doubt they will. At this point, if she is willing to commit a crime for a petty $60, I am afraid of what else she might do and feel like she should face some consequence for this. My first question is: if the bank doesn’t take any action against her, is there any legal recourse I can pursue for what she did (either for check fraud or for opening my mail without permission)? And on a more personal level, how should I handle our relationship from now on if she contacts me again? This is my last straw in terms of feeling guilty for severing ties, but I’m not sure how to come to terms with the very real possibility of not speaking to her again for the rest of my life. — Mama Drama
Addie Pray writes:
To answer your first question, sure, you may have legal recourse, but I doubt you will prevail. If the bank declines to press criminal charges, you always could. Unless crime is slow these days, however, I doubt the police will pursue a case against your mother over $60. You could also seek damages in a civil lawsuit, though it will be a challenge to find an attorney to take your case where damages are only $60 (or $0 if the bank returns your money as promised). The filing fee alone would cost more, and any emotional pain and suffering you have experienced would likely be hard to prove and/or not recoverable in the first place. There’s also the “ick factor” to consider. Do you really want to press charges against and/or sue your mother just to teach her a lesson? Ick.
As for how to handle your relationship with your mother moving forward, proceed with caution and protect yourself. Close any joint accounts you may have. Update your bank and credit card companies with your current address and phone number. Remove your mother as your emergency contact. Change your email address and all your online passwords. Do all you can to limit your mother’s ability to meddle in your affairs, even if that means ceasing all contact for now.
If your mother is harassing or threatening you, consider seeking an order of protection. An order of protection would make it illegal for your mother to contact you for the duration of the order. If she does, then she would face criminal liability for violating the order. The police can provide you with information about how to obtain an order of protection and what type of conduct merits a protective order.
I am sorry that your relationship with your mother is the way that it is and that she does not appear willing to change. It’s very sad, to say the least. But “forever” is a long time, and people change. She could surprise you in the future.
[Disclaimer: The information contained in this Website does not constitute legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to your particular issues.]