Underage Marriage: Leslie and Corina

Underage Marriage: Leslie and Corina

"Do you want to be married?" Dr. Phil asks Corina.

"Yes, I do."

"Have you confided in [Leslie] that you didn't want to be married?"

"When I was upset, I told her I had second thoughts," she says.

"Have you been unfaithful to Ryan?" Dr. Phil probes.

"No, I have not."

"Are you concerned that she has not been straight with you about that?" Dr. Phil asks Ryan.

"I believe her 100 percent. I know what went on," he responds. He faces Leslie. "So you, over there, being all smart and everything, I know what really happened."

"If you think you know what happened, why are you changing your story now that you're in front of Dr. Phil?" Leslie asks. "You told Chris that you thought she had been cheating on you and you knew it, and you knew with whom."

"Am I wrong, though, to say that I know what's going on now?" he replies. "What I know is you can't do anything about our marriage, whether you want to or not."

"Yes, I can because what happened was done illegally," Leslie says.

"Do you intend to prosecute this?" Dr. Phil asks Leslie.

"Yeah," she says. "Corina and I both visited a lawyer together to get it annulled. We found out that we had to go through Ohio."

"You want this annulled, but yet you don't want to take the responsibility for raising her? You want to put that on her grandmother?" Dr. Phil inquires.

"Oh, no. I don't mind taking the responsibility, but I don't want her coming in my home and disrupting things more with her lies," Leslie says.

"At this point, you want to annul this, but you would plan for her to be with her grandmother?" Dr. Phil reiterates.

"If her grandmother would take her," Leslie says.

"Like I said, retaliation," Corina says.

 

Leslie gives her daughter a sharp look. "It has nothing to do with retaliation. You've got no business being married at 16," she says.

"You've got no business being called a mother," Corina shoots back.

"At this point, do you agree that this has been a rocky road?" Dr. Phil asks Leslie.

"As far as her growing up, if that's what you're referring to, I know what they've been through. I know that I screwed up a lot, and there were a lot of things that I could have done differently, but that doesn't give her the right to say I don't deserve to be her mother," she responds.

"But isn't this a survival instinct on her part saying, ‘I'd rather be about anywhere than there'?"

"Why did she come back to us then?" Chris asks. "Why did she move back?"

"She's 16," Dr. Phil says, stating the obvious. 

"Why am I the one who abandoned her when [her father] chose his wife over her?" Leslie asks.

"You did sign adoption papers. You did drop her at a friend's house," Dr. Phil says.

"That's what they wanted," Leslie says. "She wanted that."

"You can't have it both ways. You can't say she's too young to make adult decisions and then say, ‘I did that because it's what she wanted.'"

"I asked her where she wanted to go."

"You don't ask a 16-year-old what they want to do. You don't ask a 15-year-old what they want to do. You make the decision as a parent!" Dr. Phil says, raising his voice.

Dr. Phil has a strong message for the young couple.

 

"If this isn't right, if this is an act of defiance on both of your parts or either of your parts, if this isn't the right thing long-term, then the two of you need to sit down and talk that through calmly and openly. This doesn't have to be a fight or discourse between the two of you. Life is a marathon. It's not a sprint. You guys are very young. Take it from somebody who's getting a little long in the tooth. There's a lot of this life ahead of you. The only thing worse than being in a bad relationship for a year, is being in a bad relationship for a year and one day," he says. "If you plan to try and stay married, then I would ask that you let me help you by providing you with some support and counsel that can talk to you about how to make a plan to have the best chance of success, the best chance of survival."

 

The couple agrees to accept the help.

"What ownership do you have in this situation, the fact that she's married at 16?" Dr. Phil asks Leslie.

"The ownership that I have is not giving her a better childhood. I wasn't there to say, ‘No, don't get married,'" she replies. "I asked her why didn't she call. I could have come and gotten her."

"I have to tell you, as a parent, to drop my kid off somewhere to live with somebody else just isn't even on the radar," Dr. Phil says.

"I didn't leave her there to live," Leslie clarifies. "I said, ‘I need to put you somewhere safe while I sort this situation out.'"

"You just got adoption papers from your son, that he's been adopted out," Dr. Phil observes.

"Yes."

"She doesn't take care of any of her kids," Corina chimes in.

"That just seems way bizarre to me," Dr. Phil tells Leslie. "Why is that?"

"I don't know because I haven't been able to speak with him for over a year. I don't know what his reasoning is."

"You have two children, and both of them are estranged. I'm wondering if you're asking yourself, ‘That ain't much of a résumé as a mom. What am I doing?'"

"I ask myself that all the time, and I don't need her putting me down to ask that," she says. "All I ever wanted was children and to be married."

Dr. Phil wants to encourage Corina. "Growing up is tough, no question about it. Growing up in a blended family is really tough," he says. He points to her teen marriage, allegations of molestation and abandonment issues as examples. "I, frankly, am surprised that you've made it as far as you have, as well as you have. Every rule I can think of in a blended family has been violated … The only thing I ask is that in your quiet moments alone, you try to keep a compass of what is going to be best for you long-term."

He turns to Ryan. "She hasn't had an easy road, and you know that. You have a big responsibility here. She doesn't need somebody who is unkind or abusive in any way. I'm not saying that you are. I'm saying you have to be very careful about that," he warns.

He reiterates his offer for them to attend both couples counseling and individual therapy, and they accept.