I am new to this forum and after browsing many different forums thought this would be a good place to get advice. I apologize in advance if this post seems really long.
My girlfriend and I are talking about getting engaged in the next year or 2 and she has a 3 (almost 4) year old son. I love him a lot and have started building a very strong bond with him. His father is a great father and as of right now they have a 50/50 verbal custody agreement although since I and his new girlfriend came into the picture they are going to court over custody and things have been very messy and tense. He doesn't like me and my girlfriend doesn't like his girlfriend. I understand both of their concerns and am trying to do my best with being a support system for my girlfriend as well as staying out of the battle for her ex's sake.
My concerns are about my boundaries as a father figure in this boys life. I have no intentions of trying to step in on the father's territory. And I'm glad that even though he doesn't like me he keeps his comments to himself when his son is around.
My girlfriend is having trouble controlling her son's behavior sometimes and looks to me to help discipline him. Her son is starting to get to the age where he tells his parents what happens at the others house and with the tension building between my girlfriend and her ex as they near the court hearing I am scared that any discipline actions I do will come back to bite her in court if he tells his dad. I don't believe in spanking so we use time outs, but when it comes time for him to stand in the corner he likes to put up a struggle which can get messy. I'm worried stories he tells his dad might not be told truthfully or some of the details be left out, making his dad think I am hurting him or something along those lines.
Another issue I am having is with how my girlfriend's son acts around me after a long stay with his father. For the first day or 2 of him staying with us he almost acts like he is scared of me or hates me. He won't talk to me and doesn't let me play with him or help him with anything. I am sure this is a confusing time for him, even with him being so young so I just wrote it off as him having a hard time adjusting, but lately I have been feeling like there are others factors in this situation, for example his father or his girlfriend telling him bad things about me.
As a new "father" I am just looking for advice on the situation and what I should do.