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Father with majority timeshare of young daughter is in early stages of divorce; he has concerns about mother's alleged drug use and mental instability

Your Question:
I filed for divorce several months ago and I have temporary custody of my 4 year old daughter and have had this for several months (my ex actually was placed in epc for saying she was going to kill herself, and then signed over temp custody) But now when my daughter goes to see her mother on the weekends she comes back saying she spent time with her mother's drug using friends and also comes back smelling like pot smoke. I don't exactly want to get child protective services envolved but will if it protects my daughter from this behavior.

How much of my exs past will be relevant in court as she has supposedly turned into Mother of the year? Her aunt is a nurse practicioner and has been drug testing her monthly but i feel these could be rigged and biased easily. Will speeding tickets recieved by my ex play any role? She had my daughter with her when she got them. I also feel that my ex is mentally un stable but her attorney is the one that demanded a custody evaluation, etc.

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing.

You're actually in an excellent position to ultimately receive majority custodial timeshare with your daughter, whether it ends up being called sole custody or joint custody. The most influential factor in court rulings is the status quo. Your status quo arrangement largely benefits you.

So, the longer you go with the current arrangement, the stronger your position becomes.

Regarding the mother's instability, a custody evaluation that includes psychological testing would be best. It's not a certainty that she'll be diagnosed with anything, but it's an indicator of psychological issues or stressors when a person is involuntarily committed for suicide threats... and that only happened a short while ago. So that incident is quite relevant.

Regarding other issues in her past, if they're indicative or a pattern and they're related to ability to raise a child, then they may be relevant to bring up to the evaluator and at trial.

You should frame your arguments around the child's welfare. So, if the mother shoplifted a few times a decade ago, it may speak to her character, but it hasn't happened recently and really doesn't have that much to do with raising a child. You run the risk of looking petty if you try to put her character on trial.

It's similar with her mental stuff. If you think her mental instability is related to the child's welfare, than frame your concerns in tangible terms. E.g., "I've observed while living with Ms. XYZ that she sometimes seems so emotionally depressed that she can't get out of bed until 1pm for weeks on end. This gives me serious concerns about her ability to provide for a preschooler's needs throughout the day."

I think the speeding tickets are probably not too relevant. You'll look petty. If she was caught drinking and driving with the child in the car, or if she was cited for reckless driving, those are more serious.

The aunt doing the drug testing is ridiculous. Your attorney can simply put her on the stand, ask her if she's related to your ex, and then her credibility is shot. It's reasonable to expect an objective third party do the drug testing, and the court may order it if you request it.

With regard to the people to whom your daughter is exposed, I suggest you spend a bit of money on a private investigator. It could cost you one to two thousand dollars. Here's a guy who may be able to help you or refer you to someone good... Guy White. You'd have this investigator document the people in her home while the child is there and do subsequent background checks on them. This person can also be present to smell the child when you pick her up (i.e., and later testify to smell of pot on "8 of 10 occasions").

Also, if you happened to know a police officer who would be willing to help you, you can have that officer be present when you pick up your child. That officer can likewise smell the child to see if there's an odor of pot. Ask your attorney about this tactic, since it may be considered probable cause for the officer to then do something further-- and you want to control as much of your tactics as possible.

Bringing in CPS could backfire on you if your allegation isn't proven. The mother's attorney would use it against you at trial.

You'll also want to depose your ex before the evaluation begins. It's a way to lock in your ex's testimony. A deposition is different from written pleadings because there is no opportunity to think about an answer or consult with an attorney before answering. If your ex is unstable, and if you can get her to admit to much of the behavior that you wish to prove, it may all come out in a deposition. If you spend four hours in deposition, that's four hours of your attorney, plus the cost of a court reporter (several hundred bucks).

In another email (not posted), you gave me an idea of the kind of funds you have remaining for this. My suggestions will use up a good chunk of that money. If the investigator gets good stuff, and if the deposition gives you strong evidence; it could have a powerful influence on the evaluator. As you already have the status quo favoring you, a strong evaluation report could be the final blow-- and you may simply avoid trial and come to a settlement. That would be ideal, as it would cost you less money, and you don't have to risk the wildcard of a court ruling.

Finally, I suggest you look at my What You Must Have page and buy that book (e.g., from your local store or from Amazon). It's going to give you a ton of helpful strategies and tactics. It will also help you get a solid grasp on the type of information that is relevant and not relevant as you move forward in the custody proceedings.

Please let me know how it all goes, and good luck. Make every decision out of sincere concern for your daughter, and you'll be fine.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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