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Long-distance never married father of newborn got court orders, now faces appeal by mother

Your Question:
My ex girlfriend gave birth to our child in April. She notified me at two months pregnant and then proceded to dump me and get married. Paternity has been established and the child is mine. I HAD (because she refused to work with me at all) to go to court to get a visitation agreement set-up. The judge ruled overwhelmingly in my favor and set up what a contract that is basically every other weekend and holidays (split).

My ex is appealing the case based on the mental health of our daughter and the travel distance between our houses (300 miles). Currently I live 600 miles away and make the 1200 mile round trip every other weekend (our daughter will never have to make the 600 mile one way trip) The judge ordered us to meet halfway (half of the 300 miles) once the child turns 1. Until then i drive all the way. Is this amount of travel unprecedented? I cant find much literature on the subject and want to ensure that I make decisions that serve the best interests of my daughter not my own self interest.

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My Answer:

Thanks for that last line. It's refreshing to read that, if it's sincere. I'm going to write with the presumption that it's heartfelt.

The situation that you and the mother have set up for this child is less than ideal. The conflict and distance that already exist is going to plague this child, make her formative years more challenging than most children face, and could indeed introduce some emotional and mental health issues.

The bigger threat to her development is animosity and fighting between the parents. Per your description, that may be a one-way fight, but that's all it takes for a child to be exposed to it.

If your ex is willing to put her own agenda ahead of accepting reality that you WILL be the father of this child, it means she will do what it takes to make sure that the baby doesn't do well with these court orders.

IF your ex is like that, your future is probably filled with false accusations, litigation, and stress. As an indicator -- it is an extremely rare litigant who will appeal the kind of ruling that you describe. She will lose her appeal (if you haven't left out anything that she describes as a technically flawed process at your hearing), and it can very well add to her fury and desperation.

So, here's my advice to you... if your daughter's best interest is what you most want to pursue:

  • Find a way to move to the mother's city, and do it well before the child's first birthday. This child can't have two homes that are 600 miles apart... it's an unfair, horrible two decade sentence of traveling up to a dozen times per year between homes. Unless you have other kids that you didn't bother to mention, there is nothing so important in your current city that should prevent you from living a few miles away from your child, for ease of transfer between homes.

  • Take and complete a parenting class. Regardless of whether you need it, the mother will inevitably argue that you're not a fit or aware parent. Your certificate of completion from that class is a good defense, and taking it voluntarily will later show the court that you're serious about this parenting thing.

  • Live on the straight and narrow path from now on. It doesn't matter if your daughter is 600 miles away when you're partying all night, drinking and driving, or engaging in activities that can be twisted against you. It will be very helpful for you to assume that there's a private investigator watching you at all times. At some point in the future, you may want more time with your daughter, and it sounds like the mother will fight tooth and nail. Don't hand her any evidence of you being irresponsible.

  • Look at my What You Must Have page and follow its recommendations. You're only at the very beginning of this process. Build a strategy that will help you secure a more ideal parenting plan when you move 5 miles away from the mother. The current parenting plan is awful for a baby, as a baby needs frequent contact to build bonds. Every two weeks doesn't build a deep bond.

If you move prior to your daughter's first birthday, and if you move before your case is heard (if heard) at the appellate level, you really render her best argument moot.

I think you did a fair first skirmish, in terms of getting some involvement with your child, but you should now think long-term. Long-term best interest is that you and the mother live in the same town. It'll give you more frequent contact with your daughter, and it's at least ONE area of stress that you can remove from her life.

For ideas on longer-term parenting plans, look at my Parenting Plan section. It's the most robust content about Parenting Plans that is available for free online.

Good luck.


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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