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Noncustodial father wonders why mother still has custody after her suicide attempts

Your Question:
My Ex wife and i have been divorced for four years. We had a son together he is 6 now. She has tried to committed suicide several times. I know of at least one time me child was in the home at the same time. This is not just speculation my lawyer has her medical records to prove it. The courts gave her mother temporary custody. I do not understand that but that is another story. Why am i having such a hard time getting my child. The have made no accusations against me. Where do i stand in this case. I thought that it would not be a problem but it has been going on for 6 months now.

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing.

To try to better assess what may be going on, I asked for additional information:

  • You at one time spanked your boy, but no longer believe that corporal punishment works as well as time outs.

  • You're a full-time student right now, with a limited income.

  • Mother has not addressed the child's speech problem. Child is dirty when you pick him up.

  • Mother is supposed to be in counseling, but you're not sure if she is.

  • You live 40 miles from the mother.

I want to emphasize what has happened in your case because it's critical for us to look at that: After the mother attempted suicide (as you claim) with the child in the home, you were not able to secure temporary custody.

There's no dispute of that sentence, right?

So, one or more of the following has happened:

  • Your lawyer sucked.

  • The judge was biased or sucked.

  • Your case wasn't compelling enough with credible evidence and testimony.

You can control the first bullet and the last bullet. You can't control the middle bullet, so all we can do is pray that the judge is reasonable in his/her rulings.

Regarding your attorney, it's a reality that many attorneys prioritize their cases by a client's ability to fund the litigation. If you can't pay, why should this professional person want to invest dozens of hours (or more) into a case? Because you're on a limited income, this may be a factor in your situation. I don't know, but I'm tossing it out for you to think about.

Also, you should have an attorney who has experience appearing before your judge. Otherwise, the attorney has no rapport, the attorney has no knowledge of what makes the judge tick (or what the judge likes/dislikes to see in cases). It's a disadvantage if the attorney hasn't gotten to know a particular judge's tendencies in rulings.

Some attorneys are better litigators than others. I recommend that people find an attorney with at least 10 years experience in the county where the case is located. Some degree of comfort comes with 10+ years experience, but it's no guarantee. Check with the state bar for any disciplinary action taken against the attorney. Because this is a court fight, you more need an aggressive litigator, and less a reasonable negotiator. I don't know if this applies to your situation, but think about it.

Finally, let's look at your case. Judges don't like to disrupt a child's current situation without good cause.

You are proposing to take this child away from his primary caretaker AND perhaps from his current school and friends. This kid's life will turn upside down, if you get custody.

So, it's your job to convince a court that the necessity for the change OUTWEIGHS the negative of the major disruption.

If you have credible evidence/testimony that the mother has has several suicide attempts in the past 18 months, and if you can demonstrate that the mother is not under any psychological or psychiatric treatment, I think that's a pretty powerful argument that the child should not be in her care... you use the examples of "always unacceptably dirty and disheveled" and "never sought attention for the speech disorder" as indicators that the mother can't handle being primary caretaker at this time.

But the key is to prove it in a way that a judge can consider. Your words alone aren't good enough. Got a teacher willing to back you up that the kid is always dirty? That's an example of credible testimony.

Look for the book "Child Custody A to Z - Winning with Evidence" on my Recommended Books page. It will help guide you on how to build a case that a judge will find convincing.

One last thought that I have is that your case would be easier to sell if there was not 40 miles between homes. If you moved closer, you'd be able to keep the child in the same school, with the same friends. It's not reasonable to commute 40 miles to/from school, if that's what you're thinking, but it's better than changing schools. If you can keep him in the same school, it's far less disruption for him.

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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