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Stepmother moved father away from children, now wants custody because children aren't doing well

Your Question:
I have a 12-year old step-daughter and 10- year step-son living in NJ. Their father and I live in WA. The orginal parenting plan was in filed in NJ. One year ago, we moved from NJ to WA due to my promotion. When we left, we had a new parenting agreement drawn up by the attorney who handled the divorce and orginal parenting plan, however, the agreement was never executed by both parties. We have been going on good faith.

Now, a year later, we are having problems and would like to file for custody and wonder if we will get it:

Our son was held back last year. Mother was upfront about the situation, we all weighed in on the matter, and decided for him to be held back was a good group decision based on the circumstances.

This year, we found out the 12 year old is going to be held back. Mother has not said anything to us (school set us a copy of the letter) and allows daughter to continue to tell us that school is well and is allowed to continue after school activities with little supervision.

The siblings share a bedroom in their mothers house. An item that we do not agree with based on their age.

The mothers phone is consitantly shut off due to non-payment and we do not get to speak to the children for weeks at a time.

Mother took the children as tax deducation again this year, which is against the agreement and has not paid for half travel costs as agreed on.

Mother told the kids they can come with dad and I when they reach high school, however we would like to file for custody now in an attempt to give a more stable, consistant lifestyle. Above all that, mother and family are all drama themselves and the children worry about grown up things and have their clothes and Christmas presents stolen by older cousins. Our household is much more quiet, relaxed and supervised with consistant structure and boundries.

Do we have a shot, or do we stick with getting an parenting agreement signed, sealed and delivered with the court's approval instead?

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My Answer:

So I'm going to boil it down... you and the father moved 3000 miles away from his kids and left them with the mother and her kooky family, the kids are doing poorly a year later, and now you want to rip the kids out of where they grew up to join you in your new home?

I think that's how a court will see it, and I don't think a court will be impressed by the argument.

I'd suggest that the past couple years of decisions made in your home were probably not child-centered.

When two pre-adolescents lose their father to a new wife who takes him across the country (i.e., that's how the kids see the situation, regardless of the sensible financial decision you may have made), their welfare is probably going to take a hit.

If you're also saying that the mother is an inadequate parent and her family is unhealthy, I really have to wonder where this man's priorities and testicles are, because he agreed to move with his new wife for her promotion-- rather than staying local to be a consistent, stable parent in his kids' lives.

This is completely different from the advice you requested, but I think if you and the father want to do what's best for the kids, move back to NJ, get more involved, and THEN make your strategy for modifying custody.

Sometimes my responses are harsh. This is one of those times. I think you and the father really did a disservice to the kids, and by your account, it's now showing. That saddens me.


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