Never married; custodial mother lives in MA, father lives
in CA. Child is going to be 2yrs this month. Nothing has
gone through court yet. I received a letter from my son's
father's lawyer. The father wants to visit his son end of
this month for 3 days out of the week. I have no problem
w/ him seeing his son but my son does not know him. The
last time my son saw him was over a year ago. I have a
fear that he will try to take my son out of state (he's
been wanting to take him to CA. There is a child support
order that has been established but the father hasn't paid
(he has a past due balance of over $3000). I honestly
can't afford a lawyer since I'm paying daycare (300/wk).
If this goes to court, what are my chances of a judge
granting my son's father visitation?
Thanks for writing. Keep in mind I'm not an attorney.
I know nothing about your background, and it's really not relevant at this point from a legal perspective. However, I'd want to know how 3000 miles came to be between the parents, and why the father hasn't seen the child in a year.
If you moved away, and if the father is a good father, I judge you negatively. A child deserves to be raised by two good parents, if both parents are healthy.
If the father moved away, then I guess that speaks to his lack of interest in being involved with the kid.
If you two somehow hooked up while living on opposite coasts, then I guess no one can be blamed for the distance, other than the irresponsibility of an unplanned pregnancy (i.e., not a difficult thing to cause, and we learn our lessons too late, as I know).
With regard to a year passing without the father seeing the child, if you have altogether blocked his access to the child for 12 months, and if he's not a threat to the child (i.e., you didn't mention that he is, so I'm assuming that he's not), I would judge you negatively.
If the father hasn't made the effort to see the child, again, that speaks to his lack of interest in being involved.
Now, to present day. Dad wants to see the child, and he's $3000 behind in child support. These are separate issues, and you need to make sure you don't intertwine them.
If I were in your position, I would write a letter to the attorney akin to the following (and please PLEASE remember that I'm not an attorney, and I urge you to consult one):
Dear Father's Attorney,
I've received your correspondence stating that father wishes to see child.
As you know, father hasn't seen child in a year, and he is a virtual stranger to this child.
While I believe that child should have a healthy relationship with father, father's approach over the past year has not nurtured such relationship. As such, no stretch of the imagination would find it in this 2 year old child's best interest to spend significant time across three days with father, who is currently a stranger to child.
However, if father is interested in building the paternal relationship with child, I embrace that sentiment. I would be willing to allow child to spend 3 hours each day with father, under my supervision or the supervision of (insert name of person who you trust and with whom child is very comfortable). I would need father to stipulate that at no time, he would attempt to gain unsupervised access to the child this month. I am making this gesture out of good faith and expect the same in return. In time, as child and father establish a new relationship, I think only then it would be appropriate for unsupervised time between them. I am willing to stipulate to a step-up parenting plan in this regard, if you would like to propose one.
Unrelated, by my calculations, father is $3000 behind in child support payments. As I pay $1200/month for childcare, plus I've shouldered the entire burden for raising our child to date, I would hope you can give me good news about father's intent to pay child support.
If the father is not a threat to the child, the chances are extremely high that if/when he goes to court, he will get orders for some access to the child. I think it's important for you to demonstrate (via your correspondence with attorney) that you have offered time to the father. A court may view you in a more reasonable like with that approach, and a judge may say to himself or herself, "Hmmm, mom seems pretty accommodating here, and her concerns are valid. I'm fine just calling father's access 'reasonable visitation' and then we're done with it." If you're painted as a mother who has completely blocked the dad's access to this child, I can't imagine a court will be too impressed with you.
In that sample letter above, I used the term "step-up parenting plan". I could see something like, dad flies out on the first and/or third weekends every month (i.e., up to twice per month, if he can afford it), has 4 hours supervised on Saturday and 4 hours supervised on Sundays. Do that for four months. Then, step up to unsupervised, same schedule. Then a year later, go up to 6 hours each day, unsupervised. If the father follows through with all that, it's a sign that he is committed to this kid, and he deserves that you meet his efforts on this. But if he shows up only once a year or so, then it's clear where his mind is.
I'll emphasize, for other readers, that my suggested parenting plan is unique to this situation. I'd be suggesting something very different if there was an existing bond between father and child. The above tries to build a bond but also recognizes there is 3000 miles between parents.
As I've said to both men and women who have a kid with an uninvolved parent, always pray that this child will have a father in his life (as children benefit immensely from having both mom and dad), but always balance that by making sure best interest is never compromised either.