I am currently in the process of a divorce. My soon-to-be-ex-wife has custody of my daughter. She lived in a camper in a campground for awhile, but she just moved to an apartment with government help. She does not take care of my daughter at all. I will pick her up on weekends and she will smell, and will be extremely dirty. When I use to pick her up at the camper, I would pull up at dark and my 3-yr-old would be playing outside by herself with NO PARENTAL SUPERVISION whatsoever. Most of the time, her mother would be asleep and her 7-yr-old half-bro would be watching and taking care of her. She parties constantly and does drugs. She also has new men in and out of her life constantly. I feel this is not a stable environment for my daughter. Just recently, she took my daughter back, but while we were married I was the primary caregiver because she was always partying, then when we first separated my daughter lived with me until she decided to take her back. Now I have started the divorce process, I am paying child support, but she wants to refuse me access to my daughter until the divorce is finalized. So here are my questions, Do I have to pay child support even though the divorce/custody papers have not been signed? Can she refuse me access to my daughter until the divorce is finalized even if I'm paying child support? And is there any way that I can get custody of my daughter if I can prove my allegations are true? Also, if she gets caught with drugs and gets arrested, do I automatically get custody of my daughter? Lots of question! Thanks!
It's important for you to gather evidence that would be convincing in a courtroom. If you're not sure about how to do this, get the book, "Custody A to Z - Winning with Evidence," which I list on my Book Review
If you have been ordered to pay child support, you must pay it. If you have not been ordered to pay it, I suggest you set up a bank account and deposit the child support payment into it every month (or twice a month). It's possible that the court will make your child support retroactive to the filing date, regardless of what you've already paid (unless parties have a signed stipulation indicating agreement on child support). So, set aside the child support amount, which you can show the court (that you're being responsible) without risking double-payment.
Until there are court orders saying otherwise, either parent has 100% authority to do anything they want with the child (anything legal, that is). So, if you wanted to take the child and keep her from the mother, you have 100% authority to do that.
That said, it's in a child's best interest to have access to two healthy parents. It can backfire in court to have completely cut off access to the other parent.
Back to my original point... gather the evidence that will demonstrate your allegations against the mother. If you don't have serious problems yourself, a court would likely see you as the preferred primary custodial parent (i.e., especially because you've historically been this, given your claim).
If she is convicted of drug possession and it's related to her ability to be a good parent, it's more evidence that you should have custody of the child. Nothing is "automatic", but it only makes your case stronger.
Finally, the longer you go without seeing your child, the weaker your case becomes. Discuss this strategy with an attorney: consider giving the mother an ultimatum to produce the child, and then go for an Ex Parte (emergency) hearing to get temporary custody of the girl, supplemented with your claims about the mother, your inability to see the child you've primarily raised, and your concerns that the child is currently living in a neglectful environment.