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Father was left with child after mother abandoned them years ago - now she suddenly wants custody

Your Question:
I am a father for a 7 year old girl. Wife left us when daughter at 2. With evident, she prefered to live a Single's life style. She sent me via her lawyer to give me custody of the child at the time she left me which I wrote back to accept. Then no news from her or her lawyer totally and she called about a year later to see the child, which I always let her. I allowed her to overnight in daughter's room. I live together with my parents. Last year, I asked for joint-petition for divorce, she then got a lawyer to wrote back asked for custody and huge $. Now my wife taking me to court and ask for custody and monthly maintenance. First hearing in July 2005.

I have been a motherly father and never had any affair with woman since wife left. I adjusted my working life to suit my daughter. Such as to have more time with her, including to park or swim even during office hour. I go through her studies in the evening, play dolls and the usual games for girls, bedtime story, I bath her, and cut her nail and hair since baby.

I can say that I knew A to Z in handling a child not inferior to a good mother. I let her attend ballet, music and singing classes, which I drive her personally most of the time.

We ran into my child's mother (my wife) in public places. She walked quickly away from us (me and my child + other family members). In one of the occasions, she even shouted at us in public. Both occasions she was with the same guy.

A mum that can walked away upon seeing her own child showed the lack of love and also lack of "missing" the child. I do not want to let her have overnight access, which she has asked for. What do I have to do to get this done??

What are the things I should do with my daughter now to build my case stronger to ensure I get full custody?? Your valuable advice please.

Thanks a lot for your time and effort.

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My Answer:

The good news is that odds are in your favor that you'll end up with majority timeshare, unless you have major problems about yourself or your home that you haven't disclosed.

The bad news is that you may be spending quite a bit of money to make sure the good news happens.

If your attorney (and you DO need an attorney, else you are facing major risk in being railroaded into a bad ruling by your ex's attorney) can establish that you have been the main parent raising this child for many years, you've got a good case. In child custody rulings, it's always most likely that something close to the status quo will occur, unless there's evidence that the status quo is not in the child's best interest.

So, you should be compiling objective witnesses who can write affadavits or testify as to your primary involvement with the kids over the past several years. This would include doctors, teachers, neighbors, etc. Not only will they testify as to how often they've seen you for appointments, school transportation, and so on; but they'll likewise testify as to how they've hardly ever seen nor talked to the mother over the past X years.

Don't get sidetracked by what her attorney is asking for. They can also demand that you pull a rabbit out of your nose, but it doesn't mean it will happen.

As to overnights, it's likely that the mother will get overnights with your child. Unless the mother is a major drug addict, is psychotically dangerous, or is involved in child porn, she's going to get overnights. I recommend that you don't put much effort into trying to block that, since it's largely futile and you'll come across as a parent who is attempting to severely restrict the daughter's access to her mother (i.e., and that would be bad for you).

I think your attitude should be, "I've been the primary, responsible parent for years. It's great that the mother now wants to settle down and be a more involved parent, but that's not enough to switch custody, nor even for a 50/50 schedule."

With a competent attorney by your side, and the many years of history of you being the primary parent, the mother has a huge burden to overcome.

That doesn't mean you should slack or let down your guard. What you should do:

  • Get a good family law attorney. This is going to cost several thousand dollars, but I think there's a good chance that if you have a good attorney representing you, the mother's attorney will convince her to settle before trial... hence avoiding the cost of trial.

  • Start documenting in a personal log the time that each parent is with the child.

  • Start building a list of witnesses who would be willing to talk about how you're the most involved parent, and what a good father you are.

  • Think about a "worst case" parenting schedule that is acceptable to you, and don't settle for anything less than that.

  • You may want to read a basic book about child custody matters. A good introduction and big picture review is the Child Custody Book by Stewart. There's a link to it on my Resources page.

I'll just warn you that there are no do-overs after the court makes a ruling. If you don't hire an attorney and don't do a good job at protecting your advantage, it may all fall apart for you. So, while you're almost sitting pretty... it's no time to be overly confident or cocky.

Finally, be the best parent you can be, and make every decision in your daughter's best interest. Don't let your own pain or anger influence any decision. Keep focused on your daughter.

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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