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Grandparents are interfering with arrangement between never-married parents

Your Question:
Background: 1. We were never married. 2. No court orders whatsoever. 3. We're In the state of California 4. I live with my mother (I am currently in school and working) and my ex lives with her mother and grandmother, our daughter spends (or at least usually) spends equal amounts of time with each of us (i.e. 4 days out of the week w/ me, then following week, 4 days w/ her).

My ex and I have been apart for several months now and we've been fairly steady on taking care of our daughter. We get along fine, until yesterday.

I took my daughter to her grandfather's house (my ex's dad), a few hours later my ex's mom picked her up. I called my ex when I discovered what had happened, and told her that I was going to pick her up, because my daughter and I had plans for dinner and plans the following day (my only day off every week). She agrees.

I drive up to her house and she's holding my daughter and they have some man standing in front of the door as if to stop me from seeing my child. I ask her whats going on and she tells me I cant have my daughter, a few minutes later her mother pulls up and tells me to leave her property. I proceed to tell her I am my daughter's father and I have plans to which my ex said was ok.

My ex's mom gets in my face cursing at me and telling me to get off her property before she calls the police. They head inside the house to call the cops... I dont know what to do, so i start walking toward my car when the man standing there earlier comes up to me and tells me i should file for custody. I found out he is my ex's aunt's boyfriend.

Im at a loss here. I typically have my daughter 4-5 days out of the week, bt for the past 3 weeks (since my car accident), I have only got to see her on the weekends, as per they wouldnt bring her to me. What should I do? WHat rights to I have as a parent if neither her mother or I have legal custody??? Please help. Thank you.

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing.

So, your mystery man is correct. The only way you're going to be able to have some authority to spend time with your daughter is to file a paternity action (i.e., a petition) and get court orders to do so or go through mediation with your ex and work out a parenting plan that then gets made into court orders.

Depending upon your courthouse, they may have a Family Law Information Center that could help you fill out the forms. Or, if you and your mother are able to come up with several thousand dollars, you can hire an attorney to do it for you, and you'll probably have better luck in expediency and outcome.

There are some good news, bad news elements to your situation. The good news is that once established as the father, you'll have more rights in the eyes of the court than the grandparents will. The bad news is that it sounds like your ex's parents are going to be buttheads throughout this, which is unfortunate, because they may go fighting and screaming every step of the way. And it's even more unfortunate if the mother is not willing to stand up to them. Your worst-case scenario is if the grandparents try for custody of the child, which a judge may find reasonable because they seem more stable in life than you or your ex.

Mediation would be ideal for the two of you. Only the two parents are allowed into the mediation, so hopefully you and the mother can come to acceptable terms on a parenting plan, and she can stay strong enough to sign them without succumbing to her parent's potential desire to give up nothing. Most courthouses have a mediation service (also called conciliation) at no cost. Look into that. Many courthouses require mediation before appearing before a judge for an action, so it may be automatic once you file your paternity action.

I have two warnings for you: 1) if it goes before a judge, child support will be calculated and ordered. Child support is formulaic based upon each parent's income and the parenting timeshare split. 2) the longer you wait to take any action, the worse the outcome may be for you because it establishes the other home as the primary one by far with you seldom seeing your daughter. Status quo (regardless of how it came to be) counts alot in court.

One thought-- if the grandparents were cooperative for months and all of a sudden turned on you, you may want to think hard if there's anything you've done to offend them. It's possible that they're just being jerks, but also possible that they're reacting to something you may have done.

AND... it may be worthwhile to see if you can secretly meet with the ex's aunt's boyfriend somehow. He may have some valuable insight into what's going on in the family that could be helpful for you to know. Approach him with, "It seemed like you were trying to help me the other day. I know you're in a difficult position, but can you tell me what's going on?"

Finally, educate yourself about how the family law process works. Check out my Recommended Resources page to see a list of books that are most helpful, all conveniently linked to Amazon, so you can easily order them from Amazon. Reading a book or two may save you from many common mistakes and misperceptions.

Best wishes for you,

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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