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Never married custodial mother is freaking out over father's accusations and his threat to get custody

Your Question:
I am an unmarried mother of 1 and the father is suing me for custody. I am wondering what it would take for him to take away a child from her mother. I am a good mother and I don't drink, don't smoke, don't use drugs, don't really do hardly anything other than take care of my child and work full time in a professional setting. I make a good salary and I own a small but beautiful home. The father accuses me of being mentally unstable and has made other untruthful accusations of myself and my parents. He has convinced some people to write affidavits against me and say that he is a wonderful parent. In fact, he hasn't provided anything for the child, and I provide health insurance, food, clothing, toys, and everything else. I have proof that he is unstable but what are my chances of going up against people that he's told I'm unstable? We both have attorneys, and he hired a real big hotshot attorney who seems to be guaranteeing he will get custody. I have gotten some people to write affidavits, too. He accused me of lying in my affidavit already. We are awaiting a temporary hearing.

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing.

So the title of this post, "Never married custodial mother is freaking out over father's accusations and his threat to get custody" isn't exactly clinical, it accurately describes what's going on. I'm sure you'd agree.

I asked you for additional information about your situation, and you provided much more (not posted). There's a pretty easy answer regarding the child custody aspects of it all, and I'll save that for later in the post.

Please read this response slowly, thoughtfully, and carefully. I don't know why anyone hasn't ever previously shared such observations with you (or if they did, why you don't pay attention).

Though you think the father is your enemy, your bigger enemy is yourself.

You are completely freaking out over what the father is doing, and what his friends and allies are saying. You are giving up all of your emotional power to the circus going on in your life, and I'm not quite sure why that's so. It's probably something to do with self-esteem or self-worth or self-confidence, or one of those other things that Richard Simmons has always talked about.

A couple of the things you described to me seems to indicate you've been weak with this man (and likely others too). It's critical to find new strength, because you've got a long road ahead of you with the father of your child.

And finally, your emails are filled with doom and gloom about what you worry may happen, assumptions about what may happen, or fear about a bunch of "what if" scenarios.

Do you really like living like that?! I'd drive myself batty and would probably go insane if I had all that going on inside my head.

The danger with this mindset is that we, as people, often find subconscious ways to fulfill our fears.

Here are perspectives that I suggest you should embrace regarding your child custody situation (and let it permeate throughout other aspects of your life, as applicable). Hey, even read them aloud right now:

  • Simply because any other person predicts a future does not mean there is ANY chance of it occurring.

  • Your attorney is not a friend, therapist, or Oprah. You will annoy and alienate your attorney if you treat her like a friend, a therapist, or Oprah. Your attorney is there to do ONE job-- and it's ONLY to address legal issues. Don't hijack your attorney's relationship into areas the attorney never agreed to provide.

  • You picked the father of your child (either intentionally, or by having casual sex with him). You must deal with the father of your child for 17 years. That is the price of picking him as the father of your child.

  • The father of your child has problems, and he probably will have them for the next 17 years. You must learn to live in peace, despite those problems. It is your choice to react emotionally - or not react emotionally - to the father's problems. When your car breaks down, you simply do what it takes to fix it, likely without much fear but perhaps with a few bucks and a little inconvenience. In similar fashion, if the father's behavior throws a wrench in your life, you simply do what it takes to fix it. Adding fear and worry does not help you or your child.

  • Words are relatively harmless. Outside of a court setting, ignore the father's words. If you have adequate self-esteem, you'll see his words as coming from a sick mind, and they won't hurt you. Inside a court setting, rectify the falsehood of the words. Do it in the same manner as if telling a waiter that you were billed twice for an item. It's very important to correct errors assertively, and you go into it KNOWING the error will be corrected.

  • Your daughter needs a strong mother. It's not just about food, shelter, and love. You are modeling how secure your daughter should feel in the world, and how well she can take care of herself. By finding inner strength, and by approaching your difficulties with CONFIDENCE (not FEAR), you are ensuring that your daughter will see how to approach life as an adult.

Along those lines, I think you would really benefit from reading the book The Four Agreements. It's only around a hundred pages long and easy to read. You may find that it speaks to some areas with which you struggle (e.g., trying to tone down assumptions about bad things happening in the future).

Now, on to your custody case.

The judge won't care about either one of you making conclusions about the other's mental stability. Only a psychologist can testify to that. The judge cares about evidence of behavior that is harmful to a child.

Most of the accusations you said were made against you are pretty inconsequential.

I suggest that you take a polygraph regarding what you said you told the doctor under duress by the father or other significant ACTIONS that he's claiming you did. It would definitely be helpful in an evaluation, and at the hearing, your attorney can let the court know that you're willing to take a polygraph about any matter, if the father would likewise agree. Attorney probably won't do that, but it's an option.

In your pleadings, try to stay factual and relatively unemotional. You mentioned that you don't think you're paranoid, but I'll tell you that your emails were pretty histrionic (i.e., very dramatic). That kind of style in court will feed into what the father is saying about you.

I think your approach should be a fact-based, concise attitude of "Here's all the indicators of stability in my life" and "Here's all the indicators of instability in the father's life."

Don't call him names, don't draw conclusions, but paint a picture that lets the judge think to himself/herself, "Wow, this guy is an unstable loser who's just causing trouble."

As I emphasized in my email to you, I hope you're telling me the whole truth. If so, approach this with all the confidence of fixing your car. You know it's broken, you know the mechanic will confirm that it's broken, and you know that the car will be fixed when it's done. BUT... it's up to you to explain to the mechanic exactly what's broken and do it in a way that he doesn't conclude that you're just a chick who doesn't know what she's talking about (or who's acting like an oil change is the end of the world). If you don't take charge in fixing the car, it ain't going to work.

Go to it. I think you have a bit of work on yourself to do, which will lead to prevailing in these skirmishes with much less stress on 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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