I'm about to start court ordered mediation with my ex (not married) and would like some advice on how to handle it.
My son is 7 months old and was kept away from me by his mother from birth ( i was thrown out of our house during the seventh month of pregnancy) - When he was 6 months old i was awarded 50% legal and 50% physical custody and allowed to see him for 8 hours per week under supervision - the court papers say that this is "because i have no experience with children" but my ex claimed that i had been physically abusive - this is not true and I have obtained over 20 references stating that i am not violent ( i have no history of it). I do however have a non-clets restraining order against me from an ex-wife that stated "she was scared of me" but claimed no violence or threats of violence.
I seem to be dealing with someone who shows signs (to say the least) of mental instability and who is willing to make up facts to suit her story. She has a history of horricific things happening to her (rapes, physical abuse etc).
My visits with my son are amazing and i would like to look after him 50% of the time - i am in a finacially secure enough posistion to do this.
We are now about to start mediation and will have a second court hearing in 3 months - even after I was awarded 50% custody my ex has shown no signs of co-operating or putting our son's needs above her own - I will NEVER give up on my son.
Any advice on dealing with this situation?
Sure, I have a ton of advice for you. Your situation has some similarities to my own, which started many years ago with me sitting in a jail cell on a false DV accusation and my ex not letting me see our infant more than 4 hours every two weeks (i.e., though we lived together and I shared in caretaking until baby was a year old).
What's a bit ludicrous about your orders is that many new parents "have no experience with children." It's not grounds in itself to keep a parent away from a child, but it indicates a concern you need to resolve with the court.
I asked you for further information, and you clarified that you don't have orders for 50/50. You have orders for joint legal and joint physical custody, with mother identified as primary caretaker (usually "primary caretaker" has no legal meaning).
You also said that your situation is based on temporary orders, pending review upon completion of a custody evaluation.
You also said that you have financial resources to bolster your position, if need be.
So, here's what I suggest you do:
- Find a local parenting class and take it ASAP. Call the courthouse and ask if they have a list of recommended ones, and take one of those. It will help convince a court that you DO have parenting knowledge, if the next time you see the judge, you've voluntarily completed one of the court's recommended parenting classes. It's not an admission of anything, but rather a way to dispose of, "He knows nothing about parenting."
- Get the book "Stop Walking on Eggshells". I don't list it on my website, but it should give you some insight into effective ways of dealing with your ex, based upon some things you describe.
- Have your attorney AS SOON AS POSSIBLE depose your ex. During deposition, unstable people can often blurt out things that are useful in court, they may explode and show true colors, or they may show that they can't keep their story together. A deposition transcript is powerful evidence because it's all admissible in court. If she changes her tune, you've got the transcript. If she denies admitting something, you've got the transcript. Most importantly, unlike any other mechanism, she cannot consult with anyone or think about her answers, when in a deposition. If you get important stuff out of the deposition, you want to make it available to your evaluator.
- Go into mediation with the expectation it will fail. Based upon what you describe, the mother has no interest in negotiating with you, and why should she? She has everything she wants right now. So, you just show up for mediation, you state your belief that it's best for the child to ramp up to at least a 50/50 parenting schedule, your ex will refuse, and shortly thereafter the mediator will tell you both that mediation isn't possible.
- Have your attorney insist on psychological examinations as part of the custody evaluation. This means you need to be evaluated by a clinical psychologist. If psych evals haven't been ordered, offer to pay 100% of that part of the evaluation for both of you. If mother refuses, ask your attorney if he can get it ordered by the court.
- If you've been falsely accused of a specific incident or incidents, consider dropping a few hundred bucks on a polygraph examination. While not admissible in court unless the other side agrees to it, you CAN give the polygraph report to the evaluator. This is exactly what I did in my case, to disprove accusations my ex had made about me. In his written report to the court, the evaluator described the accusations and noted that I disputed them and also passed a polygraph examination about them. So, even though it's not supposed to be used as evidence in court, it can only help a judge decide which side is more credible when reviewing such an evaluation report.
- Don't argue with the mother about anything. You're going into court with a previous restraining order by your ex-wife, and the mother's attorney will spin that time and time again (if/when they know about it). Anything that could be perceived as aggressive, on your part, will be exaggerated and amplified in court. If the mother is already falsely accusing you of DV, you have learned that you can never again be alone with her.
- For the next many months, walk through life as though someone is videorecording everything you do in public. Anything inappropriate MAY end up in future pleadings by your ex. Don't piss off anyone, don't yell at anyone, don't drive after drinking, don't do drugs, don't change lanes without signaling, etc. Fly the straight and narrow path.
- Be careful who you talk to about your case. You have no idea if any of them would ever be subpoenaed or turn against you. If you need to talk to someone, seek out a therapist, and don't tell anyone about the therapist. The therapist is bound by law to maintain your confidence, and if nobody knows about the therapist, nobody will even try to breach that confidence.
Unless the evaluation shows that the mother is a serious danger to the child, I don't see you walking away with 50% custodial time in a few months. To go from 8 hours weekly to 80 hours weekly just isn't done, unless it's to remove a child away from a dangerous situation.
So, I suggest you come up with a "step-up" plan that you propose to the evaluator and subsequently the court. The first step (perhaps 3 months in duration) would be increased frequency with the child (e.g., 3-4 times weekly, 4 to 8 hours per time). The second step would be introducing sleepovers in your home, perhaps once or twice a week. The third step could be the 50/50 schedule appropriate for a young toddler (i.e., not going more than 2-3 days without seeing either parent).
Finally, I encourage you to get the book "Child Custody A to Z", which I do list on my Recommended Books
page. This book will help you decide if you'd benefit by hiring a private investigator. It also hammers the importance of depositions, so you can understand better about that.
Besides using your head, persistence is among the most important ingredients to prevailing. Set your expectations that this could be a very long process, and that any forward step is a positive step.
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.