This is my husband's situation. My husband has a child with
another woman from a previous relationship (never married).
Up until recently, he has not been required by law to send
any kind of support because he was a full time college
student. The only thing he is required to do by law is have
health insurance for her, which he has always had. My
stepdaughter and her mother's relationship is becoming
progressively worse as my SD gets older. Recently my mother
in law was on the phone with SD's mother and heard mom say
to SD that she wanted to kill her (I don't think she really
meant it), and then told her to get out of her house. My
stepdaughter is only 10 years old. She then asked my mother
in law to come and get my SD, they immediately went and got
a power of attorney and said yes. When they got back, SD's
mother said that she had changed her mind. SD's mother's
friend talked her into keeping my SD because we are about to
start making hefty child support payments.
My husband would like to get full or legal joint custody. I
have begun researching what this would involve, and it all
seems quite daunting. From what I've been reading on the
internet and on your website, I am going to suggest
mediation to my husband. Could you please give me some
suggestions for me to share with my husband on how to get
My husband regulary visits his daughter. Since I've been
with him we have had her during the summer, Christmas, and
sometimes on spring break. He has legally upheld his end of
child support (the health insurance) while he was in
college, and when he graduated, he began to send what he
could, even though LEGALLY he didn't have to send anything
(he did of course because he loves his daughter and wants to
take care of her). This past year (2005) he began sending
SD's mother payments twice a month which seemed to be fine
for her. Sometimes she would ask for more money.From
2004-2005 my SD lived with us and went to school. At the
beginning of 2005 she went back with her mother in Missouri
because we were moving without a job. We now live in Georgia
and my husband works for a university here. We are planning
on staying a long time.
My husband does not want nor is he trying to "take" my SD
away from her mother, they can see each other whenever
they'd like. I am sure my husband would even be willing to
drive SD out to Missouri so SD's mom wouldn't have to travel
with her other children. He is also not trying to "get out"
of child support payments.
My Stepdaughter's mother has expressed on several occassions
that she "can't handle SD", or wants her to be with
us...Just the other day she asked my mother in law to come
and get SD!; but for whatever reason (I assume it's because
of the money we send her, and now, the court ordered child
support)she always changes her mind! My husband is now fed
up. We are looking into attorneys, I've been looking into
mediation and will tell him about it.
Do you think that we have any chance of getting joint or
full custody of SD? Her grades improved greatly when she was
with us (she was honor roll), and her attitude was much
better. She is willing to let SD stay with my husband's
parents but not us? This woman does have a history of being
arrested, getting into fights, and domestic drama, is this
something that could help our case? Is SD (10 yrs) old
enough to have an opinion considered by a judge or in
mediation, about where she wants to be?
I was going to suggest that my husband hire a private
investigator to see whats really going on. I know that at
one point SD's mother was a stripper, and SD told her whole
class about it. I also know that she has a lot of domestic
problems involving men. The thing is, I don't want this to
become a big deal, though thats probably inevitable. I want
them to mediate and come up with a solution, preferably one
that involves SD being with us most of time. Please give me
some information to tell my husband. Also, to let you know
in case it's important, I am not involved in this, I don't
speak with SD's mother or anything like that, my husband
handles it all as he should.I just want to know if there is
hope for us? I apologize because I know I was long winded
and probably redundant. Thank you so much for your help, I
look forward to hearing from you!
Okay, you're in one of those situations where if you build your case thoroughly and with strong evidence, I think you'd have a shot at getting majority custodial timeshare.
A big barrier is the distance, of course, which ensures that there won't be a 50/50 outcome. The daughter has to live in one place during the school year, which mainly leaves school breaks for the other parent.
In building the case, your husband really needs to understand what is relevant to child custody and how to document it with credible evidence. If he tries to hammer minor things, rather than building a case on a couple of major issues, the judge won't pay as much attention.
To learn what's important, the best resource (I say it time and time again) is the book "Win Your Child Custody War" by Hardwick, which I describe on my What You Must Have
page. There is no better book available for understanding the dynamics of family law, building strategies, and grasping what is most relevant in child custody.
The biggest challenge you face is the status quo. Daughter has been living mostly with mother for a year. You're going to have to convince a judge that the status quo is so bad that disrupting the child's life is essential for her welfare. You WON'T go into court with a level playing field to determine the better home. The first challenge is to show some significant shortcomings of her current situation.
A private investigator would be helpful before you start court proceedings, sure. You want to find out her criminal history as step one. A PI can do that for you. You also want to document her lifestyle. If she drinks and drives frequently, that's extremely relevant. If she works every night, that's extremely relevant. If she's a stripper (legal under the law), that's not necessarily relevant (unless she's away from home and can't take care of the child). If she's got a parade of men sleeping over while daughter is in the home, that's pretty relevant.
I think the better way to convey daughter's wishes is to have her speak privately with a child psychologist over the course of a number of sessions. Then that psychologist can provide an expert opinion at a custody hearing.
Unless the mother initiates it, I wouldn't suggest approaching her for mediation until your case is put together. When your case is ready, you can request the mother to go to mediation to resolve some issues. If she refuses or delays, then file. If she attends but there's no resolution, then file. That way, within a few weeks of initiating mediation, you'll either have resolution or you can file for a custody change. You don't want to put the mother on alert (via the mediation) and then spend a few months trying to build your case after she's on alert.
Finally, it'd be worth it to find out what constitutes abandonment in the child's state of residence. That way, if the mother ever drops off the child at your husband's folks and says she can't handle the child, your husband's parents may be able to immediately take action (or cue your husband to come get child).
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.