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Noncustodial father has many concerns about young child's welfare in mother's home

Your Question:
Non-custodial father trying to gain full custody of 3 y/o son. Inadequate care on the mother's part (child is picked up dirty, wearing inappropriate or too-small clothes), her b/f has a temper and has placed bruise on child, mother is refusing to get child evaluated by TEIS even though father and daycare wants it done. Police called to her apartment b/c the neighbor heard child screaming, CPS called several times about quality of care, and large purple bruise on the child's bottom. Mother has until the 1st to get out of her apartment, and father does not want child to accompany her to her mother's to stay, as he comes back with flea bites every time he is there. CPS has visited the daycare and the home. They did nothing to the boyfriend for the bruise, and did not even examine the child. PLEASE advise. We are concerned and scared for his safety, and Child Protective Services has done nothing. Child has taken to hitting and shaking his stuffed animals and telling them he hates them over and over. Mother freely admits to father that she cannot handle child's behavior, and lets him eat whatever and go to bed watching TV b/c she can't handle him. We are set to go back to court as soon as we can get a court date. We have pictures of the bruises and the dirty ears and fingernails. Childcare center is also withholding information from the father regarding his behavior at school, is this legal?

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My Answer:

To clarify for readers, you are engaged to the father, who is now divorced from the mother.

I think that much of what you outline should be of concern to a court, unless you're exaggerating. Your biggest challenge is to organize and present it with credible evidence and in a clear and convincing manner to the court.

I have no idea what your money situation is, but I'm going to suggest that if you can scrimp, save, borrow, or whatever, it would behoove you to find an attorney with at least 10 years experience practicing family law in your county.

I say this because it appears the child's current situation is borderline abusive and seemingly unacceptable, but you and the father have not been able to make any headway in the case. This suggests that you are either exaggerating about the situation, or that you two don't possess the know-how of influencing the agencies/parties involved here.

Of everything you mention, flea bites sounds a bit petty, unless we're talking about hundreds of little bites up and down his limbs. If it's just a few little bug bites at a time, you're hurting your case by trying to make an issue out of it.

In terms of spending money, I further encourage you to look into hiring a private investigator to document the boyfriend's past, as well as perhaps uncover some unsavory stuff about the mother's actions after the separation.

Here are further things, all low-cost action items, that could help you go in the right direction:

  • If the parents have joint legal custody, and if there are no orders as to any restriction on the father's ability to talk with childcare providers, I suggest that the father provide the childcare center with a copy of the court orders and request a sit-down discussion with its director. Play nice. Express true concern about the child's welfare, and a desire to work with the childcare center on figuring out how to best help child.

  • Take your videocamera to every exchange. You can hold it at hip level while father greets child. Child is young enough that it won't seem weird to have a videocamera there. Upon the start of recording, announce the date and time. Via video, document the dirt, clothes, etc; the condition you claim you consistently receive child. If you've exaggerated this, then obviously the videocamera at exchange won't be helpful. It's not horrible if the child's clothes are one size too small on occasion. It may not be your parenting choice, but a court won't care. It's not horrible if the child's fingernails are filthy once or twice-- what if he was playing in the dirt two hours before the exchange? Your video documentation will show that these problems are routine, not occasional.

  • Look at the Recommended Books on this website. Purchase "Win Your Child Custody War" and "Child Custody A to Z". If you read these two books, you'll be worlds ahead of how to best prepare your case.

  • Try to talk with the neighbor who called CPS. Introduce yourselves and play nice. Discuss your desire to do what's best for the child. Ask the neighbor if she/he would be willing to write an affadavit as to what she/he has observed. This would be extremely helpful to you in court, if the neighbor slams the mother.

  • Videotape child abusing his stuffed animals. Announce date and time on the videotape. Consider consulting with a child psychologist to express concern over child, share the video, and ask if psychologist feels concern over it. As part of what you ask for in court, you may wish to request orders for child to begin sessions with a child psychologist, to help child.

You may end up with a court ordering a custody evaluation, which sounds like it could benefit you.

Your biggest challenge is building your case. For whatever reason, CPS hasn't been convinced, police haven't been convinced, and the childcare center is ignoring Dad. This either means that your perspective is unreasonable and exaggerated-- or it means that you and your fiancee really need to take a different approach from what you've been doing.

Sometimes it takes huge forces to make the kinds of changes you're seeking. And you can't afford to be ignorant about how to do it. So, read up, think about hiring a good attorney, build your case, and then go for it. But, the worst thing you can do for this child is to go into court with a lousy case (due to inadequate preparation) and let a judge conclude that Dad is a litigious trouble-maker, because that makes future hearings even tougher.

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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