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Stepmom wants to know how husband can get custody of child he hardly sees

Your Question:
my husband has a daughter from a previous relationship. she is five years old. her and her mother live in arizona. we used to live there, but now live in oklahoma. while we lived there we shared equal custody of my husband's daughter. the ex had moved out of state when my step daughter was about seven months old. while she was gone we decided to move to oklahoma so we could make a better life for ourselves. the town we lived in isn't the best. after we made the decision the ex moved back to arizona without telling us. we found out from a friend that had seen her at the store. her reason for moving back was her boyfriend, who is the father of her second child, was beating her. he even did it infront of my step daughter. for reasons my husband and i don't understand, she took him back. thankfully, they did eventually seperate. well, ever since my husband and i have moved to oklahoma we haven't been able to see his daughter as much as we'd like to. it just isn't easy to afford trips down there, and asking for time off of work too much doesn't go well either. we do get down there when we can, but it can only be for a small amount of time. we want to bring my step daughter back to oklahoma to have a nice long visit. the ex will have nothing to do with this. we have given her plenty of opportunities to have my step daughter come out, but she always has an excuse to why she can't come out. she'll then give us a demand we must meet, and says when we meet it my step daughter can come visit. when the demand is met the answer is still no, and another demand is made. we have family that comes to visit us here, but she won't let my step daughter come with them. my step daughter spends time with them a lot though. that is one thing we are glad the ex does. she lets my step daughter visit with my husbands family out there. but recently the ex wrote us an email saying that if if my husband's family keeps trying to explain who her real father is then she won't be able to visit them anymore. her reason now for not letting her visit is that my step daughter doesn't know us. well, that is not all our fault. the ex has never told my step daughter who her real father is. every boyfriend she has been with since my step daughter's birth has been daddy. the last time we visited we all sat down and explained to my step daughter that my husband is her father. well the next day when we picked up my step daughter she told us that after we had left her mom told her that my husband wasn't her dad. we do pay her child support every month. it isn't court ordered. we just have a verbal agreement. she said that since we do pay her every month she didn't want to have to bring the court into it. what we need help with is an idea of what chances we have at getting some sort of custody. we would like sole custody of my husband's daughter, but joint would be great. we just want to see her, and for her to know who we really are. my husband and i have three children of our own, and my step daughter has only met one of them. the ex is now recently married to the father of her third child. they just moved for the third time in two years. that's another thing we've had a problem with. there have been times that she has moved, and didn't give us a new address untill a couple months ater they moved. they also don't have a phone as far as we know, and haven't for over a year. so, we can only talk through email. at this time we can't move closer to my husband's daughter because he's in the national guard, and they don't have any where to transfer to in that area. it's just been so hard dealing with someone that thinks they're never wrong. the only time we ever hear from her is when she wants to know when we're sending money. even though we've been sending it at the same time every month for quite some time. there are many more problems that we've had, but this is already pretty long. what are some steps we need to take to try to get custody? what are some things that will help us get it? thank you in advance. sorry it was so long.

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My Answer:

You've provided nothing that would convince a judge that the father should have custody. Sorry.

I suggest you buy a book or two to really understand how family law works.

The mother is correct when she says your husband has little to no bond with the child. Regardless of why, that's a correct statement.

For the court to consider putting this child with your husband, you'd have to demonstrate to the court that the mother is unfit and that irreparable harm is occuring. And even then, it wouldn't be a slamdunk.

I'd suggest that you get court orders on seeing the child. If your husband can demonstrate an ability and willingness to build a greater bond with the child while visiting the mother's city of residence, after he does that for a while (e.g., a year), a court would likely order that the child shall spend time with dad in dad's home.

The mother's attorney would rightly ask a court, "Why did Dad wait 5 years to seek resolution in court, if it was so urgent?!"

I understand that life circumstances can make things tough. But many parents go through hell and back to see their kids, climb any barrier put in front of them, and make it a priority above all else. Your biggest problem is explaining to a court why it seems like your husband didn't have a similar attitude.

Get educated about child custody and family law. Coming to this website is a good start, but you two have a ton of reading to do... and then you can build a good long-term plan. If dad spends more frequent time with the child (by court order), within two years, the child will be coming to your home (by court order). And that puts Dad in a good position to seek custody if the mother really screws up (which sounds likely, sooner or later).


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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