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Unwed mother agreed to some weird child custody terms, now wondering how to fix it

Your Question:
I am an un-wed mother. I have 2 daughters from a previous marriage, who the father has custody, because I didn't receive my papers till after the court date (it was served at my brother's house and my sister-in-law didn't bring it by till it was too late). Anyway, I got pregnant with my third child and the father and I broke up soon after I found out (I did tell him). We didn't talk for much of my pregnancy. When it got close, I tried to talk to him and we came to agreements. Visitation, moving restriction, and he helped me financially and with a lease on a duplex (I had recently gotten laid off). He was there when I gave birth and we were working together for the first 3 months. Then I got a job and he suggested his sister watch the baby for a bit till we found something better. The father had about 10 overnight stays till the baby was 3.5 months old then it went got into a fight. He was suppose to watch the baby one night but then he asked if his sister could keep him for the night. I told him no, then we need to just stick with what we agreed on before the baby was born. Then it got ugly. Him and his sister made plans to drop of my baby at their mother's house without my knowing. So then I tried to cut him out of the dropping off process to his sister's house for daycare. Then, as I was sending off my papers to my attorney to file, I got served. He wanted full custody. Then his attorney wanted to try and work it out before going to court which they proposed one week with me, one week with him-which I turned down. We finally came to an agreement the night before the court date. Wednesdays overnight plus 2nd and 4th weekends and he has to take the baby every work morning to the sitter's (the father's sister). My attorney said that since he had overnight stays, the judge might take that into consideration and might would grant standard visitation anyway so we should agree to that--although I didn't want to. Also, we have to agree on the daycare, which I don't agree that it should be his sister. He wants to mediate because he thinks it should be his sister since it's a family member. However, the first morning of the agreement, his sister and him made a plans again without my knowledge to drop the baby off at their mother's again. I don't believe his sister is acting in the best interest of my baby but rather her brother. If my baby is not going to her house on a work day, then she asks everyone she can if they know where the baby is. She takes it upon herself to think she is my baby's mother. I suggest a neutral child care environment for my now 5 month old. He is against it, which I believe is because he won't always be the first to know anything going on in my baby's day.

My questions:

1. What are my chances on being able to change the day care provider even through a mediator? What do I have to prove?

2. What are his chances later to file for 50/50 custody and winning with the standard visitation in affect now?

3. My attorney left out child support on our Rule 11 agreement because she said he can potentially pay more if he is under the understanding that he will pay his sister and my rent (like he has been). Was this a good decision?

4. What are my chances of being able to move later with the baby to be closer to my daughters?

5. Will the fact that he drinks 6 - 7 nights a week and drinks while driving, have any affect on my custody case?

I don't want to be understood. I do want the father to have a relationship with the baby--I have stood by what I agreed to prior to his birth just mad now because he had been lying. But he is trying to change the baby's care & schedule without notifying me like wanting to feed him solid foods when I am opposed to it. Can I get any control on my baby's care? Pertaining to child care, when to start solid foods, changes in his schedule, etc. It seems like I am a third party of this and his sister & himself are trying to make all the decisions for my baby.

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My Answer:

I don't fully understand what's going on, but I think I've got the jist of it.

I think it was dumb advice to agree to let the father's sister care for the child when you work. That's pretty much the crux of your problems right now. I'm not even sure of the specific orders that would allow it, but again, it's probably not important at this point.

To modify those orders, you need to show why it's not good for the child, or why it's causing problems. If the sister (i.e., your child's aunt) is including the paternal grandmother (i.e., your child's grandmother) in the caretaking, you're going to have a convince a court why it's bad for the child to spend time with the aunt and/or grandmother while you're unavailable.

You didn't say one thing about either of them being dangerous for the child. You're upset that you feel they've been sneaking this situation behind your back.

If you go into court, with a perfectly wonderful caretaker in the aunt and/or grandmother, you're going to look like a vindictive harpie who doesn't want her child around the father's family. That won't bode well for you in court. So you need to carefully ponder these issues.

Regarding child support, I think you got a sweet deal. I'm assuming that your rent is far more than child support. If I were the father, I'd never agree to that. But, that will probably change in due time, when the father realizes he can pay you less via child support.

Regarding everything else, you need to realize that you only have control over your child when the child is in your custody. It would be ideal for you and the father to be on the same page with how to rear a child. But, for the same reasons why couples split up, couples can't agree on child-rearing.

If the father is doing something dangerous, then you go to court and/or report it to child services.

But if you're so steamed about the father is introducing solid foods a month earlier than you wanted, or giving the baby a nap two hours later than you demand, then you've got a lot of growing up to do in this co-parenting stuff.

All I can tell you, regarding the father's different parenting style, is to "Let it go." And, pray that you and the father can work things out over the long haul.

In dealing with the sister, you should treat her with respect and as an aunt. She is not a parent. If she is acting like a parent, feel free to say such to her in a very civil manner, "I appreciate your opinion, but let's please remember that I am this child's parent, and I will make the child-rearing decisions with the father."

In mediation, you don't "prove" anything. You sit down with a trained negotiator who will try to get you and the father to agree on something. The mediator won't make a decision, and the mediator won't take sides.

Finally, never forget that losing custody of your first two children may hurt you if you and the third child's father end up in court. The father's attorney will likely hammer that point, that you lost custody of the first two kids.

Good luck.


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