Child Custody Issues and a New Baby on the Way

Thank you for taking my question. I will try to be succinct…I was married for six years and had two boys and a girl with my husband. We married young and moved a lot to support my husband’s career. When we moved back to NYC, our relationship, which had been struggling, fell apart, and do to financial issues we ended up in a homeless shelter. Needless to say, it was hard on the kids, especially the two who were already in school. My husband left us in the shelter about four months in, he found another woman to live with. I struggled to work and travel every day to get the kids to school etc, and fight a very currupt welfare system in NY. I had been a stay at home mom since my first child was born, and it was very heart-breaking for me to put my kids in daycare, and through the hardship of living in these conditions. There was a period of time when I thought we would never get out: I couldn’t keep a restaurant job, welfare appointments, everytime my kids or I got sick (which was often, the place was gross) I would lose my job or my “case” would be closed. I knew my husband had a steady job and somewhere to live– I asked him to please take the kids out of the shelter, and he told me to wait. Well, the day after I finally got out, he took the two older children to live with him and his girlfriend. I still had the little one, and started a new job. I tried to set up my life so that I would be able to take all the children, but now my husband wants to keep them. It has been almost a year since I moved out of the shelter, and we are going through divorce proceedings. I recently found out that I am pregnant, the father is a man I have known for a long time, he is older and already a father, but his children do not live with him. I have not told him yet–I know that he would ask me to have an abortion, and i am too heartbroken to go through with it. My birth control failed, and I suppose my wisdom failed me too. Now I don’t know what to do– I am a mother, I feel the life within me, but this is such bad timing, I can’t count how many people would be upset about this. I cannot support this child on my own. What can I do now?

Wow! You have had some challenging times. It sounds like you have come a long way and should be proud of your accomplisments.

Your letter actually poses two questions as I read it: the first question relates to custody issues and the second question relates to your current/recent pregnancy. As relates to your first question about custody of your children, you will need to contact a local attorney for legal advice and information. However, some important information, at least in Michigan, has to do with what kind of parenting time have you had with your children while they have been with their father and how much time. Other questions worth considering are based on the best interests of the children standard for determining child custody. In Michigan, there are several factors, summarized below, that the Court must consider in making this determination if there is no agreement between the parents:

                    1. The age and preference of the child if the child is determined to be of sufficient age.

                    2. The ability of each parent to provide love and affection and basic needs of the children.

                    3. The attachment of the children to each parent.

                    4. The ability of each parent to foster a positive relationship between the child(ren) and the other parent.

                    5. The ability of the parents to provide for the children financially.

                    6. History of domestic violence between the parents and/or between the parents and children  and/or witnessed by the children.

                    7. The ability of the parents to raise the children in the religion, creed, or ethnicity of their birth.

                    8. The ability of the parents to ensure a proper education for the children.

                    9. The stability of where the children have lived and the desirability of maintaining same.

                   10. Any other factor the court deems necessary to facilitate the making of this decision and effects the best interests of the child(ren).

These factors are to be looked at in their entirety and not one stands on its own. Having shared this with you, it is my belief that it is in the best interests of children, whenever possible, for the parents to work out parenting time between them through the use of a divorce and family mediator. To determine if this is possible you will want to talk to the children’s father, an attorney for the thoughts on the perameters of your case and to learn about mediation. Some sources for doing this are your local/State Bar association and several websites: www.divorcenet.com and www.mediate.com are two websites to start with.

Regarding your other question, about the pregnancy you are now faced with. This is a very personal decision, and sounds like a very difficult and painful decision but only one you can make. As far as I know, a woman still has the right to choose. It will probably be helpful for you to discuss your feelings with a therapist who is trained in this area and to your obstetrician. For a therapist near you go to www.helpstartshere.org