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LEGAL ADVICE DESPERATELY NEEDED! Please help.

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Let me explain my situation really quick. I'm a single mom of a 16 month old baby girl. I left the father when she was 5 months, and we have lived in my parents basement since then. He has not paid child support this entire time. He moved to a city that is 4 hours away from here and just barely got a job where he makes enough that he could pay child support. (The child support is not my main issue.)

He emailed me saying he wants to come down and visit the baby. He wants to come and pick her up, and take her somewhere, he thinks that is his right. Is it? He has barely seen in the past year, she doesn't know him, and he hasn't even paid child support. I told him if he wants to see her, I am not comfortable bringing her out to his car and letting him drive away with my daughter. I told him he can visit her here at my place, or we can all three go somewhere. Am I allowed to do this? Or am I breaking a law not letting him take her? He is on the birth certificate and paternity was established at birth, so I wasn't sure.

I would really love to get full custody of her. A little more information on him as to why: He has three kids with different mothers (me included, I'm the most recent.) He is in the middle of a divorce with the second mom, (I didn't know he was married until right before my baby was born.) he gave up his parental rights to the first baby that I don't know much about. He gave full custody to his wife/soon to be ex-wife of THEIR daughter. He has drugs on his record (marijuana) that he went to jail for. He is a very emotionally abusive person who has NO respect for women and when I got pregnant his first reaction was that he hoped I miscarried. I tried to make it work but it was obvious he wasn't going to change and that is why I left.

After knowing all this, can anyone PLEASE tell me (since I wont have money for a lawyer until January) what my rights are? Can I tell him he can only visit her while being supervised? How hard do you think it will be for me to get full custody based on his history/drug record?

I am stressing out so bad about this, I haven't slept in days. I don't know anything about what to do here. Someone please help!
post #2 of 13
Is he listed on her birth certificate?
post #3 of 13
If I were in your shoes I would say "Since you haven't seen ____ in so long she doesn't know you. How about we all go out to ______."

If he still insists then make it clear that you're not comfortable with it and you're not allowing it.

However, I don't know the legality involved.

Good luck!
post #4 of 13
It sounds like he doesn't have any court ordered visitation at this point. If he sought it they would probably also order child support and since he hasn't had any contact they would probably start with supervised visits. I'd probably call legal aid at this point because custody laws are abit different everywhere.
post #5 of 13
First, no, you do not have to let him drive off with your daughter. That would be a foolish thing for him to expect you to do. She does not know him and it would not be beneficial for her growth and development for you to put her in a car with a strange man to drive off with. Even if he claims he has a legal right to do so, make him prove it. Is he going to hire an attorney to sue you so he can have unsupervised visitation with her? The police certainly will not force you to let the child go with him, even if he is on the birth certificate. He will have to have a signed court order for them to let him take her. For what it is worth, I would call the police if he showed up and forced the issue. It is more than reasonable for him to visit with her in your home or at, say, McDonalds or a park with you there.

As to getting custody, every state is different, but call around to some of your local attorneys. Often you can get a half hour consultation for a minimal amount. That would give you some basic child custody information and let you know what to expect in the long run. You would also be prepared with a name and number if you need one on short notice. I would not think getting custody would be too difficult based on what you said but it would probably put some sort of visitation on paper and here standard visitation is every other weekend - can be changed if overnight is not appropriate, and it may not be in your case.

Finally, start putting money into a savings account that you have mentally allocated to legal fees. Having some put aside for an emergency is a very good idea because if he one day gets his act together and hires an attorney, you need to be able to do the same. You just will not have as good a chance of getting/keeping custody without an attorney.

Hope this helps!
post #6 of 13
You aren't married and there is no custody agreement in place. With his given history I would not allow him to take the baby anywhere. If you are comfortable with him visiting then let him know you will be present. If your not comfortable then say so and don't let him visit. He would have to go to court to request visitation since you aren't married and with his past it doesn't sound like he would bother.
post #7 of 13
a) look into getting legal aid. I know the process is LONG but get the paperwork submitted now and see what happens.

b) call the Bar association in your area to see which lawyers do free initial consultations and which ones do a consultation for a fee (50$ to 100$). Use your consultations wisely; have your questions already written down in point form. Ask about what the next step is to obtain full legal and physical custody of your child (even though you've had de facto sole custody since she was 5 months old, right?).

c) since there was abuse in the relationship, I would call a local DV shelter and see what ressources you can get from them.

Get on the phone mama and start calling.

Also, begin documenting everything (every instance of contact between you and him, what is said, time and date, if threats are made, etc), and do so for past events of abuse. Draw up a history of Mr. Father of the Year. His past may play in your favour especially if there's a criminal record in there (my XH also had several children with several women...I was babymama #4, so I feel your pain!).

Considering the fact that you have had de facto custody and have been solely responsible of parenting for the past 11 months, you DO NOT have to let him take your infant daughter with him. You can offer visitation at a location of your choosing and supervise visitation yourself. Do not let yourself get intimidated by his threats.

Until custody was legally settled between my XH and I, I supervised all visitation because I felt she wasn't safe being alone with him. This also gave me an opportunity to document how the visit went and in what state my XH was in (either hung over or trying to pretend he wasn't drunk).

And yes, start saving cash for an attorney. They are expensive but find a good one, and your case will be settled quickly, especially considering the stellar past your X seems to have.
post #8 of 13
You need a lawyer.

You also need to get into a legal apartment - if he takes you to court, and your basement apartment is an illegal apartment, that will count against you.

Unless there is a court order detailing when each of you has parenting time, you both have equal rights to your baby - meaning he could walk away with her and not be in violation of any laws (this may not be true where you are, it is where I am and was during my custody battle). You NEED to speak to an attorney about this BEFORE the visit.

You also need to go to court and file for custody. The filing you should be able to do on your own - family courts are set up for pro-se representation (when a person represents themselves), but I would NOT recommend representing yourself if you want sole custody (which would not preclude him from getting visitation).

Also, file for child support. I know you said he just started making enough to be required to pay, but in most places even if a dad is unemployed they are expected to pay some child support.
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Oh thank you so much everyone! If he does something quickly, I do have family that would help me money-wise provided I pay them back. I will have the money for a lawyer once I get my school loan in January.

My parents basement has a kitchen and they are allowing us to live here, does that make it an 'illegal apartment'?
post #10 of 13
In the state I live in, because you are not married and are the one taking care of your baby, you would be the custodial parent. Period. He does not have a right to drive off with your child and not bring her back. He would be charged with kidnapping if he did that. If you were married, the law here is completely different and he would have equal rights. So you really need some good info from a local attorney.

Where I live, the basement apartment, as long as it is safe, would be a good thing. First, you have your own space, second, you have a great support system. I would more worry about paying a good attorney over finding new living space.

You can file for child support and will get it. Even if he were not making any money at all, he has a legal obligation to support his child, at least here. BUT, just know that it will put your case in front of a judge willing and able to make all kinds of decisions regarding your child - like standard visitation. Also, not to fear monger, but I have seen a lot of cases where mom filed for child support and dad responded by filling for custody. He rarely got it, and then only where the child really was better off with dad (mom leaving deep dark bruises on the child's back and sides when the child did not tell the sexual abuse investigator what mom wanted her to, among many other things.) So, unless you are a bad mom, he would not get custody but it is an expensive, scary, stressful process.
post #11 of 13
im dealing with the same problem myself with my 7 month old. the father took off when he was 2 months old but felt he could come and pick him up. here in atlanta....he has no legal rights until he is legitimized. so tell him he can have supervised visits cos it looks better when you do get a lawyer. but other than that you are the main parent and he has to listen to you unless there are other visitation orders in place
post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lacrymosa View Post
Oh thank you so much everyone! If he does something quickly, I do have family that would help me money-wise provided I pay them back. I will have the money for a lawyer once I get my school loan in January.

My parents basement has a kitchen and they are allowing us to live here, does that make it an 'illegal apartment'?
This is a question for a lawyer. In my state, to be a legal apartment, there has to be sufficient escape routes (windows, doors) in case of emergency. If you aren't paying rent, it may be considered just living with family - which would be GOOD for you.

In regards to visitation, those decisions are made by a judge OTHER THAN (at least where I live) the SUPPORT judge. In NY, there are Custody/Visitation judges and Support Magistrates - and they are DIFFERENT. B/c custody/visitation is SEPARATE from child support.

So, there would have to be 2 different actions going on in order for a judge to make decisions about visitation. A support magistrate doesn't have the authority here to order me to give my ds's dad visitation - he can only order him to pay child support. Just like the custody/visitation judge can't order support - they don't have the authority.
post #13 of 13
look up one of the gov websites for your state. they have lots of good info and contacts
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