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Getting custody of a sibling

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I'm not sure where to post this or how to ask it.  I'm wondering how strong a case has to be to get custody of a sibling.  My 12 year old brother lives with me and has for 6 months.  He sees his mom on weekends.  He lived in a different country for his whole life, last year my mom, with a week's notice, decided to move here, have him live with us "short term" and cut off his father.  She is looking for work right now, but not willing to take anything "below her" level of upper management.  She lives in her parents house (a mansion that they have left vacated for the winter...not bad).  She won't move to our house as it's "not up to her standards"...it has the normal level of messiness from a 2-year old and a 12-year old.  My husband and I do not receive financial support from her (well, she buys him some cereal and snacks)


But...she's not obviously abusive.  She doesn't do drugs, or hit him, she just won't really step up.  His life is a history of unpredictability....he has switched schools every 1-2 years, moved every 1-2 years, been put on countless meds for ADHD/ODD, she travels with work and leaves him with sitters.  But he always has clothes, video games, food, etc.  So, I feel like to outsiders she looks fine.  He fights with her constantly, and every interaction I've seen is negative.  She  got on the poor kid over his recent report card...I don't know how he managed to pass given his crazy situation, but he got largely Bs and Cs and a couple As and a couple Ds.  I am trying to support him emotionally and thought it best to let the report card go at the moment.


So, I feel I don't have a case for actual custody, but I don't know what to do.  I do know I'm at my wit's end with all of this!  I also don't know if it's just a big mismatch in my mom's style with my own that makes it seem worse to me?  I really strive for GD (I'm not perfect) but she thinks natural consequences are ridiculous and that we need rewards and punishments and to really be on him all the time!


Does a custody case have to rest on substance abuse or abuse/neglect of the child?

post #2 of 10

I cannot see you getting custody over what you have written here.  I could be wrong, but do not think so.  


You might be better off leaving it alone (has she done anything that makes you think she wants him to return to living with her?) or asking her if he can continue to live with you.


Why are you stirring the pot, so to speak?



post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

I guess i didn't mention that last night there was a big argument, where she was on the verge of pulling him out of here.  I guess I feel given her behaviour in the past that she would pull him out and take him back at any time and with no warning.  It breaks my heart to think of him going through yet another upheaval.  He wants to live here.  She does want him back at some point.  I think, given how she talked last night, that when she does pull him she will restrict our contact.  She was going on and on about how poorly we're managing school and how the house is messy and how it's not up to her standards...which gets me angry too, as then I think if she thinks this is so bad for him that she shouldn't leave him here, no?  Although it came to a head last night, there have been frequent inputs about how we do things wrong.


But, you may be right to say leave it alone.  I've been wondering if it is just me feeling too involved and trying to solve problems that maybe aren't mine to solve.  But I don't know how to separate it out while he lives here, so then I also come to whether I should send him back to her now rather than drag out what may be inevitable.

post #4 of 10

As a kid who landed in foster care at 15 and then was out on my own at 17, I would strongly urge you to do whatever you can NOT to have contact with your brother restricted. Unless you fear for his safety, I would make myself his "safe place," even if that means giving up custody for now. I would have given ANYTHING to have someone like you to spend nights with, hang out with, really talk to (or not). Foster care for me was with another alcoholic family. At age 12, your relationship with him over his teenage years and beyond is, IMO, far more important than who he lives with right now; especially if that could threaten your relationship because of your mom's spitefulness.

post #5 of 10

Well, I dont know about custody, but what I do know is that siblings can always file for visitation (slight variations depending on the state), and usually get it.  With this much contact now, and such a strong relationship, you'd likely get visitation in the event your mother did decide to move your brother again.  You could always ask a lawyer about the visitation and custody though - a family law attorney in your area would be able to address your concerns better.


You also may be able to file to be considered your brothers "guardian" - which wouldn't be about custody per se, but may give you certain rights over medical decisions and school decisions until a court turns it over to someone else.  Again, a family law atty in your area would be MUCH better suited to tell you your options and about your legal standing.

post #6 of 10

Why isn't he living with his mom in his grandparents big empty mansion? 

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hmm...it's really a mess and I don't know that I know where to go.


She has emailed me asking for his school records as she is meeting with the local school tomorrow.  So, he may be moving very shortly, in fact it looks likely.  I can't seem to reach her to talk and so I think she may also be avoiding me.


Maybe it is for the best for him to live with her, and I certainly thought that in the first place.  When she wanted him to move with me while she got settled, I did tell her that I think he needed to be with her, but she didn't want him to miss school.  I have mentioned it several times.  She has lots of excuses.  As time has gone on, there have been times she doesn't see him, or doesn't deal with an issue, or doesn't take care of him.  But then is angry when we do.  Like he's complaining of a sore tooth, and I ask if I she can take him to the dentist and she's mad, but she doesn't want me to take him, and I can't win!  She thinks he needs to be at school and doesnt want to switch him, and I agree.  But he will presumably be switching anyway, so maybe he should now?  


I'm so upset right now that I don't even know that I can think clearly about what to do.  And she isn't telling me her next move, but I do think he'll be leaving, and I think it will be abrupt.


Perhaps I just need to make it clear to him that he can call us and visit anytime, but the way she has been so difficult and even manipulative, I just feel for him.  And me...I don't know how to continue a relationship with my mother after this, and so that's another reason I wondered about the legal side of things.  So I should look into visitation.






post #8 of 10

Please please please, no matter what else you do, PLEASE have a clear, honest, open and loving conversation with your brother about how much you love him, how you love him living with you (even if he's moving - i.e. make it clear to him he's not leaving because you don't want him there), and how, no matter what else happens, no matter what your mom tells him, no matter what: you love him and will always be happy to talk to him and have him over.


I don't know your mom so I don't know what she's likely to do if she takes him back.  But anyone who would act the way you've detailed her acting so far when you have been caring for your brother for 6 months... she strikes me as someone who just isn't focused on her son's best interests in all the ways a responsible parent should be.  And cutting off contact with you would just be to spite you or something, and that is unacceptable behavior because all it does is hurt her 2 kids and their relationship with each other.  What good would it do except help her feel "right" or "justified" or something?


Please talk to your brother and make it clear to him that he's a great kid, that anyone would be lucky to have him living with them, and that you will always love him no matter what.  With all the instability he's suffered, he needs to hear an adult tell him it's not his fault and that there's an adult that will always be there for him, no matter what else happens.

post #9 of 10



It sucks, but you have no recourse here other than to tell your brother that you love him, that he can call/email whenever, that he can visit whenever if mom allows, and that the day he turns 18 your doors are open and he'll be in complete control of his relationship with his parents from then on. 

post #10 of 10
Originally Posted by Smithie View Post



It sucks, but you have no recourse here other than to tell your brother that you love him, that he can call/email whenever, that he can visit whenever if mom allows, and that the day he turns 18 your doors are open and he'll be in complete control of his relationship with his parents from then on. 

This is not entirely true.  MOST states allow siblings to sue for visitation (NOT custody - visitation), and that would be my first step if OP if your brother is moved by your mother.  MOST states will allow visitation for siblings - especially if your brother expresses a desire to keep visitation (which he can express in a confidential interview with the judge in most places).

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