Can't/won't really get too deep into it, so here's the short(er) version:
*Mikey is a developmentally delayed, special needs (possibly Autistic) 5 year old. About 5 months ago, my sister broke up with his father *John, about 4 months after John moved from NY to PA in an attempt to find work (and with the secret hope that my sister would then move to PA to be with him). He ended up getting a part time job at WalMart, something he could have done here and kept the family together. It's a 4 hour drive, each way.
There was never any legal custody agreement. Mikey lived with my sister and my parents, and John would take him here and there for a few weeks at a time. Well, this all changed a month ago, when John called my sister to tell her his car broke down and it would be a few more weeks until he could bring Mikey back. She was disappointed, but understanding. Two weeks later, my sister received a certified letter in the mail. John has registered Mikey for kindergarten, signed him up for state funded health insurance, gotten him vaccinated (my sister is no-vax since Mikey displayed signs of Autism) and has petitioned the PA court system for sole custody.
When my sister and I drove up to visit Mikey, John insisted it only be at a public place (he chose McDonalds 5 min from his house) and brought with him 3 members of his family (one who was video taping the whole interraction) as well as the police to make sure my sister didn't try to take her son back. He is insisting that this is the only way he will let her visit Mikey. So basically anyone--including his own mother--wanting to see him will have to drive an 8 hr round trip just to visit with him for an hour or so in a small McDonalds.
Because Mikey is physically with John right now, and he is the father, what he is doing is perfectly legal. My sister is beside herself, missing her son like crazy and doesn't have the money for a lawyer right now. She is keeping a log of every negative thing John says, each time John doesn't let Mikey say goodnight to my sister, etc.
Advice, prayers, positive thoughts all welcome.