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Is this restraint? Or the path of least resistance?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 

I'll refrain from repeating everything in my previous posts, except to say:

 

* DH has had sole custody of his 12-y-o son, since DSS was 8.  DH's ex-wife ("X") - DSS's Mom - moved to California when DSS was 7 and she still lives there.

 

* I can't say X has Borderline Personality Disorder.  But most of what you can read about it (and the "distortion campaigns" some people with BPD engage in) gives a very accurate picture of X's behavior and relationships; and what it's like to deal with her.  For that matter, so does reading about "Obsessed Parental Alienators".  

 

* We know for certain X plans to take DH back to court, to regain custody, within the next 2 years.  Here, judges "give more weight" to a child's stated wishes regarding custody, at age 14.  X believes this means DSS will dictate what happens.  While she expects DSS to say he wants to live with her - and wants to live in CA, far away from his Dad - she has still hedged her bets with a lot of coaching and intense emotional manipulation of DSS.

 

* The reasons DH and I want DSS to stay here are not only selfish.  We understand that no matter where DSS lives, he suffers with missing one of his parents.  But the same logic X used during the 8-year visitation/custody battle ("The one thing my child really needs is me.  Therefore anything I want for myself is, by extension, what's best for my child.") spills over into countless other areas of her parenting, with negative effects on DSS's physical and psychological health, his education, the appropriateness of his living conditions, and his character development.  That's not to say DSS should never be around his mother; only that DH is far and away the healthier parent, with a much clearer understanding of DSS's actual needs.

 

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Predictably, X has ignored laws/guidelines/court orders from the earliest days of the custody change.  Many times, DH has remarked in frustration, "That's it.  I have to take her back to court!"  But he hasn't.

1- Court's expensive, of course.

2- It increases animosity, which might be hard on DSS.  We make it a point not to burden him with legal issues, but we know his mother does.

3- When X takes DH back to court for custody, there is some value in DH being able to tell the judge, "When she had custody, we were in court almost monthly.  Since I've had custody, we haven't been back once ('til now).  X still doesn't comply with court orders, but after I got reasonable access to my kid, I haven't bothered the court over any petty details!"

4- DH also assumed, with the way X is, that things might escalate, forcing him to take her back to court - over some issue no judge could find petty - and that he could raise all the smaller issues then.

 

I think that day has come.  DH (or his atty.  I can't tell who's the chicken and who's the egg, here.) has concluded otherwise.

 

DH says he's still exercising restraint and not giving in to the impulse to rail about things just because they upset him, when there's little or nothing the court can do.  

 

But I suspect he's taking the path of least resistance:  not making the effort to look for ways around the problems with "how things are typically done" in court; heeding the advice of an attorney who, for all his kindness, may be too conventional and hesitant to act; and avoiding revisiting one of the worst experiences of his life (even though he knows he'll wind up in court eventually, regardless).  I am not accustomed to seeing DH take the easy road in ANYthing and I don't like it!

 

I'm also afraid that if he waits for X to take him back to court, he will end up defending himself on many issues where it would be better if she were defending herself.  I hate to sound mercenary, but court is a chess game.  How you play it matters as much - no, more! - than the truth.  I don't defend dishonesty.  I just think it's foolish to ignore the importance of whether you make the first move; whether you get things in writing, etc.  I have seen that judges don't always follow the letter of every rule, so sometimes it's useful to say something, even if you assume opposing counsel will object.  After all, this isn't criminal court.  No one's being convicted of anything.  These judges are charged with determining what's in the best interest of a child.  And how can a judge protect a child from something no one BRINGS UP!?  A judge can't possibly give you what you need, if you never ASK!

 

Just before DSS left for his 7-week summer visit with X this year, X's long-term BF called DH to say:

- X is addicted to Klonopin (one of the highest-potency benzodiazepines, which basically combat anxiety by mimicking the feeling - and symptoms - of being drunk.  They're highly addictive and typically only prescribed for a few months, if used daily.);

- She's drinking increasingly heavily.  (Heavy drinking is a common way to deal with developing tolerance to benzos, esp. in people with a history of heavy drinking.  Doctors are advised not to prescribe benzos for people with "any history" of alcoholism.  Since alcohol and benzos affect the body similarly, it can be dangerous - even life-threatening - to use both.)

- She skips work sometimes, to stay home and drink all day.  She starts drinking at breakfast and continues until she passes out after dinner.

- When DSS and his friend were out there for Spring Break, X was too incapacitated to look after them in the evenings, so BF watched them.  But he just broke up with her, so now he isn't around to take care of DSS anymore.

- Her behavior is increasingly irrational and volatile, to the point that BF said he's "afraid to be around her".  (That's typical of benzo addiction, but also of someone with BPD, when relationships turn sour.)

 

Of course, BF is an idiot who didn't realize DH must have permission from the court, to deny a visit with X.  When DH explained this, BF said he had really bonded with DSS; was deeply worried about him being alone with X; and that he'd do anything - sign an affidavit, fly here to testify - to help protect DSS.

 

DH's atty. and the CE both said DH could do nothing, without a notarized affidavit from BF.  So DH flew to CA the same day DSS did.  He and X both arrived at the airport well before DSS, and talked.  When X develops a new "enemy" (in this case, her ex-BF), she becomes open to rekindling old relationships, even with people she has previously accused of "abusing" her, like DH.  This is common, in people with BPD.  X jumped to the conclusion that DH had flown all that way to see HER and to kick her ex-BF's a**, if she wanted!  She tried to be affectionate with DH.  And when he asked about the Klonopin, she admitted she's been taking anti-anxiety meds for approximately the last 3 years; and that she drinks, but she claimed she only does so lightly and sees no reason to refrain.  She "knows" DH will "be compassionate about that, and not use that info. against her".

 

X told DH she and DSS had no plans for the week and invited him to "stop by her house any time, to visit".  (This is the same person who so many times tried to hide from DH where she and DSS were living!)  But then, curiously, she took DSS to a hotel for the week, so DH never saw him and barely talked to him.

 

DH met with BF while he was out there.  BF said other things that seem relevant for a return to court, like:

- X's new apt. is a 1-bedroom, just like her last one.  She tells DSS to say it's a 2-bedroom, because the Custody Modification Order said it was inappropriate that DSS didn't have sleeping quarters separate from hers.  But DSS's "room" - where he keeps his stuff - is X's closet and they still share a bed.

- X really loved the idea of BF, DSS and her all cuddling up in the bed, as a "family".  One of the problems with their relationship is that BF wasn't comfortable with this and would go home at night, when DSS visited.  But who knows if X's next BF will respect the same boundaries?  I'm all for family beds, but with an almost-teenage boy and a man who's not his father?  No, no, no.

- X still tells everyone such God-awful things about DH that BF at first assumed he was a monster.  Another problem with his and X's relationship was that, after a while, he began to wonder how DSS could seem so normal and well-adjusted, if he lived all year with DH, and if DH were really as abusive and awful as X said?  (I.e., X still tries to surround DSS with people who believe he shouldn't have anything to do with his father.)

- Two summers ago, we were concerned because X posted on her public blog that she'd received a job offer at a coastal resort in Africa and was spending "hours and hours" researching the life and culture there.  But it just sounded too crazy - like a grotesque overreaction - for us to try to do anything with that info.  But evidently, X DID plan to move there.  She spent the whole summer while DSS was with her, negotiating her salary and job perks, in Nigeria; how often she'd be able to travel back to the U.S. and who'd pay for it, etc.  The only reason she didn't move is that - surprise - it turned out to be a scam.  A Nigerian scam.

 

BUT when BF broke up with X, she stole and destroyed all the personal documents she could get her hands on - his driver's license, birth certificate, social security card, etc.  (She once did that to DH, too.)  So...no notarized affidavit.  All DH has from BF is an email, with what BF planned to put in the affidavit.  After DH finally had to come home, BF called a few times, promising he was working on replacing his i.d. and sending the affidavit, but finally he stopped calling.  I hope I never meet him, because I want to strangle him.  How the f*** can you claim to care about a kid; get his parents all worked up, worrying about issues YOU raised, and then just lose interest and bag it all?  Cuss.gif

 

DSS came home a few weeks ago and has started school.  He does not seem to be texting his Mom about how much he hates us and only wants to be with her - which is nice...but weird, because it's not normal, after the summer.  He hasn't said anything specific.  He's not going to betray his Mom, by telling us if she was passing out, or being volatile and screaming at him, or calling the cops about her ex-BF.  But nearly everything we've asked him, about the summer, is vaguely negative.  

"So, tell me what you and your Mom did, to celebrate your birthday this year?"  

"We didn't do ANYthing.  She bought me a skateboard during Spring Break, two months before my birthday, and that was it.  Nothing."

"Did you see any good movies, over the summer?"

"Mom and I didn't go out to any movies, this time.  Not even once."

"Well, it sure seems like having a Kindle motivated you, to get your summer reading done.  I'm proud of you!"

"It's easy to stay on top of your school work, when you don't have anything else to do."

And, when DH picked him up at the airport, DSS asked when he "had to" go back; and said he didn't want to go out there anymore, that he'd rather his Mom come here, to see him.

 

I may not be this kid's mother, but I'm telling you something is not right.

 

He doesn't want to go to counseling.  His mother's visit here, next weekend, is complicating the issue.  She has pushed for a family counseling session - DH, DSS and her.  She asserts DSS getting an "F" and a "C" in the first week of school shows he's not happy here.  (He didn't put his name on a song choice, in Band [5 pts. of "F"]; and missed one question on a 5-question, 10-pt. quiz, in another class.  [80% is a "C", at his school.]  So, really...big deal!)  So, is DSS saying "I'm happy with my life.  I don't need counseling!" because he wants to avoid the counseling session X wants - where these trivial things at school get twisted into a reason for DSS to move back to California?  Or does he really feel no need for counseling?

 

DH's atty. says, without the affidavit from BF, all the issues he raised are moot.  The court won't do anything about them and DH would look bad, for bringing them up, if he can't substantiate them.  It doesn't count for anything that X ADMITTED to DH she's been taking highly addictive drugs for 3 years and still drinks?  How do you get a legal 2nd opinion, when you've already signed a contract with an attorney?

 

It's secondary, but DH has been talking for 3 years, now, about asking for child support.  He volunteered to let X spend it, visiting DSS here.  The court allowed this, but did not simply exempt her from paying support.  It cited an amount she should pay and ordered her to pay it through the cost of her travel here.  The cost of incidentals - gasoline, food, entertainment - during her visits is already factored into the child support amount, via the "parenting time credit".  And she's credited with significantly more parenting time than she exercises, due to the assumption she'd visit frequently.  Her actual travel costs are pretty easy to calculate. She always stays in the same hotel, flies the same airline and rents a car.  Since she works in the travel/hospitality industry and one of her employers has a professional relationship with the hotel chain where she stays, her travel costs are almost certainly lower than our calculations.  But even our calculations show that what she spends on travel is at most about half what she ought to contribute to DSS's needs.  Also, she has spent less time here, each year since the custody change.  Plus she dumped DSS's health insurance (that she's under court order to maintain).  Plus she hasn't paid numerous other expenses she's under court order to cover.

 

I think she's established a pattern, over 4 years.  DH has given her ample time to change, visit more, and use the child support money for its intended purpose.  It seems perfectly reasonable to say, "I don't expect this to get better, so if she's not going to use child support to give DSS more time with her, let her start paying it conventionally.  Or, let her pay some adjusted amount."  I think if he asks for CS now, it sounds completely fair and reasonable... But if he doesn't ask for it until after she asks for custody, he'll look punitive.

 

But I always second-guess myself.  Am I just being greedy?  

IS DH wise, for continuing to exhibit restraint about going back to court?  

Do I just want to see X called to task over the things that upset me, even if it won't lead to any change?  

DO we have to rely on DSS to tell us, if he's not safe with his Mom; or else wait until "something" happens?  

I.  Hate.  This.

 

Hey, if you made it through all this, you're a saint!  DH and I are having some definite stress over this and I don't want it to become the only thing we talk about.  Nor do I like to discuss all this detail with people IRL, because they know DSS - and might meet his Mom - and I don't want them to act funny about her because of things I've said.  Sometimes I just need to get it all out, here on MDC.  Thanks for reading!


Edited by VocalMinority - 8/28/11 at 8:04pm
post #2 of 26

Oh, that just totally sucks! I'm sorry you all are going through that. It sounds like DH and the lawyer rightfully discouraged by not having the BF's affidavit. He can't go into court flinging accusations around that are baseless... the only thing he might be able to do is have the BF summoned... but it's still a lot to hinge on one person's testimony.

 

For DSS, do you think it would be appropriate for DH to just level with him? My kids are younger, so I don't know. Maybe he could state that the BF has approached him with XYZ concerns (not give his own opinion, but gauge DSS's reaction) He might benefit from some reading material, or from being given information about Alateen/support for going to meetings... if he is worried about his mom, and can't confide in DH or you then at least he has an option for getting answers. It might be a relief to him to know it isn't a secret that he has to keep for his mom, the cat is already out of the bag.

 

Could you speak to DSS friends' parents... maybe his friend has said something to his mom or dad about X drinking/behaving oddly during the visit on spring break. I don't know what the would net in a court situation... but it could further confirm that she has a problem. His friend wouldn't have the same sense of loyalty to her, anyway.

 

Has X been caught driving while intoxicated... are those kind of things kept on public record in her state? Maybe there is some proof that she has a problem that you guys just need to go looking for.

post #3 of 26

You are right - your DH needs to go to court.  Especially since your DSS says he doesn't want to go back.

 

About the counseling, I would also recommend you (or DH) talk to him, and tell him that he doesn't need to go to counseling with his mom, but can go all by himself, and that you will help him find a counselor he feels comfortable talking to.  Maybe you've already done that, and if you have, I think you (of DH) should be pretty firm about him going.  He really sounds like he needs a 3rd party to talk to about all these things, where he won't feel like he's getting his mom "in trouble" for talking about whats going on at her house.

 

Poor kiddo - these are not issues that should rest on his shoulders!  I'll try to address your specific concerns tomorrow when my brain is working better.

post #4 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mummoth View Post

For DSS, do you think it would be appropriate for DH to just level with him?...

Well, we kind of had to, to explain why DH went to California.  DH said, more or less, "Someone close to your Mom told me they're very worried about her drinking and about you being alone with her, right now.  I'm going out there, to see for myself how she seems, when she picks you up at the airport; and to be in town, if you need me for any reason.  That will probably upset your Mom.  I want you to know that I don't have any interest in keeping you away from her.  But if she does have a problem, it would be better if the people around her helped her to get help.  Then she could have a better visit with you, next time.  If you see her having a problem while you're there, it's important that you tell me.  The fact that it would make your Mom mad if you "told on her" isn't nearly as bad as if she gets really sick and you're the only one there; or if she has a car accident with you in the car.  If you call and tell me there's a problem with your Mom, I will not make you stop seeing her.  I'll just try to get her help."

 

But DSS got pretty angry, demanding to know who called his Dad and insisting his Mom really doesn't drink that much.  And, really, an 11-year-old kid (that's how old he was, when he visited her at spring break), might not know if her morning o.j. or coffee is spiked; or how much wine she's drinking, if it's not in a wine glass.  And if she passes out after dinner, maybe he thinks she's just going to bed early and he might even enjoy it, since he and his friend can stay up all night playing video games.

 

DSS does know his Mom has been on meds for anxiety, for a long time.  He told us about those - that she takes them daily, and that she was hospitalized for panic attacks a few years ago - long before BF did.  And, of course, DSS thinks that's fine since a doctor prescribed them and X has told him taking them every day keeps her out of the hospital.  (We just didn't know she had transitioned from lower-potency benzos, to Klonopin and that she was having other symptoms of tolerance and addiction, until BF brought it up.)

 

After DH left for CA, I had to put DSS on the plane by myself and he wanted to talk about what his Dad said to him.  I reminded him that, in all the time he's lived with us, his Dad has never tried to keep him from visiting or talking to his Mom; he's never kept DSS away from her, when she came here to visit.  So of course his Dad wasn't looking for an excuse to mess up that visit.  Any parent would be genuinely concerned, given the phone call he received.  But DSS seemed convinced that whoever called his Dad must have been some enemy of his Mom's, making up things to cause problems for her.  I wouldn't be surprised if he's heard a LOT, throughout his life, about his Mom's various enemies plotting against her and "everyone" taking advantage of her; and it's only DSS and her - BFFs - who can rely on and trust each other.

 

DSS may not have had a good visit, but I still don't think there's any chance in the world he's going to tell anyone anything substantive about his Mom.  "She didn't throw me a birthday party" is one thing.  "By dinnertime, I can hardly understand her speech and then she falls asleep and I'm alone all night," is quite another.  

 

Could you speak to DSS friends' parents... maybe his friend has said something to his mom or dad about X drinking/behaving oddly during the visit on spring break. I don't know what the would net in a court situation... but it could further confirm that she has a problem. His friend wouldn't have the same sense of loyalty to her, anyway.

 

We've talked about that.  DH agrees that he definitely has to say something before they send the friend out there for spring break, next year.  I mean, we'd be furious if we sent one of our kids to spend a week with an impaired chaperone - and another adult knew about it in advance, but didn't tell us!  But bringing it up now is touchy.  It may come across as DH gossiping, or trying to turn the parents against X.  And this kid has been friends with DSS since they were in preschool, so X has a long-standing acquaintanceship, or maybe friendship, with the other boy's Mom.

 

Has X been caught driving while intoxicated... are those kind of things kept on public record in her state? Maybe there is some proof that she has a problem that you guys just need to go looking for.

 

No.  She lives in a downtown area, in a big city and BF says she walks to the corner liquor store.  DH also says that, during their marriage, when she was stressed and drank heavily, she tended to just camp out at home and not go anywhere.


 

 

post #5 of 26

I'm not quoting, b/c then my post would be WAY too long, lol.  But I'm going to try and address some of your concerns.

 

The drinking - is there anyway you can find out if she is paying for alcohol on a credit card, or with her debit card?  If she's paying cash, you can't prove how much she's buying, but if she's paying with a cc or debit card, her statements will have show where the charges are from.  Now, she may try to show that she just likes the expensive stuff, but  at a certain point enough is enough and you don't really need to spend that much money on booze.  This might not help, but its possible that you don't need your DSS to say anything, and that you can find this information via other pathways.

 

The Klonopin (sp?), that information should be available through other means as well - her prescribing doctor would have to give that information to the court (prescriptions, dates of treatment, length of treatment are not confidential - but if she has spoken to the doctor about alcohol use that would most likely be confidential). 

 

 

Quote:
DO we have to rely on DSS to tell us, if he's not safe with his Mom; or else wait until "something" happens?

 

This part really sucks - and I know how terrifying it is to send a child with someone you don't think is all there.  Most of the time, courts won't do anything until something happens - however, if you can show that she is in fact drinking, and she is on drugs that mix poorly with alcohol (sounds like booze + klonopin = disaster), you may not have to wait.

 

Also, it sounds like something HAS happened - she's violating court orders by living in a 1-bedroom and forcing your DSS to sleep with her (which, even though I share a 1BR with my toddler is weird - I'll be in 2BR LONG before he gets to be 11).  That can also be found out through alternate means - contacting her management company and asking for a floor plan of her apartment.

 

The BF can also be subpoena'd, which would suck for him, but would get him to talk.  And its totally bizarre that he can't get a notarized affidavit?  Doesn't he need ID for other aspects of his life?  But aside from that, I think you need to pursue this.  Either by continuing to ask for that notarized affidavit, or by serving him with a subpoena - which can request either an affidavit, or his presence in court to testify. 

 

And, I think your DH needs to ask for child support.  Just b/c she doesn't feel like supporting DSS financially, doesn't mean she doesn't need to - her son is her responsibility, whether he lives with her or not.  It was very generous of your DH to let her use that money for another purpose, but its not being used for that purpose.  It's not going to your DSS at all, which is not OK.

 

I hate family court with a passion, and I'm in the middle of my own battle at the moment.  I hate all the stress of it, and I hate dealing with it.  I just wish I could raise my child in the way that I know is best for him without having to go to court.

post #6 of 26

"Hospitalized for panic attacks" sounds a little off to me... I've never heard of a person having a hospital stay for them. Going to emergency because they think they're having a heart attack, yes... but she'd have been sent home after a few hours. Maybe she's exaggerating, or could she have been hospitalized for a time for something more serious. I'm in Canada and you can pretty much only get admitted here if you're a danger to yourself or someone else... maybe it's different in the states?

 

He might not talk to a counselor, could he be told he has to go anyway? My son was a lot younger, but I didn't present it to him as an option. Even if he sits in the office sulking while the counselor talks, he'll still hear what they have to say, if there's anything valuable that they CAN say to him. That can wait until after her visit, so he'll know it's a separate thing than her 'family' appointment. 

 

It's good that DS knows that you guys are aware there might be a problem... if he ever does consider talking about it he knows it won't completely blindside you. He has someone to talk to, if he needs to. What is DS relationship to his maternal grandparents like? If he's worried about his mom, it might be helpful for him to discuss it with someone she considers an ally... it won't help the legal and of things, but it might give DS peace of mind to know his mom has someone looking out for her.

 

Maybe something will happen during her visit that changes DH's mind about court... maybe going to the 'family' counseling appointment would give him more insight into where her head is. Has he gotten a straight answer about what, specifically she'd like to discuss? Would she be willing to go with just your DH, not DSS? If it's just about trying to coerce DS in front of a witness to say that he wants to live with her, is there any benefit to going? The fact that DS wants to avoid the appointment might be a clue that she's been pressuring him to tell his dad he wants to move in with her, and he doesn't want to. It doesn't sound like she'd let up, even if DS did say he wants to stay with his dad. Ugh, the hospital thing just came back to me... what if she's gone so low as to hint to DS that she might hurt herself if he doesn't move in with her?

 

The more I think about it, the more it seems like court is the only option, and in the meantime, he NEEDS a counselor. Maybe if he hears that the counselor really is just there to listen to him, not to tattle to ANY of his parents about the other one, he will be able to open up and get it out/get some input. 

post #7 of 26

I agree with the bolded.  I don't know that you would be able to find anything else out though.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mummoth View Post

"Hospitalized for panic attacks" sounds a little off to me... I've never heard of a person having a hospital stay for them. Going to emergency because they think they're having a heart attack, yes... but she'd have been sent home after a few hours. Maybe she's exaggerating, or could she have been hospitalized for a time for something more serious. I'm in Canada and you can pretty much only get admitted here if you're a danger to yourself or someone else... maybe it's different in the states?

post #8 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Super~Single~Mama View Post

I'm not quoting, b/c then my post would be WAY too long, lol.  I have a deal with God.  In my next life, I will be short-winded!  winky.gif

 

...is there anyway you can find out if she is paying for alcohol on a credit card, or with her debit card?  DH did subpoena her bank statements in the past, but it was in regards to her misappropriating funds to her own account, that she'd been ordered to give her attorney, who'd been instructed to give half of it to DH.  But I don't know if you're allowed to invade someone's privacy like that, just to figure out what they spend on alcohol, as opposed to strictly financial matters.  Does anyone else know?

 

The Klonopin... her prescribing doctor would have to give that information to the court (prescriptions, dates of treatment, length of treatment are not confidential...).  That would be great.  Are you certain those things aren't protected by privelege?  There's also the complication of figuring out who her prescribing physician IS.  We still don't even know who DSS's doctor was, when he lived there!  

 

But my theory is that, since X told DH she's taking benzos, if she then tells the court, "He's lying.  I never said that.  I don't have a psychiatrist," couldn't that be sufficient reason for the court to have her tested for benzos?  I mean, she has an established history of lying to the court.  DH has no history at all, of accusing her of drug abuse.  If she's lying about using benzos, that implies a problem....a problem with a threat of significant harm, to DSS.  So, wouldn't DSS's best interest be served, by verifying whether she's using benzos, or not?  And if she tests positive, it would be in her best interest to disclose who prescribed the drugs for her, instead of leaving the judge to wonder if she's buying them on the black market!  But my theory is evidently a little too unconventional for DH's attorney.

 

Also, it sounds like something HAS happened - she's violating court orders by living in a 1-bedroom and forcing your DSS to sleep with her...  Well, certainly, she's been violating orders ever since DSS moved back here.  But, A- She's not ordered to provide 2 bedrooms (especially now that DSS only visits, and doesn't live there).  The CMO just noted that the inappropriateness of a studio or 1-bedroom factored into the custody change being in DSS's best interest; and B- Again, DH and/or his attorney are very concerned about looking petty and litigious, if they take X to court over each individual way she violates orders.  They feel it's important for the new judge to think, "This guy only bothers judges when something's really wrong."  Basically:  Let's say, in 2 years, DSS says he wants to live with his Mom.  If DH and X have still been in and out of court all the time, during the 6 years DSS will have lived with us, the new judge might conclude, "These people are locked in hopeless, interminable conflict.  Changing custody didn't fix that.  The least we can do is let the poor kid live where he says he wants to live."

 

The BF can also be subpoena'd...  Absolutely.  DH's attorney just thinks her attorney would pretty easily discredit BF, as a bitter, vengeful ex making things up to hurt her. 

 

And, I think your DH needs to ask for child support.  I'm glad to hear someone else looks at this the way I do!  My own mother was horrified to hear DH might ask for CS!  She thinks it's not manly.  But if you're going to be THAT traditional, having sole custody of your kid isn't the time-honored masculine role, either!  I think if DH's doing that job, there's nothing wrong or emasculating about X doing the traditional male job of contributing CS.  If we were millionaires, it might be generous to say, "Oh, who cares?  Let her keep all her money."  But, UNLESS that money is providing DSS lots of extra time with his Mom, then it's just not fair that some months, the CS I receive for my older kids pays DSS's tuition, dental bills, etc., while his mother contributes nothing AND doesn't visit.

 

I hate family court with a passion, and I'm in the middle of my own battle at the moment.  I hate all the stress of it, and I hate dealing with it.  I just wish I could raise my child in the way that I know is best for him without having to go to court.  Good luck! hug2.gif

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mummoth View Post

"Hospitalized for panic attacks" sounds a little off to me... I've never heard of a person having a hospital stay for them. Going to emergency because they think they're having a heart attack, yes... but she'd have been sent home after a few hours. Maybe she's exaggerating, or could she have been hospitalized for a time for something more serious.  We wonder the same things.  It's entirely believable that X might have portrayed a 2-hour ER check, to DSS, as a major hospitalization, to increase his guilt over how poorly she's coping with him living with us.  On the other hand, she genuinely has some serious problems.  BPD is frequently masked by panic attacks and people are treated for that, instead of the root of the problem.  People with BPD also have a higher-than-average rate of suicide attempts.  We just don't know.

 

He might not talk to a counselor, could he be told he has to go anyway? My son was a lot younger, but I didn't present it to him as an option. Even if he sits in the office sulking while the counselor talks, he'll still hear what they have to say, if there's anything valuable that they CAN say to him...  Hard call.  Everything you've said is valid. It's ALSO true that counseling makes DSS feel like there's something wrong with him; that his life, family and relationships are a lot more screwed-up than he likes to think they are.  From at least the age of 5, his mother dragged him to several psychiatrists, always with the goal of getting him to back up an accusation she'd made about DH; or forcing him to listen to her bash DH, in a setting where that seemed like part of the "therapeutic process" (whereas, if she'd lambasted DSS with the same rhetoric at home, it would've seemed abusively inappropriate...)  Even when DSS has been to counseling with DH, it's always been because something was "seriously wrong" with his life: the custodial evaluator had to choose between his parents after his Mom moved across the country from his Dad; or a judge ordered counseling, for fear DSS wouldn't be able to cope with moving away from his Mom after the custody change.  DSS's sense that counseling means he'll either be manipulated, or prepped for some God-awful upheaval in his life is deeply ingrained.  It's not just the one situation, this weekend.

 

So, maybe we should force him to go to a counselor who would show him how counseling's supposed to be.  Or maybe we should let him focus on school, friends, sports and feeling "normal" - like he wants - and keep trying to shield him from the most screwed-up parts of his Mom and the relationship btwn. his parents.  ???  DH and I are mulling this over!

 

It's good that DS knows that you guys are aware there might be a problem... if he ever does consider talking about it he knows it won't completely blindside you. He has someone to talk to, if he needs to.  Nice point.  Thanks for making it.

 

What is DS relationship to his maternal grandparents like? If he's worried about his mom, it might be helpful for him to discuss it with someone she considers an ally... it won't help the legal and of things, but it might give DS peace of mind to know his mom has someone looking out for her.  Oh, vomit!  There's little doubt her parents - or at least her Dad - had a hand in making X the way she is.  It's impossible to know details.  She "breaks up" with her parents and says terrible things about them.  Then again, she's said terrible things about DH - and about me - and they weren't true.  When X's other support networks break down (or she needs money), she reconciles with her parents and speaks of them as though they've always had an idyllic filial relationship.  My sense is they're supremely concerned with appearances and treat X like a valued daughter when they think she will make them look good somehow, but they abandon her when she's needy or difficult.  DSS has never said why, but he refuses to respond to their correspondence, refuses to call them; and the few times we've forced him to (like calling his grandmother on Mother's Day), he makes a point of being in the same room as his Dad or me, during the call, and he never says much beyond "Yes" and "No".  They are no help whatsoever, unfortunately.

 

Maybe something will happen during her visit that changes DH's mind about court... Has he gotten a straight answer about what, specifically she'd like to discuss?  Would she be willing to go with just your DH, not DSS?  Probably.  IN family law has a clause somewhere, that courts should look negatively on a parent who refuses to try to resolve problems through counseling, if the other parent's willing to go.  So, DH emails X about court orders she's violating (not paying something she was ordered to pay; or not sharing information she was ordered to share).  X continues violating the orders, but suggests counseling, "so they can discuss it in a healthy way".  In HER mind, she's creating a paper trail where she has proposed counseling and DH has refused.  That goes on her list of black marks against DH, when she takes him back to court.  In DH's mind, if X planned to comply with their court orders, she WOULD.  If she WON'T follow the orders, why pay $100/hr. while she tries to justify it to a counselor?  

 

Also, X tends to blur boundaries.  She cuts ties with people, destroys the relationship, but then when it seems convenient to resume it, she may act as though nothing ever happened.  She seems to have no idea that some things can push a relationship past the point of no return.  Since the custody change, X has gone through periods of apparent confusion about her relationship with DH - being affectionate toward him; calling him late at night; even sending sympathetic emails, that she "knows" he's grieving and wishes they could go back and have things between them be different than they are now, and that she feels the same way.  DH is - understandably! - reluctant to enter into a situation where X may believe they're trying to fix their relationship or work toward a reunion.

 

In short, experience leads DH to believe nothing productive could come from joint counseling.  He has already suffered more than a decade of dealing with X - and spending all his money trying to bypass her, to stay in contact with their son.  He doesn't want to devote more time and money to his relationship with her.  He wants to keep things as straightforward and factual as possible.

 

The fact that DS wants to avoid the appointment might be a clue that she's been pressuring him to tell his dad he wants to move in with her (We know she's been pressuring him.  DSS tells us that much.) and he doesn't want to.  (We don't really know what he wants.  I don't know if HE does.)  It doesn't sound like she'd let up, even if DS did say he wants to stay with his dad.  (If DSS told her that, she would either assume we'd brainwashed him; or she'd conclude he had sided with us against her and was now one of her enemies.  I think DSS is astute enough to see that risk.  He's seen how she cuts off and demonizes everyone else in her life who's ever been at odds with her.)  Ugh, the hospital thing just came back to me... what if she's gone so low as to hint to DS that she might hurt herself if he doesn't move in with her?  (She has told him she had panic attacks and had to be hospitalized because it's so hard for her to deal with being separated from him; and that she has to take these meds, or she'll go back to having the panic attacks and have to stay in the hospital.)

 

...Maybe if he hears that the counselor really is just there to listen to him, not to tattle to ANY of his parents about the other one, he will be able to open up and get it out/get some input. This is a good point.


 

 


Edited by VocalMinority - 8/29/11 at 6:44pm
post #9 of 26

I don't have a ton to add... but I agree that maybe finding the right counselr, perhaps someone who specializes in children of addicts or children of BPD/mentally ill parents or something similar might help. It might be helpful to tell your step-som that he is getting to an age where it is normal to not want to talk to your parents about everything, but that you want to make sure he has an adult to talk to when he needs it. You could tell him that you are going to ask him to go for four sessions and then he can decide whether or not to continue at this time, but you want him to give it that long to get to know whether or not the person is a good match for him. You can certainly prep the counselor with what his experience has been and how what he feels it means to go to a counselor, and he or she can use a bit of the first session to make sure he udnerstands the confidential nature of their relationship, what happens to information, even to what extent it is protected (i.e. in what specific circumstances she would be legally obligated to share it with anyone and what that would look like). I work professionally with therapists and many of them have lawyers who work to help them stay out of court in custody cases.

 

Also, I DO NOT think, considering your husband's history, that this is soemthing petty. A lot of the other stuff might seem petty to a court (the one-bedroom apt, the child support issue, planning to move to Africa, etc), and I would avoid lumping those things together to try to reinforce your bigger concern. But the very real concern, based on reports directly from the X, I don't think is petty. You have reason to believe he is in danger when he is in the care of his mother, and he is a long way away from you and his support system. I would hope a lawyer would be able to figure out what you could ask the court for that would seem reasonable and woudln't look like you were trying to restrict your step-son's contact with his mom (drug-testing, a check in by a police officer or child welfare worker in mom's state? I don't know). Personally, I would think that knowing what he knows and letting it slide will look a lot worse than not doing anything about it. Sure, if he could do it without the court's involvement, super... but I don't really know how he could do that.

 

Perhaps your husband could tell his lawyer that he is deeply concerned with this issue and that he feels like he needs to do something to protect his son. His lawyer needs to give him his best legal advice, but his lawyer also is supposed to be working on his behalf. Your husband could probably ask the lawyer the question "if I wanted a second opinion, what should I do so that I am not violating my contract with you?"

 

Sorry, I'm sure none of this is anything you haven't already thought of... but I figured I'd post anyway, and maybe there is some little idea or phrase in here that sparks something?

 

Sorry you are going through this. I'm glad your step-son is back with you and that he will be for a while... I can't imagine if the custody situation was reversed and you were having to return him to her after the summer with this level of fear of what is happening. He is so lucky to have you.

post #10 of 26

Oh, man, do our DHs have the same X? First of all, if she does take you back to court, doesn't that case have to take place in the state where your case began? Not California? California (we live here) also mandates mediation before any court date. DH's ex sounds very similar, but inspite of that, we've only actually gone to court once in the last 10 years. After 12, judges do consider the child's wishes, but that isn't the main factor in determining custody. Judges (well, depends on who you get) seem pretty unwilling to change an established order if it is basically working. One thing you will have going for you if you do wind up in court is longevity. It's been the way it is for a long time and there would have to be a pretty big reason to change it.

 

Mental health issues-- DH's ex is bipolar and on permanent disability because of it. She doesn't have to hide it. She brings in a note from her doctor saying that she is medicated and perfectly ok to care for her children, so there is really nothing we can say about that.

 

As for sharing custody with an alcoholic/drug addict. This gets tricky. DH's has had full physical custody of dss since he was 3 years old (he's 16 now). His mom abuses prescription drugs, recreational drugs, and alcohol. The problem is that almost NONE of this is documented. It is our word against hers. Luckily for our case (and horribley for her younger children who are not DH's), she has been arrested for child endangerment twice. She has had a DUI and is on probabtion for that. In spite of that, she brings in notes from her AA sponser saying how great she is doing and certificates showing she has passed another court-mandated parenting class. The courts seem unwilling to look back at patterns and say that she's been doing this for the past 14 years. They seem very fixed on what she is doing right now. It is somewhat to our advantage that there are legal documents and police reports, but now that those are a year or two old, they seem to have less impact. Anything you can do to document will help, but if it's just your word, that isn't much. I'm pretty sure her medical information is confidential, but even if it was available, if a doctor says she's ok, the court will accept that. They won't change custody because someone has a mental disorder unless you can show it is endangering the child.

 

 

In your favor, California is a state that gives equal weight to both parents. There is not an assumption that the mother is the most important parent, especially in older children. The parent who has been raising the child is assumed to be the primary caregiver, not always the mother.

 

When DSS was that age, he was very protective of his mother and did hide stuff from us. As he got older, and she had more children, he became angry at how her behavior was affecting his younger half brothers. When she was last jailed for drugs/child endangerment/probabtion violation, he was completely done with her. He is very open with us now about her issues and how he was treated as a child. He has refused to see her since she was released from jail (2.5 years ago). I know you are very concerned about his safety, and it is a terrible feeling to send your child into a situation where you feel it is unsafe, but the court order says you must. Sooner or later, he will appriciate your efforts. In spite of all this craziness, I still believe that DSS should see his mom, but it should be supervised.

post #11 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by aricha View Post

... I DO NOT think, considering your husband's history, that this is soemthing petty.  Neither do we.  The reason DH is backing away from taking this issue to court is only that his attorney (and the custodial evaluator and other attorneys we know personally and have unofficially talked to) seem so sure the court would do nothing, because the only real "evidence" would be the testimony of X's flaky ex-BF...IF we can get him to travel 2,500 miles and show up for court.  X hasn't been arrested for public intox or DUI or anything.  DH's atty. also warns that if DH raises this issue and the judge rejects it, it may create the appearance that DH used unsubstantiated allegations, rumor and hearsay to try to reduce DSS's time with X.  Again, I think that is B.S.  If a parent receives a call like the one DH received from BF, how could anyone fault him for trying to do something about it?  If the court concludes there's not enough evidence to investigate X's drug and alcohol use, that still doesn't mean DH would be wrong to ASK for it.  That's why I'm so frustrated!  It seems obvious to me that doing nothing because you think the court will do nothing is the wrong approach!  But, I don't get the final call.

 

A lot of the other stuff might seem petty to a court (the one-bedroom apt, the child support issue, planning to move to Africa, etc)... I agree with this.  (Well, I don't think CS is petty.  I think, at this point, it's a perfectly reasonable thing to ask for.  But it's not as important as the alleged drug and alcohol abuse!)  As for the other issues... The only intelligent thing for X to say, when she asks to regain custody, would be, "Losing custody taught me the importance of cooperating with my ex and respecting my son's relationship with him.  We no longer have the problems we did, before the custody change.  I co-parent with him very well, now.  But the current custody arrangement isn't working because my ex does X, Y and Z.  Plus, our son is miserable and longs to come home to me, in California..."  In that case, it would be nice if the judge knew that actually, X doesn't cooperate, comply with court orders, or consider DSS's needs when she makes major life decisions any better than she did, before the custody change.  Establishing that is the only real value, in bringing the other issues to the court's attention. And I worry that, if DH doesn't make the court aware of these things until after X files for custody, he would look like he's just scrambling for self-defense:  If he didn't care enough about these issues to mention them before, why is he bringing them up now?

 

...and I would avoid lumping those things together to try to reinforce your bigger concern.  Thanks for that advice.  We were kind of thinking, ask for a hearing on the major issue and ask for enough time to cover the smaller ones, while everyone's there.  But perhaps it would be better to deal with them separately.


 

post #12 of 26

I just thought of something... what about a mediator? I doubt it would actually resolve any problems... but wouldn't there then be an official paper trail to show that DH does have concerns about the current custody agreement that are serious enough to him to take action? It could be his response to her request to see a counselor: "You're right XW, there are some issues that we need to discuss. However I feel they go beyond the scope of a single counseling appointment, and we'd further benefit from starting a mediation process." It puts the ball back in her court to appear like she's trying to coparent effectively with him. 

post #13 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mummoth View Post

... what about a mediator? I doubt it would actually resolve any problems... but wouldn't there then be an official paper trail to show that DH does have concerns about the current custody agreement that are serious enough to him to take action? It could be his response to her request to see a counselor: "You're right XW, there are some issues that we need to discuss. However I feel they go beyond the scope of a single counseling appointment, and we'd further benefit from starting a mediation process." 


My initial reaction was, "Mediation with X is a waste of time."  And it has been, in the past.  But, if the point is to officially put the issues on the table, without "bothering" the court - and without eliciting DH's aversion to going to court! - that might work.  X could always shock us and cooperate with mediation.  If so, great!  But if she didn't, there would be an admissable "paper trail" AND, if the issues about drug and alcohol weren't clarified and resolved, perhaps the mediator would recommend that they sound serious enough to go to court?  Thanks.

 

post #14 of 26

Ok, Aricha and Flor covered the stuff I wanted to cover.

 

However, I will say that there an attorney cannot bind YOU to a contract that restricts your ability to seek the advice of other attorneys, even on the same issue.  An attorney can charge you a retainer, and charge you for time billed, but they cannot restrict your ability to seek second, third, fourth opinions.  You and your DH have the right, and the ability to fire your lawyer at any time, without any notice (although if there is an action in the court currently pending the attorney will be required to file a consent to change attorney form, and all parties will have to sign it - its standard, and takes a few minutes to create and pass around, then it gets filed and its done with).

 

You also don't need to fire your attorney to seek another attorney's advice, it would be highly unethical for your lawyer to try and prevent you from seeking further advice.

post #15 of 26

 

Quote:
I agree with this.  (Well, I don't think CS is petty.  I think, at this point, it's a perfectly reasonable thing to ask for.  But it's not as important as the alleged drug and alcohol abuse!)  As for the other issues... The only intelligent thing for X to say, when she asks to regain custody, would be, "Losing custody taught me the importance of cooperating with my ex and respecting my son's relationship with him.  We no longer have the problems we did, before the custody change.  I co-parent with him very well, now.  But the current custody arrangement isn't working because my ex does X, Y and Z.  Plus, our son is miserable and longs to come home to me, in California..."  In that case, it would be nice if the judge knew that actually, X doesn't cooperate, comply with court orders, or consider DSS's needs when she makes major life decisions any better than she did, before the custody change.  Establishing that is the only real value, in bringing the other issues to the court's attention. And I worry that, if DH doesn't make the court aware of these things until after X files for custody, he would look like he's just scrambling for self-defense:  If he didn't care enough about these issues to mention them before, why is he bringing them up now?

 

I'm going to try and address these concerns in a way that makes sense.  Bear with me here.

 

1.  Child Support would not be sought in the same action, and where I live is heard by an entirely different judge than the one that hears the custody issues.  So, I would look into that, and see where that gets you.  Usually, judges where I am frown on using child support as a tool in a custody case.

 

2.  (the bolded)  That might sound like a good argument, but its really not.  And, as far as your DH sounding like he's scrambling for defenses, well, thats not the way it would be viewed by a judge most likely.  There is a very good reason that each party gets to present a case to the judge - its so that each party has their opportunity to explain their position.  Not to mention, he has an excellent reason for not bringing them to the courts attention - he's trying to keep the peace so that your DSS doesn't have to be in court all the time, and feel like his parents are continuously fighting over him!  Your DSS isn't 2 anymore - he's 11, and old enough to understand whats happening, and what each parent is saying to the court.  Your DSS is old enough that if his mother wanted to tell him all about how terrible you and your DH are, and how you just try to destroy her and make her look bad in court - she could!  And your DSS would be, understandably, very upeset about all of those things.  No one (at least no one good) wants their child to be the subject of a court battle repeatedly.  It's not healthy for children to grow up knowing that their parents are fighting over them.  I know X is a bit nutty, and she has been trying to manipulate DSS into thinking that you all are evil and whatnot, but your DH is the one that is trying to protect him from all the fighting, and a court will not fault him for that.

 

Anyway, I don't think your ex has any real reason to fear her taking him back to court for custody, b/c I think she would lose.  Especially since it doesn't sound like your DSS really wants to go live with her again, even though I'm sure he misses her when he is far away from her.

post #16 of 26

My disinclination to lump together the smaller things is that, in my experience, the court may see those as using petty issues to help bulk up your complaint. So it is like giving a laundry list of little annoyances and not giving a strong, clear-cut reason why there needs to be a custody modification.

 

I also agree with Flor (our case is in CA, too, so that might be part of it) that the court is MUCH less interested in what has happened in the past, especially if there is anything more recent that looks at all good. Trying to show a pattern of a certain behavior is really hard without looking petty. In our case, even a suicide attempt during pregnancy was essentially seen as bringing up petty issues from the past. "Saving things up" to bring to court all at once, in my experience, is viewed as bothering the court with a laundry list of petty complaints. After all, if you could live with them long enough to save them for a future court case, how concerned could you really have been about them? That was, again, the impression I got of the court's opinion from our experience.

 

HOWEVER, using things from the past to defend accusations seemed perfectly okay-- one party says the other person didn't give them their new address and the other person defends themselves with a paper trail showing their timely notification. One party has an email showing the other parent refused to discuss a conflict in the parenting schedule, the other person shows the documentation of attempts to resolve the issue before defaulting to the custody order... The accusing parent looks petty and the defending one just looks like they are calmly answering the accusations. So we "save up" our defenses for things we think my husband might be accused of in a future case, but we deal with issues immediately-- either directly with his ex, through mediation, through our lawyers (not going to court, just communication back and forth that basically says "we don't want to take this to court, but we will have no choice if we can't resolve it"), or, if it is an immediate and grave concern, with the court.

 

I think the idea of suggesting mediation to X is a great one.

 

Also, in our case, child support is separate from custody and is handled elsewhere (ie not by family court). MY husband and his ex have the child support obligation specified in the custody agreement, but the parents can modify it between them by mutual agreement. But either of them could file through the CS agency if they had a dispute they weren't able to resolve it and it would then be a total separate case/issue/agency than family court. AS far as the child support people are concerned, there is not a CS order attached to either parent. I don't know how it works in your state, though. 

post #17 of 26

As Aricha said, the child support part of our case is handled by the child support agency. It's very cut and dry-- a computer program determines the amounts and you take problems with payment to them, not to the judge. They often set up some sort of automatic deposit, or checks made out to them sort of thing. 

 

post #18 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flor View Post
Oh, man, do our DHs have the same X?        lol.gif

 

...if she does take you back to court, doesn't that case have to take place in the state where your case began? Not California? California (we live here) also mandates mediation before any court date.... After 12, judges do consider the child's wishes, but that isn't the main factor in determining custody. Judges (well, depends on who you get) seem pretty unwilling to change an established order if it is basically working. One thing you will have going for you if you do wind up in court is longevity. It's been the way it is for a long time and there would have to be a pretty big reason to change it... California is a state that gives equal weight to both parents. There is not an assumption that the mother is the most important parent, especially in older children. The parent who has been raising the child is assumed to be the primary caregiver, not always the mother...

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Super~Single~Mama View Post

1.  Child Support would not be sought in the same action, and where I live is heard by an entirely different judge than the one that hears the custody issues...Usually, judges where I am frown on using child support as a tool in a custody case.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by aricha View Post

...I also agree with Flor (our case is in CA, too, so that might be part of it)... "Saving things up" to bring to court all at once, in my experience, is viewed as bothering the court with a laundry list of petty complaints. After all, if you could live with them long enough to save them for a future court case, how concerned could you really have been about them?...

 

HOWEVER, using things from the past to defend accusations seemed perfectly okay-- ...One party has an email showing the other parent refused to discuss a conflict in the parenting schedule, the other person shows the documentation of attempts to resolve the issue... The accusing parent looks petty and the defending one just looks like they are calmly answering the accusations. So we "save up" our defenses for things we think my husband might be accused of in a future case, but we deal with issues immediately-- either directly with his ex, through mediation, through our lawyers (not going to court, just communication back and forth that basically says "we don't want to take this to court, but we will have no choice if we can't resolve it"), or, if it is an immediate and grave concern, with the court.

 

Also, in our case, child support is separate from custody and is handled elsewhere (ie not by family court)... 

 

Indiana does have jurisdiction over our case. 

 

* As in CA, divorced couples here are expected to try mediation before returning to court.  However, the court has never held DH and X to that.  In fact, at one point someone proposed a Parenting Time Coordinator, which is like an on-call mediator who's authorized to tell them what to do, not just try to get them to agree.  But the judge - the same one who gave DH custody - rejected that.  Basically:  If someone thinks a PTC's instructions (or a mediator's recommendations) are wrong, they have the right to essentially appeal to the trial-court-level judge.  But X ignores judge's orders she doesn't like and requires multiple enforcement hearings.  The only sensible expectation is that DH would have to get enforcement from a judge, every time X didn't like what the PTC told them to do, making it unfair to force him to spend money on a PTC in the first place.  Better to give DH custody, assuming he'll follow orders better than X did, and hope that will keep them out of court.  Hence, the aversion to returning to court!

 

* Here, too, judges are not supposed to show gender bias in awarding custody.  Of course, they're still human individuals, so how do you enforce this?  For example, given the outlandish contempt of court and denial of visitation X engaged in before she moved to CA; the almost unprecedented Permanent Injunction the court issued, threatening her with jail time if she ignored any more custodial orders; the way she even more blatantly ignored those orders after receiving the P.I.; and the CE's firm recommendation that DH should have sole custody... how did the judge conclude X should have sole custody, UNLESS he had a bias toward mothers?!  But, of course, he didn't have to put that in writing.  He only had to say that's what he felt was "in DSS's best interest".  However, gender bias isn't my biggest concern, at this point, since DH already has custody.

 

* Indiana also requires proof of "a significant change", before subjecting a child to the upheaval of a custody change (especially if it requires a move and changing schools).  But there is a limited list of specific criteria the court has to consider and the change must be in one of those areas.  So, depending how grave the judge considers the "significant change" to be, it could be an issue in just one part of the child's life, not something so huge it affects everything in their life.  For example, DH won a cross-country custody change (mid-semester, no less!) by showing a significant change in DSS's "interaction and interrelationship with one of his parents", without having to prove significant problems in any other parts of DSS's life.

 

Certainly, many things are in DH's favor, in terms of keeping custody.  Apparently, his atty. thinks it's nutty to be as worried as I am, about losing it.  But that's the same atty. who thought the judge would never let X keep DSS in CA with her...and that it was a real long-shot for DH to win a custody modification.  I'm not criticizing his atty.  It's just that this has been a complicated, unusual case and X is a complicated, unusual person.  DSS's relationship with her is complicated and unusual!  She has made accusations about DH, where he thought, "That's crazy!  That's not how things happened!", yet proving that you didn't do something can be a lot harder than you think it should be.  That's why I'd be more comfortable with him getting his version of events in front of a judge first.  X has also done things outlandish enough that her attorneys quit and DH's attorneys, the CE and a mediator assured DH, "She can't do that.  She'll never get away with that, in court."  And yet, she did.  So, I feel like we should cover all our bases and never think, "We have nothing to worry about".

 

However, Aricha, if I understand you correctly, you're saying it might be better to keep the "laundry list" to ourselves - assemble what's needed to disprove the accusations we expect X to make, but sit on it until she actually makes them.  (Except for the major issue - the substance abuse - which we should try to act on?)  Perhaps you're right - and it sounds like your advice is based on experience.  Helping to assemble "defense ammo." would at least be an outlet for my anxiety, rather than arguing with DH over why he and his atty. seem to be sitting on their hands.  DH and I have weathered so much stress together, over DSS's situation, that I don't want conflict in our marriage over it, now that he has custody!  I just want to feel confident we're still doing the right things for DSS, not just the easy ones.  "Easy" is not how we got where we are.

 

* In Indiana, if a custody order references the state Child Support Guidelines, then simple adjustments (based on the factors used in the state CS Calculator) can be made through the CS collection agency.  However, adjustments that require a modification of existing court orders (like starting to make CS payments, when a parent wasn't ordered to make them before) must be done through the court.  And it's the same court that handles all the other issues in a custody case.  

 

CS is "separate" from visitation/custody issues, in that NCPs may not withhold support because a CP withholds visitation; and vice-versa.  But in terms of a hearing, if DH plans to raise the issue of CS with the court, he kind of needs to address it up at the same time he raises any other issues, so they can have just one hearing.  Currently, X only travels here on weekends (when she's not working).  So, coming here for a weekday hearing would be a significant extra expense for X AND force her to take time off work.  And the flights are really too long for her to come here only for the day.

post #19 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flor View Post

As for sharing custody with an alcoholic/drug addict... His mom abuses prescription drugs, recreational drugs, and alcohol. The problem is that almost NONE of this is documented. It is our word against hers. Luckily for our case (and horribley for her younger children who are not DH's), she has been arrested for child endangerment twice. She has had a DUI and is on probabtion for that. In spite of that, she brings in notes from her AA sponser saying how great she is doing and certificates showing she has passed another court-mandated parenting class. The courts seem unwilling to look back at patterns... if a doctor says she's ok, the court will accept that.

Yikes!  Sorry you have to deal with that.  Did you means your DH's ex has custody?  Or that he has had custody?  If arrests for child endangerment and a DUI don't worry a judge, that seems really problematic!

 

They won't change custody because someone has a mental disorder unless you can show it is endangering the child.  Just to be clear, DH and I aren't interested in trying to prove X has BPD, or trying to reduce her visitation just because of her difficult personality.  She is DSS's mother, and he loves her.  We just want to be able to intervene, if she's breaking down, or self-medicating, etc.  We don't want DSS to be the one who finds her in convulsions; or to be in the car if she has an accident; or - worst of all - to learn to manage his emotions with pills and booze.

 

post #20 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Super~Single~Mama View Post

...an attorney cannot bind YOU to a contract that restricts your ability to seek the advice of other attorneys, even on the same issue.  An attorney can charge you a retainer, and charge you for time billed, but they cannot restrict your ability to seek second, third, fourth opinions.  You and your DH have the right, and the ability to fire your lawyer at any time, without any notice (although if there is an action in the court currently pending the attorney will be required to file a consent to change attorney form, and all parties will have to sign it - its standard, and takes a few minutes to create and pass around, then it gets filed and its done with).

 

You also don't need to fire your attorney to seek another attorney's advice, it would be highly unethical for your lawyer to try and prevent you from seeking further advice.


In defense of DH's attorney, he is a very decent, ethical guy who seems to genuinely care about DSS's situation and who continued representing DH during periods when DH couldn't afford to keep up with his payments.  Those periods were also times that DH's case took up most of this attorney's time.  And he never complained about it, or threatened to quit.

 

The atty. hasn't said anything, to my knowledge, to discourage DH from getting a second opinion.  I was seriously asking, how do you go about doing that?  We have attorneys in the family and we understand that one attorney generally won't advise someone who is officially represented by another attorney.  Even our family/friends who are attorneys are very, very careful what they say, if we discuss issues with them.  They don't want to step on the toes of the guy representing DH.  My experience is that you're welcome to shop around beforehand - meet with different attorneys and let them tell you how they'd handle your case - but once you pay one of them a retainer, he's your guy until he quits or you fire him.

 

But maybe a law school professor - or student - would speak openly and not worry about privelege?  Does anyone know?

 

I realize I've brought up a lot of different issues, here.  But the main one on which I'd like a legal 2nd opinion is:  Is there some way to introduce the issue of X's drug and alcohol use and get some sort of periodic testing or monitoring, to make sure DSS is safe when he's with her?

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