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Trials and Tribulations w/Visitation: Update in post 20

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
This will be long.

Quick reminders: DH has full physical custody with all visitation left up to him. He is well within his legal rights to not allow any of DD's Bio family to see her. We don't necessarily want that to happen so we're trying to reach a firm resolution. BM has seen DD 5 times in the last 5 years (not once a year, she's gone 2-3 years without seeing or talking to her at all). We've tried encouraging a relationship before but she is not responsive. We need to reach a decision (DH and I) about this so it can be settled in our household. We both believe that BM is just looking for a good reason to stay out of DD's life because she seems to be more interested in my DH and our relationship. We could be wrong. We're not trying to make her walk away. But it needs to be one or the other at this point. Here or not here. Our goal is to make visitation work. So until we resolve things within a courtroom, which would probably be similar to what we've laid out here, this is all we have. I'd like your opinions and comments. If you have questions feel free to ask them! I'll be checking back frequently because this is right around the corner for us! Thanks! - E

My DH and I have reached a point of no return with BM. He and I sat down and came up with some thoughts, rules, and decisions. Before we talk to BM about them I wanted to share it here because very often the ladies here have had great suggestions and contributions. So here is what we wrote...

If BM wants to see DD then she needs to agree to sit down with both of us (DH and I) in a neutral place and discuss her level of commitment. We need to agree upon benchmarks that need to be met by her in order for her to have any part in DD's life. If she refuses then she is refusing DD. What we would be asking would be completely fair. No jumping through hoops.

BM needs to set up a schedule with us for her to see DD in our city with us present. Say, the first and third Saturday of the month for 3-6 months depending on how it goes. Then if all went well we could move on to her having unsupervised time with DD in our city on those same days.

If she misses a meeting without notice that kind of throws a wrench in things. If she does not miss meetings and everything goes smoothly then we could move on to her having DD for an overnight. After seeing how the over night goes we would move on to another. At some point she could have two over nights in a row as long as DD is comfortable with that. Something along the lines of having DD every 2nd weekend of the month.

Before unsupervised dates or overnights could happen BM would need to purchase a NEW weight appropriate car seat. DD would also need her own bed before overnights could happen. BM would also need to be aware that DH has final say in all of DD's school, medical, and religious choices and activities.

Taking into consideration that things are less than comfy between us, we would extend an olive branch of sorts. For DD to live as peacefully as possible she needs her parents, all three of us, to at least be civil. We are willing to put all personal issues between us in the past. We will be polite, thoughtful, and friendly. We will do what we can to help DD and BM's relationship.

A few things I'd like to add:

If BM would like to have someone (a friend, family member, lawyer) with her at this meeting she is welcome to and we encourage it. Our only request is that if she's bringing her lawyer, we'd like to know so ours can be available as well. We'd prefer to keep this between us but the route of lawyers and court is fine as well.

For no reason at any time is DD allowed to be around anyone who has a history, legal or otherwise, of violence, sexual abuse, or drug use. It is simply not okay. We also reserve the right to halt all visitation if the above rule is broken.

BM may not take DD out of the state of Virginia at any time for any reason.

BM must return DD at the appointed time. All transportation responsibility falls on BM at this point.

If BM puts DD's mental state in jeopardy we have the right to end the visitations.

BM is also welcome to pick the time and date of our initial discussion meeting as long as it is a neutral place. She is also welcome to pick dates/times/places for her visitation with DD. We will be reasonable We will also provide her with a "DD" calendar. We will have an identical calendar. Both will be used for recording dates, etc.

If BM does not agree to our proposal within reason then she may not talk to or see DD. This is not because we want to be mean or unfair. We're doing this because it is necessary. DD is not a toy that is played with only when BM wants to. She is a living, breathing girl who has feelings, needs, and desires that need to be met. We will not play games or tolerate them. We plan to do everything in our power to meet the needs that DD has. We will also do everything we can to protect her from being hurt by this situation any further. If BM says no and walks away then this will not be up for discussion again until a court room is involved. We will also let BM know that if she wants to walk away she may do so free and clear. We will never bad talk her or describe her in a negative way to DD. But we do need an answer to our biggest question: Will you (BM) be a part of DD's life? Walking away means no.

One last thing, we are up for discussion and flexibility with some of this. We will hear what BM has to say and we will consider it and make the necessary changes. I want to reiterate that we're not trying to be unfair or hurtful. We are not trying to use ultimatums or threats. We're doing this because it is well within the custody papers, our rights, and we need a resolution to the situation. We can no longer let it simmer between us. BM needs to be a consistent parent to DD or not involved at all. We cannot continue with her calling every 4-6 months and seeing DD only once or twice a year. It's hurtful to DD and it must stop. We've talked to two therapists who handle these type of situations and they both back us up. They both feel that BM is doing more damage by being occasionally, VERY occasionally, present than she would be doing if she was not present at all. Either we work something out or the doors close on this. We need to reach an agreement.
post #2 of 24
Sounds good! I hope that BM is able to see that your intentions are only for the best of ya'lls daughter!
post #3 of 24
Most of your plan sounds very reasonable in regards to working up to a regular and consitant schedule.

I agree that if it goes to before a judge that your schedule will be adopted as the transition schedule. But if BM does follow through, some of the stipulations you mentioned later in your post will likely not happen. She should work up to a visitation agreement that is liberal for her- like her getting vacation weeks, a share of holidays, EOWend plus a dinner during the week, ect. More of a typical arrangement.

But I totally agree that she needs to follow through and stop abandoning her daughter. Good Luck! My son has been in that situation (being abandoned by his BF) and it really stinks even when the BP completely steps out of the picture.
post #4 of 24
Thread Starter 
Sunflowers, thanks for your response. I don't understand what you mean by a typical arrangement if it goes before a judge? I'm under the impression that she would have supervised visits, then unsupervised, and then finally over nights. However, in VA, to actually change custody is very hard to do. Meaning, in the end we would still have full physical custody with a laid out plan for visitation. What you mentioned sounds more like joint custody of sorts. Am I reading that incorrectly?? I'm new to this, so please forgive me! If we had our way visitation (of course this is after she's "proved" herself) would stick to a couple weekends a month, half of spring break, maybe in the summer time it would switch to a week and a weekend a month. We are not at all prepared to hand her over weekly, in the middle of the week, holidays, entire summers and all school vacations. I really thought that was joint custody. Crap, now I'm nervous. Do you really think a judge would turn our current custody up side down just because BM acts like a mother for 6 months?? I mean this child is 6 1/2 and barely even knows her BM! I need a paper bag! deep breaths..
post #5 of 24
I'm not sure how much you need to worry about that- in the sense that your BM sounds like she's likely to flake during the transition period.

But, while I share joint legal with dd's father (not something you have to worry about either, if I "get" the BM here), I have primary physical custody with him having "liberal" parenting time. In my state a judge would very likely grant a father visition like this if the parents couldn't come to an agreement on their own:

Every other Friday & Saturday night
Every other minor holiday (like halloween, memorial day, 4th of July, ect) alternating every year
Split school holidays (in some fashion- that arrangement varies in each case)
And a 4 hour "dinner" during the weeks the NCP does not have the weekend overnight.
Summers I've seen lots of different arrangements- some split week on, week off, others have 4-6 weeks at a time. Some don't have a different arrangement in the summer at all.
Each parent may get 2 or 3 weeks during the year for vacation above the regular schedule.

Doesn't sound much different than what you're suggesting, really. I wouldn't worry too much if I were you
post #6 of 24
Around here at least there really isn't a difference between "joint custody" and one parent having custody and the other having vistiation. At one point dh was awared "sole physical custody" but the mom had ds 3 nights a week. I find that soooo much of this depends on the judge. We have a biomom with a history of drug/alcohol abuse and mental issues. For several years she lived 600 miles away and saw dss about 3 times a year. No one cares. All they care about is that RIGHT NOW she is sober and wants to be invovled in dss's life and if she was interested, she could probably have almost 50% visitation. But, I don't want to scare you. If it did go infront of a judge, you are right, they'd probably start with supervised visits, then work up to unsupervised visits. We tried to make this happen very gradually (like over the course of a couple of years). The longer you can remain with the most custody, the less likely it will change. If she stays clean and consitant, she would move into a EOW, one night during the week, maybe weeks during the summer, etc. Even though dh has sole physical custody and has for 9 years, the biomom always has the option of going to court and asking for more. Well, hasn't really happened. And now that dss is 12, we are less and less worried about it!
I'm not sure you can say that dc cannot be around anyone with a history of drug/alchohol abuse. How would you know? We do have something written into our order that says "Mother will not consume alcohol or illegal drugs 8 hours prior to or during visitation." If it went in front of a judge, I'm also not sure you can say things like "if she flakes, this happens" I don't know.

I hope you don't decide to cut her out even if she continues to show up once or twice a year. I feel like, as a stepmom, my job is to see the situation (flakey mom) and help dss gain the emotional tools and understanding to deal with the reality of his mom. I don't think that cutting her out is the answer. If she does clean up later I think it will be to the child's advantage to already have some realtionship. (My dh was kept from his dad as a child and later the dad cleaned up, raised a different family, became a church pastor, but dh feels like it was too late for them to connect and he wished he had some connection to his dad from his childhood-- even if it was a little one).
post #7 of 24
I just wanted to add, here is our schedule. Dh has sole physical custody, they share legal custody (this is absolutley standard in our state and there isn't much room for changing that), and mom has :

Tuesday overnight and Thursday overnight (week a)
Tuesday overnight and Friday through Sunday overnight (week b)

We do the same thing during holidays and vacations, though that is an area where should could have asked for more and a judge would have given it to her, but she didn't !

We have to share transportation which is also standard around here.
post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 
I think I'm calming down some. This is all so new for us! On one hand I'm afraid of losing her, losing my relationship/title with her, and on the other hand if this goes smoothly I think it is for the best.

I really don't want our custody title to change. I witnessed a custody case in the local court system here and the only real difference is the mother had signed over her custody rights rather than having them taken like BM's were. The judge said he felt like there was no need to change the custody papers or even create a visitation schedule in court because the mom had liberal access to the child. I'm hoping for a similar outcome for us. If we can set up a liberal (eventually) visitation schedule then I'm hoping there will be no need for court or custody changes.

I talked to BM's mother today who confirmed that they would be in town on Sunday; potentially with BM in tow. I expressed how much we want this to work, go smoothly, and patch over past issues between us. I also invited BM's mother to come to the "talk" as well so that BM would have someone in her corner. She thanked me for that and expressed that she felt BM would respond more positively if she had someone she trusted there. Makes sense. That is why we invited her. Anyway, she mentioned that BM is no longer working and is going to school full time again. Which really freaked me out because when BM is in school that means she has access to TONS of money. She has a trust fund and the only way she has access to it is if she is in school a certain number of credit hours. Money = lawyers. All though her mom also mentioned that the mirror on her car is broken (she told us that in april) so she feels like she can't drive anywhere. Blah. So I don't know how this will ever work if she can't drive the 45-60 minutes to come see DD. I'm so scattered.
post #9 of 24
To get the facts straight - dd is six? Bio mom lives an hour away - by herself, in a house, apartment, room enough for dd? How old was dd when BM left the scene? How old was dd when you came into her life? BM has had drinking/drug problems in the past - or currently? You like/trust dd's gramma on BM side? They live near BM? And do you have a lawyer? Because I think your letter below could be worded much better; it sounds too wishy-washy IMO. If your dp has sole custody, you don't need to put in a lot of what you did.

I'd go with something more like:

In order for BM to see DD, there will first be a meeting between BM, DF, DM in a neutral place to discuss BM's level of commitment. BM is welcome to bring a friend, family member, or legal council to this meeting. If BM wants legal council present, notify DF at least two weeks prior to the meeting so DF can arrange for his legal council to be present as well. For DD's emotional health, certain parameters need to be established and abided by in regards to visitation. We will put all personal issues between us in the past, and provide a positive environment for DD to have a relationship with BM.

Visitation will begin with BM and DD in (specify city) with DF and DM present. For example, three hours on the first and third Saturdays of each month on a 3 month trial basis. Unsupervised visitation to follow on the same schedule if trial goes well.

If a scheduled visitation is missed without notice, future visitations will not occur until BM calls to reach a verbal agreement with DF.

Before unsupervised visitation occurs, BM must have a new, weight appropriate car seat. DD would need her own bed before overnights could happen. Even during unsupervised visits, DF continues to have final say in DD's school, medical, and religious choices and activities.

For no reason at any time is DD allowed to be around anyone who has a history, legal or otherwise, of violence, sexual abuse, or drug use. DF reserves the right to halt all visitation if the above rule is broken.

BM may not take DD out of the state of Virginia at any time for any reason.

BM must return DD at the appointed time.

If the current visitation schedule has a negative effect on DD, it will be halted until such time that DD can be seen by a pediatric mental health care provider for an evaluation and professional recommendation regarding visitation.

DF and DM will work with BM to pick the time,date and place of initial meeting. We will work together to schedule visitation with DD. We will also provide BM with a calendar of DD's school/activity schedule.

If BM doesn't comply with this agreement, all future contact with DD will be stopped, and any future requests for contact will go through the court system.

We have consulted two therapists that concur that inconsistent visitation is damaging to DD. Our sincere hope is to work out a consistent visitation schedule between BM and DD.
post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 
kirsten - I like what you've done with my letter. It sounds much more professional. Here are the facts that you requested. Let me know if that changes anything!

DD is 6 1/2. BM lives around an hour away. BM lives with her father, her male friend, and her three kids (her father has custody of the kids) ages 9, 4, and 3. DH was given full physical custody with visitation left up to him when DD was 11 months old. At that time BM said it was unfair and that she'd just have a child to replace DD. She moved out of state. DD did not have contact with her again until October of 2005. BM has seen DD for short visits in public or our home 4 or 5 times since then. I've been in DD's life since she was 2. DH and I married 9 months later. BM has no drug or alcohol problems that we know of but she has openly admitted to us that she lived with a man who was a sexual offender (her male friend's stepfather) for a year until last January. She is also currently involved with a man who was in jail for selling drugs as of April of this year. He is not the same male friend that lives with her. BM thinks this is no big deal and said she originally did not tell us because she thought we'd "freak out". Well, we did. BioGranny does not live in our state. Neither DH or I know her well. We believe she has good intentions towards DD but she has also made it clear that she feels like DD should be with BM full time and that I'm the reason she is not. BM's father and DH do not get along (she lives with him). I don't currently have a lawyer that I'm seeing but we have one that would happily work for us if we needed him to. My father is also an attorney but handles mostly wills, real estate, and SOME child welfare cases. He's said he is willing to help however he can and he also has lawyer's that work for him in his firm that will help. We've not involved them with this current attempt yet because they (him and my mom) believe we should cut her out completely and petition for her rights to be taken from her so that I can petition to adopt DD. They know that is extreme but they're worried about worst case scenarios. I.E. if something happens to DH then what happens to DD? If something happens to both DH and myself then what happens to DD if I'm not her legal parent. Thanks for your help, sorry for the book!
post #11 of 24
Your last post wouldn't change my interpretation of your letter to BM, but there is one thing that makes me worry - I know that you love her and are her mom, but I might type the letter up without your name/title - just BM, DF and DD. Because I'd hate for BM to get hung up on you replacing her and put up a fuss just due to that. DF has custody - I think I'd be involved in the meeting of course, but word the letter between your DP and BM.

But the last part of your last post made me worry a bit. Does your DP have a will that states who DD goes to in the event of his death? You really need to talk to a lawyer about if you have any chance of that holding up. I'd think BM would need to give up her parental rights to make that happen. That is the part I'd be worried about.
post #12 of 24
Here is my take on it, my pov on both ends. (as the child and as a step parent).

Most of the stipulations look reasonable. However, in my state the custodial parent *cannot* stipulate a bed for over nights, our BM has tried that tactic and been told in no uncertain terms that not having a bed legally cannot bar overnight visitation. However, I am not in the same state as you are.

I understand wanting to keep your SD safe and in a reasonable routine. Have you had your atty look over the proposed plan? That way, you'll know that your requests are within whatever guidelines your state maintains. In my state, they would work toward "liberal" visitation and I really don't see that in your current plan, but I also get the sense that there is more going on in this situation that needs to be considered. All in all, it sounds like you are striving to put the child's needs first, and I hope that you can all come to an agreement without too much struggle.
post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 

Child Support?

DH asked me what my opinion of child support is. I thought I'd ask here if you all thought we should bring that up at our meeting or include it in our papers. We've never really pursued child support but we both feel that since BM wants (we're giving her the benefit of the doubt here) to be involved that she should be involved in the financial aspects of being a parent to DD. The question is really when to integrate CS into our situation, or if we should do it at all. Thoughts? Opinions? Thanks!

kirsten - I did not mention this when I originally posted the letter but I'm not going to be included in it. I wrote it out that way when my DH and I were talking. You're correct though. BM does not like me being the one to make decisions and often in the past she would fuss that DH was doing/deciding whatever it was because I was making him and if I was not around he would not be doing it and she'd have free access to DD. Heh, not true! The current plan is to have the official letter state only DH, DD, and BM. However, when we discuss details when we meet up DH is going to include me in the meeting and a lot of the details. For example, I will probably be the one that is most often at the supervised meet-ups due to his schedule and he's going to let her know that at our meeting. He is going to try and make as many as possible but since we're letting her do most of the scheduling it may be tough for him to make all of them.

Yes, we're working on our wills and we're including placement of DD if something were to happen to DH but we're not certain it would hold if he passed away. My father has assured me that we could fight for custody of DD and at the very least we would be allowed visitation. I mean, anyone can fight for custody. We could probably have her stripped of her rights if we wanted to but we don't really want to. If she wants to hand them over that is one thing but I personally don't want to be responsible for forcing it through a court system.

MamaChel - Well, I don't know about the bed thing being something you can legally enforce in VA. It's our preference and at this point DH has the right to ask that his preferences be made. IF it is taken to court and a judge decides differently then that is another matter. I wanted to clarify (we will also clarify this to BM) that a "bed" can be a blow up mattress, a crib mattress, futon, trundle bed, twin mattress, etc. She does not need to have a full blown bed/bed frame. DH is not comfortable with her sleeping in beds with people she barely knows. Plus, he feels that if BM wants her in her life then she needs to make room for her.

I have not had an attorney look over our plan yet but I will be doing so tomorrow morning. We're also going to have him help us word it/write it. We may go so far as signing it and notarizing it if that is what the attorney recommends.

Also, the case I've witnessed here in VA have not tried to work towards liberal visitation as far as holidays, etc. I think it is a case by case basis here. All though I'm not sure of the exact rules. I will ask the lawyer tomorrow.

This is a big step for us. We're taking a big risk here. DD has been in OUR home full time for as long as OUR home has existed. It is hard to imagine a Christmas without DD. We're also somewhat wary of her BM and the people she chooses to surround herself with. In the end DH and I are okay with us working towards more liberal visitation. For now we're thinking about the next six months or so. If all goes reasonably well then we'll probably have another meeting six months down the road with new papers.
post #14 of 24
I completely understand about bedsharing. When we had the kids over night they would sleep on the couch or an airmattress and I slept on a chair routinely at my dads for visitation. (the oldest is 18 now, when did that happen, she was 8 yesterday I swear!) We also share holidays, actually we usually only get the kids on Christmas afternoon now. So they are with her until noon-1pm and we pick them up for the afternoon and supper and return them around 9-10pm.

I really hope that you can hammer out the details without requiring a court case. You may be able to look up child support on your state's website or all the support enforcement unit and ask. That is usually set at the custody hearing but not always. Personally, if you can live without it, I would wait on it. Some parents will use that at a chance to try to turn the child against the other parent. Good luck.
post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 
In VA parents who don't work are still required to pay $65.00 a month. I don't think I included that earlier. So if we were to ask for something that is probably what we would ask for. At this point I'm not sure we'll be asking. We'd both like to but....

We don't need it so there really is no rush. I think it is part of our irritation with her though. The feeling that she is so adamant that she has all of these rights even though she lacks participation in her daughter's life is very frustrating. She apparently does not want to cut ties completely. She'd rather pop in and out every 6 months or so and blame us and the world around her for why she cannot be a bigger part of DD's life. So far for her it's been all or nothing with everything she does. She can't have DD full time all of the time so then she does nothing. This is what we're hoping to solve with this visitation agreement. It kind of forces her to make a decision about all or nothing.

All of this is very difficult for me. I love DD but there are restrictions on everything for me. I love her. I parent her. My life is about her but this is not about me. I don't really get a say now and if we went to court I'd probably get even less say. I work so hard to provide and care for this child but in the end I'm just a step mother when it comes to legal matters. I'm very distraught over the idea of someone using a child as a pawn. IMO, this is what she is doing. If DD really does not mean anything to her then why not let her go? Why torture her and us? I think I've gone full circle with this particular post...Determination, Anger, Fear, Resentment, Triumph, Rejoicing, and now I'm at personal pity party.
post #16 of 24
Thread Starter 
Wish us luck! Today is the day that we sit down and discuss everything. Any last thoughts?? We leave in about 2 hours.

post #17 of 24
Good luck.
post #18 of 24
yes, good luck!
post #19 of 24
PLEASE UPDATE!!!! Email me if you dont see me online dede!!!
post #20 of 24
Thread Starter 


Things went very smoothly. DH was rather sullen during the whole thing and did not talk as much as he said he would. So that kind of bummed me out. If BM and Bio Granny noticed, they did not acknowledge it. DH has been pretty much grouchy with me since leaving sooo..not sure what is going on there. I'm not even sure I want to know...But on to the real details!

Angelica had fun with her half-siblings in the play place. I brought some photos, copies of DD's report card, and the papers/calendars. We discussed everything and BM was kinda weird about it at first and gave us some excuses. We stood firm and she managed to figure out ways around her obstacles. Her mother seemed very pleased with the whole situation. BM asked for the papers to be signed and notarized because she is concerned we won't hold up our end of the deal. We said we'd be happy to do that but it would stipulate in those papers that over nights in six months would only happen if DH felt it was a good idea at that point. Basically, if everything goes smoothly. So there is no real guarantee that it will happen in six months. So all there is to do now is wait and see if she follows through. She also was not happy about the time line. After explaining to her that it's only two visits a month she seemed to back off.

On a side note. It was weird. Very weird. I actually stood there and said, "I realize you're her mom, blah blah blah, if she wants to call you mom I'll support that, blah blah blah." It's almost kind of heartbreaking. I don't like this woman...aside from her lack of mothering DD..I just think she is a horrible misguided immoral person. I'm resentful of DH for not handling this better and earlier in our relationship. I'm resentful because I feel like I'm the mom and I do all this work and she gets to swoop in with her "rights". But I don't have any freaking rights! I'm just wary of all of this. She specifically asked me if she could call DH's phone to discuss times and dates. I said yes. But it still makes me nervous! I don't like that she so openly has interest in him. It just feels like we're still spinning in the same old song and dance.

Anyway, thanks for all of the support!

- Elizabeth :
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