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Pregnant, due soon & facing custody battle...

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Hi all--I'm new here--actually, I posted once or twice months ago, but I can't remember my user name, LOL!!

I am a divorced mom of two who got very unexpectedly pregnant back in February after a SHORT time dating someone. We almost eloped!!! but my senses took over not a moment too soon, and I decided that I didn't want to take that step with somebody I barely knew. Since I also have two little boys to worry about, I decided to put some distance between he and I while I thought things over. Things quickly deteriorated after that and we ended up barely on speaking terms. I didn't have much contact with him at all during the last 5 months--he came to 3 prenatal visits and sent very occasional e-mails. Back when I was 4 months pregnant he brought up the possibility of going after custody, but never brought it up again and I let it go, thinking maybe it was a passing fancy, and tried to enjoy the rest of my pregnancy.

About a week ago he re-initiated contact and told me that he was not planning on filing for physical custody because the baby and I already have a physiological bond and it wouldn' t be fair to us. I was relieved and asked how he would like to work out visitation. He suggested that he pick the baby up Friday and keep him through Sunday! I expressed some dismay over that idea, saying I didn't know how well a newborn would take to that and that it would make breastfeeding nearly impossible. It has detereriorated since then--he's extremely manipulative, twisting what I say and making comments now about circumcision and other things that he's never EVER mentioned as being issues of his in the past. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that I told him that all this could be worked out when the baby is here; that the conversation is causing me stress and I want to step away from it. His response was basically that by not talking about it NOW (2.5 weeks from my due date) that I may be FORCING him to file for custody. I can't tell if he's bluffing or what, but I'm in a pretty vulnerable emotional position right now, close to the baby's birth, and it's causing me a LOT of stress and anxiety. I just can't imagine handing over a newborn baby for three days JUST BECAUSE it's his "right" to see him. What about the baby's needs? (This same guy who was all about breastfeeding when we were dating, now says he sees the "value" in it but that next to his bond it's "not that important".) I have offered opening my home to him on weekends, every weekend, all weekend; visiting him in his house, or working out some other neutral plan. He agreed to "trying" visitation that makes breastfeeding possible for a "while" but says that I will then have to "compromise" in return. (whatever that means...) He made some remark about being in court the day after the baby's born (I know this is impossible so it kinda reinforces the idea that he might be bluffing, or just thinks I'm stupid. He's a law student so I think he thinks he knows a LOT MORE than me, but really, most of his emails are ranty, illogical and make him sound a bit wacko).

I guess I'm not looking for advice so much as commisseration, but both would be great! I'm going to consult a lawyer this week and just see what they say about my rights, obligations and his chances of actually getting physical custody or the kind visitation he wants. I live in Michigan and we do have legislation that protects breastfeeding in visitation decisions, but what I'm afraid of is that if he gets on the ball right away and files for custody, there won't be enough time to establish me as the "custodial environment" before court, which would make us pretty equal on most of the 12 factors they look at for granting custody. Even though everybody keeps telling me the chances of losing custody to him are slim to nil, I'm so afraid of that 1% chance and keep thinking if I just say the right thing to him or give him whatever it is he wants, he'll back off--but the thing is, I think he really DOES want a fight and there is no making him happy.

Has anybody else gone through a custody battle with a newborn? Ideas, advice, encouragement all would be so appreciated.
post #2 of 26
Wow, you have a lot on your plate.
I have not gone through a custody battle -- but have gone through all the threats of one.
I think consulting a lawyer right now is a great idea. I also think you need to document & save every email, etc.
In my book, he isn't showing a lot of "care & concern" for his child right now, by dumping all this stress on you at the end of the pregnancy. That would be something to discuss with the lawyer as well.
I don't have a lot of time right now to address everything you wrote, but I wanted to give you some insight on what I went through. My ex left when I was pregnant & there was a lot of "talk & threats" about how I "wouldn't be able to breastfeed as long etc. because how would he bond....yada, yada.
In reality. My ex didn't want any baby hassles at all. Our baby is now 20 months. My ex has never changed a diaper, never changed clothes, never expressed a desire for an overnight with him & to this point only taken him out of my house 1 time (and it was only for 1 hour).
Sometimes these guys get huffy & make threats. Do you really think this guy would want to deal with a crying, unsettled baby all night, all weekend?
I hope some others can offer some good advice. I have to run right now. I'll add more later if I can.
good luck
post #3 of 26
I haven't gone through that, but I have to say he sounds like a huge bully. Print out and save all his emails.

When you have a lawyer, make all contact between you go through the lawyer. You don't need his manipulation and meanness. He really wants to ruin this special time of your life.

I'm so sorry he turned into such a loser. Wishing you the best!
post #4 of 26
Thread Starter 
Wow LJ, thanks for sharing your experience. Did you have any idea during the "Talk and threats" that it was all just bull? Part of me thinks it might be in his case too, but he seems so insistent that I can't be sure.

I don't think he'd want to deal with a crying baby every weekend, but I forgot to mention that he also goes to school all weekend and wanted his sister, who he lives with, to do the majority of the baby care. So he wants to take the baby an hour and a half away and then have his sister watch the baby while he's in class most of that time. So if she's game--it might work out great for him.

post #5 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks Sunshine. I have printed out his emails, makes me very glad most of this conversation hasn't gone on via phone!
post #6 of 26
OMG! I'm so glad you have most of this in email and can print it out. I hope you can get a lawyer asap and have the rest of it go through your lawyer. Don't tell him you're going to talk to an attorney - just let him hear directly from the attorney about whatever you end up doing regarding custody. And find out what you should do regarding paternity on the birth certificate (from lawyer, not loser). Find that out asap, in case the little one comes early.

I bet he is bluffing, bcs as was already pointed out here, he clearly does not care for this little baby. And if all he wants is 1.5 hrs/weekend, then he can get that with supervised visitation. He may be wanting to avoid child support and his buddies may have told him to ask for custody to avoid child support.

Just a thought. I hope you get a lawyer, let him/her worry about it and then look forward to your child's birth!
post #7 of 26
No, I did not know he was bs'ing. I had to go on faith. It was a gamble.....but (so far) he doesn't really want the "responsibility" of being a dad as much as he wants to try to p*ss me off & try to be "in control of things".
I think it's like a game to him....he likes to flex a little muscle & feel real manly or whatever and then when the reality of it settles in -- he runs away!
The fact that he goes to school on weekends is just even more crazy! You're going to take a newborn away from it's breastfeeding mom to go stay with an aunt while the "dad" is at school -- what kind of stupid idea is that? It's not even like he'd be spending any real "bonding time". Good grief!
I get so tired of people being so selfish when it comes to their own needs & totally disregarding what is really best for the child! (Sorry, a little bit of a rant there).
Hang in there & get some legal advice so you at least know your options. Information is power. Good luck & happy birthing!
post #8 of 26
Wow! That is such an absolute load of well.. you know! If I remember right from when I was a legal secretary in MI, it is customary for the father to get something like 3-4 1/2 hour to 1 hour visits/week for the first year, I think! Certainly no overnights! Especially in the smaller counties, (I worked in Shiawassee -- between Flint & Lansing, kinda) you are going to find that the courts very much recognize a child/infant's need to be with his/her mother.

The bits of advice I have from what I observed of Friend of the Court (FOC) is:

1. Be calm, clear & sensible when speaking to them & during interviews
2. Make sure your homelife is STABLE -- not moving in w/ different friends/family, etc..
3. I've seen "overnight guests of the opposite gender" become a problem
4. Basically just be above reproach

With regard to the circumcision, if you establish custody quickly & you have full custody, then as far as I remember, you will have final say-so on medical matters.

When it comes to things like vaccinations -- I would do one thing: NOT TELL HIM that you are not vaccinating (if you don't plan to -- or if you plan to only do so on a delayed/selective basis). I'm afraid that would be an area that could get him more custody, since gov't is so adamant about that. A simple "the well visit was great, (s)he weighs xx & grew xx inches!" It's unlikely that he will even think to ask what shots (s)he got, etc.

Something I've heard from attorney's over & over, is DON'T give him joint custody (unless the court forces it, of course). Establish you with full, then (if you want), let him informally see him/her more often. Also, I would establish child support payments through FOC just to avoid confusion/arguments later on. And if you two are 1 & 1/2 hours away from one another, start with him doing all driving, then use that as a negotiating chip when he wants something unreasonable (kinda like overpricing at a yard sale because you expect people to bargain ). Also (I'm sure you know this with having 2 already), remember that strapping your poor little one in a carseat for 3 hours a day for a visitation would be pretty terrible for him/her!

Well, good luck! If you are anywhere near Shiawassee County, I would highly recommend Rebecca C. McClear -- or anyone she recommends -- she is feared by attorneys all over the county -- and in a few surrounding ones!!
post #9 of 26
Sounds to me like he's worried about having to pay child support so he figures if he gets 50% of the time he doesn't have to pay. If you dont need the money offer him the option to terminate his rights and be done with him Otherwise i'd blow him off, no judge is going to send a child under 2 for over nights without moms premission.
post #10 of 26
even in my state - which is all about father's rights - the judges have some type of a brain.....

my ex - a$$ and all - is concious enough to know he could not give our newborn what I could.....by law...he could have taken him for 3 days the week he was born....but he respects my desicion on breastfeeding and know the importance of bonding...plus why would he purposely volunteer to get up with a newborn every 2 hrs to feed him.

he has also respected my wishes regarding overnights with our 2 yr old...tho he does not agree.....overnights when he has a place of his own (he rents a room from a friend now) and ONLY on his nights off.

Most likely the judge will grant joint legal, even if you have sole or primary physical custody....with this "power" he can request to see his vax reccords and even make an appointment to have him vaccinated without your consent. Same with circs...they only need one parent's consent. If you plan on homeschooling, he can also take you to court to have him in a public school - think FUTURE....how will your decision now hit you in the future.

make sure your lawyer mentions an age you think you will feel comforable about vacation travels (I think my agreement says that if the kids mention they do not want to be away from mommy, he cannot take them)

my agreement is very open when it comes to visitations - many people advise against this. By law I must allow 3 hrs per week, and he can request additional times and I cannot deny as long as it does not interfear with an already planned activity (playgroup, parties, picture appointment, my "I have to scratch my butt day", etc....) I am very easy on this and have cancled some things when I know they have not seen dad for a while (he works odd hours) My lawyer advised to take note of all visitations because if he ever fought me for more cutody and he barely makes his min 3 hrs, the judge will prob not grant it. He goes over the time because I "arrange" activities for them to do.....for example this morning I called the ex and said Bear in the big blue house was live next week, to see if he wanted to take him....he said yes. so that is noted that I suggeted it, not him......most of the visits are because I call and ask if he has time for the boys or not. If I dont suggest it, he just goes to his house to relax and wont even call to see how the boys are doing.

ooops - I think I wrote a book here-

my lawyer told me to ask him not to do anything until at least 2 months after baby was born so I had time to heal physically and mentally (postpartum depression or baby blues) We had the agreement done, just needed to sign- we did all our custody fighting while preggo...

oh dont forget to specify YOU want to claim him on your taxes - no even odd arangement!!!!!!!!
post #11 of 26

re: facing custody battle

Sorry I'm just replying now; I hadn't seen your post. Here's what happened in my almost-identical situation: I got pregnant with my second child (now 2 yrs) during a brief reconciliation with my ex husband. We split up again when I was about 4 mos along, so when the baby was born, he had to sign a document and we had to establish paternity through the courts. Plus, no standard visitation order, to my knowledge, would ask for a newborn or tiny infant to spend a whole weekend away from his/her mommy. (my dad's a lawyer and Ialso had a hell of a woman lawyer during this battle) My ex had to work up to his regular, overnight visitation. If he didn't comply with one level without fail he couldn't get to the next level. Also, I was breastfeeding for about 18 mos, exclusively (my daughter never had a bottle, formula or pumped) and I was at home, so that also figures into what a judge will allow a biological father tto get re: visitation. My advice: try to relax and have a healthy safe delivery; get a lawyer, but dont make any move to file any papers until he does (let the a--- pay for the paperwork himself); until you've got a definite court ordered visitation schedule, don't even let him in your house; if he gets the cops to try and bully you (as my ex is fond of doing) you don't even have to open the door to them either, unless they have a warrent, which won't happen because custody is a civil matter, not criminal; breast feed exclusively as long as you can (or lie about doing so!) so the judge can rule against overnights until she's much older.
Hang in there, girl. Mothers can still make the law work for them!!
(sorry to use strong language, but bullying a pregnant woman is simply unacceptable!)
post #12 of 26

re: facing custody battle

P.S.: re: his sister babysitting during visitation: ask your lawyer to put in a clause called "right of first refusal" which means that, if during one of his periods of visitation, if no one else but his parents are not available to babysit while he has work or school or whatever, you must be given the option to babysit. Sounds weird, babysitting your own child. But I got that in my visitation order. It's hard to enforce that, but at least you'll have it down on paper and if you find he's not complying, hold him in contemt. Also, I cannot stress the importance of breastfeeding. In Texas (I'm not sure about other states) breastfeeding is even recognized as an excuse not to serve jury duty. A newborn absolutely CANNOT be away from mom for more than a couple of hours at a time, even less so when mom has the chow!!
post #13 of 26
You need to check out all the info about breastfeeding and the law at http://www.lalecheleague.org/LawMain.html. They have info about Michigan's laws. (I'm in Michigan too!) I'll be praying for you and your child.
post #14 of 26
I just wanted to send hugs your way I'm so sorry you're dealing with this at all, let alone when you're about to deliver!

I would definitely get a lawyer and get EVERYTHING in writing! God bless.
post #15 of 26
I would agree with everything previously said, document all conversations, if they are verbal, record them if possible, otherwise transcribe the conversation as accurately as possible as soon as possible after the conversation & keep track of time & date. Also, make sure that your caregivers (any doctors, midwives, doulas, etc.) have notations in their files as to the excessive stress that he is causing you, which does have a physiological effect on the baby, and be sure that that they also note his absence at the majority of visits. If you have proof of his being invited to attend those visits & declining, it may be beneficial. As was previously mentioned, if you do not need the child support, then certainly you could give him the option to terminate his parental rights, or you could refuse to put his name on the birth certificate. If you do chose the later, I would leave it up to him to discover that, as the responsibility for proving his paternity will then be on him, & that could involve dna testing.

Having said all that, I do feel compeled to add that he is this child's father, and, as someone else put it, you need to think of the future, but not just in terms of the scary things he *might* do. It has been my experience that many people can come across quite poorly when they are freaking out, and often when they calm down everything settles down. And as the daughter of a deadbeat, alcoholic, non-child support-paying father, I can tell you that no matter how horrible he is, there is a good chance your child is going to want to know him someday, and it will certainly be better for all of you if it can be done in a positive way. However, if he makes that impossible then you need to do whatever you deem necessary to protect your baby's best interests.

My only other piece of advice is, while you should get legal advice, you may not want to advise him of that. Many people make lots of idle threats but are not motivated to really do anything until they feel threated, and being contacted by a lawyer could end up being the catalyst for him. So, if possible, you may want to have everything ready to go in case he files anything, but otherwise just keep track of all his harassing behavior & let him provide you with everything you would need to bury him if he took you to court. Good Luck

ps. trust me, just because he's a law student does not necessarily make him knowledgable about the law, and if he's not studying family law, and specifically Michigan family law, then I would say you are on even footing.
post #16 of 26
Save all of the emails!
post #17 of 26
My thoughts based on personal experience: Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
What he's doing is not about the baby-it's about control and power. He may have little actual interest in the child, but only wants to have control over what you do and not give you control.

Keep track of EVERYTHING. Record phone conversations if you can. Print out emails. Everything else the other posters have already mentioned.
Don't tell everything you know.
He may be bluffing, he may not. It's hard to tell. You need to be prepared for what could happen.

In my situation, it was really hard in the beginning. For us, it has turned out OK, but I have had to bite my tongue MANY a day. My ex (we weren't married) has come a long way, and I have gone out of my way to allow him to be involved in our daughter's life, through his drug problems, lack of stable employment, disappearings to all ends of the world, getting behind on child support, and general lack of responsibility. Now, he has married a very stable lady, they have a business, a new baby, and my daughter loves her dad SO much. He is really good to her, and I can tell he really loves her. Their relationship is important to both of them, and I congratulate myself all the time on facilitating that realtionship-even though he was flaky and a pain in the a$$-and still is sometimes-and even though he has not always been the kind of dad I wanted for her. I have had to put up with a lot, and I have gotten screwed (figuratively : ) in a lot of ways, but I always put my dds best interest first, and it is in her best interest to know her dad, faults and all. No one can ever say I didn't do everything I could to make their relationship possible.

Now-off my

My advice-take care of the legal stuff now-don't tell him you're doing it-get everything in writing as soon as you can. Be as detailed as possible. I wish I had done that . It would have saved a lot of trouble later. We never had anything legal drawn up, we just worked it out informally, but I feel like I have been cheated in some aspects, esp. money.
Also know, it will get easier later on.

I suggest mediation to help you guys work through the issues. It can be a great experience, and no one leaves feeling beaten. Both parties can win with mediation.
Good luck, please keep us all updated. You'll be in our thoughts!
post #18 of 26
One more option: since the sperm donor seems to be kind of hostile and not really interested in being a dad (he probably feels like his life is potentially being derailed) perhaps he'd be interested in signing off his parental rights completely. He could sign a paper and walk away. If you don't need his help and aren't convinced he will make a sincere effort to be a dad, maybe this would be best. That way your existing two children, and your baby on the way, won't have their lives up ended every few weekends, two months during summer vacation. It might be better not to expose your child to an indifferent man.

Just another idea. Best of luck to you. No momma needs this!
post #19 of 26
Originally posted by Becca SW
I congratulate myself all the time on facilitating that realtionship-even though he was flaky and a pain in the a$$-and still is sometimes-and even though he has not always been the kind of dad I wanted for her.
And I congratulate you, too! That is a heartening story. You have set a great example for your daughter.

post #20 of 26
Thanks, Liz. I appreciate your comment.
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