I am about to take part in an ugly custody battle. I am looking for advice on how to handle this.
I live in New York State with some family members and my daughter (16 months). Origionally we lived in Pennsylvania with her father. When she was 4 months old I found out that he was doing drugs (again). He stole money from us to pay for this. DD and I moved to North Carolina and stayed with his sister for a few months until we could move in with some of my family. Shortly before we were scheduled to leave, he moved to NC, too. He wanted us to stay and when I said we wouldn't he threatened to take DD from me and move away with her. So we left at night, and went to Virginia (which was my closes family to NC). DD was 9 months old at this time. He followed me to my family in VA and tried to physically take her from me. After that he tried to get a restraining order against me (on behalf of himself and my daughter) as a backdoor way of trying to get custody. The judge dismissed it. We moved up to New York shortly after that, and he doesn't know where we live. We have lived here for six months now, so I can file for custody, but I am worried.
Does anybody know how New York judges tend to be in custody battles? He lives in NC right now but he said he was planning on moving north.
He has 4 other children, and custody of none of them. He lost the parental rights to one of them. He has a fairly extensive criminal history (compared to me, with none). He has a criminal drug history, too, and a negative history with Child Protective Services/ Children and Youth.
Friends have told me not to worry, because of all of this. But I still do worry. What if the court drug tests him, and he comes up clean? Will that be enough for them to forget about his drug history?
I know that my daughter is better off away from him, but will the court? What can I do to convice them? What arguments would be strongest? I could really use some advice!
New York has not yet (I don't believed) joined the whole 50/50 custody thing that happens in some states, so I think is more interested in who is the primary caregiver. But have you spoken with a lawyer? There's no way around that - you need solid legal advice. I agree that your ex doesn't sound like anyone that should be around a child, but although in some cases it's ridiculous, you have to appear to be willing for your child and ex to have a relatioship - even if you recommend that it be supervised visitation. You just really need a lawyer (or legal aid - something!) in your corner in case your ex comes around.
It may depend on where in NYS you are - I'm in NYC (queens). When I went through my own personal hell of a custody fight, my attorney told me that b/c everything was on my side (DS lives with me, I'm his caregiver, Ex wanted custody so his mother could raise the baby - and he told the judge that), that if we pushed it until we got to the point of an actual custody trial - I would get sole legal/physical and would have sole custody. My ex got visitation.
ETA - I also wanted to say that 50/50 is usually (unless you get stuck with a TERRIBLE judge), even when it is the default, is ONLY used when the parents lived together, or were married before splitting. You have a LONG history of being the primary, and only caregiver. However, the fact that you are always running, and moving, which makes it difficult for him to form a relationship can count against you (hopefully your reasons are well documented, and any incidents of abuse are backed up by police reports and hospital records).