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#1 of 8 Old 05-11-2012, 05:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've been a member of this forum since November 2007, but I took a very long hiatus due to some family issues. I'm posting this thread here today because I remember that this forum was a *huge* help, both to me and to other mothers, especially those who are in crisis. I'm posting it in the single parent forum because it's a custody issue. I do have a girlfriend, who also has a son, but we're separated from our children's biological fathers.

 

Edit: I don't want sole custody of my son. I should have stated this upfront, but neglected to do so. I want to work out a joint custody agreement with his dad, or, at the very least, court-ordered visitation. If I don't get much more than that, that's fair, but this current arrangement isn't working at all.

 

Here's my situation. I'm trying to gain custody of my four year old son JD, who lives with his father in New York City. He moved there in March 2010; we were both living in Tennessee, and when he kicked me out in May 2009, I moved to Pittsburgh to live with my aunt. Since then, I've been fighting tooth and nail to secure housing, a means of income, and a productive, stable home environment in order to gain custody of JD. It has been extremely difficult, because I don't have any financial or emotional support from my family (mostly due to my lifestyle and sexual orientation), but I'm currently living in a transitional age program and majoring in Biotechnology at CCAC. Unfortunately, I'm only able to see my son about once a year; my schedule and finances don't allow for much more than that, and his father isn't willing to take him to Pittsburgh to visit me. In January 2011, when I moved out of my aunt's house into an emergency shelter for adults with mental illness, my ex won sole custody by default; I had faxed paperwork to the Family Court in order to appear by phone, but after much prodding and failed attempts at communication, they said that they "never got it." However, I was able to get in contact with an attorney through Project HELP, and she is involved in the case. Pursuing it will be difficult, though, because I don't have the money or resources to stay in NYC for more than one or two days at a time. I'm currently unemployed, though I receive financial support through Welfare and Job Corps.

 

I have entertained the idea of moving to New York City many times, thinking that there would be more resources there than in Pittsburgh. When doing some online research one day, I learned about the Ali Forney Center, a shelter for LGBT youth and young adults age 18-24. (I sent the contents of this post to someone who works there in an email, but she hasn't responded yet.) Shortly after viewing the website, I was introduced to Tiffany LIFE Cocco, through the ABC article and Youtube video about her, whose situation is similar to mine. When I read about her struggles with obtaining public housing and Section-8 for her and her wife, I thought about the frustration that I've experienced with helping my girlfriend and her three year old son, JC, find housing, either with me or separately. She is also living apart from her son's father, and has been bouncing around to different friends' houses for about two years. She ended up living with a guy who was very controlling whose behavior was escalating into physical abuse, both toward her and her son; as a result, I helped her move into a domestic violence shelter and helped to support her as well as I could on a meagre income. She is still struggling with the Welfare system, which has been repeatedly cutting off her benefits. She has been without food stamps, cash assistance, and medical insurance for five months. She has significant health concerns, both mental and physical, that require immediate attention and treatment; one of these may be fibromyalgia. She is currently living with another mother and her partner, who have three autistic children, and JC himself is a handful: he may have ADHD. This type of environment is very stressful, and she simply doesn't have the energy or resources to improve her situation.

 

As you are most likely aware, many mothers who don't have their children in their care do not qualify for housing in family shelters, and often, housing programs that are maintained through mental health and substance abuse organizations, like the one who hosts my supportive housing program, do not accept single mothers or families. I would love for my son and I to share an apartment with her and her son, but I don't know how to make that happen. Many mothers who don't have their children in their immediate care/custody do not qualify for housing in family shelters, and often, housing programs that are maintained through mental health and substance abuse organizations, like the one who hosts my supportive housing program, do not accept single mothers or families. Also, I fear the consequences that could result due to discrimination from the courts and from subsidized housing organizations, because of our untraditional relationship. With my ex, JD has a nuclear family - a mom, a dad, and a younger half-brother. With me, he is removed from that, and I'm not sure that the court will deem my girlfriend and her son to be an adequate surrogate family. If not, I may not get much more than visitation, which would have to be court-ordered because JD's dad won't take the initiative.
 
I'm asking for support and guidance regarding how to deal with this difficult and painful situation. My main two concerns are finding adequate, short-term accommodations in NYC and advice on negotiating a custody arrangement in family court. If you could give me the websites of some hostels and other accommodations in NYC for students or low-income tourists, that would be great. I've considered visiting a drop-in center or shelter, but I don't want to take up a bed that someone in immediate need could use if I can find an affordable room for the night. Also, I would very much appreciate it if you could recommend any websites, brochures, or books about how to deal with family court as an LGBT parent. The list of books and websites that I've found while browsing is overwhelming, and those who I've spoken to in Pittsburgh are reluctant to give me advice because they're unfamiliar with the laws in New York. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post.

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#2 of 8 Old 05-11-2012, 08:06 PM
 
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I would suggest you move to NYC, get a job and move in with a room mate, have regular visitation and then worry about getting custody of your son. I don't see any judge is going to grant you custody right now. It sounds to me as though you moved out of the family home, left your son with his father and moved away. He has lived with his Dad for over half of his life and has a stable, loving home. You have no income, no house and only get to see your son once a year. Honestly, I feel like it is actually really selfish of you to go for custody at this point in time, it doesn't sound like it's in the best interest of your son at all.


It's complicated.
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#3 of 8 Old 05-11-2012, 08:43 PM
 
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She wants joint custody.  But be fair.  It's not about your orientation it's about your ability to provide.  You need to ease yourselves into this situation.  If you want to be in his life show it.  If you have to move there move there.  Once settled then go for visitation.  Baby steps.  You're trying to take on too much at one time. 

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#4 of 8 Old 05-11-2012, 08:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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How do I go about moving there, though? I've never moved somewhere out of state by myself before. I'd most likely wait til a year or so from now, when I've graduated from community college, and I'd transfer to a 4 year school in NYC, but there's still the logistics and money to work out. If I thought it would help, I would've moved there sooner, but I'm already somewhat established here. My family lives here, even though I don't get along with them. I have friends and connections here. If I moved with my girlfriend, that would be different, but I'm not sure that she wants to do that, and I don't want to go alone if I don't have to. I don't know anyone there. I know that you said I have to take small steps, but I've been at this for three years now. I don't want to keep waiting. I do have an ultimate plan; I'm looking more for something that I can do now. I'm in school, getting good grades, and will most likely be getting a work study position. I had a job last year, but it interfered with school, and I was moving around constantly, so I had to quit. When I was working, I was voluntarily paying child support, but it wasn't enough. I have very little work experience and I'm a full-time student, so getting a full-time job would be nearly impossible. I have an anxiety disorder, along with Asperger's syndrome and ADHD, but I started treatment for that a few months after I moved back to Pittsburgh, and I'm doing really well. I just want to be able to do something to support my son. I feel like such a horrible mother for not being able to stay in his life consistently. He knows that I love him, I can tell, but I feel like I've abandoned and betrayed him. I'm not sure how to get past that and make it right.

 

Also, I know that these issues aren't based solely on my sexual orientation. After rereading the way I worded the OP, I could see how someone would come to that conclusion. What I was trying to say is, I don't know how much it will play into the proceedings. I've read horror stories about LGBT mothers and fathers losing custody of their children purely out of discrimination, but I'm also trying to keep in mind that every case is different. My parents are very homophobic, so I'm still getting used to the idea that having a same-gendered partner is generally accepted in society. I've casually mentioned "my girlfriend" in conversation, and, so far, I haven't gotten any odd looks or opposition. I know that there's a separate forum for Queer Parents, which I didn't remember before (I discovered that I'm bisexual after living separately from my ex), so I'll ask more specific questions there. I just needed to get everything out. I feel like I've kept this inside for so long, trying to handle it myself, and I just can't do that anymore. I need to let other people know what's going on and ask for help, because I can't do this on my own, and I shouldn't expect myself to.

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#5 of 8 Old 05-11-2012, 09:15 PM
 
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You need to show that you're in a stable situation.  You can provide what is needed.  Are you guys actually divorced and was there a court order for child support?

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#6 of 8 Old 05-11-2012, 09:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Imakcerka View Post

You need to show that you're in a stable situation.  You can provide what is needed.  Are you guys actually divorced and was there a court order for child support?

No. We were never married. He talked about getting a court order, but I haven't been served the papers, so I guess he hasn't done it. The only reason he pursued sole custody when he did was because I asked him about having an informal custody agreement between the two of us. I was trying to move out of my aunt's house at the time, and I was intending to move into a program for low-income mothers, but in order to qualify for the program, I had to have some type of physical custody. His actions, both prior to this case and after, have been manipulative and demeaning to me. At one time, he was insulting me publicly on his Twitter page; he even wrote a tweet once that contained my first and last name, and proceeded to rail against me for some perceived offense (I can't remember what.) He's married to another woman, who he started seeing after we broke up, and he has a 1 year old son with her. He didn't tell me about this child until his wife was 8 months pregnant, and he chose to do so then because I was coming to NYC soon to see JD.

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#7 of 8 Old 05-12-2012, 04:57 AM
 
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Gay marriage is legal in NYS. In NYC no one cares. My experience with the NY courts is that they are fair.

Keep in mind, when you read horror stories, they are written by the losing party. Family court is very emotional, and has very personal subjects. The reasons for losing are not always told, but its easy to assume it was for reasons that it wasn't.

That said, you are entitled to visitation, and if you could afford it, would be granted it. NY courts have also ordered child support to the non custodial parent to be able to afford visits. If you go to court, you would get an order of long distance visitation.

Good luck.
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#8 of 8 Old 05-12-2012, 05:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Super~Single~Mama View Post

Gay marriage is legal in NYS. In NYC no one cares. My experience with the NY courts is that they are fair.
Keep in mind, when you read horror stories, they are written by the losing party. Family court is very emotional, and has very personal subjects. The reasons for losing are not always told, but its easy to assume it was for reasons that it wasn't.
That said, you are entitled to visitation, and if you could afford it, would be granted it. NY courts have also ordered child support to the non custodial parent to be able to afford visits. If you go to court, you would get an order of long distance visitation.
Good luck.

 

Thanks very much for responding. I suspected as much, but having someone else tell me that means a lot. I tend to panic and think of the worst possible outcome, and somehow decide that that's what is going to happen. I've done this since I was a little kid. This is where a lot of the panic and anxiety is coming from, and I really appreciate that you and others are giving me level-headed answers rather than jumping on the crazy train with me. LOL

 

Another big reason why I want to move to NYC is because I'm aware that they're a lot more accepting (or at least tolerant) of LGBTQ people and those who "choose" to live that lifestyle openly. Things are starting to change in Pittsburgh, slowly, but there are very few organizations here that help LGBT people - particularly youth - who are disadvantaged. I'd love to be able to go to NYC and get into a shelter program, like those at the Ali Forney Center and Green Chimneys, but budgets are being slashed significantly, and I don't want to end up homeless again. I've worked so hard here to get what I have, and I don't want to throw that away by moving too soon. Being a homeless 23 year old biologically female Queer youth in Pittsburgh is one thing, but in NYC, a city I've only visited twice, is terrifying to me. Theoretically, if I up and decided to move to NYC tomorrow, I'd instantly become street homeless. I've reached out to the Ali Forney Center through email, and I'm planning to call them and some other LGBT shelters on Monday, to get some more general information and to see what steps I'd have to take in order to qualify for services. I've also thought about moving to Philadelphia, or even New Jersey which would be easier for me to manage, and finding a shelter there. There are a lot of autism programs in NJ, which could get me in the door there; not sure about Philly, though. I just know that they have more services available than Da Burgh, and I wouldn't have to switch Welfare and other services to a different state.

 

For those who have commented specifically about discrimination against LGBT individuals, I invite you to watch these two Youtube videos. This one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXv1-fHd6Ug is the video I mentioned earlier about Tiffany LIFE Cocco & the AFC. This one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUhqodigPFk is approximately 15 minutes long, and goes into more detail about LGBT youth homelessness. I had a similar situation as these youth, but it wasn't as drastic. I was being physically and emotionally abused from the time I was a small child until I turned 18 and informed my parents that if either of them laid a finger on me, I would call the police and file a harassment charge against them. I moved out of their house a few months after I turned 18, but I couldn't go far because my mom took my birth certificate, photo ID, and SS card. She said she burned them (which was a lie, as a found out when I received them as a graduation "present") and when I reported her to the police for destroying government-issued documents, they didn't do a damn thing. This was one of many incidents where, when I turned to public servants (cops, social workers, shelter workers, etc.) for help, not only did I not receive it, but I was outright dismissed. Another such incident occurred shortly after I moved back to Pittsburgh and was looking for a shelter to stay in, so I didn't have to burden my unemployed aunt. I went to an emergency shelter, hoping to find help and answers, and, instead, was scolded for "abandoning" my son, even when I explained to her that, at the time, I thought that was the best choice available to me. I had reached out to her because, that night, I couldn't sleep; I was sobbing and inconsolable. What she said made things so much worse. The next morning, I got out of there as soon as I possibly could and never went back there, but it also caused me to give up hope for awhile, and to certainly be wary of who I ask for help. Luckily, I finally found professionals who were willing to listen to me and develop a relationship with me, but during the first few months of living without JD, it was *extremely* difficult. At that point, I wasn't even "homeless" (legally speaking), and I hadn't discovered that I'm Queer; that happened later. I imagine that, if I was visibly Queer, I would have encountered much more opposition and even violence, especially in certain parts of Pittsburgh. Not many people - even in the LGBTQ community - are aware of the sheer number of homeless and economically disadvantaged LGBTQ youth there are, in America alone, and how tough day-to-day life is for us. This issue is very important to me, so I want to increase awareness about it.

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