I want to know if any of you have been sued by the fathers of your daughters where Joint Physical Custody was sought and you did not consent.
LOOOONG story (slightly) shortened: 15 month daughter, boyfriend breaks it off at 12 months after getting well-paying job. Became a SAHM when daughter was 7 months and I am her primary caregiver (we're SUPER close). Father complained in the home when asked to help, sat on computer, phone or video game. Still lived together after separating and father left for work early and returned late, admittedly to avoid being in home. On days off, left early and returned late without visiting with daughter. Suing me for 50/50 claiming he has helped raise her and provided for her equal to me. Since my moving out, hasn't sought much visitation, declined it even. When daughter does visit for extended hours, she comes home tired, upset, clingy-her whole schedule is fucked. His drinking has always been a problem. Last month, he drove home under influence (sea legs, couldn't keep eyes open, unintelligible) every weekend and I even found him passed-out drunk in his car. He still resides in our apartment where I catch him drinking, bottles in the garbage or intoxicated. He has hired a lawyer and I am still unemployed. Free legal help is scarce here, but when I COULD talk to someone, they tell me it's not worth fighting for, he will get 50/50 no matter what.
I need a little insight here to rest easy. Full time single mamahood is rough as I'm also trying to look for a job full time.
First, if you haven't already done so, you NEED to start documenting his behavior. Write down each time you and he discuss visits, your offers for visits, whether he accepts the offer, when he requests visits, etc. Take pictures of anything relevant to evidence his behavior. Before it escapes your memory, write down the specific dates and times when you have witnessed him driving under the influence or observed evidence of his drinking and continue to document it going forward. Ideally you would see him drunk driving first-hand, not just evidence of his driving (i.e. he and his car get back home somehow, but you can't necessarily say that it wasn't a friend who drove his car). Find credible, neutral, witnesses of his behavior to write affidavits if you can.
Second, it WILL be a difficult fight if he has retained an attorney and you have to self-represent. His attorney will (presumably) know all the rules you don't. His attorney will know how to request more time, how to file responses, how to make you "lose" on a technicality. His attorney knows all the statues that make your logically sound and valid arguments moot because the law says blah. If there is anything in your power that you can do to retain a quality attorney of your own, do it. Borrow money from everyone you know to pay the retainer (you can make a payment plan for the rest). Don't quote me on it, but depending on the lawyer and his/her experience, you're probably looking at a $2,000-5,000 retainer. It is a lot! But it is very important because the initial ruling sets the bar and is even more expensive to fight to change later.
Finally, and I know this part is going to be hard for you, know that it is very normal for a child to have a hard time transitioning to their non-primary caregiver's home. Being tired, upset, and clingy are unfortunately par for the course, and it will get better with time. When a parent doesn't have much time with their child, they tend to overdo the activities, which doesn't leave proper time for rest, and when she gets back to you, she is understandably clingy because she missed you. But it's not a justification to withhold visitation or even to reduce it. What is necessary is to suggest a plan (to the court) to fix that problem. You look reasonable if you counter his request for 50-50 with a specific plan for increasing parenting time from what it is now (almost nothing) to what is reasonable for your child (whether you want to argue that 50-50 or 80-20 is a reasonable goal is your prerogative). You can suggest parenting guidelines, such as maintaining her nap and bedtime schedule, and include your specific concerns such as the alcohol problems if you are able to document them. The driving intoxicated is a relevant concern if he does it with the child in the car but as far as the court is concerned, if he doesn't do it with the child in the car it doesn't necessarily mean he's a bad parent. Yes, I know, if someone drives drunk without passengers, what's to say they won't do it with a child ... believe me, I'm not saying this because I believe it, I'm saying it to be realistic of what you're up against. Instead you suggest provisions to protect your child, such as if MOM smells alcohol on DAD's breath when he arrives to pick up the child, that visit shall be canceled (preferably phrased more eloquently).
You've left out details that are necessary to give suggestions beyond that. Is there a custody order in place already? Has he already established paternity? Have you already been served? Do you have a feeling of what his real issue is (e.g., to avoid child support)? Do you think there is any circumstance in which he will come to an agreement with you out of court? Are you comfortable sharing what state you are located in (the laws vary widely from state to state and even moreso between the US and other countries)? I hope I don't sound too negative or deflate your sails too much--hope is not necessarily lost, but without a couple pieces of the story, it's hard to point you in the direction of the hope and optimism.
(DSD 10yo) (29wks - 2/2012) (1/2013)
Thank you very much for that lengthy response. I most def. understand you are giving it me how it is. I know every state, county, judge and situation is different. I read EVERYWHERE that they will not give 50/50 custody of a child this age. But I hear the complete opposite.
I was served October 1st, absolutely CANNOT get a lawyer-no friends or family have anything close to those funds. I've also been told that a lawyer is just a hired gun and the judge may grant me a little leniency once he sees I was up and left and now have to do this. I had intended to keep this case out of court because the father of my daughter is here on a green card and has refused to pay taxes his entire life. I've been told that he will get into serious trouble when we have to complete our income assessment forms and will be fined. I've also been told (tax attorney) that he will have to pay those fines back and I won't get child support until that happens.
EVERYTHING has been document. He has admitted to having a drinking problem, I take pictures and document everything. He admitted to driving home drunk, I confront his parents who have confronted him. I went over on a Sunday where he declined visitation. The place REAKED of booze, he was still drunk (and drinking) and he had people over the night before. The issue with the drinking is that he has a problem and binges. Having the child in your possession is not going to solve your problem.
His lawyer must be coaching him because, after two months of nothing, he just started requesting tons of visits with our daughter and started giving me money. I believe the short visits are really great and we only live 5 miles apart so it's not a chore driving her & picking her up. It's the longer visits where he doesn't adhere to her schedule and it messes everything up.
Unfortunately, I grew up in a split home similar to the situation I'm in now and I hated it. I never felt settled, never felt like I had a home.
In addition to the advice you've already been given - call the police when he drives drunk. If he drives your child to your home drunk, how is he getting back to his place? Still driving? Call the cops.
Courts have been moving towards a presumption of shared custody for some time now. The prevailing belief is that children are better off with two parents, so even if you are granted primary custody now, the court will want a move to a more equal split of custody over time. The court isn't going to care that your daughter has different schedules with different parents. They might be very concerned about the drinking and driving though - that's where he's most vulnerable, but you need a lawyer to help you figure out how best to make and document that case. "She says her ex was drunk when he dropped the baby off" isn't really going to cut it, because anyone can say that. "She says her ex was drunk, so she called the police about his driving, and he blew a .XX on the breathalyzer when he was pulled over a mile from her house" is going to carry a lot more weight. I don't know what else would work, but you should find out.
I really agree that you need a lawyer here. You really need to talk to someone about how to keep your ex from driving under the influence with your daughter in the car. YES, a lawyer is a hired gun - but that's a selling point, not a bad thing. Wherever you live, run a google search for the state bar association, and see if there's a number where they give referrals or advise people about legal aid.
They might be very concerned about the drinking and driving though - that's where he's most vulnerable, but you need a lawyer to help you figure out how best to make and document that case. "She says her ex was drunk when he dropped the baby off" isn't really going to cut it, because anyone can say that. "She says her ex was drunk, so she called the police about his driving, and he blew a .XX on the breathalyzer when he was pulled over a mile from her house" is going to carry a lot more weight. I don't know what else would work, but you should find out.
If he has a DUI record, it may help your case. Custody issues aside, I would still be phoning 911 to report a driver who appears to be under the influence. It's a public safety issue that affects everyone. He could kill someone. If you are afraid of not being anonymous, just go to a payphone or restaurant and call from there if you have to (eg say you were eating and saw a patron leave, driving x vehicle, who appeared drunk". Someone else's child's life could depend on it.