Question for Moms with Full or Primary Custody of Stepkids? - Mothering Forums

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Old 02-14-2012, 05:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is a question directed towards moms with full or primary/majority physical custody of stepkids... I am wondering what was the deciding factor when the court granted DH (& you) primary/full custody of the children over their BM.  I've been a stepmother to DSD9 and DS6 for about a year and a half now. Because of some issues with their BM and the way she treats them, I think we may have grounds to seek full, or at least primary custody of the kids.  My DH is reluctant though because he thinks that BM has to be a drug addict or severely abusive for the children's father to get primary custody, and because lawyers/court are expensive, and we're not rich, he thinks it would end up being a waste of money. So if you would share your experience with me, why did you & your DH get full/primary custody versus their BM?

 

Just some background info about our situation...after their separation & during divorce, when BM found out that child support in our state is based on how much time the children spend with their father, she moved 1 1/2 hours away to her mother's house with the children, which eliminated any school day visits. She used to pick fights with him and not let him see the kids whenever she felt like it, and then claim he was an "absentee father" until he got a court order stating he gets them every other weekend whether she likes it or not.

 

I do not believe the children are being blatantly abused, but I do believe they are being neglected.  I've listed some of the reasons I feel this way below:

 

-BM has lived with DSD9 and DSS6 for two years in her mother's 2 bedroom house, and now BM's new boyfriend lives there as well. The children do not have a bedroom and they have been sleeping together on a twin mattress on the living room floor for two years. BM works part-time, her BF works full time, and my DH pays her $900 a month is child support (which is a lot in our rural area of Indiana), and she could easily find a rental property within her budget.

 

-The children only receive baths 2-3 times per week, and DSD9 is responsible for bathing DSS6. When my DH confronted BM about the issue, she states "they do not need a bath everyday", even though DSS6 still wets the bed every night. When he noticeably smelled like urine when DH picked him up for visits, he confronted BM about it, and now DSD9 has to give him a "quick bath" before she drops them off.

 

-DSS6 started in kindergarten this past year, and in December, my DH was informed by his teacher that he will have to repeat kindergarten next year because he is so far behind educationally. DSS6 cannot count to 10, cannot recite the alphabet, and cannot identify all the numbers 0-9. DH asked BM if he had been evaluated by the school for any developmental or intellectual deficiencies, and BM stated "he doesn't need that, that is why he's going to repeat kindergarten." 

 

-Both children have displayed behavior indicated emotional problems and difficulty dealing with stress and normal adjustments, such as lying, tantrums, attention seeking, age-inappropriate behavior, etc. DH provides insurance for the children, and expressed these concerns to BM and requested she take them for counseling or a psychiatric evaluation. She stated the children's only problem is that they have an "absentee father", and that he doesn't spend enough time with them. Again, because of her move we can only see them every other weekend, so we cannot take them to a therapist during the week.

 

I apologize for the length of this post.  If anyone could share their experience in gaining (or losing) custody over the birth mother, I would greatly appreciate it. I don't believe that DH's belief that a mom has to be on drugs or beat the kids to get custody is correct, but I don't really know anyone who has been through this before.

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Old 02-14-2012, 06:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have read through several other threads and I wanted to add that I did not realize the term BM was insulting or I would not have used it.  I've read other posts where the mother of stepkids was referred to as BM, and that's why I did the same.

 

Just wanted to mention that before I offended someone because I am new to this forum and I hope that I can find people that are willing to share their experiences with me.  Thanks!

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Old 02-15-2012, 12:35 AM
 
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You can always go back and edit your post to change "BM" to "the children's mother."

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Old 02-18-2012, 08:51 AM
 
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We live in Indiana and my DH has had sole legal and physical custody of his 12-year-old son, for the last 4 years.  His ex-wife did not physically abuse DSS and her alleged alcohol abuse was not brought up in court.  So it is possible for a father to get custody in this state, without those issues.

 

But let me warn you.  Even forgetting the years of legal proceedings btwn my DH and his ex before they moved to IN, getting custody from the courts here took 4 years, every penny he had ever saved and then some, and massive amounts of time off work.  The frustration can be intense.  You think Mom's difficult and capricious now?  Just wait until she thinks she might lose her kids!

 

I'm not necessarily saying you and your DH should avoid seeking custody.  But carefully consider:

* How much time and money can you guys devote to this?

* Which criteria (IC 31-17-2-8: http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title31/ar17/ch2.html) would you address and how would you prove your case?  Remember, it's not enough to argue that your DH is the better parent.  You have to phrase everything in terms of a "substantial change" since the last custody ruling.

* What toll will it take, on the kids?  Would your money, time and legal capital be better-spent demanding that they receive psychological and educational testing?

 

I do want to tell you what arguments were successful, for my DH, but I have difficulty paring down all the copious details into something manageable.  I will do that for you, when I have a little more time, maybe tomorrow.  For now, let me briefly address the concerns you've brought up, from your own situation:

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ehooper View Post

...after their separation & during divorce, when BM found out that child support in our state is based on how much time the children spend with their father, she moved 1 1/2 hours away to her mother's house with the children, which eliminated any school day visits. She used to pick fights with him and not let him see the kids whenever she felt like it, and then claim he was an "absentee father" until he got a court order stating he gets them every other weekend whether she likes it or not.

Custody is changed based on what has happened since the last court order.  So if she has more-or-less followed the court order - once your DH got one - she's not likely to lose custody because she was a you-know-what, before.

 

-BM has lived with DSD9 and DSS6 for two years in her mother's 2 bedroom house, and now BM's new boyfriend lives there as well. The children do not have a bedroom and they have been sleeping together on a twin mattress on the living room floor for two years. BM works part-time, her BF works full time, and my DH pays her $900 a month is child support (which is a lot in our rural area of Indiana), and she could easily find a rental property within her budget.

This might be a valid issue.  The court likes kids to have a bedroom.  And the closer they get to puberty, the bigger a problem it is, if they're sharing a bed.

 

Keep in mind that BF's income is irrelevant.  He has no financial responsibility toward the children.  It may be hard for you to prove he even lives there, if Mom wants to claim he doesn't.

 

The court might give Mom a time-frame to straighten up the living arrangement, rather than giving your DH custody and moving the kids 1-1/2 hours away from Mommy, live-in Grandma, school and everything they've become used to, the last 2 years.

 

-The children only receive baths 2-3 times per week, and DSD9 is responsible for bathing DSS6. When my DH confronted BM about the issue, she states "they do not need a bath everyday", even though DSS6 still wets the bed every night. When he noticeably smelled like urine when DH picked him up for visits, he confronted BM about it, and now DSD9 has to give him a "quick bath" before she drops them off.

A friend of mine, who's an excellent, stay-at-home mother with a wonderful home and supportive husband, had 5 children all within a few years of each other.  She explained unapologetically that they only bathed every other day, because their family life would've been unmanageable, otherwise.

 

You will not be able to prove that DSS ever smells like urine.  

 

Even though you may know in your heart that you're right about this whole issue, it may not translate well, in a courtroom setting.  Didn't you mention, elsewhere, that you've already asked CPS about this and they didn't consider it worth investigating?

 

-DSS6 started in kindergarten this past year, and in December, my DH was informed by his teacher that he will have to repeat kindergarten next year because he is so far behind educationally. DSS6 cannot count to 10, cannot recite the alphabet, and cannot identify all the numbers 0-9. DH asked BM if he had been evaluated by the school for any developmental or intellectual deficiencies, and BM stated "he doesn't need that, that is why he's going to repeat kindergarten." 

I think this is your biggest issue.  This is a problem.  If he has learning disabilities, he should have early intervention.  A judge, guardian ad litem, etc. should see that.  But the court might order Mom to seek an evaluation, not necessarily take DSS away from her.

 

-Both children have displayed behavior indicated emotional problems and difficulty dealing with stress and normal adjustments, such as lying, tantrums, attention seeking, age-inappropriate behavior, etc. DH provides insurance for the children, and expressed these concerns to BM and requested she take them for counseling or a psychiatric evaluation. She stated the children's only problem is that they have an "absentee father", and that he doesn't spend enough time with them. Again, because of her move we can only see them every other weekend, so we cannot take them to a therapist during the week.

How will you prove this behavior, in court?  How will you convince a judge it's not age-appropriate, or the result of the stress of the parent's divorce and conflict?  This might prove a legitimate issue.  Then again, Mom might be ordered to seek an eval, rather than losing custody.

 

If she regularly bad-mouths your husband, to or in front of the children - or to people who influence them - that could be an issue.  

 

Requesting a custody evaluation might be a good idea.  The CE would meet the children and could recommend any further testing that's appropriate.  He would also see the children interact with each parent and talk to everyone alone.  He might be able to pick up on whether Mom displays inappropriate hostility toward Dad around the kids, or whether her denial of the kids' delays/behavior issues is a roadblock to them getting needed help.

 

 

 


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