Really tired of being the STEP-mom, today. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 08-17-2012, 03:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm curious about others' average wait time between petitioning for a family court hearing or mediation and actually receiving an order for it?  I don't mean a final order, resolving the issue, simply an order setting a hearing or mandating the other party to participate in mediation.

 

If you answer, please indicate whether you're talking about a final hearing/mediation, or more issue-specific sessions.  And please let me know if you're answering about a court outside the U.S.

 

My reason for asking is that, sometime last spring, my husband petitioned for a hearing over some issues in his (admittedly complex) custody case and waited so long for ANY response from the court that we began to suspect his attorney had never actually filed the petition.  Finally his attorney popped in to that court's office, unannounced, and learned that the case was just so complicated (six file boxes of paperwork and counting) that the new judge assigned to it was still trying to get a handle on the history, to prepare for a hearing.  It was then agreed that mediation could be a better venue, so DH's atty submitted a new petition, for mediation.  But it's now been several months without even an order for mediation.  Here, such an order does not even set a date, but simply proposes a panel of three court-approved mediators, from which each party may strike one.  Only afterward does anyone contact the remaining mediator, to set an appointment.  

 

I can't understand why there would be any delay in issuing that first order.  Or is this more typical than I think?


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#2 of 8 Old 08-17-2012, 12:53 PM
 
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Where do you live? It varies so much, but here in CA, when you file for any custody modification the hearing is generally set for a date within three months, and the mediation is usually set a month before the hearing.


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#3 of 8 Old 08-18-2012, 07:31 AM
 
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From what I recall, the order for mediation (initial mediation and then two cases of issue-related mediation) gave a date for mediation almost immediately (with a couple of days of the papers being filed).  One of the issue-related cases was filed as an emergency petition, and that mediation happened within a week, I think.  The others took anywhere from 1-3 months, approximately.  But again, the dates were given very quickly, so it does seem strange to me that they will not at least give you a date while they prepare? 


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#4 of 8 Old 08-20-2012, 05:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the feedback.  Grisandole, I'm trying to be more discreet about life details, since we're headed back to court.  I'd hate to risk taking up our time there, picking apart what I say on Mothering.  But it's good to know that in CA and PA, it would be unusual to wait several months to even get assigned a hearing date.

 

DH visited his atty today and apparently the court HAS given a panel of three mediators, but we can't proceed past that point until Mom is served notice so she can strike one; and she has repeatedly refused to sign for any certified mail.  Evidently, we can pay a sheriff in her state to serve her - perhaps at work, which sounds awful but may be necessary.  I have not yet heard a good answer about why DH had to take time off work to go down and see his atty, to find out about this, when it's been going on for months?

 

At this point, mediation sounds less feasible, if Mom's unwilling to participate.  (I guess you can't have an ex parte mediation...although it sounds gratifying, doesn't it?  To get your whole story off your chest, with no one who wants it in for you there, to argue and accuse you of things you haven't done?  Heaven!)  I'm discouraged, because I had looked forward to participating in mediation.  During hearings, Mom's atty always finds a reason to send me out of the room, because I make Mom uncomfortable.  But sometimes I'm better than DH about recalling details...or where in the file to find past statements of Mom's that conflict with what she's saying on the stand right now...  I had kind of hoped to be DH's legal assistant, during mediation.  That'll never happen, if they go to court instead.

 

Listening to DH, I'm not sure he's clear what happens next.  He's telling me what he discussed with his atty and some of it sounds contradictory.  How much of what he's saying is directly from his atty and how much is the way DH thinks things should work?  My father (an atty) never had much regard for dads who dragged along their girlfriends or new wives into his office.  He wondered how much the dads cared about pursuing their parental rights and how much of it was the new woman wanting to cat-fight with the old one.  My DH is passionate about being a good father and I don't want his atty or anyone else to be confused about who's at the helm of his custody battle, so I don't go to appts with him.  But it can be REALLY frustrating, that my only outlet for getting questions answered is listening to a re-hash of conversations I wasn't part of.  

 

Football season has started at my older kids' high school, where we plan to send DSS next year.  It's a small, private school with a champion football team, so ALL the students AND parents go to EVERY game.  I could care less about football, but the sense of community is really fun.  Last year, DSS loved going to games and running into all his school friends, whose older siblings also went there (or whose parents are graduates).  His "girlfriend" and two other super-close friends who went to school with him last year are freshmen at this school now, so he should be even more excited about running into them at games.  Instead, he's become mopey and demands to stay home.  He finally told DH that he's trying not to get too wrapped up in friends this year, because Mom told him it's his last year here; he'll being going to high school where she lives.  And he seems to feel certain this is going to happen, regardless what DH says.  

 

DSS also said Mom is putting astronomical pressure on him about what he'll need to say to the judge when she goes back for custody at the end of the school year.  So I have to assume his sense of resignation about moving back is because he has decided he's going to say what she wants.  Or maybe he WANTS what she wants and he seems dejected because he knows it would hurt us, if he were honest about it.  And because it just sucks to have to leave all his friends and brothers and Dad, to spend any time at all with his mom.

 

DH's atty says there's nothing we can do, to keep DSS from having to testify, because of his age.  We won't be able to get a counselor or GAL to testify on his behalf.  The atty does not get what the big deal is, why we're so worried about it.  He asked if something was wrong with DSS?  Doesn't he like his brothers?  In other words, why would we think he would say he doesn't want to live with us?  If our own atty doesn't get it, how can we expect a judge to?  Just because DSS lives with us now doesn't mean his mother has ceased to have any influence over him.  In ways, she has more, because he idealizes her and feels sorry and responsible for her.  Especially now that she doesn't visit him, he is always on vacation when he's with her.  WE know that his life with us is healthier and more stable...but that only makes it easier for him to take us for granted.  Teenagers are SUPPOSED to be able to take their families for granted.

 

Anyway, I'd like to talk about this with DSS, but he is feeling defensive of his mom and doesn't want to talk to his step-mom about her.  It's good that he opens up so much to DH.  But I have a different voice, that I think could be useful.

 

I know this is not my fight.  This is not my kid.  I'm "part of the problem" if I feel competitive with or hostile toward his mother.  I'm just the woman who has packed his lunches, read to him, checked his homework, scheduled his playdates, volunteered in his class, washed his laundry, brought down his fevers and cheered at his sports since he was a little, baby-faced third grader.  I don't count.  And the woman who does has slowly stopped visiting him, all but stopped writing to him, never shown interest in his school, friends or activities if she didn't choose them; and she's just sitting back and waiting for him to dump all of us and return to her...because she'll be damned if she'll sacrifice ANYthing, to come be near him!  

 

She is good... she. is. better. than. I. am...at saying things that sound super-loving and gushy.  But so little of what she DOES seems loving, at all.  And she wants DSS to believe anything his Dad or I do for him means nothing, next to her words and the things she buys him and the places she takes him.  

 

And what do I want?  I want this 13-year-old kid to be able to see the ugly truth about his mom... maybe so he won't copy her patterns and have her miserable life...but maybe it's just so he can also see the truth about me, and love me.  What kind of #*^ing selfish thing is that, to want?


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#5 of 8 Old 08-21-2012, 11:44 AM
 
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Is DSS at least going to be in a private room with the judge when he says what he has to, or is it going to be in the court room? Even if it is in the court room, maybe your DH can suggest to the lawyer to, right in the hearing, suggest that the parents leave the room so he can speak freely. Or if your lawyer gets to ask questions first, his first question could be "Would you feel more comfortable answering questions if your parents stepped out for a few minutes?" If she refuses to leave after that, it's going to reflect poorly on her.

 

Mediation probably won't work when she's evading service, but when you have to go to that length to try and get her involved, the court doesn't look kindly on it. At one point, I didn't know what province my ex was even in to have him served. Threatening him with costs got him to finally hire a lawyer so we could have the documents sent to that address.


~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.

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#6 of 8 Old 08-21-2012, 02:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Mummoth View Post

Is DSS at least going to be in a private room with the judge when he says what he has to, or is it going to be in the court room? Even if it is in the court room, maybe your DH can suggest to the lawyer to, right in the hearing, suggest that the parents leave the room so he can speak freely. Or if your lawyer gets to ask questions first, his first question could be "Would you feel more comfortable answering questions if your parents stepped out for a few minutes?" If she refuses to leave after that, it's going to reflect poorly on her.

 

Mediation probably won't work when she's evading service, but when you have to go to that length to try and get her involved, the court doesn't look kindly on it. At one point, I didn't know what province my ex was even in to have him served. Threatening him with costs got him to finally hire a lawyer so we could have the documents sent to that address.

I assume an in-chambers interview is still possible, even though he's old enough to testify in open court.  I don't know what effect it would have.  DSS has been dealing with this his whole life, and he's smart.  He knows his parents will find out what he says to a psychiatrist, GAL or judge - usually sooner rather than later.  

 

He has recently expressed concern about "what Mom will do", if she doesn't regain custody or if he lets her down, in terms of her belief that the two of them are sworn partners in a secret mission to live together and get away from DH.  DH's and my concern is that Mom might cut off contact with DSS, as she has done with everyone else in her life who's ever disappointed her.  I think DSS believes he is an exception to this rule in his Mom's relationships; I don't think he can conceive of her cutting him off.  I think he's afraid of something like suicide, or Mom having to be hospitalized for panic attacks and not being able to work and support herself.  The point is, he doesn't have any such worries about us.  He knows we'd be heartbroken to lose him, but that we're stable - and we're not alone.  We have each other and three other kids in our home.  He doesn't feel obligated to testify in a certain way, to please us.  Of course, losing custody of him would wreak havoc on our home and relationships, too.  But we don't broadcast that fact, to manipulate him.

 

I am astounded that people can indefinitely postpone court proceedings where a child's needs are involved, by simply refusing to participate!  I always assumed if you could prove you made a reasonable effort to serve the other party, that they'd have 30 or 60 days or so to respond, but after that a judge could move forward without that person's input.  Don't judges award custody to mothers, when fathers don't show up in court?  Can a deadbeat dad keep a judge from finding him in contempt - or even issuing an arrest warrant - by dodging service on notice of child support hearings?

 

I do know DSS's testimony is not the only factor the court will consider.  This (very patient) forum has already given me a lot of reassuring feedback about the same, long-standing concerns.  I'm just frustrated.  I wish DSS could be kept out of the middle.  And last night I suppose I was just feeling sorry for myself.  bag.gif


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#7 of 8 Old 08-21-2012, 08:12 PM
 
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I am always amazed by your dss's mother!  Wow.  I am sorry you are dealing with this, and yes, it is so frustrating to be "just" the step-mother who really has no say into what goes on behind those closed doors.  For what it is worth, I doubt you would be allowed into mediation even if dss's mom said it was okay, the mediators so far have always said it needs to be just the two parents, no spouses. 

 

I would be so so so shocked if your dss's mom actually gets custody.  Besides the fact that she LOST custody to you for major reasons (pretty hard for a mom to do, as I am sure you know!), she has pretty much expressed zero interest in coming to visit your dss on any regular basis, right?  This seems pretty easy to document, even if you can't use all the smaller subjective reasons .   I just can't understand how a judge could look at your case, even if he does hear dss testify that he wants to live with his mom and say, well hey, she lost custody because she turned the kid against his dad, then when his dad got custody, she barely ever saw him, so let's give her another chance?!

 

This is such a stressful situation for all of you, and I really admire the fact that you have always held back and NOT put your dss in the middle, even when it is so tempting to lay it out and explain it to him.  He will realize in the end who was there for him when he needed it, no matter which way the custody case rules. 

 

Good luck!


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#8 of 8 Old 08-22-2012, 07:28 AM
 
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Originally Posted by VocalMinority View Post

I am astounded that people can indefinitely postpone court proceedings where a child's needs are involved, by simply refusing to participate!  I always assumed if you could prove you made a reasonable effort to serve the other party, that they'd have 30 or 60 days or so to respond, but after that a judge could move forward without that person's input.  Don't judges award custody to mothers, when fathers don't show up in court?  Can a deadbeat dad keep a judge from finding him in contempt - or even issuing an arrest warrant - by dodging service on notice of child support hearings?

 

In my case, yes...the judge awarded full custody (and child support and legal fees and a lump sum payment) to me when XH didn't show up in court.

 

Now what I'm wondering is how to find him in contempt without having him served.  irked.gif  The attorney I consulted said I had to find him first.  I'm not hopeful about this.  He's pretty smart; won't even tell his family where he lives. 

 

Nothing wrong with feeling sorry for yourself!  You've had to deal with SO MUCH !!!  I've only been doing this step-mom gig for about a year, but I can definitely emphathize with you. 

 

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