Thanks for the responses, mamas
. I never thought it would get like this.
To clarify a few points, we are living in a house MIL bought when we moved down here. We don't live with her and we haven't paid any rent. We never married and don't fit the definition of common law marriage in this state, so there are no divorce issues, per se, but I also don't have the protections that living in a community property state would give me. DS is on Medicaid, neither of us has insurance. There is no sign-in/sign-out at DS's school (public elementary).
Stbx doesn't make a lot, but he does make double my income. He is technically an employee of a corporation in that he receives a salary from them, but is in reality a one-man show in his shop (he's a craftsman making a custom high-end product). As I said, he receives a salary, and I think he signed a contract, so his income is provable. From all the time I spent researching this online last night, Texas doesn't consider who has the higher income in determining child support. They apply a formula, and that's it, with the non-custodial parent paying the custodial parent.
I knew we were heading for a custody issue, so I have been trying to find probono or reduced-price legal help for a couple of weeks, without much luck. Legal aid here doesn't answer the phone, I have to show up at an evening clinic to apply. I haven't done that before because to do so, I would have had to tell him where I was going. Up to now, that would not have been a good idea, I would have been tipping my hand. Now it's all out there, and I will go to the clinic tonight with his full knowledge of where I'm going. (In the past he has twice made threats in the vein of "I'll fight you for custody and I'll get it because you can't afford to raise him or get a lawyer. I can't either, but my mom can, and she'll help me, not you!")
I called stbx shortly after receiving the papers, tearfully reminding him that he had long ago promised he would not take from me the son he never wanted in the first place. He said that was not his intent, that *we* (he and MIL
told the lawyer to go for joint custody. I referred to the language in the suit and said it sure sounded like he was trying to take him away and give me "visitation." He called the lawyer, she assured him that the word joint appears in the papers, and that is what is important. Yeah, the word "joint" appears once
. I did about two hours of research online last night and learned that the rest of the words in the suit have me in the position I described in the OP.
Jster, that is good to know that if he filed first, I may be able to get attorney's fees out of him. His suit specifically states that each party be responsible for their own costs. It makes sense that if he has put me in this position, that he should be the one to pay for it. However, I am somewhat on thin ice b/c the title on my car is in his name. I also need the computer MIL gave the *family* for xmas so I can WAH. I need to be careful about how much I piss him off, kwim. There was a lot of blah,blah,blah in the attorney's letter about collaborative law and my time online made it seem like judges want to see these cases settled without their having to interfere. The reality of our lives, the actual level of involvement each of us has had with DS, makes me think that going before a family law judge would be in my best interest, since stbx and MIL don't seem to do compromise or have a real sense of what is truly in the best interest of DS. Right now, they're power-trippin'