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I'm scared

929 Views 27 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  MsChatsAlot
Friday I get the mail just before heading out to pick up DS at school. There's a big white envelope, certified mail, from an attorney...

He's filed a custody suit

I am freaking out. MIL owns the house, owns his car (and pays the insurance) and is paying his attorney. He makes twice what I do, and has almost no expenses. I make just above poverty wage, working a schedule which allows me to pick up and drop off DS at school every day and attend field trips, etc.

He has the resources and MIL's fangs are out. The wording of his suit would put me in the position of having "standard visitation." This is the self-employed guy who chooses to "work" 6 days a week and come home at 6:30 pm every night, only to turn the TV on and watch while I do dinner/bath/bedtime. He wants to kick me out and give me "visitation."
The wording of the suit also has him, as the "primary conservator" having the right to determine DS's residence and educational matters. This is the guy who won't even read a brochure from the charter school with the daily organic gardening and nature hike program

The cover letter attached to the suit, written by the attorney, talks about his "unique desire to work things out." In our discussion Saturday he made it known that the conditions of working things out begin with me "admitting that I made a mistake" in choosing to co-sleep and to not spank
. This is the authoritarian jerk who wants me to "control" my child so he will "obey" me.

He's holding the money card. I am so scared.
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couldn't read without offering
for you..
sounds alot like my oldest's sperm donor, who didn't really give a d#mn, but did whatever his mother told him to do... she wanted custody, so he tried to sue me... luckily, he had an assault record so his attorney advised that it would be problematic for him to proceed...

s again
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all money, b*#!!s, and no brains. what a horrid thing to be happening.

I will begin, and continue to say prayers for you and ds.
much love and
's to you, mama.
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Thanks for the responses, mamas.

His suit would also have me, who would have to pay all the expenses in setting up a new residence (buy furniture, get utilities turned on, pay deposits, etc.), and pay rent, paying him child support while rich MIL pays the mortagage, the car payment, the car insurance and he makes twice what I make
. I alternate between
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uhmmm... i dont understand a few things. are you guys separated or together still? who takes care of your son's medical insurance? do u have to sing in and sign out at his school? are u living in ur mil's house and have to move out?

while u r angry take each point and write why that isnt true. then try to look at it legally and look for ways u can prove it.

i would definitely, definitely get myself a probono lawyer or a free lawyer immediately.

yes money can buy many things. but only if u cant prove ur side of the story.

how is he earning? any under the table? can u find ways of proving it. if he makes double than u on his paycheck thern no way on earth would u have to pay him CS.

remember just because his lawyer has written you a letter doesnt mean he is correct in EVERYTHING he has stated. remember it could have been done to scare you into giving in.

also talk to your friends and see who would go to court and testify for you about who is the primary caregiver.

stay strong mama. he probably wants u to feel the way you do now.

uh oh!!! i just read the 'self employed' part. can u prove how much he brings in? bank statements or something?
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Mama. I can tell this will be a huge battle for you but YOU CAN DO IT! You are a strong mama and you will fight to do what is right for your ds.
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I'm sure you feel totally overwhelmed right now, but meemee's right, take it one step at a time, and realize this is all just posturing.

First step is to get yourself a lawyer...and if he's got a lot of money, and you don't, and he filed first, you might be able to sock him for all the attorney's fees. So I'd definitely check around.

And then just try and take each point as it comes. I know it can be soooo scary, but once you learn more about the process maybe you'll get some peace. I know in my case, my ex-in-laws spent $10,000 on the divorce, but because of the "family court counseling service" which did an in depth family study, and my ex made himself into a pathetic jerk in their eyes, they made a custody determination in my favor. If only the judge had stuck to that expert opinion instead of inserting her own unexpert, unexamined opinion right at the end
But if you have a good lawyer you might be able to avoid that.

Bless you dear, it's a hard road ahead, and I'm sure you're frightened beyond belief. Have hope, have faith, and you'll be able to make it through!
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Money does talk sometimes, but the courts have seen it all.

The courts are not likely to award a father custody for financial reasons alone. They would be more likely to award joint physical and/or joint custody. That is the trend right now, as much access to both parents as possible.

You need to get a good lawyer and take it step by step. I know it seems very frightening right now, but once you meet with a lawyer you will likely start to feel more at ease about the situation.

When people file they tend to ask for more than they know they'll get...that way there's room to negotiate.

Good luck and come here if you need support or questions.
Definitely get yourself a lawyer -- it'll make you feel better at the very least, because a lawyer can apprise you of which things you should really spend time worrying about.

Are the car and house in his mother's name? If they are, you can bring that up in court -- if she pays directly, maybe you can demand 12 months' of bank statements to prove that he does pay it (that way, even if she gives him money and he pays the bills from his own account, it would show up on the statements). This might also help in terms of determining what kind of money he really has coming in, if he happens to be paid under the table.

Don't be afraid to tell your side of the story -- if you're the one who takes care of the children, tell the lawyer all about it. As for child support -- that's usually a done deal, based on hard numbers. I believe most states have a formula that's followed via a computer program -- they plug the numbers in, and whatever comes out is the amount that either party has to contribute. It sounds like you might be able to make a claim for alimony.

I don't think you're in danger of losing your kids, mama. The courts won't look kindly on completely uprooting them from what they know. (Oh, and make sure the lawyer knows about your husband's views on spanking.)

Good luck.
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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'
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If you are Work-at-home, you may have to option of moving to a state where the child-custody and child support laws are more in your favor? Does anyone have advice on what that state would be?

I think you need a new car, a new place to live, etc. ASAP. If there has ever been any actual physical abuse or threat of PHYSICAL abuse to you or your child, go to a woman's shelter ASAP. They will provide housing and help to get you on your feet again.

I would like to suggest copying your bank statements and other documents, and storing these at a friends house. Since your partner has filed for custody, of course you are going to see a lawyer. If he has a problem with this, see above about the domestic violence shelter.

best regards, sleeplessMommy
Seek legal aid. If the place you are going to cannot offer you legal aid ask them if they know of any other places that may help you. I had to call several different place before reaching the family law connection, they are paying ALL of my lawyer costs. I hope you are able to get some help.

Just because your ex is trying to get full custody does not mean he will. I know it is scary to think that there could be a chance of him getting custody, but I don't think it is very likely. Unless you have a colored history or criminal record, then you should end up with primary custody. Start documenting everything, copy financial records, take notes.

I'll keep you in my thoughts and send some positive vibes your way. You can do this mama, stay strong!
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Originally Posted by maybelle
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. .
That's pretty standard.

Collaborative law and mediation are both really good options if both parties are willing and both parties are reasonable. Judges do not like having time wasted on issues that 'could' be resolved collaboratively. But, the bulk of what ends up in the courts is when the parties can't do the other, or have tried the other and still can't come to an agreement.

You must do what you need to do for yourself and your children. Don't be swayed by comments or bullying tactics.....but at the same time, if you can compromise and are willing to work together (through lawyers or mediators) it really is the best situation for everyone.
That's crazy. But here's the thing: it sounds like you are your child's primary caregiver. That means much more to a court than money!! I know you're trying to get legal aid, but meanwhile, try to consult with lawyers (yes, several) in your area - some will give free or cheap consultations. Your ex, as someone else said, has just reached for the moon, so that the "happy medium" falls somewhere in the middle. Offer him joint LEGAL custody at MOST (or I mean, let your lawyer do it when the time comes). Don't be scared....what you got in the mail was not from a judge, it was just from your ex's lawyer, so of course it's going to be can say anything the lawyer can state that your ex requires you to buy him a stable full of unicorns...but it doesn't mean a judge will agree with it! (Remember that YOUR lawyer could draft something equally unreasonable.)

Not that I blame you for doing so, but DON'T call him, upset, anymore....clearly what he wants right now is control, and that just gives him what he wants. And don't tell him where you're going....he may guess, but whatever. It's none of his business. Oh - and don't agree to ANYTHING that makes you uncomfortable, just because you're scared of the worst. He's just bullying you, a typical tactic of this type of "man". It's all scary, but it's not going to be about money. For him to get custody, he would have to prove you an unfit mother. Make a list of all the duties you perform for your child....remember you are cook, nurse, chauffeur, EVERYTHING. And never let him see you sweat! Hang in there.....
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Originally Posted by SleeplessMommy
If you are Work-at-home, you may have to option of moving to a state where the child-custody and child support laws are more in your favor? Does anyone have advice on what that state would be?
If he has filed the paper work...... DO NOT MOVE OUT OF STATE. I would have gotten in trouble if he had already filed before I moved. They classify that as fleeing with your children. I know Arkansas does the CS on the income, 1 child 13%, 2 children is like 25%, and 3 children is around 33%. It differs on every sight I look at. Best luck to you.

Originally Posted by maybelle
Right now, they're power-trippin'
From reading your posts, it sounds like there is an issue with your son's paternal grandmother.

Is theer any way you can call a truce andmake friends with this woman who is paying to have your son taken from you?

She has a son, your child's father, so, I would think she knows what that loss might feel like, kwim?

And, WHY is he fighting for custody? Is it the CS he is afraid of, or does he truly want to be in his son's life and feels that is his only option?
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Hugs to you, mama! I hope that it works out for you. It sounds like you are dealing with a controlling jerk. I hate to see people use their children as leverage to hurt the other parent. Just not right at all...

Look into Legal Aid in your area. They may be able to provide a lawyer for you. I hope this works out for you. A child should be cared for and loved, not auctioned off to the highest bidder...
mama. I couldn't read and not post. You've gotten really good advice here. Try not to panic.
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Whew, what a day.

I went to the Legal Aid clinic - I don't qualify for free representation, so I just had a brief consult with an attorney there. It was extra brief because I broke down sobbing in front of her
. Not being able to sleep or eat will do that to a person. I got some good advice and some disheartening advice. She told me not to sign the waiver that came with the copy of the petition. It looked innocuous enough on first blush, like I was just acknowledging that I'd received the papers. Her "Uh-uhn, no way, do not sign this" led me to look carefully at the language, which would have had me waiving my right to enter testimony. He's going to have to pay to have me served, at which time I can file my answer, which is simple enough, and I can do myself. But long run, I am going to need representation. The disheartening part was when I told her that I would not allow stbx to have primary conservatorship, which would give stbx the right to determine the residence of DS and give him the right to child support. No freakin' way
: !! She kept trying to reassure me that time-wise, as TX law is, it works out to the child spending an equivalent amount of time with each parent. This is not the point, and it is ludicrous to think that I would have to pay him child support! The best practical advice she had was to go through the collaborative law process, even though I seriously doubt his ability to reasonable. She said that would at least buy me some time, and once we come to an impasse, unresolved issues would enter the courts. She also advised me to have a place for DS and I to go, like an apartment, as that would be a major consideration for a judge.

it can say anything the lawyer can state that your ex requires you to buy him a stable full of unicorns...
Miss Lotus, thanks for the first laugh of the day
! I can't not talk to him, or not have him know where I am going b/c we're still living together. Standard orders issued with the petition state that neither of us can move from the domicile with the child. He actually wished me luck tonight when I told him where I was going, and I could tell by his tone of voice that he meant it
. He is so messed up. He still loves me, but only wants to be with me if I do what he says. No thanks

MamaInTheBoonies, I never quite trusted MIL, now I know why. She is paranoid, and I have seen her turn on other people. And she is the source of stbx's authoritarian, corporal punishment attitudes. She left FIL when stbx was 3. That was over 40 years ago and she still hates his guts and talks smack about him in front of his kids. Compassion is not her strong suit, and I am now the enemy. I believe the impetus of all of this was stbx was afraid I would leave and take DS back to his/my home state. He spent 4.5 of his 6 years there. I have spent 30 of 35 there. My parents are there, my friends are there, DS has friends there. It is radically different from where we are now, and I miss it terribly. I moved here so DS could be with his dad. Here's how I feel about that now

Thanks everyone
. I'm so glad you're here, it means a lot to me!
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