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Main Forums => Custody Issues => Topic started by: NeedingHelp on Jul 02, 2013, 07:55:23 AM

Title: Need help with a joint custody case
Post by: NeedingHelp on Jul 02, 2013, 07:55:23 AM

I need some help/advice in a custody case. My girlfriend of 15 years and I split up for good last year. We have a 14 year old daughter and a 6 year old son together.
Just some background info.. we split up about 4 years ago and she had went and filed for child support. After a few months we had gotten back together and we were living together and I was paying her for the bills and stuff. I kept two jobs and paid all the bills. When we had gotten back together she had claimed that she was going to go to the child support office and tell them that we were back together and splitting the bills. However, I did not check to ensure she did this. (STUPID ME) well everything was fine until we started having problems again and split up for good. At this point I was paying her in cash so she could pay the bills and everything. None of the bills were in my name. At the time we broke up she went back to the child support office and claimed that I was not paying chiuld support and hadn't been paying for the past 2 years. She claimed I wasnt living with her nor was I paying her anything. With no paper trail or record or bills in my name, I couldnt prove that I was. So I went to jail for 5 months for back child support. Upon getting out of jail I went down to the child support office and had them directly take it out of my checks so there was a record of payment. We had verbally agreed that I would get to see my kids every other weekend and days/evenings when I wasnt working. This lasted for oh about one weekend, then she started getting nasty and we'd have a agreed upon time and she'd call and change it or say I couldnt have them with no real reasoning behind it. She tells everyone that I am an absentee father and dont do anything for my kids when in reality she wont let me see them and rarely returns my phone calls.

At a loss, I went to the court system in Virginia to file for joint custody and to get a set schedule as to when I can see my kids. I've tried working out a agreeable situation with her and take the high road but she wont cooperate. What are my legal rights as a parent and what can I do to ensure I get to see my kids? I filed the paperwork and she has received a call from the GAL and is livid. Saying that now they are going to be investigating everything and refuses to let me see my kids at all in response to it. I have yet to hear anything from the GAL and I'm not sure what to expect or do... Can anyone shed some light/advice on my situation? I'm trying to stay on the high road becasue I dont want to subject my kids to anymore arguing/turmoil, but my patience is wearing thin. As of right now we have no legal agreement between us in regards to them.

Thanks in advance!
Title: Re: Need help with a joint custody case
Post by: ocean on Jul 02, 2013, 10:55:56 AM
Sounds like you are on the right tract and filed. Usually it gets ugly before it gets better. Keep civil and a business like situation. ALWAYS use text, email, or registered letters for communication or send one of those after a conversation takes place.

You are going to have to be patient and let the courts deal with her and make a schedule for when you have kids. Does the 14 year old want to visit you? Does this child have a cell phone, facebook page, other communication to communicate with child?

Once school is back in session, get on their mailing list, email teachers and ask when special things are going on. Use coaches, leaders, teachers, doctors office, dental office to get information instead of your ex for now.

The GAL is a voice for both the KIDS. It is the KIDS lawyer, the you can have a lawyer and so can mom. The GAL should go and see kids with her and with you. They are supposed to talk to teachers, family, friends and see what is the best schedule for the children. You may want to ask for court ordered therapy with YOU and kids to repair relationship. GO interview some, and find a therapist that will work for YOU and the KIDS and then ask the judge to order therapy. If their is a GAL assigned, call them, respectful ask how they work things and make appointment to see GAL (with or without kids). Just tell GAL over and over "just want to have a working parenting relationship with their mother in order for me to be in their life and have regular parenting time. Some GAL's are good, many are not and overworked. Ask if the GAL can make a temporary schedule to see kids this summer until the next court date. Sometimes they will act inbetween parents. TAKE ANY time that is offered.

Keep asking for time with kids and document. Text ex "I would like to see the kids this week, please let me know which night would be good for me to take them after work until 8pm. Thank you"   Call/leave ONE voice message "Calling to talk to kids and see how their day went, please have them call me back before bed tonight".  If you over text/call she could claim harassment so be careful until court. You can add to the court order many things such as times for phone calls with kids, exact times, days, places for pick ups and drop offs, summer visits, holidays with times, school vacations, your birthday, their birthdays... Look at some detailed parenting plans on this site. If it is not in your court order, you do not have it. If is is vague with no times/days your ex can argue so get it detailed as possible but take what you can get for now if she offers.
Title: Re: Need help with a joint custody case
Post by: NeedingHelp on Jul 02, 2013, 11:24:24 AM
First of all thank you so much Ocean for taking the time to respond and give me some insight on what to do and expect. I sincerly appreciate it.

She refuses to text me and only will respond by phone call, which I'm pretty sure she knows not to say anything in writing. So if she will only call or answer me with a call, how do I get anything in writing?

The 14 year old wants to visit but when she shows any interest in coming with me the mom gets mad at her and yells at her for it. She doesnt know what to do, which angers me because she is a child and regardless of what goes on between me and her the children shouldnt have to suffer or choose sides. She (my 14yr old) does have a cell phone and facebook. Which I call her on the phone every morning/evening and speak to her and my son.

The thing that worries me is that for a majority of their lives I was in the household but the mom always dealt with school and doctors visits as she only works part-time and I worked two jobs. I'm afraid that is going to hurt me since I wasnt "involved".

I havent hired a lawyer because I am short on money. Is it a necessity to have a lawyer? I have already filed the paperwork with the courts and a GAL has been appointed. I just haven't met with her yet.

I honestly hate that it has came down to this but I just want to be able to spend time with my kids and be a father. I want joint custody where I have my time and she has hers. I dont want to take them from her, but I also dont want to make plans with my children and then the day before or day of she refuses to let me get them or see them. And my son is 6, he doesnt understand and wants to be with me all the time. It's heartbreaking to tell him what I have planned and then she comes back and changes it!
Title: Re: Need help with a joint custody case
Post by: ocean on Jul 02, 2013, 12:02:26 PM
Tape yourself talking to her or just you text her and you can show she is not responding to her.

For now, since you are able to talk to kids, ignore her. Let it go to voicemail. Then respond by text IF NEEDED.

There is a form on this site to send to their doctors and schools so you can get copies of records and get on their system. You do not have to be at dr appt's if she is there BUT you can get the records later if she will not tell you what went on.

Just tell your kids on phone, "i am asking a judge to decide what days you come here and what days you go to mom's so there is no more fighting. The adults will take care of it but it may take some time, so what did you do today? ....".

Ex may pull phone from oldest or have her stop answering you as court moves on. Sometimes a GAL may help a little as your ex wants to look good for the courts.

You do not need a lawyer but your first set of visitation papers are the most important. See if you qualify for legal aid for this case. It is very hard to change first set of papers. The GAL may want you to "agree" and be done but if you do not like it, dont sign ANYTHING. You can always go to the judge and ask them to decide.

Try sending her a text "I prefer do communicate by text from now on so we have a record of what was said, I would like to have the kids this week for a dinner visit. Please text back on what night would be best. I can pick them up at xx and drop them back off at 8pm". If she calls , let it go to voicemail.

Another option is to send her a certified letter that proves you sent the letter requesting summer time with the kids. "Ex, Please let me know when I can have summer parenting time with the kids. Please let me know by letter or text by July 7th which nights/weekends they are free so I can plan around those visits. Thank you

Take away the power from your ex. She wants to talk/fight with you right now. Ignore, Ignore, Ignore. If she can not prove you are neglectful then you will get court ordered time. It probably wont be half time but you will get weekends/overnights and weekday visits. (plus summer time, vacations and holiday time).

Title: Re: Need help with a joint custody case
Post by: EdgeOfReason on Aug 07, 2013, 11:29:56 AM
Do you have any Order in place now?

Getting the mother to migrate from the phone (non-documentable depending on your state) to writing ... that can be tough.  I would suggest a "going forward" letter, send it certified and copy the GAL.  Something along these lines:

Dear Ex,
I am requesting that we change our default method of communication from verbal to written.  I think writing to each other would be mutually beneficial and ease some of the issues we have been experiencing during phone conversations.

I think if we both of had time to draft measured responses we would be less likely to let our emotions get the better of us.  At the very least, writing would add a level of personal accountability to our communications.  I sent this today via registered mail to ensure that you received it, certainly communications in the future could be done via text message or email.

I think

Let me know if you are agreeable or if you have another suggestions.


So, what you did was 1) identified a problem area, 2) suggested a reasonable alternative to make things better, and, 3) asked for her input if she didn't like your suggestions.  She would be dumb to ignore it. 

As for her calls, let them go to voicemail, see what she wants ... if it is not an emergency, write her back.

But, be very careful what you put in writing because it can bite you as hard as it bites her.  I prefer the BIFF method (Brief, Informative, Friendly, Firm).