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Author Topic: Hopefully some inspiration...  (Read 4173 times)

durandal

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Hopefully some inspiration...
« on: May 17, 2007, 08:00:30 AM »
My court date was yesterday… I (BF) got joint legal custody and full physical custody! My daughter is coming home Saturday!

In case you were wondering - we all reside in VA. We have a 1 year old beautiful baby girl, but the BM was using her a a pawn to manipulate me. For the first 10 months of the child's life, the BM didn't allow me to take the child out of the home - for no reason other than she felt the child was hers and hers alone. BM and her roomate (we are unmarried and don't live together) were heavy smokers, and BM was (is?) violent, both physically and verbally, manipulative and a pathological liar, and abused alcohol. While I'm not squeaky clean, I my lifestyle doesn't pose anywhere near the level of potential harm to the child as the BM's does - and I've been making consistent strides to change my life for the better since our child was born.

It’s a six-month temporary placement; social services will be watching BF, child and BM to see how we adapt to this new situation.

I feel like the Judge didn't really hear all of my arguments regarding the BM, and also didn't see how well prepared and capable I was for the task of rearing the child, so I do believe the system has plenty of bias built into it. But on the whole, with my countless hours of preparation, a good attorney, and a wise Judge and a favorable home study, the system did follow thru on the mantra "in the best interest of the child."

Court was long and stressful, but I came out victorious!

Both BM and I have lots of improvement to do in the eyes of the court, so all I can do now is to do what I do, and continue to keep my child’s best interest at heart. Despite the BM's continuing hostile attitude, and now that the situation has changed, I will still continue to try to be reasonable in allowing her access to our child - the child needs love from both of us.  

I also get two weeks during the summer to visit with relatives, so I can now travel with the baby too! FINALLY!

SO KEEP YOUR HEAD UP, I KNOW ITS EASY TO SAY THIS, BUT I"VE BEEN IN THE PIT OF DESPAIR TOO, AND CAN SAY THAT IT WON"T ALWAYS BE AS HARD AS IT IS NOW!



durandal

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RE: Hopefully some inspiration...
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2007, 08:02:49 AM »
Thank you to all who have provided support, advice, and experience her on the SPARC website!

Your advice and the archives were a priceless resource to me!

gemini3

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Congratulations!
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2007, 10:27:11 AM »
That is fantastic news.  Especially for us, because we also reside in VA and have heard horror stories on how biased the courts are here.  Can I ask what jurisdiction you're in?  

What happened during your home study?  We have one coming up and we want to know what to expect.  

Congratulations again.  I could hear through your post how excited you were, and I am very happy for you. :7

durandal

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RE: Congratulations!
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2007, 03:20:39 PM »
Thanks, I am very happy!

Check out the post HOME STUDY IN VA... I probably went overboard with what my study was like, but I think yours may follow something like that as well. I'm in the Virginia Beach court system.

As far as the bias... I did feel that the Judge didn't really hear all of my positives, the strides I've made to change for my daughter's sake, and tended the accentuate the negatives. I left feeling the sting of inadequacy in the judge's eyes, but the case was decided in my favor nonetheless. The BM also was more than happy to cast doubt whenever she could, but spent more time attacking than showing what she could do better - I guess that was her strategy. So if you have a good case and can show how you can better provide for the child than the other party, then you can win.

To be honest, I respect the Judge greatly - can you imagine how tough it must be to wield that kind of power over families, their children, every day?

Thanks again for all the support!

mistoffolees

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RE: Hopefully some inspiration...
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2007, 04:32:30 PM »
First, let me say 'Congratulations'. Just do your best to keep the child's mother involved - even if it is only with supervised visitation.


>I feel like the Judge didn't really hear all of my arguments
>regarding the BM, and also didn't see how well prepared and
>capable I was for the task of rearing the child, so I do
>believe the system has plenty of bias built into it.


I just have to comment here. You're the father (unmarried) and the mother held physical custody for most of the first year, right? Yet you won full physical and joint legal custody?

It doesn't sound to me like your case that there's still plenty of bias holds water. As for the judge not hearing all your arguments, it could well be that he had heard enough to make his decision and there was no point in hearing more.

It just irritates me to hear people claiming bias when there's no evidence that bias exists. It's like the boy who cried 'Wolf!'. If people constantly claim bias, it will be hard to get action in the cases where it really exists.

You are in the unusual position of a father who was never married to the mother who gained full physical custody. If the system was really biased, that wouldn't have happened.


backwardsbike

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RE: Hopefully some inspiration...
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2007, 05:50:52 PM »
Congratualtions!!!


I was htinking- it doesn't matter that the judge didn't hear all your concerns- you got physical custody of your child!!!

The judge will see on his own- with the help of social services what the BMis about because controlling people do not like to have that control taken away from them.

Rmember:  DOcument, DOcument, Document.  I have ahunch there will be plenty worthy of documenting in the months to come.

durandal

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RE: Hopefully some inspiration...
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2007, 09:58:09 AM »
just to clarify -

the BM got unsupervised visitation, every other weekend and alternating Thursday overnights. I still don't have the order, but I will be upset if it doesn't stipulate that there is to be no smoking in the home - but then again I know the BM won't follow that, court ordered or not.

the BM has already started playing the "you're not allowing me access" games - not even a week into the process. but I will just continue to document and be the bigger person in all this.

by the way, i'm looking into taking a Red Cross CPR/First Aid class, and also want to lay the "parenting ability"thing to rest once and for all - so I'm going to look into becoming a state-certified foster parent. i'm just sick and tired of having my parenting skills questioned.

mistoffolees...

look i understand your point... and i'm not saying the percieved bias was acted upon, i'm just giving my perception as a guy about how the system made me feel. what i experienced wasn't crying wolf - even my witnesses were shocked to see how the judge seemed to frame the situtation and how i was "handled".

does bias have to be acted upon to make it real? just don't get on my case, alright... i know what i felt and don't need your opinion to validate how the process treated me. mist, i agree with you on one level, but in my opinion bias does exist, and although i don't believe i was a victim of it, i do believe i would have been "handled" much differently if the outcomes were reversed.

really, everything's OK. i'll continue to do what's in the best interest of our child, your opinions are all valid, and thanks for the support. after all, i've got a baby to take care of.

thanks for everything, i hope at some point i can contribute to helping parents like this site has helped me!

durandal

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CONGRATULATIONS
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2007, 02:04:48 PM »
Maybe you could help me. How did you prove that the mother was abusing alcohol and smoking in her home? Was it done through her home study? I am going through a serious interstate custody/visitation case with my  Xgf who took our son out of his home state and is refusing all contact, denying my parental rights,you name it. She left our home state after a bitter year long battle trying to get me out of my 4mo. old sons life before she snuck away while I was at work.   I believe one of the reasons for this is so she could continue to drink without me knowing about it. Its hard to prove from so far away. Luckily our home state is continuing to hold jurisdiction on the case. I have never been a snitch for lack of a better term, but my sons welfare is far more important and she has not acted on behalf of his best interest since he was born. I have posted in the Fathers Issues forum on this site under "Broken Down"if you could check it out. My court dates are nearing and anything you could advise me on would be greatly appreciated.  

durandal

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A long response for you
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2007, 11:53:50 AM »
Thanks! It’s wonderful to be given a life with my daughter!

(NOTE: My comments will be in normal case, quotes from the posts you referred me to from the family court thread will have a carrot >>> at the beginning and end <<< - too lazy to put the html formatting in. I read each reply, and pulled the quotes that I had something to speak on. By the way, to get a overview of my case and to see what I actually had to deal with, you can always search posts by my screen name to get everything I’ve put up on the site.)

Let me start by saying that these are my opinions – although I’ve learned a lot about the family courts, i.e., what they look for in these cases, and the legal system in general, my experience is somewhat different. Again, these are my opinions, and for legal advice you need to talk to a qualified attorney! There is no substitute! That could make a huge difference in the way things go. That said, there also are plenty of things which are similar about our cases, and I think I can offer you some valuable insights where they overlap. First, let me elaborate on the main difference…

1) The main differences are that I reside in VA, you are in FL – be sure to thoroughly research the family court codes for your state, county and city, and in your case the same applies for where your XGF resides, as it helps to be as well versed as a layman (or pro se) can possibly be in this regard. Since in my case all parties are in the same jurisdiction, it wasn’t nearly as complicated as yours in that regard. I equate this to “knowing the rules of engagement, so to speak.”

2) Now for the similarities, they are numerous. My BM is abusive, an alcoholic, on welfare, no credible work history, a felon for domestic violence, a liar and very manipulative. She allowed access to our daughter only at her home since day one, and I filed for court action at approx. 6 mos of age after the BM tried to get me convicted of bogus felony violence charges. BM has tried at every opportunity to preach her own gospel about how terrible a parent I was – basically trying to make me out to be a deadbeat dad. She and her roommates smoke in their home, have done so all along, didn’t even slow down drinking or smoking during the pregnancy. I never had any visitation outside the home with my daughter until the child was 10 mos old, and that was by court order at our first hearing.

>>>Your paying her CS (child support) without a court order in place might be viewed as a judge as a gift. There is a slight possibility they might go back to the birth of the child and award her back support. Since you were not married, I believe she was within the bounds of the law by moving. And you would have had a short window to try to block that move anyway, and now it has been too long.<<<

I seem to have read in your post that paternity has been established, that should have been your first move, but as long as its done, that’s fine. If you filed the CS papers, it may work for you, but if she filed them against you, it doesn’t look as good. As long as you’re meeting the obligations, then good – it will likely be a wash in court as to who filed them. If you are just paying out of the pocket without a support order, I would strongly advise you to get it done thru the state agency, or at least have your attorney advise you on getting your payments recognized as support payments, or the poster is right, these could be considered gifts and not calculated in any official CS payment plan. Since you were not married and since at the time no court intervention has been pending, unfortunately I believe it was okay for her to move out of state. If the custody papers had been filed prior to that happening, she would not have been able to do that legally. A word to the wise – start to anticipate her moves as if you were playing a game of chess. Now I know its not a game, but if you don’t look several moves ahead, you might not see something until its so far gone it makes things much harder to overcome.

One good note on this – given that you state that the XGF is “frustrating your access” to the child, the judge will probably not look favorably on the out-of-state move unless she has an extremely good reason. If you feel she did this solely to remove you from the child’s life, prepare and document with facts why you feel that is the case. Its one thing to be legal and it’s another entirely to be in the best interest of the child – keep that in mind and reflect on it.

>>>talked to the Ex last night to inquire about adding my son to my insurance offered by my job. Open enrollment is in 2 days. She declined having my employer cover him, stating that " He has insurance through the State of Connecticut"<<<

I filed the CS papers for paternity and support to be taken from my paycheck. Part of the support obligation was mandatory enrollment on my employer-sponsored health insurance. It reduced my CS obligation slightly, but you will still pay more than without it. But the key here that you need to find out is if it is mandatory with a support order. My daughter had dual coverage – her BM’s Medicaid (?) and my insurance for seven months, my coverage was never used by the BM, and I still had to pay it. Doesn’t matter either, just find out if its required. Even if it isn’t if you can afford it you should just get the insurance for your child anyway – it will be a plus in you case, and it is a plus for the child no matter which way you look at it. She cannot decline your employer covering your child – you’re giving her too much power! She doesn’t have to use it, but that shouldn’t stop you. Remember, the child is your family too, and you are entitled as a parent to be able to provide for the baby’s care!

>>>You are a drug addict and alcoholic!" I really cant wait to see how she plans on proving these statements to a judge.Apparently she is going to use these against me at the advice of her attorney. Its going to get ugly I'm sure. I have prepared several statements that I would like to fax the judge that is residing over my case. Is this a good idea or not? I am desperate and feel like my attorney has abandoned this case until the mediation comes on the 1st of June. Should I get the insurance anyway in case I do end up with custody? Sounds like a stupid question, obviously better safe than sorry. Or will they require extra CS to cover the existing insurance that he is on?<<<

My BM made the same allegations about me, repeatedly. I’ll just be straight with you (and I’m just making an objective statement here, please don’t take it the wrong way)…If they’re true, then you better straighten up and fly straight, ‘cause it won’t go your way in court – not at all. I was an alleged alcoholic, drug user and dealer, etc., but she was lying, and had no way of proving this in court. I even was willing to have a drug test, right then and at any time in the future. Bottom line, if you’re clean and can prove it, with a qualified attorney you will have no problems refuting her lies. I would strongly advise against offering any statements up to the judge unless your qualified attorney gives a nod of approval. There are many factors that go into these custody determinations, and if you state something (or perhaps even don’t say something you should have) then it could damage your case. Don’t be desperate, mistakes are made this way – I know where you’re coming from, I too was very disheartened, and I know how the many long lonely nights at 3AM can make you feel. Be strong for your baby – cry if you need to get it out (I can’t remember how many times I did), but fight for the child!!! Try to channel your frustration into action – prepare your case!!!

>>>DO NOT fax anything to the judge you will cripple your case. I think you need to sit back and be patient for June 1 and see what happens. Your ex can accuse you of anything she wants to, i.e., alcoholic and drug addict. Unless she can "prove" these allegations with police reports, jail sentences, court documents, etc., she is just blowing smoke out of her a$$<<<

I think Sherry1 is right on the money…

>>>You can't make court things work as fast as you want, it is on a schedule.<<<

Ditto… just take the time to build as strong a case as you can. I also took the time to join a local support group for guys going thru similar situations, you might try to do the same – it will make things a little more bearable. Therapy does work.

>>>went ahead and enrolled my son on my employers plan, figured it could only help. Also, yes, the mediation is court ordered and scheduled for the 1st of June. Another one of her visitation "schedules" was faxed over to me on fri. 05/18 with alot of vague TBD and OPEN times of visitation basically allowing me minimal time at her convenience.<<<

Good job on the insurance. Since your case is coming around soon, I would wait to see what the judge has to say about visitation. You can be assured that they won’t look favorably on the fact that you don’t receive any visitation. You should be prepared to show that you desire contact with the child, and have tried to have parenting time. Don’t just rely on being able to show what the XGF isn’t doing/allowing, but be prepared to show what things you are doing right and in the best interest of the child. In fact, I would always approach the situation by showing how you have been trying to be the reasonable one, and far less on trying to show her faults. Believe me, both your faults will probably come out in court. Just try to be the more well rounded, fair, reasonable, cooperative and responsible one.

My case wasn’t mediated, I had a home study, which is very detailed and somewhat intrusive, but was worth it in my case. Basically a social worker is assigned to “throw back the rug” on both parent’s lives, and see what’s behind all the posturing and statements of fact and fantasy. They will get to the truth. For more on my home study, please search my screen name and find where I detailed my home study experience.

>>>The judged looked me in the face on March 19th(EX defaulted, but was dismissed) and told the attys that they both had 15 days to schedule mediation because "this mans needs to see his son". I could be way off but it sounded like I might have a decent and fair judge.<<<

Sounds that way to me too. The judge was probably wondering why you weren’t getting access to your child, and if they think the XGF is the cause… it will play poorly in her case. A heartening development to be sure.

>>>This is the tragedy of having your child taken away at such a young age (4 mos. old). All the pain seems to be coming to the surface, but I know that showing emotion is probably not a good idea. I've come to the conclusion that no matter what happens I will stay calm and cool and do my best to act like its just another day. Its unlikely he will know who I am, which hurts, except for maybe a necklace that he was obsessed with as he was growing and my mannerisms.<<<

Passion is what keeps you going… it also can doom your case if displayed at an inappropriate moment. Be on your best behavior for your child’s sake. That’s why I hired a attorney – I had researched my case for months and really needed the attorney because I couldn’t be dispassionate enough in court. Be honest with yourself – If you can’t detach yourself now don’t think you will be able to do it in court, because you won’t. I know the separation hurts, but remember this time will pass and there’s a lifetime of joy waiting for you and your child. Just know that you will be in their life, try not to dwell on the here and now… I know it’s easier said than done. If you spent time with your child before the trouble began (at 4 mos I assume?) then your baby will remember you. It may take some quality time for both of you to become comfortable again, but don’t think for one moment that the bonds you formed before are lost! This I can speak on with my own personal experience!

>>>Our son is obviously to young to talk on the phone with me. Anyway she's extremely nice(intoxicated) and says that she wants to make the visitation as smooth as possible allowing me the most possible time with him, she won't interfere w/our bonding time, she will let me have him as long as i want unsupervised after she sees he is comfortable with me(not believing any of this). I kept my ears open and my mouth shut.<<<

Take every opportunity to talk with your son on the phone, no matter that all they can do is listen and perhaps push the buttons. Its still bonding, I know it doesn’t make you feel good, but please do it. Yep, my BM is the same – just talk for her but DOCUMENTATION for you. Sound’s like she’s starting to see the writing on the wall, maybe with the help of her attorney, but you keep documenting her past behavior and prove that she’s being nice “for the cameras,” so to speak. Be the better person and work to prove it.

>>>This child belongs to both of you and she is trying to use your son as a weapon. The best thing you can do is stick to your plan. Your ex has probably been advised by her attorney that if she keeps up the crap of of interferring w/ visitation and not agreeing to or staying with court ordered visitation she will be in for big trouble from the judge.<<<

Sherry1 is dead on with this… we are on the same page actually in almost all of her responses. The one thing I would not agree with is actually, the child doesn’t “belong” to either of you – try not to look at it that way, much as a grown person doesn’t belong to anyone. I know its splitting hairs, but it’s a very important concept. If you think about it, the XGF is behaving as if the child belongs to her – is that how you want to be characterized as well? Having said that, you both have a right to parent the child. I think you would be well served by Sherry1’s advice too.

>>>Just remember.. he is your son also - you don’t have to "settle" for whatever you can get. Fight like hell prove you are a worthy parent and let the rest go.. act like this is a business arrangement.. and the ex is your competitor.. her true colors will show..<<<

Agreeed. Fight like hell for the child’s well being. Put nothing before the baby, not even personal motives. Its all about the children – they cannot fight for themselves, so you fight to make sure they have a fair shot at being well-adjusted, healthy and responsible members of society. Nothing else in life was more important for me than this. And yes, if you aren’t planning on being with the XGF (which i assume you're not), then that’s exactly what it is, a business arrangement.

>>>hey,,, when ex gets there, make sure you have a video camera set up out of site.. and make sure its on with a blank tape.. So if she spouts off at the mouth you will have clear evidence.<<<

I would be extremely careful about any electronic surveillance, because many times there are rather strict laws about when and where its legal… and you don’t want to take an illegal tape to court, now do you? That said, if you are willing to learn the laws about that as they apply in both states, then go for it. Here’s another thing on that… I had several hours of court admissible voicemail recordings from my BM (I stopped converting them to paper transcripts at 27 pages...!) who said some very damaging things to her case, from threatening to relocate out of state, to lewd and vulgar messages, to very demonstrably intoxicated calls… the list goes on. Guess how many of them got reviewed in court? None – not one second, not one page. Judges are very hard working people, and they quite frankly won’t like listening to this stuff unless there is a real basis (in their minds, not yours) for doing so. Besides, they usually can see right thru the facades, they’ve been doing it long enough to be sure.

That said, it wouldn’t hurt if you had it, just don’t rely on it as the cornerstone of your case.

NOW TO YOUR ORIGINAL QUESTION FOR ME:

The home study was key to my determination. It was quite apparent that smoking was taking place in the home. Extreme smoking, many, many packs a week. I also had documentation from the pediatrician, something you are entitled to as a parent is available. If you know her pediatrician, write them and request a copy of the child’s medical file. It is you right. The alcohol abuse was a different story – the BM actually made the mistake of harassing law enforcement while intoxicated very late at night (or very early, depending on how you choose to look at it) and I obtained a copy of the dispatch calls. BM also has a history of this type of behavior so it was apparent, and the home study bore this out also. If you XGF doesn’t have this baggage, then you might want to research recording or documenting her behavior, but it sounds like her attorney is getting her prepared for the game.

Best of luck, and remember this is only a battle – the war could be much longer. So it pays to view it as a marathon, not a sprint. Just keep the child’s interests at heart, and everything will be alright. I know you don’t want to hear this (I didn’t either), but it is important. If you don’t get custody, try to get as much visitation as you can. The court is preferential to parenting time “under the belt” so to speak, and the longer your XGF has custody (even if it is not by court determination) the more time she has had parenting the child (and by extension the less time you have), the harder it will be. And the more you get should make it easier to get even more (or even full custody) in the future, provied you keep doing what's best for the child and she keeps doing what she's been doing. Do you see what i'm getting at...? Custody is usually factored on direct experience (well I should say parenting time is a very important criteria), and the more you have the better off you'll be for any future hearings. Take heart that you have started the process early on, instead of waiting for several years – that will play in your favor.

Another thing - try to understand things from the XGF's viewpoint as well. I'm not saying its an excuse for her behavior, but have you considered that perhaps she's very afraid and feels that you are trying to take "her baby" (I say that figuratively) away from her? I know how you feel, but put yourself in her shoes, too. It has taken me many months of growth to look at it this way, but its really powerful and healing to acknowledge the feelings of whom you may consider as "your opponent." Not only will it help you to anticipate her actions (somewhat), but it probably will make it easier for you two to be compassionate and really understand that the child needs BOTH of you to act responsibly to thrive. Never give up on the possibility of working with the other parent.

I cannot stress enough the three main things will affect your case the most: 1) learn the law as it applies to your case, 2) document everything factually; and 3) when you’re done documenting everything, recheck to be sure you have documented everything!!!

LEARN THE LAW and DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!

I look back on the severe hardships this battle have caused me, the humiliating things I’ve had to endure, the setbacks, and the trials which are likely in the future, but every time my daughter smiles at me or points to my nose all those things pale in comparison.

Now fight my friend – FIGHT!


John-J-Jay

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the SYSTEM is sexually biased
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2007, 01:33:33 PM »
I'm a custodial parent and my ex hasn't paid child support in 4 yrs and makes $87,000 a year. you can figure out yourself what the support would be monthly. With me being the dad the court has allowed her to drag on my motion to enforce for 7 months and i've paid over $8000 to TRY to get her to pay. If it was a MAN that was delq. on child support pmts we would be behind bars. But if it is a WOMAN that's behind it's ok. the system is biased.

 

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