Need Some Input Here

sugarland-girlJanuary 7, 2008

I'm married to a man that has 9 yr old son from a previous relationship. They were never married and they never went through a court to establish custody rights. So the mother has sole custody currently. My husband has his son 50% of the time and had even had his son living with us for nearly a year about a year about a year & half ago. His sons mother recently told my husband she would be attending spring college classes at a university. So my husband thought that maybe they should get a shared parenting plan established since she would only be able to care for their son minimally. (she also has a full time job and the university is an hour away) She said "Absolutely No"!! She said thier son would become a ward of the court first until the shared parenting agreement was legal and she would not allow that. I think it has alot to do with child support issues though. (She has a spending problem and really relies on that income.) Is it true that the child becomes a ward of the court until the plan became legal? My husband doesn't have the money to hire a lawyer right now to even fight for legal rights to his son. But he"s so sick and tired of always walking on eggshells around the mother and always trying to please her so she won't take his son away. Not that she has ever threatend him or anything but she is very immature, controlling and vandictive so he never pushes the envelope. So I guess my question is... Is the ward of the court thing true? Is this a bad thing? Should he file for some custodial rights to his son when he has the money? Or should just be happy with having his son half the time anyway? He is concerned about future issues with is son's mother and feels he should be protected in some legal way. I don't know what to tell him. It seems asthough he may get screwed either way!! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

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He needs to talk to a lawyer. Many, if not most, lawyers will offer a free consult for the first visit... so check into that and ask your general questions at that first meeting.

And, sorry to say this, but if you really don't have enough money or think his son is important enough to pay the money to talk to a lawyer on this, then maybe the child should be the ward of the court. This is very important and should be discussed with an attorney. It is a kid's life; Opinions here probably won't matter much and could be wrong.

Skip exchanging gifts this Valentine's Day, cancel the cable for a few months, drink only water for a while or return those Christmas presents. If you have to come up with the money, I would bet you can. Keep your PRIORITIES in order and find the money to talk to a lawyer.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 3:02PM
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I'm in CA. It may depend on what state you live in, but I have NEVER heard of the court making a child a "ward" during a custody case (except in dependency hearings where CPS or foster care is involved). My husband was in a very similar situation. He lived with his exGF (never married her) and they had a daughter. They broke up when she was a year old. They never went to court to get anything established. I met him when she was five (almost six) and they had 50/50, every other week arrangement. During the year and half that we dated, she would threaten to stop his visits with her if he didn't do what she wanted. I know quite a bit about family law, having been in a long custody battle myself & going to school to learn all I could. I told him that she doesn't have any more rights than he does but he didn't want to take her to court because he felt he would lose. After we got married, she continued to make threats and even mentioned that she'd like to leave the state. As there was NO order, she very well could have moved out of state with no problem. He finally decided to take her to court when she again threatened to take his daughter away and they ended up with a formal order that gave them the same, 50/50 arrangement but it prevents her from leaving the state. It gives him his rights as a parent. Without an order, either parent can do whatever they want and there isn't really anything the other parent can do about it. If you call the police for assistance, the first thing they want to see is an order. Without it, they likely won't do anything, except tell you to go to court.

I don't think he should wait to file for his rights as a parent. Is he paying child support? and if so, is it court ordered and by the guidelines? or voluntary? He should keep his canceled checks or receipts, never pay cash. The courts in CA favor shared custody and if she's planning to move an hour away, you have a good argument to keep the child living where he's always lived & gone to school. Courts like to keep the stability of a child's life and if he's in school by you, they may favor keeping it that way.

There are sometimes "family law advisers" or "friend of the court" that will help you with representing yourself. You may also look for non profit father's rights groups. There should be no reason for a mother to NOT want the father of their child adjudicated to be the father. That sounds suspect to me.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 4:54PM
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Wow, it seems asthough carla35 woke up on the wrong side of the bed today!! A perfectly safe and loved child to become ward of the court because a father is having finacial difficulty at the moment. Great idea carla35!! And he and I didn't exchange x-mas gifts this year. We ONLY bought for his son! Anyways...imamommy, he is paying childsupport. They've always gone through an agency for that. The courts have never been involved in anything having to do with thier son. He has the agency take the support out of his check every week. I think it all has to do with controll and money in reguards to her. She knows that my husband will do anything she says in reguards to his son. So why would she want to go to court!! They would have her her share those rights and answer to someone else if she didn't cooperate. Hopefully things don't become messy. They have always had a decent relationship, despite the obvious issues here, and I would hate for any of this to effect their son. Thank you for that advice on looking for father right groups! I never would have thought about looking into that. I'm going to begin researching that as soon as I get done here!! Again thank you for all of your input!!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 7:50PM
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If you're in Texas, the 'ward of the court' threat is pure BS. And there are some pretty standardized guidelines about custody and child support that most judged follow unless they have a real good reason not to. Those guidelines aren't that hard to find online, and would be a good, money-saving starting point to work from when trying to agree on something. I'm guessing money is as big a problem for her as it is for you if she wants to go back to school, and she's just blowing smoke because she doesn't have her facts straight.

I'm with Ima on this one -- Without a court-ordered document to protect his rights, your husband's rights are without protection. She could leave the state, have the child live with Grandma, cut off his visitation, etc. He'd have to initiate a suit then, and he'd be starting 'in the hole' so to speak.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 9:28PM
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I didn't wake up on the wrong side of the bed. It's just if your financial situation is really that bad and priorities are such that you really can't afford to talk to a lawyer (especially when you believe your son may become a ward of the court) then really what are people to think? What would you do if he broke his arm and you had to fork out a co-pay?

In other words, if you are really a loving and safe family for the child, then be responsible enough to act like that. Leaving your child's future open to internet advice about if he can become a ward of the court or not just does not seem like it is being responsible to me.

And, please remember, even if you don't like what I am saying... if the father group doesn't pan out or can't really help, most lawyers will consult with you for free the first visit. Just call and ask if the first consult is free. You may get all of your questions answered there.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 10:24PM
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carla35, you seem to be a completely insane and harsh individual with little or no grounds to say the things you say. After paying 25k on our wedding last year and another 30k for a down payment on our home two months later, with absolutely no assistance from anyone, NO we do not have another 5k-7k to fight for custodial rights at this moment. I never said that he feared his son would be taken away by the courts and put into foster care, or anything in that sence. I was more inquiring on the custody procedures within a court system and, if being a ward of the court was just part part of that process. If there was any potential for something extreame or wrongfull to happen to his son you better believe we would beg, barrow, or steal before anything happened to that little boy!! We ARE responsable people that's why we're not going to go into debt for something that isn't an emergency case. And quite frankly I would have never married a man that your describing in your post, and I disagree with you! He would rather keep a cival relationship with his son's mother than put his child through a messy custody dispute all because he overeacted! If that's not a responsable father, than I don't know what is. He will definitely get custodial rights to his son either through a mutual agreement or by dragging her into court, but we need to first explore and exhaust the civil and adult version first!! SO RELAX!! Your going to die too young if you overeact to things in life as you did with my post!! Instead of reading my post maybe you should take a soak in the tub or get a massage or even better than that, give your family a hug!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 1:20AM
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If you paid 25K for your wedding last year without thoughts of who has custoday rights to his son, you need to get your priorities in order.
I know more than one man who has a child by someone he wasn't married to who's mother moved because she got married, and one never sees the child, and another had to quit his job, sell his house and move to where she lives if he wants to see his son more often then once every 6 months.
You asked if anyone knew if it was necessary for the boy to be made a ward of the state before custody could be established.
You were told to seek legal advice not to depend on advice found on an internet forum about parents....and you get bent out of shape? Because you don't want to spend the money??
Go see a lawyer....that IS the civil and adult way to do it.
Linda C

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 9:35AM
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True, a long drawn out "custody battle" could set you back $5-7,000, or even worse, if you fight it out in court and do all of your talking through the lawyers.

But an initial consultation with a family law attorney will cost you $0 to $500.

And reaching a negotiated settlement with his Ex using either a mediator, arbitrator or pair of lawyers negotiating is likely to cost you much, much less than $5,000. The more work you are willing to do yourselves, the less it will cost you, and the better the ultimate agreement will fit your unique cicumstances. There is NO LAW that says these conversations have to be adversarial, and skilled mediators will help assure that they aren't. After all, you're NOT trying to take this boy away from his mother; you're trying to protect his future and your husband's rights to continued parenting.

At least to the initial consult to find out where you stand.
Anything less than that is being irresponsible.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 10:03AM
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You know, I think I may be "completely insane" because I just don't understand how people like you think, and it does kinda depress me. Harsh as I may be (and right or wrong)...your way of thinking and priorities are just so, so different than mine. And, I guess I do get a little excited; and, I admit, sometimes it takes everything in me not to resort to name calling as you have. So maybe you need to take your own advice about staying calm. (Compare our exclamation point usage and name calling tactics if you don't believe me).

Anyway, you asked for didn't like mine... but I still highly recommend taking it because, sorry to tell you, but I'm NOT completely insane. I never mentioned a long drawn out custodial fight law suit -- although I'm not totally against that if needed. (I mentioned consulting with a lawyer which would be free to about $200 to clear up the ward of the court thing)... And, you DID mention your son possibly becoming a ward of the courts. That seemed to be your your main concern in the original post. Reread, I'll just cut and paste the parts for you...

"Is it true that the child becomes a ward of the court until the plan became legal?.... So I guess my question is... Is the ward of the court thing true? Is this a bad thing?"

And, you wonder why I'm crazy???? Have a nice day.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 11:17AM
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My husband and I contacted two lawyers today and made an appointment for a consultation. He thought maybe letting his son's mother know that he's serious about getting rights established that maybe she would be more coopertive and willing to reach a mutual agreement. She was furious!! She felt that he was plotting behind her back. Come to find out she was planning to move after the school year was over. Not too far away, but in another county about 35 minutes away. The sad thing is, she was not the one to say something about it. Their son told me this afternoon when I picked him up from school. Now she says the Shared Parenting won't work because their son would be too far away from his school to live with us equally during the school year. She said she was moving to become closer to her school and still close enough to her job. Maybe it's just all a coinsidence but it smells very fishy too me!! I didn't ask his son how long he new about it, probably should have, I was just to surprized to respond effectively. I just called his father after we arrived home to ask if her possible move was brought to his attention yet. So we went from feeling pretty hopefull to getting this issue resolved quickly and easily to feeling very sad and almost empty. It's not like he's moving to another state, but he has always lived no more than 10 minutes from us and is over everyother day/night. This news just doesn't feel right. I think this move has alot of potenial to change alot of things for the negative. Hopefully my husband can get rights and an agreement before the opportunity exists.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2008 at 12:03AM
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Good thing you called the lawyers...

You may be able to get an injunction to prevent the move since it's to another county - though since it's so close, it may be a better 'bargaining chip' than strategy.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2008 at 10:15AM
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The BAR ASSOCIATION (and association for attorneys in your state) may have a program where some very good attorneys donate their time to help people who are not able to afford an attorney, get legal advice for free. Those who do this do it as a way to volunteer and give back to the community in which they live, because it makes them feel good. Find out if there is something like this in your area, and see if they will help your husband. You would not call the law firm for this, but the BAR ASSOCIATION in your state to see if this program exists in your area.

I wish you luck. You sound like good people, wanting to do the best you can for this child.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2008 at 5:03PM
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Is he attending school near you? That could work in your favor. If she's planning to uproot him from his school, where he has friends and is doing well, then your DH has an argument to try to keep him in his school.

and once DH has joint legal custody, she can't change his school without his consent, unless a court gives her permission against his wishes. He can't stop her from moving, but if he has his parental rights, he can stop her from taking the child with her.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2008 at 6:47PM
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His son does attend school near us. My husband is a tad bit torn though. He doesn't want his son to move out of the county but the school district that his son is currently enroled in isn't the best because of years of unpassed school levies. (Lack of funds for quality teachers, alot of area elementry schools closed, things like that.) The school that he would be attending next year is rated Excellent in our state with great student records of above average test scores and grades for the state. So of course he would love for his son to get the quality education he deserves, but at the same time it stinks that it would be at the sacrafice of not being able to spend as much time him. So he's not really sure about what stratergy or plan to take from here.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2008 at 9:53PM
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Husband is getting the cart before the horse:

He must get his paternal rights & some sort of legal custody established before he has a right to even have an opinion about this child's school district, home life, medical care, etc.

All the legal advice in the world won't help if your husband doesn't have an attorney file for joint or shared custody to protect his parental rights.

He needs to act now.

edited to add:

just had a couple more thoughts.

Is there anything of record that indicates that your husband is indeed the child's father?
Is your husband's name on the birth certificate?
If the mother were to die, who would have custody?
Would your husband have to sue, say, the child's maternal grandparents?

There's a huge amount of "deferred maintenance" here that must be addressed to protect this little boy & to protect his relationship with his father.

even if it does cost money.

Making a child a ward of the court because his parents have custody disputes?
Why would any sane judicial system want to do that?

1. What would it do for the child? The best interests of the child are the main concern to the court.

2. Why would the court add another complicated & expensive step into an already drawn-out & expensive matter?

3. Even when there are allegations of child abuse or neglect, the legal system has to prove that the child should be protected from his parents before parental rights are suspended or terminated.

Poor little boy, I wish him the best.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2008 at 1:10PM
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You might post on the Stepfamilies Forum;
many of the posters there have experience with courts & lawyers & problems with birth- or step- parents.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2008 at 1:12PM
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We understand that the mother was just talking out of her you know what when she said their son would be a ward of the court during the process of getting right legal. She's good for that. When his son came to live with us before, she said after we had him for a year she would change the custodial rights to have him as the residential parent. She had their son move back after 10 months. And about three years ago was the first time he said something to her about Shared Parenting, and she said she would but if the couple was never married then you were not able to arrange that kind of custody agreemenrt. She has and always will be full of BS and excuses. Just like imamommy said in an earlier post, it seems suspect!!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2008 at 1:46PM
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If he hasn't done a DNA test, maybe she's afraid he'll ask for one.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2008 at 8:40PM
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DNA testing is a 2-edged sword:
maybe she doesn't want it done because she doesn't want her son's father to establish proof of their relationship.

As things stand, if this woman decides to move to Alaska, or Iran, or Africa, or the North Pole, with her son, OP's husband has *no right to say anything about it*.

As I said before, there's *lots* of deferred legal work here that needs to be caught up.

There used to be a group called Texas Fathers for Equal Rights, or something like that.

If it still exists, it might be a good source of info & support for your hubs.

Thank goodness you found a man who takes the responsibility of fatherhood to heart.

He sounds like a keeper.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2008 at 1:19PM
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