Court or no court?

laurenczOctober 12, 2010

Here's our dilemma...

We have SS most of the time - BM picks him up 1-2 days a week after school & drops him off (is SUPPOSED to drop him off) before bedtime and he stays with her every other Friday/Saturday. This is not a "legal" arrangement, it just fell into place. But we are having alot of problems with it and are wondering if its time to go to court and get it documented?

When BM and DH split (they were never married), she moved in with her parents. They had decided on a 2/2/3 day split for each week. This wasn't ideal for SS, because BM's mother is a drinker, as is BM and it wasn't very stable. There started to be issues in school, and missed days on her days. BM kept telling DH she was looking for apartments out near where I lived, so when DH & I decided to cohab, staying in my neighborhood worked out for everyone - the schools here are way better, as DH lived in kind of a sketchy neighborhood. DH talked to BM about this, and it was agreed that SS would go to school here as opposed to where she was, as that was not a permanent situation and also a sketchy area. We found a great house, got all moved in and things were going great. Then about a week before school started, we let the kids stay up late - they were having a ball in the pool, and we get a drunken 11pm phone call from BM. She gets SS on the phone and starts telling him how if he goes to school here she won't be able to see him anymore, as if its his choice. The kid crumples into a little puddle of tears - it was horrible. And DH got an earful about why he let her talk to him in that state anyway. So we continue on, and eventually find out that on her nights, she has been taking him to DH's moms to stay the night and having her take him to school. DH mom was afraid to tell us, as its well known how unstable BM is & she thought a huge fight would ensue. We found out she was taking him there directly from school, hanging out there for a few hours then leaving him there. There was a huge issue for awhile of BM being way too involved with DH's family also - that has been corrected, though not completely, but I can only deal with one thing at a time lol..So we put the kabash on that, and she started dropping him off in the mornings here & I would take him to school, only we then found out she was making him get up @ 4am to shower & get ready (she starts work at 6:30am). So DH talked to her again - she has two parents there - can't they take him to school? She says no, but it makes no sense. We then find out that despite the house being a 3bedroom w/full finished basement, SS is sharing a bed with BM, which I feel is inappropriate. DH takes care of this, then we find out SS is sleeping on an air mattress on the living room floor, not very well btw. We don't get it. BM asks can she just start picking him up after school and then bring him by before bed. Of course we say yes - its what is best for him obviously at this point.

So the problems we are having now - We are about 10 miles apart. DH offered to meet her halfway on her nights to pickup SS. The problem was that she was supposed to meet at 9, and often DH would end up waiting in a parking lot for half hour bc she was always late. SS has to get up at 6:45am for school, so by the time he was getting home, chatting, snacktime and all that he wasn't getting to bed til 11, which means he wasn't falling asleep til midnight-ish. Too late for a growing kid. So DH said I'm not waiting for you anymore, you'll have to bring him here by 9. Well, 9 has turned into 9:30 but usually 10. We are confused by this, as we know for sure he mostly plays video games over there (we have the xbox system, and through ours can see when he's on there). Its not like they're having QT or anything. We find out that she naps in the evening and then showers etc, bc after she drops SS off she goes to her BF's. He actually showed up at 9:20 one night and startled me. I made a joke about it, and he said "Yeah, I decided to wake my mom up early from her nap tonight". Then realized what he said and got all quiet. He will never say anything negative about her directly - we find out stuff that slips out during casual conversations. One night he got home and we asked him what he had for dinner, which is usually Taco Bell or some crap, and he told us he made his own pancakes and slipped up that Gma and BM were sleeping and he was hungry. Nice, right?

The other problem is that when we are getting him home, hw is not done, or if it is it's done poorly. Now I am aware that there are issues with this. BM flies off the handle very easily, and hw is a major thing for her. She doesn't understand very much and takes that out on him. He went from mostly A's to failing and when we went to a conference with his teachers we found out it was due to missing assignments and poor tests from the evenings he was with her. So now we go over/redo everything when he gets home, which was good for him because he needed someone to sit with him and help. When she found out we were doing this, she got very angry - I can only imagine what she said to him. She got on board for awhile, but it only lasted a few weeks. A good example - we do all the school projects - its just not her thing. Well, SS had a field trip and the school was asking for parents to go. He asked BM first, and she said she couldn't. He asked DH, but DH had meetings that day so he asked me. I said of course I would go. Well BM had the paperwork, so DH had to call her to get it. She was very angry that I was going, even though she had been asked first and declined. DH explained to her there was nothing wrong with me going, and that I was already really involved with the school anyway due to all the projects, class parties etc for all the kids (And I work too btw) All of a sudden she was able to go (incidentally she ended up not going, bc she turned in the ppwk too late) So a week later SS has a project - has to come up with a costume based on science. He wants to be a magnet - great idea! A few pieces of posterboard - either red or white & some red paint. Well BM calls and says she is taking care of it - we are glad. The time and money on these projects is sometimes outrageous. We know she's trying to prove a point, but whatever. Well SS comes home and goes straight to his room. I go in there and he starts BAWLING. Tells me his mom threw his project away. Turns out, she got him white posterboard and a red marker. Well the marker kept drying out, so he would cap it and turn it over and give it a few. She was getting po'd and started yelling & accusing him of procrastinating. Starting asking why he's so stupid, why he wants to make her look bad. He then tells me that he went into the shower (which is SS code for he was crying, that's what he does) and when he got out his project was ripped up and thrown in the garbage. DH calls her, and she defends what she did. Which leaves me running to the store @ 6pm on a Sunday night and doing the project anyway so it can be turned in on Monday. she's a peach.

Another problem is that when she has the day off work the next day, she tells DH she would like to keep him and take him to school, only 9 times out of 10 she calls in sick for him. Guess who gets stuck with that homework?

Yet another problem. When SS would get sick, BM would dump him off here, saying she couldn't get out of work (funny how she can get out to go to the beach, right?) So whenever SS would get sick at school, he just started calling me. Well, one time it was her day, but he called me. I let DH know I had him, and he texted her. She called and I could hear her on the phone with SS - you want me to come get you? Why did you call her? You call me and I will come get you anytime!" Okey dokey. Well, the kids not stupid. All of a sudden, every other Monday he gets "diarrhea" at school and calls BM to get him, and she goes to get him. Its now a game - she's getting him so he doesn't call me, and he's calling her because he knows how this game is played. So he's missing a day every other week. DH puts the kabash on this too. This was last spring. All summer - no diarrhea. 2nd monday of school this year, guess what? Yep. So DH calls the bluff - says you had no problems over the summer - maybe its the school lunches (SS eats school chicken nuggets everyday - he loves them). No more school lunches - we will make you a lunch. Gets BM on the phone and asks her to send a lunch home with him on the evenings she drops him off - its not too much to ask, she doesn't pay child support or do anything else. She gets mad and starts yelling at him. Then sends SS home with peanut butter, which SHE KNOWS VERY WELL I can't have in my home - DS is deathly allergic and its airborne. I can't even take him into restaurants that use peanut oil, and she's very aware of this.

Add all this up, along with the many things I am just too worn out to put on here, and the fact that BM pays no child support and we are thinking it might be time to get all this legal so we have some type of control over certain things. The facts are, its BM's choice to live where she lives and not move this way like she said she was going to. She basically handed him over to us to raise, but also hates the fact that I do anything. We do all the homework, breakfasts lunches, most dinners, Dr. appts, dentist, laundry etc. We would like him to not miss so much school, and we would also like him home earlier regardless of her nap schedule so we can go over the homework and have time to catch up on the day and still get him a good night's sleep. We are also concerned because we know she is now looking for a house with her BF, but their relationship is volatile as well and also that her name would not be on the house - not stable. And also that they are not even looking in this area as she said they would.

While we feel it would be better in the long run to establish a legal custody arrangement, we are afraid of what she will do and/or say. We never tell SS anything that happens with her - you have no idea how much willpower that takes because honestly, at the end of the day he loves her no matter what. I also think he's afraid of her, because he senses that her love in conditional. Like, we know he complains to her about stuff from here (sometimes true, sometimes not) bc I think he knows it makes her happy. As many crappy things as we know about her, he rarely says anything to us. That may also be because she buys him whatever he wants, but he's 12 so it doesn't surprise me. We just don't know if the fallout from us doing this to try to makes things better is worth it or not, and its very confusing. I don't want to see SS more screwed up, for sure, but the benefits of this would be good too. We just don't know what to do...

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Lauren, you have my sympathy. I understand what it's like to worry about a child's well-being, but to also worry that beginning any court proceeding may add fuel to the fire and make their life worse, rather than better.

The thing that I have learned is that no court order in the world can completely protect a child from poor behavior on the part of a parent. No matter how many loopholes you think you've closed they can find another one.

If your DH can reason with her by appealing to her best interests, maybe they can agree on some of the more important issues (homework, earlier bedtime, etc.) Basically what you want to do is make it as easy as possible for her to not see SS if she doesn't want to - the last thing that SS needs is to be going to a parent's that doesn't really want him there but feels obligated to have him. Bite your tongue and let her continue to pretend to herself that it's somehow easier for you and DH to help him with homework, take him to appointments, etc. than it is for her to do it.

The two of them can draw up an agreement and have it notarized if they want; it's not usually legally binding but is legally admissable in case of later dispute about who said what. But BM might see red flags from even the request to sign anything. I hope DH is keeping a journal - of when SS is there, if homework is done, if school is missed, etc. It might be better if they can manage to come to some agreement out of court, and just keep track in case it does end up in court (they're big fans of maintaining the status quo if a child is doing OK).

Unfortunately a legal decision on custody is not at all going to change her erratic behavior, and as you said, the court process itself is liable to provoke her. My advice is unless/until the actual custody changes are causing problems for SS (the staying up too late, uncertainty, etc.) it might be better left alone for now.

The one thing that I'm not clear on is if there has ever been any legal custody agreement. If not, your DH needs to talk to an attorney now. Since they were never married, in some states she is the only legal parent until a court order is in place acknowledging DH as the father. You don't want to be in a position where she decides to up and take SS out of state and DH is scrambling trying to get some kind of legal rights.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2010 at 11:57AM
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There are chances from your side also to win the case as there was no marriage so here comes in court in this case legal action will be considered as the final decision and you have more probability to win..

Here is a link that might be useful: FT lauderdale criminal defense lawyer

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 10:28AM
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if you go to court make sure you have documentation of his grades and missed days when he is with her! how old is your ss? i have just started sending sd with homework to do with her bm on weekends. my sd is 6 and failing but not due to lack of trying. we have done tutoring and 3 other teachers help her during the week in school. my sd bm will just tell her the answers because im sure she just doesnt want to deal with it. its hard because it takes like an hour to complete a 10 question packet. my sd has erase marks all over her homework when we do it together and when she does it with her mom.... nothing. no erase marks and twords the end of the packet where im sure bm is just over it.. the answers are all wrong so we also check her homework now when she gets home from bm. last night her bm asked her on the phone if she was bringing homework... and my sd told her "nicky says you just give me the answers to she said no" but honestly she is already failing... we have tried everything and it makes so angry to know dh and i try so hard and do everything we can to help her and you just give her the answers... how does that help her? so now my sd wants to do ALL her homework there.... must be nice to be the "nice" one...

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 12:24PM
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