HELP! Custody, Child Support & Divorce - A complicated situation.

Amber - posted on 07/29/2010 ( 11 moms have responded )

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My husband left me 2 years ago for a woman that he met on the internet. When he left, he left me with our 3 children and moved 2000 miles away. Frankly, things were REALLY bad. I was relieved once he was gone.

He has not helped financially with the children at all. He has not visited them. He has barely kept in touch (but he has called and tells them he loves them).

We are not divorced. I am scared to file for divorce.

Here is the catch: One of my 3 children isn't biologically mine. She is my step daughter. She will be 13 in September. I've had her since she was 3. I am the only mom she knows. She loves me and doesn't want to go anywhere. I am the ONLY reason he was able to gain custody of her so many years ago and I have been providing for all her needs every since. (Her bio mother has lost custody of other children since due to severe addiction and has nothing to do with my daughter).

I am scared. Every time I ask my ex for help he threatens to take her away from me... EXAMPLE: I haven't asked him for support, but for the second year in a row I've asked if he can help me with school clothes. His response is "Yeah, I'll help you with school clothes by giving you one less kid to buy for." He hasn't even SEEN her for 2 years and she tells him that she doesn't want to leave.

He knows in his heart that this is the best place for her. He knows that she belongs with me and her siblings. MY KIDS ARE VERY BONDED to EACHOTHER AND TO ME... Taking one away would be like cutting her in half. HE KNOWS THIS, but he is a very selfish and resentful man. He would take her on impulse out of anger and not think to weigh the consequences.

So, I find myself in a complicated position. I am afraid to file for divorce or child support and nervous that he will get mad one day and take her out of spite.

He doesn't have any space for her. He doesn't have the means or ability to take care of her. He doesn't even have a job. It angers me that he is able to live his life, strutting around doing whatever he wants without ever having to take personal accountability.

I am a working single mom. I am doing the best I can and will continue to do so, but my income is just enough to do that.... There is no extra money for legal counsel or help. There is very little time to research and find answers on my own- and frankly I just don't know WHERE to look! I live in a very small town in North Central Florida and my ex is living in New Hampshire (I don't know if demographics are important, but do know there are different laws in different states).

I am a really good mom.... I love my children bigger than life and will do whatever it takes to prioritize them, to keep them safe, to keep them smiling and happy. I hate living with this dark cloud looming over us and would appreciate ANY suggestions or advice that could be offered. Please?

Thank you so much.
~aj.

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Iridescent - posted on 07/29/2010

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Speak with a lawyer and get papers filed for custody of all 3. Legally, since he hasn't seen her for two years, in most states that makes her your daughter and he loses all parental rights if you so choose, or custody and has to pay child support. He abandoned her.

[deleted account]

Go to your local family relations courthouse and find out what ou can about legal aid. There are some programs in some states that will provide you with a free or low cost lawyer depending on your income and expenses. I think talking to a lawyer would be your best bet at this point. Also, something to consider, if he files all the paperwork before you do, then the case will always be in New Hampshire (where he files, unless for some reason he comes down to Florida to file). My sister-in-law has to deal with a situation where she lives in California and has to go to Georgia for all her custody crap since her ex filed first.

In California, we have something called a Petition for a Joinder. It's basically for people with a "vested interest" in the raising of the child. It means that any third party can get some custody time with the child (and in some cases even support). It protects step-parents who have been very involved in their sk's lives after the case of bio parent death or divorce. It's also for grandparents who helped raise the child and want to continue to do so in the event of emergencies. I don't know about Florida and if there are any things like that there, but it never hurts to look into it and a lawyer would know for sure!

Good luck and I really truly hope everything works out for you!

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Karin - posted on 08/14/2013

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Can you officially adopt your 13 yo step daughter? If so, then you may have a better chance in court? I would meet with a family lawyer at the very least for a free consultation and see what's what. I mean if you look at it, her father has abandoned her, and her mother is an addict. Sue for sole custody.

[deleted account]

I have a pending court case in another state and I went ahead and forked out the money for a lawyer in that state. It has been a real burden but my lawyer is able to handle all the problems for me in that state. You may want to try calling the legal aid in the state that he is residing in and see if they can help you. I haven't had to even appear by phone so far. My guess is that he is just threatening you because he knows that your children are important to you. I say your children because they are! You have been a great mom and they love you and they know that. What a shame that he has missed out on the joys of parenting. The fact that he has not helped at all with the children does not look good for him and I would definitely make sure that whatever legal aid you get understands that. You can also try mediation. This is a neutral party that brings you and your ex-husband together to create a mutually beneficial agreement that is a legally binding document. This isn't free but far less expensive than court. Also you can check here for legal aid. http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/famil...

Hope this helps! Good luck!

Mary - posted on 07/30/2010

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I understand what you are going through however I lost custody of my daughter due to the fact all paperwork went to the wrong address and I sent the Judge my current address and his lawyer knew of the current address and still decided to send all correspondence to the wrong address.

Just be careful that if he does get a lawyer to file that you try to do the best to be there for all court dates.

I just recently filed for Sole physically and legal custody of her because of him going to jail for DUI and drugs on this last charge, and being lied to by his family, which they got the 8 year old to do also. which is a very bad influence on her to accept lying instead of telling the truth.

Phyllis - posted on 07/29/2010

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Apparently I have more opinion on this than I thought..lol...here goes.

He picked up and moved to this other woman and never looked back. That says to me that he is totally self centered. The fact that he has made no contact aside from the calls, may indicate that his new woman may not be happy if he brought his daughter into the picture. If he were to stop and think he might realize how having her would impact his happy little bubble of selfishness. If that point could be subtly made, he may be less inclined to act, even if he still makes the threat. If you can come up with a way to record your conversation for posterity the next time he makes ugly threats, that might be helpful down the line. You might also be able to get him to agree to give up his rights if you agree not to go for support. (all legal and on paper, not just a verbal agreement) If he is very greedy and selfish, that might fly. You would still be struggling financially, but the threat of losing her would be gone. And if you word it right, you might be able to get support for your other children even if not for her. If you know anything about his current position/lifestyle that is negative, (drugs, partying, unemployment) it would need to be brought to the table in court. If you can show that you are indeed the better home for her, and she wants to be there, then a judge would probably be favorable. Sorry its not much, but I hope it helps!

Phyllis - posted on 07/29/2010

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I would think that if she is 13, a judge would take her wants into consideration, plus it will not look good that he left her for 2 years. I would get the best legal advice you can and file. Thats just me personally. Best of luck!

Mary - posted on 07/29/2010

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with her being 13 she does have a say in where she wants.



I have a question did you adopt her when he gotten custody of her when she was 3 yrs old?



I was told by a sheriff that when I had let my daughter stay with friends that if she wanted to she can still stay with them at the time she was 12 and this is what they say in Texas



Good luck with this and GBU and you will be in my prayers

Amber - posted on 07/29/2010

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The one attorney I did find that offerred free consult didn't help much. She said that if I file for divorce I will have no rights, her advice (for the most part) was NOT to file for divorce and just try to continue things as they are... but this doesn't stop HIM from filing, as Holly mentioned, in New Hampshire. The idea of trying to fight a battle from so many states away scares the heck out of me!

It is such a rare position to be in and I just wish I could find someone that has been through a similar situation. I have considered filing for custody and seeing where that takes me, but there is a fear there, as well... If I draw attention to the fact that I am a non-blood relative could that hurt me? And if I file for custody and make him MORE mad that could open a whole new can of worms.

I feel like I am completely stuck in this catch 22 and have no clue where to look for help! Not to mention, as a single mom with a JOB and THREE active children... Time is a luxury... Finding time to do research when you have NO clue where to start is intimidating! Please keep the suggestions coming. I appreciate the support more than you could possibly know and your ideas and suggestions are SO appreciated!!!
Thank you all!
~aj.

Tracy - posted on 07/29/2010

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Oh wow. Do look into legal aide, I know in Texas they have it to one degree or another for people in your kind of situation. You are awesome for stepping up for this little girl when no one else is. I wish you and your kids nothing but the best! Good luck!

[deleted account]

Unfortunatley I have no advice for you, I just wanted to say thank you for stepping up for this little girl! She is lucky, well all 3 kids are to have you. I wish you the best and remember everything happens for a reason :)

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