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alisoncooks

My niece's custody issues - any recs?

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Please don't quote! Will delete later...

 

 

My niece (a college student) had a daughter in November.  Baby's daddy completely broke with niece at the pregnancy announcement, in an ugly way.  He had nothing to do with niece during the pregnancy, nor anything to do with baby (now 4 months old).

 

Suddenly, he's coming at them for full custody.  :crying:

Niece is terrified.  She lives with her grandmother, attends college online, works occasionally while grandmother babysits.

 

Grandmother (tonight) told us that they're struggling to get $1500 retainer fees for legal services. They live off the grandmother's disability and niece's part-time pay.  Is there nothing available to them in a situation like this?  (Affordable legal services -- but good legal services because she is a good mother!)

 

Thoughts?  Direction to point me in?

Edited by alisoncooks

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Possibly Legal Aid. Services may differ from state to state. If he is not discouraged quickly, they may have to find an attorney.

Also, has there been a DNA test confirming paternity?

Without such proof he would have no leg to stand on. How far is he willing to go and who is funding this?

 

http://www.courts.ca.gov/1202.htm

The laws on parentage are very complicated. If there already is a court order that says, for example, that someone is the father of the child, and he or the mother wants to ask for genetic (DNA) testing, it may be too late. Or the law may declare someone the legal father, even if the genetic tests say that he is not the biological father.

Edited by Liz CA

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Define "coming at them" for custody. Is there a court date? Something from a lawyer? Or is he just "saying" things? Deadbeat dads SAY a lot of things.

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Definitely try legal aid. 

 

Also, depending on the state, if the bio father publicly stated he wanted nothing to do with the child, sometimes that can be see as abandonment and he can lose rights to custody. So if he did so in front of non-family members, it might be worth getting signed statements to that effect. 

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Define "coming at them" for custody. Is there a court date? Something from a lawyer? Or is he just "saying" things? Deadbeat dads SAY a lot of things.

They have a court ordered paternity test scheduled, as well as a following court date.

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We have some very good legal aid services in our area that have staff attorneys as well as direct pro bono cases to private attorneys. I would start by searching for any of those services in her area.

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:grouphug: :grouphug: :grouphug:

 

Sounds like the ex-fiance's parents want the baby.

 

My only recommendation is that if this goes to court, your niece must make every.single.court date, no matter what it takes.

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The courts in our state don't just look at the four months the baby has been here, the judge will look and see what the father did from the time he found out the mother was pregnant. Which was nothing- no support. Here they will also look to see if he listed himself on a putative fathers list, most states have one and it is the first, simplest thing they can do to establish any sort of credibility.

 

If he didn't register, didn't support her, wasn't there for the birth, and has given no aid or support for these first few months, he would be at a disadvantage here but every state is different and she needs expert help. She should try to find a lawyer she can afford- this is worth the debt if she is able to borrow money. If not, try to find someone who will take her case pro bono. I would tell her to find a lawyer and go back after him for overdue child support.

Edited by CaliforniaDreaming
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Oh yes. A decent lawyer is so incredibly necessary. A bad one can do more to lose your case than the opposition.

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The deadbeat's family is just coming at them with an attorney-in-tow and all guns a-blazin? What a jerkface. Seriously. I cannot understand why people like his family can't try to work things out beforehand by simply being *gasp* decent, honorable people in the first place!

 

Definitely sounds like someone's parents want the grandbaby. Ugh. Yuck.

 

The very best of luck to your niece. What a stressful situation. :/

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Yes, someone in their extended family wants the baby. It may not even be the grandparents. It may be an older sibling unable to have children or another relative.  And it does matter to get a good attorney. The dad can still win if they don't get a good one. Even if he intends to spend no time with the baby at all (which is probably the case) and intends to hand the baby over to someone else it would be hard to prove. 

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Hopefully she won't lose full custody, but, I think she should emotionally prepare herself for some rights  to be awarded to the other parent.  And should in turn be asking a lot of questions about long term child support.

I'm sorry for this mess. It's hard enough to have a 4 month old.

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Hopefully she won't lose full custody, but, I think she should emotionally prepare herself for some rights to be awarded to the other parent. And should in turn be asking a lot of questions about long term child support.

I'm sorry for this mess. It's hard enough to have a 4 month old.

Yes, I think it's likely that she's going to need to prepare herself for the possibility of co-parenting. She needs a good attorney.

 

I wonder if she recently filed for child support, and this prompted the sudden interest in full custody?

 

Regardless, I think she needs to consider that she will likely be co-parenting with her ex soon, and consider that she if she hasn't filed for child support, she'll need to start looking at her state's guidelines re: support, and thinking about how things may play out re: joint legal/physical custody or visitation. Obviously, she doesn't want that, but it's not an unlikely outcome. I think she'd probably prefer to retain both legal and physical custody, but she will need to learn what both mean, and consider that she may end up with shared legal/shared physical, or shared legal and primary physical custody with the father having visitations. If she has concerns about him, or his family, now is the time to address them.

 

I'm sorry she's going to go through this. It's hard. It will make her life harder, and there will be things she can't control. It won't be easy.

Edited by Spryte

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I know this happened to my cousin. She sought assistance from the State. State tracked down sperm-donor. Sperm-donor denied. Paternity test was demanded by the State. Sperm-donor got a girlfriend and was dealing with the State. Suddenly, he wanted to be father of the year and sued for custody. Now he has visitation rights (we won't discuss the fact that he has abused her child during these visitations and both the State and Authorities have refused to do a damn thing about it).

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Added details - please don't quote.

 

I wonder if she recently filed for child support, and this prompted the sudden interest in full custody?

I wondered this as well. (And if that's the case, I'm sure she'd be more-than-willing to drop it if he'd just go away.)

 

Ex-bf broke up with her because she would not abort the baby (they were not a long-term couple). He was ugly about it, too, though I don't think any non-family was privy to this.

 

Thanks for all the feedback. I'll definitely pass on all this to my niece, even the reality of possible co-parenting. Forewarned is forearmed.

 

My main fear is that she will be penalized for her poverty (which she's desperately clawing up from) or her dysfunctional family. I'm not sure if his family situation will be more appealing to a deciding judge...

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It sounds like her state is probably going after child support if she is receiving medical coverage for the baby. It's pretty much a requirement to allow them to do it.  It's also a pretty common tactic among jerkwads to go after full custody in an attempt to avoid child support.  Tell her to dig out any documentation (text messages, Facebook, etc) if she has them that he wanted her to abort the baby. That will significantly help her case. Most legal aid systems won't get involved in child custody cases.

 

She NEEDS to find an attorney.  Tell her to call around and find one that will take payments for the retainer.  I don't think her being a student, etc will hurt her.  She is attempting to better her life and currently has a stable environment for the baby.

 

Feel free to pm me what state she lives in and I can help hunt for resources.

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Some of the answers you need really depend on what state your niece lives in.

 

But generally I will say that custody and visitation determinations are supposed to be based on the child's best interests. Courts generally presume that a meaningful relationship with both parents is in a child's best interests, unless there is strong evidence otherwise.

 

Your niece needs an attorney. And I agree that she needs to prepare herself for the likelihood that a court will award the father significant parenting time.

 

It actually sounds like she is being responsible - getting that college degree, working part time, leaving the child with a (presumably) responsible adult. What is his living/work situation like?

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Bear in mind that terms like "meaningful relationship" may not mean what you think it means. You have to read the actual laws.

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Added details - please don't quote.

 

I wondered this as well. (And if that's the case, I'm sure she'd be more-than-willing to drop it if he'd just go away.)

 

Ex-bf broke up with her because she would not abort the baby (they were not a long-term couple). He was ugly about it, too, though I don't think any non-family was privy to this.

 

Thanks for all the feedback. I'll definitely pass on all this to my niece, even the reality of possible co-parenting. Forewarned is forearmed.

 

My main fear is that she will be penalized for her poverty (which she's desperately clawing up from) or her dysfunctional family. I'm not sure if his family situation will be more appealing to a deciding judge...

 

Barring abuse or neglect, there is very little chance of her losing full custody.  There is a (good) chance that he will have some parenting rights.

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Barring abuse or neglect, there is very little chance of her losing full custody. There is a (good) chance that he will have some parenting rights.

If he has a great lawyer and she has none there are WTM board members that would say this is not necessarily true. It should be true. Reality, though, is that it could end up going badly.

 

Don't trust the court system. Be prepared. Find a way to get solid legal representation somehow if there is any way possible at all.

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If he has a great lawyer and she has none there are WTM board members that would say this is not necessarily true. It should be true. Reality, though, is that it could end up going badly.

 

Don't trust the court system. Be prepared. Find a way to get solid legal representation somehow if there is any way possible at all.

 

Even with a great lawyer on his side, the likelihood of an infant being taken from a mother is extremely low.  It just is.  Custody cases with parent who have lived together are a different kettle of fish, but even then the likelihood is very low.

 

That doesn't mean she should go without legal representation, as she will need it to make sure her rights are protected.

Edited by ChocolateReign
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Bear in mind that terms like "meaningful relationship" may not mean what you think it means. You have to read the actual laws.

Which would require knowing which state's laws apply.

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OP, I just thought of your thread. I just read that legal aid is on the chopping block, and depending on how much federal money legal aid receives in each state/area, areas may be affected differently. I do not want to get political, but here is the article I read, and it specifically talks about legal aid for people in family court: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/03/legal-services-corporation/520083/?google_editors_picks=true

 

I know many of us recommended that your niece contact legal aid services. I'd still recommend that, but I'd encourage her to have a back up plan. And to contact them soon, and try to move quickly on this (there's really no moving quickly in cases like this, but she can try).

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https://www.legal-aid.org/en/las/kyr/custodyandvisitation.aspx

 

Scroll down to #8. It says if you can't afford attorney court will appoint one.

 

I would go in person to legal aid where you live and discuss in person.

This is the legal aid society in NYC. That is not the case everywhere.

 

In most states and local jurisdictions there is no such right for legal representation in civil or family law matters. It's the unfortunate truth that low income people are often left without access to legal services in family law situations, even ones where there is DV or abuse involved.

 

It varies, depending on where she lives but here the best she could hope for would be some paperwork assistance from a family law facilitator unless someone at a law clinic picked out her case for some pro bono work. That said, a crappy lawyer could be more damaging than navigating the system pro se (without an attorney).

 

Unless he's egregiously unfit, the most likely outcome is some sort of co-parenting arrangement. Which he may not like because it would likely involve child support even if he gets 50-50 custody.

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Are there any law schools in the area? Often they do legal aid.  I would contact one.

 

The local bar also sometimes has a list of lawyers who do pro bono work. 

 

I would start calling.  In fact, if I saw somebody I liked, I would actually try and meet with them. I would explain my situation, how I'm trying to better myself, and ask if she could work for them in partial exchange for legal help.   Show that she is doing everything she can to both improve herself.  

 

Another option would be to try one of those pregnancy crisis centers.  They may like her story and may have lawyers on the board or know somebody.  Honestly, I'd do anything possible to find qualified legal aide.

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