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Child custody questions, lots o' drama... probably a long post, reader beware


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Ok, many of you old timers here may be aware of what I've gone through over the past 4-5 years.

I'll summarize in an effort to get to the point.


-Wife of 10 years left me in 2008, we had a child 1 month of shy of 3 years old at the time.

-I read lots of advice stating that the best way for me to get custody was to get her to give it to me rather than trying to win it in court.  I did that.  We have joint legal custody, but I have physical custody.  In Virginia, my lawyer said that the physical custody is basically established in the first 2 years.  Its hard to change after that point.  I've had him since November 2008.  

-His mother lived nearby for the first 2 years or so, she saw him infrequently.  Then, once she met someone else and was dating and living with him, she wanted to spend more time with my son.  I refused to let him spend the night while they were unmarried.  Since they have become married, I have allowed him to spend the night.

-They moved to Maryland about a year ago and he visited her for 5 days last summer and 6 days at the end of Christmas break.  

-2 months ago, they moved to Florida.  My son just spent a week with them.


Today, I get a phone call saying that one week wasn't enough, can he say longer, next summer. I said let's talk about it in May when I can start planning the baseball season (my son is 7 now, he will be 8 next year and will start playing summer travel ball).  She then proceeds to go on how her husband's child gets to spend 7 weeks with them in the summer and so on... she wants more time. I told her I would probably be ok with 2 weeks, but if she wanted more time, it would make more sense to spread it out rather than all in one chunk.  That would basically blow out my son's baseball season.  She says baseball isn't important.  (It is to him, its what he has the most fun doing and he's really good).  She's trying to make it as if I want him to play baseball, but he doesn't.   


She also tells me that while he was there, he said he wanted to stay longer etc... He didn't want to leave.  My issue with this is that first, he really was scared to go.  Second, they went to 2 different theme parks while there, of course he had a great time.  What kid wouldn't. Well, what  I find out today from my son is that she said she wanted to take him to sea world, but coudn't because it costs too much money, he'd have to stay longer if he wants to go to more cool parks.  He breaks down crying, He didn't even comprehend how long 4 weeks was.  His mother basically told him he wouldn't get to do all those cool things unless he stayed longer.


So you get the big picture, his mother is not someone I trust with his safety. Last, she let her husband's son, who was 12, be responsible for my son who was 6 at the time, at a water park.  The 12 year old, being 12, decided it would be funny to leave my son, play a prank on him. My son freaked out.  He told me about it, she didn't... So when I confronted her about it, she said they punished the 12 year old... I said WHY?  I can't believe an adult would put a 12 year old in charge of a 6 year old at a water park. She doesn't get it.


A month or so ago, she came down for the weekend, took my son for a Sat and Sunday.  In Hampton, we have what's called the Carnival of Death. Every year, someone is shot at this carnival. No one with any common sense goes. Its' mostly dumbass teens that want trouble. She's lived here all her life until recently. She takes him to the carnival. Less than an hour after they left, 6 people were shot, 1 died. I confronted her about this and she said, "He had fun".  I could give other examples, but it would be overkill.


When we first got divorced, we had a verbal agreement that we would stay in the area because we both agreed that it wasn't good for a child to be going back and forth all over the place.  My family is all here, I have lived here all my life. I have no desire to move.  I knew she'd move.  Her family is all over the place.  I know verbal agreements are legal in Va.


Also, it was determined that she should be paying 300 a month child support. I told her that because I had a problem with how child support is abused, I'd have no problem if she supported him as she wanted to, rather than me filing and holding her to it. I didn't want her to feel like she was just giving me 300 to spend each month. She has over the past years basically bought 100 dollars worth of clothes for him 2 times a year.


So, this is my story.


I don't know if she will go to a lawyer and try to fight it. She doesn't work.  If she does, since everything has been established over nearly a 5 year period, am I obligated to change?  She moved away, I didn't.  She put herself in this situation.  


I'm upset because she's never done anything for him.  When we were first divorced, she vanished for a month, I had no idea where she was.  I honestly think she suffered from slight depression after our son was born.  My family noticed it.  I always took care of him, she worked nights, I'm a teacher.  


What I hate is that I do everything for him, I cook, clean, help him with homework, everything. But, when we have free time, like Christmas break or summer break, she thinks she deserves half.  She thinks that because I see him daily, that gives her the right to take away the true free time that we have.


If anyone has any advice, observations, anything else, please let me know.  It would be much appreciated. I know people here probably have experiences that I'd benefit from.

If you're not comfortable writing in the topic, please PM me.


Thank you in advance.


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Granted, I'm only hearing your side of the story, but it certainly sounds like she is manipulating him / the situation as much as possible to her advantage - trying to be Santa Claus while leaving you with the real work of raising him and the unpleasantries of being the needed disciplinarian.

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Yes, Riggo, you are correct.  The deal IMO is that her husband's son spends the summer with them and my son entertains him ( or they entertain each other).  She's lazy.  If my son is there, its easier for her.  I see through it. She is manipulating my son and I feel so sorry for him.


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Is there any set visitation schedule approved by the court?  If not, you are in charge of the schedule.


Your son is old enough to sit down with you for a long talk about his visit.  Ask him what he did during the day, what did his mother do with him for fun, besides the cool theme parks.  Explain that theme park admittance is expensive and he should not expect a lot of theme parks when he is with her just due to cost.  You probably can't afford multiple theme parks either.  Try to get a sense of the amount of time she spends with him, whether he is left by himself and so on.  Also, explain that if he spends more time with her in the summer, he won't be able to play baseball because it will interrupt his season.  You can spread out these talks.


How does he get back and forth from your house to their FL house?  I'm guessing you pay for travel.  Is the husband's son watching out for your son at other times, like being a babysitter for your wife during the day?  She might have to care for the other boy and resents it and wants your son there to keep the other boy company.


I wouldn't do anything about child support because she'll want more scheduled time with him.  You have set the bar for her participation and have let her slide, so you can't go back now and get more money from her, even if it is court ordered.  If you try to enforce it, she'll likely take it to court (where is jurisdiction?) and change the physical custody.


And on another note:  if you refuse to let him spend time with her, or develop a relationship, he will end up blaming you for it.  I'd get Skype and let them talk once or twice a week.  But as far as her common sense goes in caring for your son, I'd keep the visits short (a week or two at the most).  Talk to your son, he'll tell you how often he wants to visit.  If you keep her at bay, she'll become more exotic to him, thus the Skype.


Good luck to your and your son as you navigate through these trying times.

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MUCH better advice you will get there.


2- What do you have in WRITING? What is the official custody situation?  You talk a lot about verbal agreements but what is the written agreement?  Then what has been happening for the last 2 years? Verbal agreements may be legal, but they are next to impossible to prove.  


3 -If nothing is in writing - you need to stop.  If you start giving her more and more time, she will then argue that this is now norm.  In addition, from a pure outsider, it sure sounds like she is getting advice to slowly but surly get more and more time with him with your approval until the point where she can establish a pattern, then come in for the kill and sue for custody.  


4- I understand you want him to have his mother in his life and not get in the way...but she left him.  You need to protect him and you.  Very simple - You tell her what you will allow and then thats it. If she doesn't like it, hang up on her and tell her tough cookie. you need to assume that any time you give her can become the new normal. 


5- Start documenting EVERYTHING.  EVERYTHING about days you have him vs her, any issues, etc....


6-Last- Once you DO allow her to have time with him, and she gets it, you also have to understand that you have no control what she does with him, where she takes him, or who he is with. None. 


I've seen too many dads try to "Do the right thing" and get screwed. Fathers have a bigger burden to over come. Courts will always try to get the child to spend more time with the mother.  

BTW - I'm going to disagree a lot with lady skin fan.


GET child support.  She has to pay. its not your money, its your son. the state will do everything for you. Go to court, fill out paper work, sit back and do  nothing.  They will take it from there and she will have to pay. 


Dont be afraid to go to court, in fact, I would welcome it. you have raised him since 2008 and have had custody. SHE moved away, not you. RIGHT NOW, you would win in court, but if you start giving her all this time and don't try to collect any child support, you are establishing a pattern.  

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Thanks for the great responses. Lots to go over. In the divorce decree, it is written that he lives with me with liberal visitation. Nothing is spelled out. My divorce lawyer said that by doing it this way, the patterns that are established are what the courts go by. As of now, in the past 4.5 years, she has averaged 2 total weeks a year and maybe 2 weekends. Not per month. Per year. Yeah, I'm serious.

My main issue is that if next summer, I say he can go for 2 weeks and that's it, what can she do?

Everything is in VA, she lives in Florida.

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be careful. what you may feel as an adult doesn't always translate to how they feel as kids.

You know my story, and mine is now almost 17.

Relationships are and have been smooth, and he definitely knows one house from the other, and which one is just a visit and which one is home.

Manipulation like that will bite her in the ass, especially with such temporary contact. he'll figure it out sooner or later. You just be there to provide the stabilizing care and steadiness he needs from we full timers.

I'd be much more concerned about her decision to take him to a place with six shootings. I'd definitely talk to your county child services or whoever enforces your agreements to see what you can do about either a counseling session that will appear in the record for her or all the way up to supervised visitation if necessary.

if she balks, threaten her with child support that she hasn't been paying. Your agreement with her is one thing, the law is entirely another, and it's on your side. Even if they can't force arrears, which they likely could,  you can file for it any time you'd like.



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Sorry for the double post, don't know how that happened.

Bang, thanks and yes, I have used the child support as a threat. It works. That was one of the other reasons I didn't file for it. I have that hanging over her and can file at any time. She's lazy and doesn't want to work so it's effective.

It sucks, but, in feel like she thinks she's entitled even though history shows she's done so far below the minimum, most people don't even believe it.

My son doesn't understand. He's stuck in the middle of it.

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I fought for and for custody of my 3 2 years ago.

1. All correspondence should be in writing and saved.

2. Make sure you would have no problem having your words read out loud in a courtroom.

3. Get an order for child support....yesterday

4. Do not change what you have allowed visitation wise without consulting an attorney first

5. Do not pump your kid for information about what goes on when kid is with mom

6. Make sure you refrain from discussing any issues with your ex with kid and even more importantly when kid can hear...harder than you may think

7. Be prepared to have your life put under a microscope

8. Start saving some money if possible....It cost me almost 20,000 in attorney fees, forensic psychiatrist fees, guardian ad litem fees ect...

Good luck

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I agree with those saying put everything in writing. That is a must. I would also make her start paying. No reason she shouldn't have been paying already.

As for his visits. You should never discourage your kid from seeing his mom. Not saying you have. Just pointing how that both parents should be a part of their lives.

Good luck. I think if the kid loves baseball as much as you say, then this will all work itself out. Iif I would have been in your kid's situation and one of my parents had tried to stop me from playing basketball, there would have been hell to pay lol.

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Everything chascougs said.  My husband did all of that (every single thing) when he got custody of his daughter...her mother was a certified crackpot, though. 

I went through all this as a kid myself...almost everything you're describing.  I was even taken into judge's chambers & made to decide who I wanted to live with at age 7.  Being torn between parents is awful, and I feel for your son, and for you.  But you've gotta be ready for anything, legally. 

Baseball is uber important, developmentally and personally, and if he enjoys it, make that your sticking point for the summertime.  He should get a say in something, especially his "fun time".  (Mine was piano lessons, and thankfully, both parents saw my talent & enthusiasm, so I didn't have that issue.)

I hope it all works out easily, and without a mess.  But just in case, CYA, in every manner possible.

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From what you posted I would say that you are being unreasonable and controlling.  If those two isolated examples of her being a bad mother are the best you have than I would say that you have already determined that she is unfit and are just looking for reasons to justify it.  I am not saying that you should let him stay for the whole summer but to just blow it off and say we will talk about it later is poor form.  If you were in her position you would be extremely frustrated by the situation. 

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From what you posted I would say that you are being unreasonable and controlling. If those two isolated examples of her being a bad mother are the best you have than I would say that you have already determined that she is unfit and are just looking for reasons to justify it. I am not saying that you should let him stay for the whole summer but to just blow it off and say we will talk about it later is poor form. If you were in her position you would be extremely frustrated by the situation.

Have you not read each of his posts? He just said that she's only seen her son a few times in the past 4, 5 years. He also said she left him and he didn't even know where she was for a while.

Obviously we are only hearing his side, but from what he's expressed, she isnt that great of a mother. So how is he being unreasonable or controlling?

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i know it is hard, but TRY to assume that she doesn't have ulterior motives, and just has grown up and genuinely wants to see her child more.   THis is important for your son.  (take the advice that others have given , and document things to protect yourself IN CASE there are other motives, but do not behave in your intereactions with her as if this is the assumption, and *most importanly* don't let this sort of think ing enter into your conversations with, or in front of your son.)


It is important for your son to have a healthy relationship with his mother, and it will become even more important as he grows.  He only gets one, and she is it.   It is not unreasonable to expect that if she only has him for short time periods, that they will cram more things (like amusement parks) into the short time they have--- this isn't the same as trying to bribe/braiwash him, it is just packing more into their short visit.


  It is a good thing tht she wants to see him more often, not a bad thing  (and frankly it is simply ridiculous to speculate that seeing him more is the LAZY route!  really!!??  c'mon now!)  I don't think you should neccessarily cave, and give her whatever she wants... just TRY not to assume that the worst in what she is asking for, and just negotiate in good faith (fully taking into account your needs/wishes, and your child's.. as you mentioned above).

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Code I think you're handling this very well. I am very spoiled as my ex and I have a very good relationship wrt the custody of our son, and I wish you could get to a similar happy place.


If you think the threat of child support (without filing for it) is a strong weapon in your arsenal, then keep it. Don't file since it doesn't sound like you are hurting for that money, and it might just create more angst between you two.


2 weeks uninterrupted out of state visitation during the summer doesn't sound excessive. It sounds like a pretty good deal for her actually at his age. We're not talking about driving down I-95 here, and she should pay all his travel costs.


You have all the right in the world to complain about any instance where your son's safety is a concern. Unfortunately I've been put in that position also, and I let my ex know in no uncertain terms that a repeat offense would not end well for her in court.


I think chascougs hit alot of good points also, as did Bang on your kid's reaction to this. Kids aren't dumb... they know which parents are "there" for them. I was in a similar spot (dad left when I was 2) and if I ever had the chance to spend summer time with him I would have taken it. That's not a slam to my mom and stepdad at all... you just want to spend time with that missing piece of your family. That will fade with time, and now I dont want anything to do with that jerkface again.


EDIT: mcsluggo said it best right before me - it's his mom, he's got only one, and no matter what they do together it doesnt mean he loves you any less


EDIT: damn the editor is really fubar'd at times on the new ES.

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Good advice from most.  My sister let her ex get away with not paying child support for years as she was afraid to leave my neice with him.  My neice is 26 and has her own family now, but at the time, my neice was about 10, he decided to contact her.  My sister was living in FL and he was in VA (opposite Codes situation) and my sister received about $200 a month in back child support even though my up until about 1 year or 2 ago.  He didn't pay for 10 years.  He was in arears.  Not sure about the law in the state of Virginia as far as collecting from Florida, but my sister was in FL and VA garnished his wages until it was paid. He had a brand new family of 2 other kids when he decided to call.  My sister figured his other kids were taken care of, why not her child.

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Have you discussed all of this with your divorce attorney?  I don't think you really need to worry about much.  Also, is the child support in a court order?  If so you can go back for the arrears.  


Either way, it seems your case is pretty strong in your favor.  She is still continuing to make bad decisions.  You have to just keep taking the high road.  You can also ask the Court to set a visitation schedule.  Sure she may then try to modify custody in retaliation, but it seems that shouldn't be something to be concerned about.  


However, two weeks of visitation in the summer is pretty standard plus splitting major holiday time like winter and spring break.  It's a sticky line to walk and your attorney would likely know the local judges better to know how they grant standard visitation schedules for parents who live out of state.  She has made some majorly bad decisions it sounds like, but as others have said, she is also the mother and it is in the best interests of a child to have some relationship with both parents.


This may sound a bit disjointed, but certainly feel free to PM me with any specific questions (unfortunately like your lawyer, I have to deal with a few of these each day).  

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