My question involves a child custody case from the State of: New Mexico.
My ex and I were never married. We have a son, age 9 now. We broke up in late 2007 and I moved out of our home. She had de facto primary custody (no papers were filed back then) and I visited with my son every weekend. In 2008, I moved back into our home and she moved out to live with her boyfriend. She took our son with her at that time, but only for a few months before she brought him to me and agreed that he should live with me primarily because she was trying to get her "life in order". For a few months after that, she visited with our son for brief periods of time but never had him overnight. Her visits were very irregular and by the middle of 2008, she stopped visiting him at all. I tried to contact her, but her phone was disconnected. I tried to talk to her friends to get more information about where she was living, but no one knew where she was. Even her mother and siblings had no idea where she went. I went on to raise my son and be the best single dad I could be with the help of not only my own family's emotional support, but my ex's as well. My son would have somewhat regular visitation with my ex's mother, for example.
In January of 2011, my ex made a surprise appearance during one of the times my son was visiting his maternal grandmother. My ex attempted to take him, but her mother would not allow it. He was returned to me that evening. I immediately filed the paperwork (pro se) I should have filed all along to attempt to secure my status as the primary custodial parent. She was served and I waited for what I thought would be the inevitable phone call from my ex asking to see our son, but it never came. A month later, she attempted to take our son from school without my knowledge but the school did not allow her to do so because they knew that there was a pending custody matter and they also knew from school records that she had not been present in his life for the last two years. The day after this happened, I decided to hire an attorney because I was starting to suspect I was in over my head. In turn, my ex also hired an attorney. Through our attorneys, we eventually agreed that she could have some small amount of visitation with our son to get reacquainted with him and reestablish a relationship. It started out with a few hours every weekend and eventually (around May 2011), we sat down and drew up an interim timesharing agreement where she would get every other weekend and Wednesdays after school for a dinner visit. That interim order states that I have primary physical custody and we have joint legal custody. She was ordered to pay child support, though at the time she did not have a job (they imputed her income to full-time at minimum wage). To date, she hasn't paid me anything because she didn't have a job for most of 2011. She recently did get one and she's been working for about a month. The judge ordered a wage withholding order so I suspect I will get something soon as long as she keeps the job.
Since that order, her attorney dropped out for reasons unknown to me, and she's now representing herself.
Now, she's trying to get 50/50 custody of our son. We've been into mediation twice and we can't reach an agreement because I don't feel that 50/50 is in the best interest of our son at this point in time. He has lived in my home for his whole life and I've been his primary caregiver for the last 3 years (and sole caregiver for almost 2 of those years). He has a very stable life with me and I worry about my ex being able to provide for our son. She has not been able to keep a job for any length of time in the last 10 years, she lives with her mother, she doesn't have her own transporation. In addition, she's been late to all of our court appointments in the last year, as well as our two mediations and she's often late when picking up our son for visitation, so I don't feel confident that she could get our son to school on time during the week if we shared that kind of custody. Last but not least, our son has a learning disability that requires my wife and I to spend a lot of extra time on math and reading every night. Every single time I've asked my ex to help him with his homework or help him study over one of her weekends or on a Wednesday evening, it does not happen.
Since the May agreement/order, the relationship between me and my ex has turned pretty ugly, to the point where we tend to avoid conversing with each other unless it's via text or email. The mediator at the court clinic is now pushing this back to court so that a judge can decide what is best for our son.
In case it matters, I have had the same job for 15+ years, lived in the same home for the last 9, and I have no history of drug abuse, criminal activity, etc. I am married and my wife has a 10 year old son (she has primary custody). Our family is very close and I worry about the disruption it would cause, not only for my son, but for our whole family if my ex manages to get 50/50 custody.
I know that it's very difficult to make predictions in these cases, but I wanted to know what everyone thought about her chances of changing the status quo and getting 50/50 for timesharing. Do judges try to keep things the same if there's no cause to change them, or is 50/50 becoming such the norm now that my ex has a good chance of getting it?
If you need more information or clarification, please let me know. Thank you all for your input.