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  1. #1
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    Default Getting Sole Custody Based on Father's Limited Visits

    My question involves a child custody case from the State of: Iowa.

    This is my first time posting so please bear with me while I try and explain. I'm a single mother of 2 wonderful children their ages now are almost 6 and almost 8. To begin here is a little back story to explain. My ex husband kicked the children and me out of our house we were purchasing almost 4 yrs ago and filed for a divorce. Our divorce should have been simple since I told him I would give him whatever he wanted and that I wouldn't fight for any of it except for my children to be sure they are safe. My ex husband had a severe drinking problem coming home in the early morning hours all the time drunk and belligerent, breaking things in the home, and waking the kids up during his rages. I called the police several time but stupidly did not have him arrested but instead would have the police keep the peace until one of his family members would come pick him up and take him with them until he would sober up. When I went to court I had an awful attorney that told me "You are being way too picky just sit down and shut up" when I tried to push the issue about my ex husband being an unsafe environment for my children because I was simply asking for 6 months of supervised visits just to be sure that the children would be okay with him because since they were born he really didn't play any part in their care because he told me "he wasn't good with babies". In the end it was ruled that we would have joint physical custody with primary placement with me and he was awarded to pay child support including back support. Since he first kicked us out his visitations with his children have been nothing short of ridiculous. Within the first year he barely saw his children but maybe 5 times which was usually because I would force him to. Then there was a few months when he came back and asked if we could reconcile and I agreed because he told me his work was ordering him to go through treatment for his alcoholism. The reconciliation lasted 3 months which 2 of them he was in treatment. Then there was the next year when he made some what of an effort because the woman he was dating at the time told me she pushed him to see the children. Through the few visits that he actually had with the children the children told me that he smelled of beer all the time, that he and his girlfriend always had a beer in his hand while they were there, and that their father would sit on the couch with his girlfriend and make not only my 2 children (which at the time were 4 & 6) go play outside with his girlfriends children (who were 4, 6, & 11) with no supervision. Which I contacted someone about child abuse/neglect and was told because my 4 & 6 year olds didn't count how many beers they had that it wasn't child abuse. After that relationship ended so did his visitations for a couple months and once again he showed up at my doorstep and stupidly I let him back into our lives on the condition that he go to AA meetings and stay sober which lasted once again only a few short months. Since then he has barely seen his kids. A good example is that from July 4, 2013 until present (January 5, 2014) he has not seen his children at all. He has made no attempt to contact me to come see them or even called just to simply speak to them. During our divorce he was ordered to pay child support and since it was ordered he has probably only paid a couple months, because he works under the table for cash or he simply wont work. I actually quit keeping track of what he has in back support but I believe the last time I figured it up he owed roughly $20,000+. I don't care about the money and actually explained to the courts that I don't want any of it that I can support my children on my own without his help (because he has thrown it in my face constantly that all I want is the child support). I guess what brings me here is that I am wondering... At what point can I get sole physical custody of my children? I know that my ex husband has relapsed on his drinking and since July 4, 2013, I have been unable to find him. Its like he has disappeared. I still keep contact with a few of his family members and have even asked them where he is and they too have no idea where he is at the moment but I was told by his brother that at one point he was in Wisconsin (which upsets me because we are both locked into 50 miles from our city per his request during our divorce but he was living out of state). I want my children to have the best life possible and I know ever child should have a father but when that father wants nothing to do with them and doesn't try and help support his children I just don't believe he should have the legal right to decide anything about the children's lives. What can I do? Is this abandonment since it has been 6 months with no contact? Please help!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Can I Get Full Custody

    It's not abandonment that you can actually use.

    You can though file for sole legal custody. This doesn't take away Dad's visitation, but it does give you the sole legal (decision making) rights.

    You can go here to learn more:

    http://www.iowalegalaid.org/issues/f...todyvisitation
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Can I Get Full Custody

    Is there nothing more to get full custody and rights removed? I know that when I went to court for my divorce they said they set up visitations in the children's best interest, but I honestly dont believe that they are thinking about what is best for the children. In my opinion I think it is more damaging to the children for my ex-husband to pop in and out of their lives so sporadically. He doesnt see the damage that is done when he doesnt come for 6 months to a year on end. I am left with 2 children wondering what they did wrong, where he is, and why isnt he coming back and I have to try and explain to them that it is nothing they have done but that he does it by his own choice and that we cant make him come around. I used to tell the children that he was working (even though he wasnt) just so that it would ease their minds a little but the children are not to the age that they know better so I dont even try and cover for him. I know that in time my children will realize what has truly been going on. But until then I want to do everything in my power to be the best mother I can be and protect my children from everything that hurts them. So what I'm asking is at what point will the courts realize that allowing visitations to someone who doesnt come but once a year is actually more damaging to the child(ren)? I know that it has been 6 months since my ex has been around and I dont see him coming around anytime soon. My children have stopped asking questions and I believe realize now that its going to be a long time again until he comes around again. I know this may sound horrible but they think less about him everyday and in a couple months they wont even talk about him and before he shows up again they will have stopped thinking about him all together but then he will pop back in for a couple hours if that and the process of blaming me for their dad not coming around, the questions, and the anger will start all over again. How is this not damaging to the children? Sorry venting just a little

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Can I Get Full Custody

    Full custody doesn't terminate the other parent's rights.

    For that to happen you need to do it as part of a stepparent adoption, or have the state terminate based on abuse, neglect, etc.

    Quick question though - how exactly is visitation worded in your decree (no names please).
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Can I Get Full Custody

    I was lucky to see my dad once a year growing up. (he was in the military and serving overseas and I lived with my grandparents) Seeing a relative or loved one sporadically does not change the value of the time spent together.
    ~Christina

    Unless a source is cited, anything posted here by me is only my opinion, and is not meant as legal advice.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Can I Get Full Custody

    600A.8 GROUNDS FOR TERMINATION.
    The juvenile court shall base its findings and order under section
    600A.9 on clear and convincing proof. The following shall be, either
    separately or jointly, grounds for ordering termination of parental
    rights:

    1. A parent has signed a release of custody pursuant to section
    600A.4 and the release has not been revoked.

    2. A parent has petitioned for the parent's termination of
    parental rights pursuant to section 600A.5.

    3. The parent has abandoned the child. For the purposes of this
    subsection, a parent is deemed to have abandoned a child as follows:

    a. (1) If the child is less than six months of age when the
    termination hearing is held, a parent is deemed to have abandoned the
    child unless the parent does all of the following:

    (a) Demonstrates a willingness to assume custody of the child
    rather than merely objecting to the termination of parental rights.

    (b) Takes prompt action to establish a parental relationship with
    the child.

    (c) Demonstrates, through actions, a commitment to the child.

    (2) In determining whether the requirements of this paragraph are
    met, the court may consider all of the following:

    (a) The fitness and ability of the parent in personally assuming
    custody of the child, including a personal and financial commitment
    which is timely demonstrated.

    (b) Whether efforts made by the parent in personally assuming
    custody of the child are substantial enough to evince a settled
    purpose to personally assume all parental duties.

    (c) With regard to a putative father, whether the putative father
    publicly acknowledged paternity or held himself out to be the father
    of the child during the six continuing months immediately prior to
    the termination proceeding.

    (d) With regard to a putative father, whether the putative father
    paid a fair and reasonable sum, in accordance with the putative
    father's means, for medical, hospital, and nursing expenses incurred
    in connection with the mother's pregnancy or with the birth of the
    child, or whether the putative father demonstrated emotional support
    as evidenced by the putative father's conduct toward the mother.

    (e) Any measures taken by the parent to establish legal
    responsibility for the child.

    (f) Any other factors evincing a commitment to the child.

    b. If the child is six months of age or older when the
    termination hearing is held, a parent is deemed to have abandoned the
    child unless the parent maintains substantial and continuous or
    repeated contact with the child as demonstrated by contribution
    toward support of the child of a reasonable amount, according to the
    parent's means, and as demonstrated by any of the following:

    (1) Visiting the child at least monthly when physically and
    financially able to do so and when not prevented from doing so by the
    person having lawful custody of the child.

    (2) Regular communication with the child or with the person
    having the care or custody of the child, when physically and
    financially unable to visit the child or when prevented from visiting
    the child by the person having lawful custody of the child.

    (3) Openly living with the child for a period of six months
    within the one-year period immediately preceding the termination of
    parental rights hearing and during that period openly holding himself
    or herself out to be the parent of the child.

    c. The subjective intent of the parent, whether expressed or
    otherwise, unsupported by evidence of acts specified in paragraph
    "a" or "b" manifesting such intent, does not preclude a
    determination that the parent has abandoned the child. In making a
    determination, the court shall not require a showing of diligent
    efforts by any person to encourage the parent to perform the acts
    specified in paragraph "a" or "b". In making a determination
    regarding a putative father, the court may consider the conduct of
    the putative father toward the child's mother during the pregnancy.
    Demonstration of a commitment to the child is not met by the putative
    father marrying the mother of the child after adoption of the child.

    4. A parent has been ordered to contribute to the support of the
    child or financially aid in the child's birth and has failed to do so
    without good cause.

    5. A parent does not object to the termination after having been
    given proper notice and the opportunity to object.

    6. A parent does not object to the termination although every
    reasonable effort has been made to identify, locate and give notice
    to that parent as required in section 600A.6.

    7. An adoptive parent requests termination of parental rights and
    the parent-child relationship based upon a showing that the adoption
    was fraudulently induced in accordance with the procedures set out in
    section 600A.9, subsection 3.

    8. Both of the following circumstances apply to a parent:

    a. The parent has been determined to be a chronic substance
    abuser as defined in section 125.2 and the parent has committed a
    second or subsequent domestic abuse assault pursuant to section
    708.2A.

    b. The parent has abducted the child, has improperly removed
    the child from the physical custody of the person entitled to custody
    without the consent of that person, or has improperly retained the
    child after a visit or other temporary relinquishment of physical
    custody.

    9. The parent has been imprisoned for a crime against the child,
    the child's sibling, or another child in the household, or the parent
    has been imprisoned and it is unlikely that the parent will be
    released from prison for a period of five or more years.

    10. The parent has been convicted of a felony offense that is a
    sex offense against a minor as defined in section 692A.101, the
    parent is divorced from or was never married to the minor's other
    parent, and the parent is serving a minimum sentence of confinement
    of at least five years for that offense.
    there is Iowa's law on determining abandonment such that one could seek termination of the parental rights of the parent abandoning the child.

    https://coolice.legis.iowa.gov/Cool-...ut=600A#600A.5

    as to custody:

    there is legal custody and physical custody. I would suggest you should have sole legal custody given the lack of presence of the father in the child's life. That simply means you are allowed to make decisions regarding the children without the need to consult the father. Physical custody, given his lack of presence, really isn't going to make a difference with you. He is not attempting to assert any rights associated with what a joint physical custody could allow so it really doesn't matter what the order states.

    so, what is it you are actually seeking? I suspect it is termination of his parental rights. Read through the lists above. If his actions fit within a category, it may be possible to terminate his rights. Of course, if he objects, that may also reinvigorate his activities to be part of the children's lives as well to stave off the termination of his rights. If the efforts are earnest in nature, that could be seen as a win for the children. If not, then he will likely fail in continuing them and allow you an opportunity to seek termination in the future.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Can I Get Full Custody

    Quote Quoting Dogmatique
    View Post
    Full custody doesn't terminate the other parent's rights.

    For that to happen you need to do it as part of a stepparent adoption, or have the state terminate based on abuse, neglect, etc.

    Quick question though - how exactly is visitation worded in your decree (no names please).

    The visitation section of my divorce paperwork is as stated:
    "In the event the parties cannot agree as to what constitutes as liberal and reasonable visitation, then minimum visitation shall be as follows: alternating weekends from Friday at 6:00 p.m. through Sunday at 6:00 p.m.; one midweek visitation from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.; the Petitioner shall enjoy four weeks of visitation during the summer months in two two-week intervals. The Petitioner agrees to give the Respondent notice of when he plans to exercise his summer visitation by March 1st of every year.
    The parties shall have holidays and special visitations with the minor children commencing at 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. (unless otherwise agreed to) as follows: (HERE IT LISTS HOLIDAYS AND STATES THE PETITIONER AND RESPONDENT AND STATES LIKE NEW YEARS DAY PETITIONER GETS THE CHILDREN ON EVEN NUMBERED YEARS AND RESPONDENT ON ODD NUMBERED YEARS, ETC).
    If this holiday and special visitation conflicts with regularly scheduled visitation, the holiday visitation will prevail."

    *Is this what you were asking for?

    - - - Updated - - -

    there is legal custody and physical custody. I would suggest you should have sole legal custody given the lack of presence of the father in the child's life. That simply means you are allowed to make decisions regarding the children without the need to consult the father. Physical custody, given his lack of presence, really isn't going to make a difference with you. He is not attempting to assert any rights associated with what a joint physical custody could allow so it really doesn't matter what the order states.

    so, what is it you are actually seeking? I suspect it is termination of his parental rights. Read through the lists above. If his actions fit within a category, it may be possible to terminate his rights. Of course, if he objects, that may also reinvigorate his activities to be part of the children's lives as well to stave off the termination of his rights. If the efforts are earnest in nature, that could be seen as a win for the children. If not, then he will likely fail in continuing them and allow you an opportunity to seek termination in the future.[/QUOTE]

    To answer your question of what I am seeking.. I want his right terminated. I dont ask for this out of anger or hatred for my ex husband but because I know my children are unsafe in his presence. A mother's most important job is to take care of her children and keep them safe and it absolutely would kill me sending them with their father because I knew they were not being taken care of or protected. A few examples: (1) One of his visits an acquaintance of ours walked past his residence with her child riding in a power wheel jeep. I received a call from this acquaintance because she told me my children were outside in the front yard on a busy street playing all by themselves. Their father was no where to be seem and even after this acquaintance was outside the residence for quite a while allowing my children to take turns in the power wheel she stated that my ex husband never once came outside to check on the children or even peer out the window. The acquaintance actually told my children to go back inside and shut the door. (2) Another visit my children spent with their father was while he was with a girlfriend of his over an hour away. My children told me on our way leaving their fathers place of residence that they were told to go play outside while at their dads with his girlfriends kids (which at the time my children were 4 & 6 and her children were 4, 6, & 11). Not only did they live on 2 highly traveled blacktop roads but there are a lot of blind corners on the road. Anyway, my daughter was telling me how one of the other children handed her a snake I of course was upset because my daughter is a city child and has never handled anything of that sort but then within minutes of talking to my children to see what else happened my son told me that they came across a little bird that had fallen out of the tree. I listened on to hear that the other children told my children they were going to "Medicate" the bird and left for a moment and returned with tools (hammers, screwdrivers, etc). I was furious not only because my children were left unattended on roads where they could be hit but knowing that if their father was supervising them like he's supposed to my daughter would not have been holding a snake and the other children would not have killed a baby bird so horrifically in front of my children. (3) One last example. On a weekend visitation I dropped my children off in a set of nice clothes and on Sunday when I picked them up they were still in the same clothes but now they were absolutely filthy as were my children. After speaking with my children asking them how their weekend went. I found out once again they were unsupervised for quite a period of time (even after having a conversation with their father about this previously) but when I asked why their clothes were so filthy and why they were still in the same clothes my children told me that they hadnt bathed the whole weekend, they hadnt brushed their teeth (which upsets me because bad teeth runs in both of our families so I do my very best to brush their teeth or make sure they do it atleast twice a day plus fluoride and flossing), they were both very hungry (which seems like every visit after I'd pick them up they would say they didnt get to eat much), and I was also told that even though my ex took our kid's bed when we separated my children had to sleep on the floor on an air mattress with the large dog that was in the house because the other children took their bed.

    These are just a few examples of what I have dealt with. So as I stated not only to I know that my children are not being taken care of while with their dad I worry for their safety. In my previous posts I have stated that he has a severe drinking problem. He has been through treatment but relapsed with a month or so. He's a very violent alcoholic and very dangerous. On several occasions he would come home drunk he would bust our house up, break windows, and wake kids up from screaming, etc. He has passed out drunk with a cigarette in his hand several times and has even left the stove & oven on on several occasions (thankfully I wouldnt go to sleep until after he was passed out). That is just the physical aspect but even more I worry also about the psychological aspect of it all. I know that their father coming in and out of their lives seeing them only a couple times a year is doing severe damage to them psychologically and it kills me to stand by letting it happen knowing that I have no choice because of a piece of paper signed by a judge. I follow my divorce paperwork to the letter no matter what I feel like doing because I know the first time I would deny his visitations because of my fears he would use that against me. I want to get all this changed not only for my piece of mind knowing that I am doing everything possible to keep my children safe but also for my children because I know that this is only damaging them.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Can I Get Full Custody

    Believe it or not, most of that (if not all) doesn't matter legally.

    The kids are plenty old to brush their own teeth, and kids play with long wriggly things with what might feel like alarming frequency. At their young ages they likely wouldn't be able to distinguish the intent behind the dead birdy.

    (Us country kids are taught from early ages that sometimes one of the best things you can do is put an animal out of its misery, even if the method is less-than-subtle)

    If you want a serious shot at an involuntary TPR, go with the abandonment. Speak to a local attorney.

    - - - Updated - - -

    (you may want to nix the "a few times a year" aspect; many deployed parents would be quite offended at the suggestion that seeing their kids a few times a year somehow makes them bad parents)
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Can I Get Full Custody

    In response to the 600A.8 GROUNDS FOR TERMINATION.

    After reading through this document that you had posted this is what I have realized: Because my children are older than 6 months we would start with Section B. To discuss a few of these..

    (1) Visiting the child at least monthly when physically and
    financially able to do so and when not prevented from doing so by the
    person having lawful custody of the child.

    (HE DOES NOT VISIT HIS CHILDREN MONTHLY HE HAS NOT SEEN THEM IN 6 MONTHS THIS TIME. PREVIOUS TIMES HE'S GONE QUITE A BIT LONGER)

    (2) Regular communication with the child or with the person
    having the care or custody of the child, when physically and
    financially unable to visit the child or when prevented from visiting
    the child by the person having lawful custody of the child.

    (HE DOES NOT COMMUNICATE WITH THE CHILDREN. I HAVE KEPT THE SAME TELEPHONE NUMBER SINCE HE LEFT US SO THERE WOULD NEVER BE A PROBLEM WITH HIM CONTACTING HIS CHILDREN AND YET HE CAN NOT EVEN MAKE A SIMPLE TELEPHONE CALL NOT EVEN FOR HOLIDAYS EVEN THOUGH I KNOW HE HAS ACCESS TO A TELEPHONE ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS. PLUS HIS FAMILY HAS MY NUMBER AS WELL, AS WE COMMUNICATE DURING THE HOLIDAYS, SO THERE IS NO REASON HE WOULDNT HAVE MY NUMBER IF HE WANTED TO MAKE AN ATTEMPT)

    (3) Openly living with the child for a period of six months
    within the one-year period immediately preceding the termination of
    parental rights hearing and during that period openly holding himself
    or herself out to be the parent of the child.

    (HE HAS NOT OPENLY LIVED WITH THE CHILDREN FOR ALMOST 4 YEARS AND AS FAR AS HOLDING HIMSELF OUT TO BE THE PARENT OF THE CHILD HE DOES NOTHING A PARENT SHOULD DO. HE DOES NOT SPEND TIME WITH HIS CHILDREN OR PROVIDE FOR HIS CHILDREN. HE ACKNOWLEDGES HIS CHILDREN ONLY IN THE PRESENCE OF FAMILY OR GIRLFRIEND TO MAKE IT SEEM LIKE HE IS BEING A GREAT PARENT "AS I CALL IT HE PLAY'S SUPER-DAD")

    Then for the next section (C).

    4. A parent has been ordered to contribute to the support of the
    child or financially aid in the child's birth and has failed to do so
    without good cause.

    (AS STATED PREVIOUSLY HE DOES NOT CONTRIBUTE TO THE SUPPORT OF HIS CHILDREN. HE IS $25,000 BEHIND IN CHILD SUPPORT. TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE IN THE 4 YEARS WE HAVE BEEN APART HE HAS ONLY PAID SUPPORT MAYBE 6 MONTHS IF THAT. I HAVE INVOLVED CHILD SUPPORT RECOVERY BUT NO OFFENSE BUT THAT AGENCY IS A JOKE. I DONT WANT HIS MONEY TO SUPPORT THE CHILDREN BUT HE ACTUALLY DID TRY AND SUPPORT HIS CHILDREN I WOULD PUT IT IN A TRUST FUND TO PAY FOR THEIR COLLEGE EDUCATIONS. HE ACTUALLY ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS DURING OUR DIVORCE AND EVEN AFTER STATED THAT HE WAS NOT GOING TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT THAT HE FEELS THAT IT IS A JOKE. HE ACTUALLY TRIED TO FIGHT FOR 1/2 CUSTODY OF OUR CHILDREN NOT FOR THE FACT HE WANTED TO HAVE THEM MORE BUT BECAUSE HE DIDNT WANT TO HAVE TO PAY SUPPORT "his words" AND NOW EVEN AFTER THE DIVORCE HAS STATED TO ME SEVERAL TIMES THAT HE WONT PAY. HE WILL GET A JOB LONG ENOUGH AND WILL QUIT RIGHT BEFORE CHILD SUPPORT STARTS GARNISHING HIS WAGES. NOW I BELIEVE IT HAS COME TO THE POINT THAT HE REFUSES TO WORK JUST SO HE DOESNT HAVE TO PAY.)

    Finally to Section 8:

    a. The parent has been determined to be a chronic substance
    abuser as defined in section 125.2 and the parent has committed a
    second or subsequent domestic abuse assault pursuant to section
    708.2A.

    (AS I HAVE STATED MY EX IS A SEVERE ALCOHOLIC. HE WENT THROUGH TREATMENT BUT RELAPSED WITHIN MONTHS. DURING HIS TREATMENT WHEN HE WOULD CALL ME "when we were trying to see if we could work things out" HE ACTUALLY ADMITTED TO ME THAT DURING THE LAST FEW MONTHS OF OUR RELATIONSHIP AT NIGHT WHEN THE CHILDREN AND I WERE SLEEPING HE WOULD BE DOWN IN THE BASEMENT NOT ONLY GETTING DRUNK BUT ALSO STATED THAT HE WAS SMOKING MARIJUANA AND DOING METH. I OF COURSE COULD NOT PROVE THAT THIS WAS SAID BECAUSE IT WAS HEARSAY BUT I KNOW IN THE PAST BEFORE WE MET HE TOLD ME HE HAD A SEVERE DRUG ADDICTION SO I FELT HE WAS TELLING ME THE TRUTH WHILE IN TREATMENT.)

    - - - Updated - - -

    I mean no disrespect to the parents that are deployed in the military and would never put this to offend them. If a parent that is deployed sees their children that much it is because of their job and the contribution to their country. My ex husband is not in the military and no is it because of his job that he does not see his children. It is simply for the fact that he is not a good parent. I understand that kids are plenty old to brush their teeth but even at that age any dentist would tell you to be there to make sure they are doing it correctly. I also understand that children play with long wriggly things and even understand that country kids are taught to put things out of their misery. My point with all those examples was to illustrate that there was a lack of supervision for the children. I understand my children will come into contact with creature or things beyond my control but my point is that I would not allow it if I could. I certainly would not deem it ok for my children to play outside for hours without any supervision what so ever.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Can I Get Full Custody

    This is why it will be worth having an attorney review the facts for you.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Darn editing

    Those things are, truly, parenting differences.
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

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