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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011

    Default Child's Grandmother Granted Joint Legal Custody Without My Knowledge

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

    Hello, all. I'm an Active Duty military servicemember currently stationed overseas. I am also a father to a thirteen year old girl who lives in Va with her mother. Without going into too much detail, here are some facts about my situation:

    -The mother and I were never married.
    -Though she has sole physical custody, I was awarded joint legal custody and visitation rights.
    -I have paid Child Support since my child's birth.
    -When my child was three years old, I married. My wife and I currently have two children.
    -According to our previous and current custody agreement (as of NOV09), I am allowed to have my child with me for the entire duration of my stay whenever I am in town to visit. Due to the nature of my job in the military, deployments, and sometimes, financial constraints, I am usually only able to see my child 2-3 weeks out of a year.

    After notifying the mother of the dates I will be in town two months in advance, she informs me that she has made plans to take my daughter to NC, and that she will NOT change these plans, even though I will be flying in from out of the country and I gave her ample notice. Due to her refusal to cooperate, and my realization that she has consistently failed to adhere to any of the agreements set forth by the courts, I decide to schedule a court date in their county during my leave. While looking up information on my child, the person assisting me informs me that the most recent custody hearing occurred last year, where my daughter's great-grandmother (the mother's grandmother) was awarded Joint Legal Custody. I had no knowledge of this, as I have been stationed overseas for the past year and a half.

    My questions are these:

    -On what grounds can a third party be awarded Joint Legal Custody?
    -As a father who shares Joint Legal Custody with the mother, did the courts act appropriately in going ahead with the hearing without my knowledge or consent?
    -Can I appeal this ruling?
    -How does this ruling affect me and my rights?
    -I intend to seek Joint Physical Custody upon my permanent return to the US; will finding out that the mother has kept this kind of information from me have any impact on my case?
    -I have always suspected that my child lives with her great-grandmother and not her mother. If I am able to prove that, will it help me get joint/full physical custody in the near future? And will the great-grandmother be able to prevent that from happening, since she now has Joint Legal Custody herself?

    I hope I have given enough background information on my situation. Thanks for the help! Also, thanks for supporting your troops!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Behind a Desk

    Default Re: Child's Grandmother Granted Joint Legal Custody Without My Knowledge

    You will need to get a copy of the court file to determine what happened and why you weren't served. It is difficult to see how the action could have occurred without violating the SCRA. I suggest working with a custody lawyer to reverse the order.

    If you can prove that your ex- is not your child's custodian and you want to take custody, that should help you with your custody dispute with her, but may not be of much help in terms of a custody claim made by a grandparent who has served as the child's principal custodian for a period of years.

    Many of the issues in third party custody claims are discussed in the case of Denise v. Tencer, 617 SE 2d 413 (2005).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011

    Default Re: Child's Grandmother Granted Joint Legal Custody Without My Knowledge

    Thank you for the response, Mr. Knowitall; for a while there I was beginning to worry that my questions would go unanswered. I have contacted a couple of law offices in my area, but have yet to receive a call-back. I will continue to keep trying. I also plan to make an appointment to speak with a JAG to get more information on SCRA.

    If it is found that this recent ruling was in fact in violation of the SCRA, and I can also prove that the great-grandmother has been my child's principal custodian, can I then go back to court and have the custody agreement modified to grant the great-grandmother joint legal custody, and have her receive the child support payment, instead of the mother? She has three more children from other men, and I worry that my daughter's child support money is being misappropriated, as the mother is unemployed and has no source of income, and is not receiving support from the fathers of her other children as well.

    Also, I am very concerned that the mother is alienating my daughter against me. During our latest argument over visitation (see first post), which occurred through a series of private messages exchanged between just the mother and I on a social networking site where all three of us are "friends," she informs me that "I" have made our child "very upset," that my daughter "plans on pleading" with me to not let her miss the NC trip or summer camp, and that "she is not happy" [sic] with me. The mother not only chose to discuss the details of our argument with my child (conveniently leaving out my side), she also made several posts on her wall as well as other people's walls speaking about me in a negative manner--all easily viewable by my daughter. What I find most upsetting of all is she posted on our daughter's wall asking if she deleted me like she told her to. Mind you, this has been our only and best mode of communication since I left the country to serve overseas (daughter is usually never around when I call, or cannot be made to return my calls--mother's words, not mine). I have taken screen-caps of everything for proof.

    Is this enough evidence to support a case of Parental Alienation? And can I have our custody agreement modified to specifically prevent the mother from speaking negatively about me on a public internet forum?

    Again, I appreciate any insight on this matter. Hope to hear from you all soon...

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