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  1. #1

    Default How to Request Change of Custody for a Potentially Suicidal Son

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

    I have 50-50 shared custody of my 17 3/4 year old. He urgently and desperately wants to live with me full time. He has said he wants to write a letter to the court saying so to insure they will approve it.

    His main reason is that he is not getting along with his mother and that he is terribly stressed by her lectures and badgering. He suffers from depression, is on medication and was hospitalized 2 years ago for being suicidal.

    After dropping him off at my house yesterday, she texted, " He is a mess.-I could not sleep last night- I am very worried about him hurting himself."

    This is urgent. It is crucial that I succeed in getting full custody ASAP.

    I will give you background details with the hope that you can help me succeed, and do it quickly.

    We split the week 50-50 on a 5-2-5 alternating schedule.

    A few years ago, she moved 20 minutes away from my house. Last year she moved 40 minutes away. On the nights he stays at her house, she drops him off at my house to go to school. He has often missed or been late for school because he is too tired after having to awaken an hour earlier to allow for travel and sufficient time to make the school bus. On her days, he comes to my house after school and stays until she picks him up 530 or so on her way home to work. A few days per month, he stays at my house additional days because she says she has to work late and can't pick him up, or is not feeling well, or because his friends are here and he wants to spend time with them. Despite my repeated requests, these times are usually without my being told in advance. She just drops him off on her day or tells him to sleep over without checking with me.

    He left his depression medication at his mother's when he was dropped off to be with me for the next 5 days. He takes them when he gets up. Last night he texted, asking her to drop them off on her way to work. She said she did not have the time to drop them off. I will be going to the pharmacy when they open, get more meds and bring his morning dose to school. He will be taking them 3 hours late and I will have to go into work late.

    My older son asked to go to court when he was 14 so that he could live with me instead of 50-50. He said he could not tolerate living with her. I suggested that every week he ask her if he can stay an additional night. I said that if the court gave me full custody, her visitation would probably be every other weekend, one overnight and one evening every week. That would essentially be the same as staying an extra night each week. I wanted to avoid the trauma of court. That worked a few weeks, and then he said she was giving him a hard time about the extra night, telling him that she was afraid that I would ask for a reduction in child support if she let him keep doing it. He was desperate to live with me full time, so I sent an email to her saying I would not ask for a reduction "solely based on the number of nights he sleeps at my house." He NEVER slept at her house since that time. When she moved to a new house the next year, it did not even have a bedroom for him to sleep in if he wanted.

    This time I do want to ask for an end to child support. I had expected that she would have continued to have our son sleep there at times and her to continue to use the child support for his clothes and other expenses as she had in the past. She did not spend a cent of the $6000 a year that was his share of support. When he started college 3 years later, the agreement said she pays 50%. She said she could not afford it and refused.

    This time, I want to ask for and end of child support which would go to age 21. I make far more than her and her husband combined, so I assume she will use that as an argument to continue support. I would think that if I am granted full custody that I am not required to pay her child support.

    I need to do this through family court since I cannot afford a lawyer for Supreme Court. I want to make sure I do this the right way.

    My questions:

    Should I file for an end of child support at the same time I submit the request for a change of custody of after I am (hopefully) granted full custody?

    If I ask for child support from her, will it increase my chances of getting an end of my paying child support, which is all that I really want?

    There are additional compelling reasons for him wanting to live with me full time. There are difficult sexuality and identity issues that he is getting therapy for and her approach to advising him is causing him to have much more stress according to him. Her husband lectures him saying that "a normal person" would do this or that which he feels is demeaning. I do not want to put these details in the papers, but it will be devastating to him if he cannot change custody to me.

    He is now failing classes because he has not been able to do his assignments due to being too stressed to work. He has refused to go to school several days each month because he said he was too stressed to go, or too tired after being unable to sleep the prior night at his mother's house. I returned from work one day a few weeks ago to find him on the floor hysterically crying. He said his mother was chewing him out for 30 minutes on the phone. I thought it was going to be another trip to the ER for another psychiatric admission, but after an hour, I calmed him down to the point where I thought he was safe.

    This is an urgent matter. He is with me for the next 5 days and does not want to go back. (I explained that she will still have visitation, even if I am granted full custody). Her refusal to drop off his medicine this morning was the last straw for me.

    What is the quickest way for me to proceed? And should I simultaneously ask for an end of child support or does that risk it looking like I am doing this for financial gain, which will probably be her contention? He is willing to write as strong a letter as needed. Should he? And how strong? He went to school today, so he is ok at the moment (with the expectation he will be able to live with me)


    - - - Updated - - -

    As a follow-up. I just called the Family Court. They said I can file a petition in person and they will have the judge review it within 24-48 hrs. I still am interested in any comments you may have. (or the moderator can remove this thread if others would not be interested in my situation.)

    Will let you know what happens.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006

    Default Re: How to Request Change of Custody for a Potentially Suicidal Son

    I think that we are all interested, but don't really feel equipped to answer your questions. Your situation is a little beyond the scope of an internet forum.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Somewhere near Canada

    Default Re: How to Request Change of Custody for a Potentially Suicidal Son

    I have to ask, will he suddenly be no longer suicidal if he comes to live with you?

  4. #4

    Default Re: How to Request Change of Custody for a Potentially Suicidal Son

    Quote Quoting Dogmatique
    View Post
    I have to ask, will he suddenly be no longer suicidal if he comes to live with you?
    That is a very fair and good question.

    His stress and depression levels are much higher when he is with her. He is usually fine at my house except when he is dropped off before school after being up all night due to things his mother said or did. The it has been hard to get him out of his room to go to school. At times he comes into the house and goes right into his bed, refusing to get out to go to school.

    A year and a half ago, his mother called saying he had been hysterical crying for hours and he won't stop. She asked me to come over to see him. After awhile, I was able to get him back together, but he insisted on coming over to my house for the night. She agreed. He has had a couple of meltdowns at school where I had to go to school to get him.

    When he has been bad, he comes to me or calls me. He does not go to her. He confides in me and has asked me at times not to say anything to her. On a couple of occasions when there were serious concerns, I told him she needed to know because she is his mother, loves him and is there for him too. On each occasion, when he went back to her house, she had a tirade, scolding him for going to me with his problems instead of her.

    This week, she was putting him down to the point that he texted asking how long it would take for me to get custody. It wasn't until yesterday that he told me he texted because she had been yelling at him and telling him that he would never graduate from college, nobody will hire him and he is a failure. His step father was scolding him for not focusing on schoolwork by repeatedly saying, "a normal person would..." which he felt meant he was being told he was mentally ill. Whether or not he is describing these events accurately, this is what he perceives and feels.

    Recently, his psychiatrist wants him to have a different medicine. He wants us both to agree to the change. My son also wants it. She is unwilling to discuss anything with me and blocks my emails, except to say she will not approve anything for him until he graduates and is accepted to a college. This is what she think will motivate him to do better in school. His psychiatrist has been asking her to speak with him on the phone to discuss this, but it she has been unwilling to call him since he asked 3 weeks ago, and I repeatedly asked her since then.

    After he was discharged from the psychiatric hospital last year, I would take him weekly to his psychiatrist. The psychiatrist said it was important that the 3 of us have a session together, and that the lack of her and I being able to communicate freely about my son was a big factor. She refused. It was requested of us many times. He even suggested that the two of us observe an interview by their chief psychiatrist so that we would see together the harm we were causing.

    As his emotional state deteriorated to where he no longer would attend school, I sent many pleading emails for her to go, saying no matter how distasteful or stressful it would be for her (and me) that we needed to put our feelings aside for his well-being.

    After continued refusals, then blocked emails, I became desperate as he sank deeper in depression. He was now on multiple meds to control his self destructive urges, and each additional med added a side effect. I expressed concern that the meds were hindering his concentration to the point that he could no longer read books. He could not remember the first page when going to the second. He could not function in school. The psychiatrist said that school, reading, etc. had become secondary. The issue was keeping him alive until the right balance of meds was found.

    At this point, I tried one last thing. I sent an email, that I cc'd to her husband urging her, or them to meet with the psychiatrist as he had been requesting. I told them of parents whose child committed suicide. They had said that they would have done ANYTHING to have prevented it from happening if they were able. I said that we need to do everything possible to prevent him from being a suicide. I said in the email that I was cc'g the stepfather because he was his son, too and I hoped he would understand the need and convince her to go. He replied that she would be willing to do it. She did not. She did, however, speak with him in person. Although it wasn't the group meeting the psychiatrist wanted, it was something. I think she got more of an understanding of his problems.

    He has a new psychiatrist. She will not go to meet with him. She spoke on the phone once, but has refused to call him subsequently as he requested.

    To summarize, my son reports that he is under a lot of stress at her house, and cannot sleep when there. He says she frequently yells at him, and lectures him about how he is a failure and will not succeed in life. She says that when he tries to do school work, she is on top of him, yelling and scolding which makes him even more stressed about school. He pleaded to live with me to be out of that atmosphere. His depression and stress is much worse at her house, so yes, I definitely think there is much less of a chance of his being suicidal if he is not in that pressure cooker. Also, with full custody, I can approve his starting the new meds his psychiatrist says he needs.

    I hope that gives a better picture. I spelled this out in my papers today and in the additional paper given to me to say why it was urgent, I talked about his depression having worsened at her house and how she texted me yesterday that he was in bad shape and she was worried he might hurt himself. He is in good shape today, expecting that he will not have to live with her anymore.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Somewhere near Canada

    Default Re: How to Request Change of Custody for a Potentially Suicidal Son

    This is obviously a very delicate matter.

    The thing is, if he's in that much psychological pain and has had long term issues, the court may well think - to over simplify things immensely - that he's going to be at risk of suicide no matter where he's living.

    I do wish you all luck though - this is a horrible situation for all of you to be in.

    Would you mind updating when you've actually seen the judge?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006

    Default Re: How to Request Change of Custody for a Potentially Suicidal Son

    I have a suggestion. Maybe the first step should not be to file for full custody. Maybe the first step should be to file for sole decision making rights regarding medical and psychiatric strip mom out of the equation for those issues. Maybe if mom had no choice but to fully cooperate with his therapy and meds, that she would finally see what she is doing wrong. Perhaps even as part of that, to try to get the courts to temporarily suspend mom's parenting time until the child's meds were balanced

    Dad, go get a consult with an attorney ASAP. It might even be possible that this could be considered to be an emergency situation. It would only give your son temporary relief, but a full fledged custody battle can take a very long time.

  7. #7

    Default Re: How to Request Change of Custody for a Potentially Suicidal Son

    Here is my update. I dropped off the papers last Thursday to see if they would hear the case on an urgent basis. I am not a lawyer and I might use the wrong terms. The clerk had me fill out a request for an emergency something, maybe a show cause. She said the judge would look at in within 24 hrs. The next day, a Friday, I was told to pick up documents and had to have one personally served to her that day, fax one to a lawyer who would be assigned to my son and be in court Monday 9 am.

    The next day, she contacted me saying she was not angry, but said she and her lawyer drafted an agreement to avoid court. She said in it we would settle all our money disputes. She owes me about 60k for things, and she says I owe her 12k. We are supposed to split college costs 50-50 with a SUNY cap. My older one entered college a year ago, and at the last minute she refused to pay. I emptied my minimal 401k to lay out the money for him to start. She said she would reimburse me. When first semester ended, tuition was due for the spring. I could barely come up with my half and told her if she didn't pay, he would have to drop out. (this is after all loans and grants were used). She would not pay and he had to drop out.

    In this proposed agreement, she would contribute "as much as she could." She also said all claims against each other for money owed would be dropped and I would agree to no child support. He would live with me and she only wanted visitation every other weekend.

    I replied that this was not about money, and I would not even discuss money. This was about my getting custody at his request. He will be 18 in a few months but pleaded that he could not bear to wait. She said that she was going to fight it, and I lied to the court when I did not include some very private issues of his. I said that they did not belong in these papers. They could be told to the judge in private. These were things he insisted she not even tell his step-father. Had I included it in the papers, he would have read them.

    She said that she was going to reveal them in court. When we were waiting to be called on Monday, her attorney then said I should agree because I will lose and they will get this dismissed because I lied to the court by omitting his most private secrets. (They were not the issue, except that she teased him about it). I told her that his private business did not have to be put in the initial papers. She replied, "You think we will be speaking to the judge in private? It is a large room that will be filled with a lot of people. You brought this on by filing for custody." Fortunately, his attorney introduced herself to me before we went in. I pulled her aside and explained the situation and how devastating it would be to a child with a history of being suicidal to have his most private secrets revealed in public. She was able to have the other lawyer not bring it up.

    When we went before the judge, her attorney asked for it to be dismissed because it was vague, full of false information and did not show any change of circumstance. The judge asked the attorney for my son if she spoke with him. She said she did not because she first received the papers 2 hours earlier (Friday afternoon I was given papers to fax to her for a 9 am Monday court date. It would be impossible for her to have spoken with him the way it was scheduled) The judge said that since she has not spoken with him, he is assigning a court date for 3 months later (after his 18th birthday). I said the the judge, "Your honor, my son desperately does not want to go back to his mother's house. Today is her custody day. Does he have to go back?" The judge said that our current agreement was still in effect so it was whatever the agreement said.

    In the parking lot, my ex drove up and said she brought his meds and his teddy bear. She said she was not going to take him that night.

    He met with the attorney who, according to him said that the judge set the date for after his 18th birthday so that the court would not have to get involved. My son said he did not want to go to his mom's. She said he could refuse to go and just stay at my house. He asked about all the clothes at her house. She said he could easily by new clothes.

    I called the attorney after speaking with him. I said that the whole point of this was that my son wanted to be out of there immediately. He said he could not survive there until his birthday. I asked why she did not request the judge to set the date earlier. She said that it takes time for these things.. She said that it was only 3 months until he was 18 and then he could do whatever he wants. I replied, "If he is alive in 3 months." I said that it was a shame that nobody would help my son.
    My ex emailed me that eve, which is 3 nights ago saying it was my fault that she was going to break his trust and publicly say things. She said she would be picking him up the next night, which was also her nite. The next day, I mentioned that to him and he said they had talked and he said he did not want to go and she said ok.

    (She again says I should do the agreement. I looked at it and it said I would get residential but we still would keep joint custody)
    She contacts me 2 days ago saying that Child Protective Services notified her that they wanted to interview her. The judge had sent in the request when he first read my motion. So there are people out there trying to protect the children.

    Jump to last night. My son says that yesterday is the deadline for the student aid application at the school he is early decision (FAFSA) In the agreement, she claims him as dependent and his address is her house. (My other son was mine to split the tax deductions) She refused to do it. She says that since I am suing for custody, she can't put her address on it, because it is based on who claims him on the 2013 taxes and she hasn"t filed yet. It may turn out that I will be claiming him. I point out that our next court date is a few weeks AFTER April 15, so we will have filed in the current situation.

    My son is near panic. The college site says that if there are special circumstances, the financial aid office must be contacted before the deadline. I reassure him that I am sure she is just giving me an argument but she will surely do it, because without the aid, we could never afford that school. Although FAFSA has an exception to requiring parental info, which is if the student had to escape an abusive home, the student can only get regular loans, not low interest student loans, and the site says the decision cannot be appealed. Of course she is not going to do this to him. Especially not when she knows protective services is going to investigate.

    So, this morning she sends me a text saying she went to sleep and did not read my later emails (sent 12 minutes after she asked where to look up the deadline.) She again gave the reason that she was not going to lie about his address on the application. And that it was my fault.

    Protective Services came to interview me. It was a very pleasant person. He asked a lot of questions. Then he asked where my son would be staying over the weekend. I said it was his mother's weekend, but I did not know if he spoke with her about it. I offered to call him at home. I did it on speaker phone so he could hear the whole thing. My son said he was going to stay at my house. He did not want to go back to hers at this time. The Protective Services worker said that it meant he was required to speak with my son before the end of the day. My son was fine with it. My son said they discussed things freely.

    My son called financial aid and explained what happened. They said he could use the February deadline as if he were not early decision.

    He has been in a good mood. Each night I have him doing homework at the same table where I am doing things online. He has been able to do his work this way.

    I also received a letter from protective services saying I was the subject of an investigation for child abuse. At first I thought she filed to get back at me, but then saw it was dated last Friday, the day the judge reviewed my submission. I assume they investigate both parents. I am fine with that, of course.

    So, I have reassured my son that with Protective Services watching, he does not have to worry about her mistreating him. I said she will be on her best behavior. I am not totally sure considering she refused to do the FAFSA.

    I am happy that he seems content and not stressed. He has his routine psychiatrist appointment in a week, but he is doing well. He went to his teachers today to work out ways to get caught up with his assignments. He is going to sleep now. Previously, he stayed awake, stressed and unable to sleep until well after midnight.

    (While telling me why I should sign their agreement and withdraw my motion, her attorney started telling me all the things that they could sue me for, and how it will be much more expensive than what I would be paying in the agreement. I will just have to wait if they follow through on their threats.)

    Will keep you all informed. Sorry for the long saga. I will try to be brief next time.

    My kids' Dad

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Somewhere near Canada

    Default Re: How to Request Change of Custody for a Potentially Suicidal Son

    Thank you so much for updating!

    When all's said and done, your son is - in a matter of months - going to be able to live his own life the way he chooses.

    I'm just very glad he's got such a supportive father

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