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  1. #1
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    Jun 2010
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    Default Entering a Child's Life After Twelve Year Absence

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

    Here's my situation and it's a doozy (but whose isn't?):
    In 1998 when I was 21 I had a son. My name is on the birth certificate. I've paid child support and had him on my medical, dental, and vision since he was born. However, I haven't seen him since he was probably less than two weeks old. It's not that I didn't want to, I didn't know how since his mother and I didn't end on the best of terms. Plus, she never really offered it to me.

    Here's my background - I'm not a criminal or drug user or anything like that. After we broke up I went on to get a garden variety 9-5 job, got married, and now have a house in the suburbs. In other words, there's no reason anyone, much less a judge, would say I'm a bad influence.

    Last summer my family had a baby explosion (I'm one of four boys) and now my wife and I have five nephews and one niece. Seeing them started tugging at my heart and then in late November my father passed. That pushed me over the edge and something in the last week or so has stirred me to try and get involved with his life. I decided it wasn't fair to deny him knowing his father, my nephews and niece from not knowing their cousin, and more importantly my widowed mother from not knowing her first grandchild.

    I'm late to the party but him to end up resenting me. Again, aside from the neglect, which is a biggie, there isn't anything that would cause someone to call me a bad influence. White collar job, live in the burbs, go to Mass every Sunday, involved in Boy Scouts, currently working towards a bachelor degree...

    Here's the meat - my ex-girlfriend has every single reason to hate me. Is there hope that we'd be able to work something out without having to get the courts involved? I'm also concerned about the neighborhood she lives in. I don't think it's trashy per se but I have reason to believe he might be better off going to school in our neighborhood (I think he's homeschooled right now, which I am NOT crazy about at all). I hate to think that I show up 12 years late and then say "I don't want him to be homeschooled. He's going to get a good education and if that means he has to live with us then I'll make it happen." I mean she's done all the work and then I just rip him out the only home he's known? Seems kind of cold hearted to me. Anyway, thoughts?

  2. #2
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    Apr 2009
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    Default Re: Not Sure That I Need to Go to Court

    Court orders protect ALL of you. Court orders are your friend

    File to establish visitation. You have virtually no chance of physical custody, but you'll get a graduated visitation plan.

    This means you'll get short visits, probably supervised, until you and your son get to know each other.

    At this point I doubt you'd get any kind of legal custody; Mom seems to be doing fine.

    And please don't go into court saying "Mom didn't offer me any visitation" - the judge will likely raise an eyebrow and say "...you had every change of filing for visitation yourself. Don't go blaming Mom".

    Know what I mean?

  3. #3
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    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: Not Sure That I Need to Go to Court

    You can try talking to your ex- about how you might meet the child, when that might occur, whether it would be appropriate to involve a psychologist in any meeting or reconciliation, etc.

    If you expect to enter the child's life and start dictating what you believe to be proper child care, or express concern about a neighborhood that has not previously concerned you enough to say a word, well, the time to have tried that was twelve years ago. If you believe you can take custody, dictate the child's school, or otherwise upset his life because the idea of being a daddy is suddenly tugging at your heartstrings, I suggest you get a more realistic sense of what you can expect after a dozen years of intentional absence from your child's life. If you want this to be amenable, you need to keep some opinions and desires to yourself.

  4. #4
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    Jun 2010
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    Default Re: Not Sure That I Need to Go to Court

    Quote Quoting Dogmatique
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    Court orders protect ALL of you. Court orders are your friend

    File to establish visitation. You have virtually no chance of physical custody, but you'll get a graduated visitation plan.

    This means you'll get short visits, probably supervised, until you and your son get to know each other.
    Give her a heads up first right? Don't just have someone show up?

    And I just read somewhere else that therapy would probably be a good supervised visit. Not only would we get to know each other but we can work out any underlying abandonment issues and it wouldn't be quite so awkward. In other words we'd be encouraged (read: forced) to talk to each other. I'm not sure that it'd be ok, but I know I'd like my wife to go, kind of a security blanket for me. Who knows, maybe he hates shrinks as much as me! (My parents made me go when I was around 6 or 8 - there was nothing I hated more than telling some stranger how I felt.)

    Quote Quoting Dogmatique
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    At this point I doubt you'd get any kind of legal custody; Mom seems to be doing fine.

    And please don't go into court saying "Mom didn't offer me any visitation" - the judge will likely raise an eyebrow and say "...you had every change of filing for visitation yourself. Don't go blaming Mom".
    I don't know that she's "doing fine", I'm not saying she's a drug user or anything like that, as a matter of fact I'm sure it's a very loving environment. I'm just worried about the location. My wife and I could've moved that way but instead went the other direction, specifically because it was cleaner and nicer.

    And yes, hear you loud and clear. When I say I didn't know how, I meant I was young and didn't know how to handle myself. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's unfair for me to say I was too young and not ready, she's only a year or two older than me, she was in the same boat, she just chose to ride it out to sea while I chickened out (not completely I guess, I did pay CS and medical insurance-not cheap, he was a premie) and went back to shore.

    It probably goes without saying that I'm also scared to death about what she's told him about me. I like to think that I'm a good guy, except for ignoring my son. That whole concept has nearly brought me to tears the last week or so. Anyway, I'll save it for therapy.

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
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    You can try talking to your ex- about how you might meet the child, when that might occur, whether it would be appropriate to involve a psychologist in any meeting or reconciliation, etc.

    If you expect to enter the child's life and start dictating what you believe to be proper child care, or express concern about a neighborhood that has not previously concerned you enough to say a word, well, the time to have tried that was twelve years ago. If you believe you can take custody, dictate the child's school, or otherwise upset his life because the idea of being a daddy is suddenly tugging at your heartstrings, I suggest you get a more realistic sense of what you can expect after a dozen years of intentional absence from your child's life. If you want this to be amenable, you need to keep some opinions and desires to yourself.
    I don't plan to go in screaming for changes, more like discussions on what's best for him. And it certainly won't be right away. That would come once we all get acclimated to the situation. Now if she does throw that in my face constantly, which I kind of expect, then there really isn't much I can come back with.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Not Sure That I Need to Go to Court

    Therapy is a great idea but I can pretty much guarantee that you won't be initiating it; at the moment Mom is the only one who can make legal decisions like that.

    Leave your wife out of it for now. It's going to be hard enough for kiddo to get used to you being around, and Mom may feel quite threatened by a stepparent suddenly coming into the realm of visitation.

    Remember, stepparents need to not stay out of the picture completely, but stay on the sidelines.

    There is a chance that the court won't allow you visitation at all. A small chance. "Best interest of the child" is the standard, and if it's felt that this disruption would be harmful, it's not going to happen.

  6. #6
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    Jun 2010
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    Default Re: Not Sure That I Need to Go to Court

    Quote Quoting Dogmatique
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    Therapy is a great idea but I can pretty much guarantee that you won't be initiating it; at the moment Mom is the only one who can make legal decisions like that.

    Leave your wife out of it for now. It's going to be hard enough for kiddo to get used to you being around, and Mom may feel quite threatened by a stepparent suddenly coming into the realm of visitation.

    Remember, stepparents need to not stay out of the picture completely, but stay on the sidelines.

    There is a chance that the court won't allow you visitation at all. A small chance. "Best interest of the child" is the standard, and if it's felt that this disruption would be harmful, it's not going to happen.
    Hopefully she's matured too, and will agree with me that it's a good idea to have an objective mediator there to discuss what all is on our minds. And thinking about it a little more, it probably would be slightly uncomfortable for me, as well as everyone else, to talk about it there, with my son and ex on one side and my wife on the other.

    If the court says it's a bad idea, then I can at least say I tried (doesn't mean I agree), and he'll know that I made the effort, albeit very late. And when he's 16 or 18 maybe he'll want to give it a shot (I can cross my fingers).

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Not Sure That I Need to Go to Court

    Quick question.

    Has Mom remarried? Has she been living with someone who may be the father figure?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Not Sure That I Need to Go to Court

    Quote Quoting Dogmatique
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    Quick question.

    Has Mom remarried? Has she been living with someone who may be the father figure?
    Not married and not that I know of.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Not Sure That I Need to Go to Court

    Ok, well that at least takes the idea of a stepfather/figure out of the equation.


    Now, this bit is probably going to seem harsh. But you need to hear it, so put on your big boy pants, sit down and listen.


    You need to adopt a different mindset. You're still in the "I hope she sees it my way" train of thought and you need to let that go - like yesterday.

    Because at this point, you need to be seeing it her way, not vice versa. You have to understand that you have been completely and utterly AWOL for 12 years. Why should she even entertain your opinion? You haven't made any effort to see your son. You've made no effort to be involved in his life.

    Yet here you are, talking about what you think should happen, how you think she should react....you see where I'm going here?

    This isn't about you. At all. It really isn't.

    In very simple terms, you need to be kissing her butt and praying that she'll talk to you. THEN you need to be praying that the court will entertain any petition for visitation and custody.

    But more importantly, you need to be forgetting about yourself and focusing on what's honestly in your son's best interest. No more of this boohooing about how you haven't been around and last year was so hard and everyone had babies and oh my god now you feel like being a father. How the heck do you think your son has felt all of these years?

    He needed a father 12 years ago.

    If you want to step up to the plate, good for you. But realize that you're not going to be doing it on your terms.

    At all.

    (see now? That wasn't that bad, was it? You're still standing, right? )

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Not Sure That I Need to Go to Court

    Quote Quoting Dogmatique
    View Post
    Ok, well that at least takes the idea of a stepfather/figure out of the equation.


    Now, this bit is probably going to seem harsh. But you need to hear it, so put on your big boy pants, sit down and listen.


    You need to adopt a different mindset. You're still in the "I hope she sees it my way" train of thought and you need to let that go - like yesterday.

    Because at this point, you need to be seeing it her way, not vice versa. You have to understand that you have been completely and utterly AWOL for 12 years. Why should she even entertain your opinion? You haven't made any effort to see your son. You've made no effort to be involved in his life.

    Yet here you are, talking about what you think should happen, how you think she should react....you see where I'm going here?

    This isn't about you. At all. It really isn't.

    In very simple terms, you need to be kissing her butt and praying that she'll talk to you. THEN you need to be praying that the court will entertain any petition for visitation and custody.

    But more importantly, you need to be forgetting about yourself and focusing on what's honestly in your son's best interest. No more of this boohooing about how you haven't been around and last year was so hard and everyone had babies and oh my god now you feel like being a father. How the heck do you think your son has felt all of these years?

    He needed a father 12 years ago.

    If you want to step up to the plate, good for you. But realize that you're not going to be doing it on your terms.

    At all.

    (see now? That wasn't that bad, was it? You're still standing, right? )
    I agree 100% with you, and like I said, it's all contingent upon her giving me the time of day. I *totally* recognize that fact.

    But you would suggest trying to contact her first and then going through the court system? Regardless of how it's done it'll be a complete curveball out of the blue, but what's the gentlest way?

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