August 17, 2008,
L.A. asks from Fort Worth, TX on August 16, 2008
Child Custody Battle
I need to vent and some help. I was taking my ex back to court for more child support, he countered with full custody. My daughter is 14 and can decide where she wants to live, and she wants to live with her Dad. How much weight would my daughter have in the decision? I'm in a court that is mom friendly. My ex has a 20yr son who has been drinking since 17, smokes, doesn't have a curfew (or he broke it alot) and has gotten a girl pregnant and isn't taking responsibility for it. Wouldn't that show he's not fit to raise my child? He plays softball 3 times a week on school nights, he goes out of town overnight with his job. If you know of a good family attorney in Fort Worth, please let me know. I would also like your opinion or if I would win.
Thank you so much
C.J. answers from Dallas on August 16, 2008
I am not sure if you would win or not, but I cannot imagine a judge giving him full custody now. Why has he not filed for it before? Sounds like to me that he just filed so that he would not have to pay more child support. The judge should be able to see that and also she is going to be given to whichever parent will provide a more stable environment for her. If he is gone all the time then she will be free to do whatever she wants (is probably the reason she wants to go and live with him) with you she has rules. She needs rules so you are the best parent trust me one day she will thank you for them. Hang in there and best of luck.
1 mom found this helpful
A.W. answers from Dallas on August 17, 2008
Hi L.. Sorry to hear about your situation. I have an ex of 13 years. We have a 14 year old daughter together. In my situation I have sole custody & she goes to visit him. Our papers say she is to go 1st, 3rd & 5th weekends, every Wednesday night, on a specific day at Christmas, a certain amount of time over the summer, etc., however, in the last few years we haven't followed that schedule. She just goes when she wants to go, which is way less often that what the papers say she is "supposed" to do.
With your situation, the fact that your child is 14 has a lot of weight. The judge will listen to what you and your ex have to say and will likely talk to the child. They judge will listen to reasons why your ex feels like he is a fit parent & why child would benefit more from being with him, the judge will listen to why you feel custody should not change, and then they judge may talk to the child for more info and feedback since it is the child's life.
The fact that there is another child living with the ex who has problems doesn't matter in the custody of your child. Nothing matters unless you can prove beyond a reasonable doublt that your child will be in NEAR DEATH DANGER if your ex gets custody. Don't ask me know I know. I have been dealing with a crazy, violent ex for 13 years now. The most I have ever been able to get is a TRO (temporary restraining order) to keep my daughter safe, but even during times outside of the TRO when he was violent, my daugher still had to go see him becuase he hadn't already nearly killed her.
On the flip side,depending on how long you have had custody of your child, the jugde is not likely to change custody NOW if you have always had custody. The judge is also going to look at stability for the child.
I know a lot of this isn't what you want to hear, but unfortunately that's pretty much how it works.
Good luck with your upcoming court hearings! I wish you the best!
C.W. answers from Dallas on August 17, 2008
Cary Walker is one of our friends that is an attorney. We've never had to use him professionally. He may be able to recommend a good family law attorney. He is a great guy and a Christian. His wife is a Judge in Fort Worth and she may know a great family law attorney. He was doing divorces and medical malpractice law. Cary Walker is in Fort Worth and I would ask to talk to him and who he could recommend.
We use Pre Paid Legal and have a whole law firm at our reach for questions and for information and it is a monthly service. I would highly recommend it. It is $25 a month and $10 for the legal shield (to help if you are a victim of Identity Theft), however you get your will, power of attorney, medical directives and other important legal paperwork (for emergency puposes, example if you die) as a part of your membership when you sign up. It is a peace of mind knowing we can pick up the phone and not have to worry about how we will pay for it to ask questions/get answers. You do get a discount on legsl services. It will save you some money in the long run. I use to be a sales associate with Pre-Paid Legal, we still have the great membership and it has saved us tons of money! I'm so thankful for Pre-Paid Legal!! If you would like more information on it, I'll be glad to give you my friends names/website that you can check out.
There is a law library that you can go and research more information on your case/child custody issues. The more informed you are, the more you can keep up on things. If you have the time and are able to go, that would be great also. If you can't afford an atty, most people go to the library to research the material themselves there. Good Luck!
A.S. answers from Dallas on August 17, 2008
You ex's son is 20 so he should be accepting responsilibity for his actions. Only so much of it can be your ex's fault. Children at 14 are very smart and that is why the court allows them to take part in this decision. You didn't list the reasons your daughter has requested to live with her father. If you don't know maybe a good heart to heart will get to the answer. If you don't let her go she will resent you and then you will have a very unruly teenager on your hands. You can stale the court by asking for a counselor to speak with your daughter to find out the reasoning for wanting to change. You don't want to pick the counselor - have the court appoint one so they will be unbiased. If you go in angry and resentful the court will side with your ex so keep your emotions in check. You can use a website on line to find a good family lawyer. www.lawyers.findlaw.com
K.R. answers from Dallas on August 17, 2008
Unfortunately, at 14, the Court is going to let your daughter decide (he would have to be REALLY unfit). My best advice is to keep a good relationship with your daughter, so that when things don't go well at Dad's, she isn't afraid (or too angry) to come back home. Good luck.
V.W. answers from Dallas on August 17, 2008
I am not sure what the law is here...but I have sole custody of my son, my ex pays child support and he tried to take me back to court for custody. In GA, at 14 yrs old the child can make the decision who he/she wants to live with and by what the judge told me, that basically the child can live with whoever he/she desires whether they are a good parent or not. I still have custody of my son.
Just a thought, sorry you have to go through this. Hope everthing works out for the best.
K.M. answers from Dallas on August 17, 2008
I highly suggest you call either Mark Rosenfield ###-###-#### or James Loveless ###-###-####. Google both of their names and you can read about their certifications. I know people who have used them both and even if your daughter is 14, they may be able to help you and guide you in the right direction. Don't give up. Your daughter may see the freedom the 20 year old has and may think that would be better for her. Let the courts decide. Good luck!
B.M. answers from Dallas on August 17, 2008
Custody battles are nasty. My husband and I have been battling it out with his ex for custody of my step-daughter. We now have custody and the mother has supervised visitation. My step-daughter was molested by her mother's boyfriend and Mom did nothing. We have been through hell, but I can tell you it's always worth the fight to make sure your child is in a safe environment. Our attorney Is Weir Wilson, he is in Ft. Worth. The law firm name is Wilson, White & Doby, I believe. He has done a great job for us and I highly recommend him. He's an older man and he has been in family law for a while, so he will give it to you straight. If your daughter has been living with you the majority of her life chances are the court is not going to hand your ex full custody. He may get more visitation. We had to undergo a social study to determine which household was more "fit". I wish you the best of luck. I know these things can be gut-wrenching. Weir Wilson would be the best attorney for your situation, he has a ton of experience.
A.K. answers from Dallas on August 16, 2008
A lot will depend on the judge, but unfortunately you may have some difficulty since she wants to live with him. The 20 year old son's issues probably won't count for a lot and really doesn't factor in a decision like this. Your husband playing softball isn't an issue at htis age, as they are old enough to be at home alone. The overnight out of town trips for work are more than likely going to be your best leverage, but unfortunately I wouldn't bank on that either. Realistically, most judges base a lot on the child's wishes at this age and your husband and his attorney will more than likely have a valid and convincing response to all of your objections. I would find a very good attorney and try not to focus on the 20 year old son's issues as he is an adult and makes his own decisions and it will only make you look like a vindictive ex-wife. I wish you much luck and remember to focus on the positive things that you can provide your child vs the negative things that you ex has out there. At the end of day, you don't want to alienate your daughter.
K.F. answers from Dallas on August 17, 2008
Reading many of the other responses, just remember that the court will take what your daughter says into consideration but she does not get to walk in there and say I want to live with dad and they just rubber stamp it. Things were going our way when we were in the hearing getting custody of my stepson in Tyler 13 years ago and they had a chamber meeting and he told the judge he would run away if he came to live with us. He gave them a month to get it together (school, grades, no trouble on the bus). They made no changes so we got custody but we also had the vice principal and principal of his middle school testifying for us and I had an inch stack of documentation about how this child was not supervised or guided in any way. We butted heads constantly for about a year and finally it didn't seem like we were able to help him much so we let him go home. My point to all this based on what the others have said as well is that within three months he came back to live with us of his own accord. He realized that living with his mother was not the best place for him at the time. So, you take the high road, do what you can and make sure you remain a resource for her if she does go to live with him and chances are that she will be back home. While no rules, etc. seems appealing, children want and need rules.
Normally for courts to alter a custody arrangement, there should be a material change in circumstances. Unless he would be able to provide the court with information that would indicate that you are doing a poor job of raising your daughter, they are not going to take custody from a stay-at-home mom for someone that is required to go out of town overnight for his job but the other information about his son, unless he is still living in his father's home, is really irrelevant with the exception that it does suggest that he was doing a poor job of supervising the boy.
I can do some checking on the attorney. There was one that was very expensive nearly 20 years ago because he was the best in Fort Worth, I don't know if he is practicing anymore. I would advise that you check carefully about any attorney you hire because board certification requires only around 6 hours of classes and no court experience, erego a board certified family law attorney may have never done one thing to represent someone in a family law case. You also get what you pay for. While you do not want to pay exorbitant fees if someone is willing to low ball on a retainer it is likely because he is living hand-to-mouth and desperate for any income that he can get. Most consulting fees are $100-150 and are used toward the retainer if you choose that attorney.
I would advise reading the child custody statutes because even if you have a good attorney you can make better decisions when you know the law yourself. Sometimes you don't find out until it is too late that you were poorly represented. We had an attorney about 16 years ago who did not want to tell the court that my X had provided a vehicle for his X, something that should have been considered in determining child support and he pretty much refused to bring it up. Since I was not a party to the suit, I couldn't say anything and it was frustrating, we should have fired him on the spot and asked for a continuance so that we could find competent counsel. Knowledge is always powerful. The court will consider your daughter's wishes but I don't think she will be able to give the judge any reasons for them that he will respect and unless the kid is having serious problems at school, with the law, etc., most courts are going to opt for the status quo.
S.M. answers from Dallas on August 17, 2008
Unfortuntately what I say is mostly not going to be what you want to hear but as you said she's 14 and in Texas the child can have a say in where he/she wants to live. I did the same thing to my mom at the same age. I only stayed a year before going back to my moms though..Most of what you've said about the ex isn't the best situation for your daughter but none of it is putting her in harms way. Him being gone so much could actually be a factor in wh she wants to go there. Sounds to me like she'd have a lot more freedom if the father is gone a lot. That was the main reason I went to my dad's, I HATED my step-mother (she was abusive) but they both worked so my sis and I could do what we wanted a lot. If you do fight it I would being up the time he will be away just so the judge knows, and maybe they will require supervision for her at the least. The son probably won't account for much because he's an adult and would be held accountable for his own actions since he was 17.
We are about to finalize a step-parent adoption and used David Cole, he's based out of Dallas but we've never had to drive out there. Done everything via phone, email and snail mail. They have been absolutely wonderful!!