Newly Single Mom- Never Married- Thanks for Te Advice

Updated on May 27, 2008
R.D. asks from Edmonds, WA
21 answers

Thanks for all your responses

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone, all the perspective helps. I am still struggling with whether to follow my intsints to protect her from her father, or my instinct to make sure he is a big part of her life and that thier relationship thrives. I guess I will focus on the later and keep myself on high alert for her well being and safety. I also see that it is hard to get advice on this one in this way because it is easy to get the wrong idea about things. Thank you all again for your caring and consideration!

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D.M.

answers from Anchorage on

http://www.lawhelp.org/OR/showdocument.cfm/County/%20/Cit... Will help you with the laws in your area.

http://www.lawhelp.org/program/1173/index.cfm for legal aid in your area.

I have one child with a 50% parenting agreement (which has turned into 100% custody) and one with 100% coustody and no court agreement. Basicaly if you are confident he will loose steam and not fight you for her you can use that to your advantage. I have found that those parents that don't realy care for their children can be weaned off them, as horible as that sounds, I have made it very easy for them. Don't do anything you don't feel comfortable with but you don't want to force him into court either.
If you want him to be an active part of her life (preferable realy) then get the court agreement even if you do it without a lawyer. Please remember that when she is older his involvment or lack thereof will have strong psycological impact on her worthiness. If he is not dangerous or if you can accomadate his faults then that is the best plan.
Good luck to you! There is no telling what kind of agreement you will have from my perspective I'm afraid. There are so many different arangments out there!

2 moms found this helpful
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E.A.

answers from Seattle on

R. you are in between a rock and a hard place. Everything you've said screams that the two of you need legal help. Any non legal agreement the two of you come up with is only as good as how that person feels at the moment. You've said that you're considering moving to Seattle and imagine accomodating him there, what if he doesn't agree? What if he wants her to stay with him during the week and you get weekends only. Who's right?

Seems like this is going to get messy before all is worked out and I don't see how it would be any easier without legal help. There's got to be probono lawyers in the area willing to help.

Ladies, R. needs help!
E.

2 moms found this helpful
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C.J.

answers from Richland on

Get a plan in writing now!!!!

I have seen it happen to friends where everything is going along fine, they are mutually agreeing on custody and time, then bam, someone goes nuts and starts fighting hard for more. Without something in writing you don't have a leg to stand on if he wants to fight your current arrangement. And no, you are not automatically the default custodian! It all depends on how long he continues to try to make it easy.

As for resources, check with child services/DHS for assistance. Also, just writing down what you are currently agreeing to, and both of you signing it in front of a notary would be a very inexpensive (sometimes free) first step!!!

Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful
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M.B.

answers from Portland on

You should try to get a mediator. And you also need to think about it on his side. he may not think you are doing the best by her. And think of it as "time off" try not to worry so much I am sure he loves her as much as you do.

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J.W.

answers from Portland on

I can see that you've gotten a lot of advice so I'll try and keep this short.

YES, you ABSOLUTELY need to get a parenting/ visitation agreement in writing. There are standard "basic" visitation forms that can be found online that will give you an idea of what it will look like. For a 2 year old I believe that he would get a couple hours 2 nights a week and every other Saturday with an overnight (my memory may be a little rusty on that). You can find everything at the Division of Child Support's website: www.dcs.state.or.us. Also, the fact that you don't have anything in writing makes me wonder what you're doing about child support? You REALLY should get that obligation in writing too. Situations change quickly and, if he is a flake, he could just bail on you one day and you'd be left high and dry.

Also, I understand that the safety of your little one is the most important thing, so try and stay with her during visitations, but DO NOT just up and run and take her away from her dad! In the eyes of the law it will have a very negative effect on you! (I know that doesn't sound right, but that's the way it is!) The only exception to this is if he IS being abusive to you or your daughter. In that case, you need legal help IMMEDIATELY.

Good luck!!!!

1 mom found this helpful
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T.F.

answers from Eugene on

Tons of great advice on here. I will probably repeat it, but I will keep it short. I have seen this will a lot of my friends over the years.

1. Always write things done. Phone calls, conversations, when he says he will do something and does it or even doesn't do it. Write it down. I know it's tedious, but in the long run - if you ever have to go to court...it can get pretty ugly.

2. Get a lawyer or legal assistance.

3. Write it down.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful
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J.H.

answers from Seattle on

Have you tried contacting you local DSHS (Department of Health and Social Services) office? I see that you ar in OR so I'm not sure of the procedure or the laws in Oregon state. I would also start at your local courthouse and ask for Legal Aide for family law. I know that in Washington, there is a division in at the courthouse that is free. This may take a little more time because it is free but it is well worth to put something in writing, legally.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful
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P.G.

answers from Seattle on

YES!!! Take action NOW, while everything is working out and easy going. You just never know when you would wake up and your child could be gone, or something really flakey could happen. As a retired school teacher, I have seen the BEST setups go south in a big hurry. Don't wait. Just get the plan down and get it legalized. It's just too much to risk. Then you can sit back and allow the relationship to go along, knowing that you and your child are protected. It always doesn't stip bad things from happening, but it helps.

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A.S.

answers from Seattle on

R., I would say it sounds like you already know some of the answers to your own questions. It is never good to take a thing like custody into your own hands when you are unsure about the other parents intentions. GET A LAYWER NOW!! Your childs future is up to you. If you got a devorce that means you are not getting along and fighting over custody gets really ugly. I was a child in several battles. It is a hard, long road, and won't end till your child turns 18. The closer you and you x can be to each other and the better you can pretent to get along the better for your child. Good luck.

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L.W.

answers from Portland on

What county do you live in? You can call your county's family law department and they can direct you to legal aide for legal advice. There is one in Multnomah County. One other thing, document. Write down everything, from actions, what is said, what you see, when he sees her, etc. etc.

1 mom found this helpful

M.B.

answers from Seattle on

R.,

I agree with the other posters so far. Your situation is very volatile right now, and could get worse, not better. Whatever agreement you and your daughter's father work out, outside of court, is only as good as a wet log in a fire.

I strongly recommend getting legal advice, and getting the courts involved. That way you can get all the nitpicking details hammered out, and try to avoid loopholes.

My parents divorced when I was really little, around six months old or so. My dad got custody (this was nearly 30 years ago). My mom was supposed to have visitation and there was a court order that we make a phone call to her every week, I think. I remember maybe two plane trips to visit her, and one of the last calls made to her all I remember is that I was sobbing into my dad's chest as he hung up the phone. I also have vague memories of not wanting to ever call her. I was younger than 10 when this all happened.

Like you said, you have to protect her, and her father sounds like a negligent type of parent. Get some legal advice. Protect your daughter before anything bad happens to her.

Hope this helps,
Supportively,
Melissa

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J.M.

answers from Seattle on

With regard to your first question: No. You most certainly are not her full legal/physical custody parent unless you have a court order that gives you that custody. What does this mean? It means that your ex cannot "kidnap" the child even if you tell him that he "has" to bring her back by a certain time. You don't have the right or authority to enforce that type of directive.

You should take action now.

You need to write a parenting plan. You do not need a lawyer. You can do this yourself. You don't have to have a lawyer. There are forms online and courts are ALWAYS more lenient toward people who represent themselves.

Generally visitations with young children is restricted to a couple of hours at a time. I've never seen a judge order overnight visits for an infant or young child UNLESS the parents agreed to it and/or the parents had already been doing this before they went to court.

You generally canNOT expect that you will be present during visits - especially if your behavior and conduct (shouting at him in the presence of the child) has been disruptive or harmful in the past.

If you have a reasonable relationship with him, then you don't necessarily HAVE to have a parenting plan. But I'd recommend getting one in place so both of you know what to expect. As it stands now, he could potentially take his daughter and refuse to return her to you. You would literally have to go to court and get an order signed by a judge before you could get her back. (This happened to my sister-in-law with her four month old daughter.)

Do NOT change towns. This could impact jurisdiction. If you move to Seattle and you end up wanting to move you would have to return to Seattle for court.

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T.R.

answers from Portland on

R.,
So sorry for all you are going through. As far as legal advice, you should check out St. Andrews Legal Clinic. The fee is based on how much you can afford and I believe it is free or very, very cheap at times. It is at least worth a call. ###-###-####.
Good luck and hang in there! T.

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H.G.

answers from Portland on

Open up the blue goverment pages of you local phone book, look under county and have paper and pen ready. Start making calls and asking questions. Make a list.

I found looking in Washington county the county I live in "Restaining order program" You can file a restraining order that will be in effect until the divorce is final that you daughter can not be moved from her primary residence with you and cannot be taken out of the state, this will prevent him from kidnapping and will give you the authority to set the time he must return her and that his visitations be monitored if you specify it in the order. This should not make him angry because it makes it so you wont't move with her so he won't know where she is at. After you file it and he is served with it explain that to him.
I agree with Julie M don't move or you will have to change jusidiction and go to Seattle to go to court.

I do not agree with Marda P, Michelle B or Jerri W.

Do document everything start your entries with the date and time and then detail what happened and what was said especially phone calls keep a journal with you at all time don't let him know about it or see it..

Get Child Support in writing soon. When you write up your parenting plan write it idealy to fit what you would like to happen be specific and detailed because if you don't you will have to go back to court later to have it changed don't leave any loopholes.

Do not take off with her or you will loose custody. My friends ex scared her into doing this and now even though she it a fit parent and he is not a fit parent she hasn't been able to get custody back for 8 years.

Call or e-mail if you want further help.###-###-#### [email protected]____.com

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K.L.

answers from Seattle on

You need to get in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your area. Check out edvp.org. It is the Eastside Domestic Violence Program which helps victims all over Washington. They also have a 24 hour hotline ###-###-####.
You may feel that your situation is not extreme to warrent a call to EDVP, but please do. There are many woman there that can really relate to what you are going through and can help guide you in the right direction to keep your child safe.
Good luck!

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D.P.

answers from Seattle on

Yes, R....you need to take care of this now. See James Shipman in Everett. He is incredibly knowledgable in this area. The firm is Podrasky, Shipman & Shields.

D. P.

Mother of four.

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A.D.

answers from Portland on

Sorry this is late, but I just recently went through this with my ex boyfriend. I was not married. It is better for you to build a plan together if you can get along and agree on NOW rather than wait till he doesn't agree. But you can go to the courthouse to get information on a class that you have to take which is actually good and sometimes you can even get a mediator for free from the court. But at that class they give you websites where you can go into and create your own plan and they are actually very good. It can be very detailed and you can put in all the iformation you want. IF there is something that you don't agree on then a judget with come up with the decision for you. I do know one this is that It is better for you to come up with a plan and hopefully he agrees to than to have someone else give it to you and have to abide by it. What I did with my ex was let him stay say friday 3pm to Saturaday about 1pm untill we got everything resolved. This was controlled the situation a little because like you stated he didn't take care of my child much and I didn't feel comfortable leaving him all weekend. I do know that the standard is every other weekend Friday to Sun so I defined all this as much as I could. In giving him 1 night it was less harsh on my son, because he was used to going at least 1 day but not for long. Now I am actually comfortable enough about it that he is doing fine. But I was like you didn't feel comfortable leaving him to much with his dad that long. If you need to talk you can call me ###-###-####. One thing I did find out is that the more OVER NIGHTS you give him the less Child support he will pay you so you may just consider the standard every other weekend if you can get him to agree to that. As they get older they tend to give them more days. The majority of the time you don't really need a lawyer to draw this up you can do it yourself and take it to court. I hope this helps. But look at you county website and it will give you the information you need in detail and they have samples of plans that you could do so you can just modify them to your needs.

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A.D.

answers from Portland on

R.,
First thing is get everything in writing now and make it detailed. Both of you sign it too. This document will hold up in court should things ever come to that.
Second, if he is the biological father, he is required by law to pay child support for that child wether he sees her or not. Talk with a paralegal; they can give you advice and/or direct you in the right direction free of charge, and find out what is a reasonable amount and for advice on how to approach him. You want to keep the relationship with all three of you VERY civil and it takes work. Protect yourself and your daughter at all costs.
Best of luck to you.

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J.W.

answers from Seattle on

You need to get a lawyer to represent you. Your daughter needs a guardian ad liem, this a person who is not affiliated with you or her father but is there to represent the child's best interests, because that is what a good parenting plan is all about. Dad will have and should have equal custody of his daughter in a perfect world. You should want and require that of him, he should want and demand that. That being said, until a parenting plan is developed and agreed to by both parties and the court, you will probably have physical custody. That means you get to keep her at your house, but Dad would have liberal visitation rights and possible custody on weekends. If you want anything different, you will have to prove that Dad is an unfit parent for a variety of significant reasons. Not being the primary caregiver is not one of them, as he may have sufficient support at his home from his family or friends. Even at 2 yrs old, she is old enough for overnight stays with her father. You don't have to be present during his visitations, and he could demand that his time be his time. (No, you don't get to tag along or intrude on their time anymore than he gets to stay at your house 24x7). Paying for visitations? Does he live out of state or a great distance away? If you have physical custody where it's difficult for him to have her physically every other weekend or other week, then it would be arranged between the two of you as to how the financial aspects of the visit would be handled, this would be layed out in a parenting plan. He could pick her up and you would have to come get her. As she gets older, her wants and needs come into play. Holidays, birthdays, school vacations, all those things need to be worked out on a schedule in advance so there are no surprises on either side. You'll know what your obligations are. It's important for him to be able to call and talk with her when he doesn't have visitation that week. And that she can talk with her Dad anytime she wants. The same would be true when she's in his custody. Parent initiated phone calls should be with reason, once a week or so. You need to discuss how you'll discipline her, what are the ground rules for various activities and who will attend school conferences, who will get report cards, have access to her medical and other health related records, who pays for what basic school items, such as school pictures, field trips, sports fees, etc. You also need to decide how much child support is going to be paid on a monthly basis, who provides for the health insurance, who determines what doctors are seen as some insurance plans don't cover all the doctors in an area, who will be responsible for those higher co-pays.
A parenting plan is rather detailed, and it needs to be to avoid any future problems when cooler heads are not prevailing. Her Dad is her Dad, just like you are her Mom. She's not a toy or a pawn, she's not more your's than his. She belongs to both of you and you have to, you must share her. Her heart is big enough to love you both without limits or limiting how much she can love one over the other. It doesn't happen that way. You'll come to know this when you have a 2nd, 3rd or more children. With regards to all the safety nuances, small stuff with big consequences if an accident should happen, he gets it. Have the guardian ad liem make sure when she does a home visit (which will be required of you and him) that she reinerates these features of safe parenting. He hasn't had to worry about them in the past because you worried enough for the both of you.

Again, you need a lawyer. Your daughter needs a guardian ad liem. You will have a parenting plan as outlined and required by the state of Washington when there are children involved in a separation/divorce/request for child support. The parenting plan can be revisited as the child gets older. Any consequences to noncompliance with the parenting plan will have to be addressed by your lawyer, his lawyer and the courts. I hope for your daughter's sake, that you and her father can but your interests aside and focus on providing a healthy happy environment at both of your residences, amongst all your friends and families. First rule, never and I mean never talk bad about her father and/or his friends and family to your daughter. That is her Dad. You wouldn't want him to talk that way about you and yours. Mutual respect at all times. Remember you wouldn't have this gorgeous, delightful daughter if he weren't her father. And he must remember this as well with respect of you as her mother. I wish all 3 of you peace and and endless number of happy days!

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

You have so many questions. I'll return later and try to answer some of them from my experiences most of which are legal.

For now, I recommend that you and your ex go to an attorney together. That way he isn't feeling cut out and he'll be less defensive. It's possible that the 2 of you can agree to something that can become a legal document.

I agree with the poster who said that it's important to treat him with the same respect you'd wish him to treat you. By having an attorney working with you you have a better chance of both of you remaining non-confrontational.

In Portland, I walk by a law office that has Peace Making as a part of their name. There are also attorneys listed in the yellow pages that identify themselves under the heading "Mediation."

If you can't find a private attorney that you can afford call Legal Aid and tell them that you want someone who can help the two of you come together with a custody agreement.

Do not try to make an agreement without legal help. If you do you don't have anything legal to back it up. Once he objects, if he does, you are then in a battle. Once that happens all of your lives will be messed up even worse than if he is able to take her for overnight.

more later

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A.S.

answers from Eugene on

there are some good websites about custody and parenting plans. you are right to protect her. i'd get letters from people vouching for your good parenting. "giving her the gift of her father" is in itself NOT a good reason for him to have any more visitation than you feel comfortable with. she can develop more of a relationship with him later. i thought there was some free legal help available, maybe no longer? it is probably a good idea to stay on good terms with him generally, but not at the expense of your daughter's wellbeing - that is far more important! and you are the one who is responsible for her wellbeing. i have heard some scary stories about custody situations, where for example even though the mother was the sole parent since birth, when the father came back he wanted and got joint custody - the mother is no longer given automatic custody, even in cases like that. i hope you can find some free legal help. meanwhile i would monitor carefully how she is before after visits with him, and document everything. i hope he isn't still abusing you - if so, that is very significant. wishing you the best, just keep loving her and trusting your intuition.
ps i have a good book about all this, could send it to you if you like, let me know.

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