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Custody Advice help!

Posted by on Apr. 11, 2016 at 3:23 PM
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My sons father has had nothing to do with him or I in almost 3 years. My worry as well as my family is that we live in Florida and their trying to pass a 50/50 law. I couldn't imagine that It could be that easy to just give every father 50/50. I understand in divorces where the child already knows the father. in a case like mine unwed and born out of wedlock...I hate to believe they could just take my son from me when I raised him for 3 years while his father had nothing to do with him and just give him to his dad half the month without truly bonding and having a close relationship. Even after 6 months step up process I don't think they'd be even close to spending that much time together. We only had visitation two weeks now But will be 3 hours a week and will be a 5 month step up process to where the eventually does every other weekend. How do I fight this and explain my reasoning. Has any other moms been through this? He didn't become interested until he was court ordered to pay child support.
by on Apr. 11, 2016 at 3:23 PM
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tottaxi
by Battle Weary on Apr. 11, 2016 at 9:31 PM

Do you have an attorney?

Florida is really f'd up.  You may want to message STBSingleMom.  She's in Florida and knows more than anyone here about child custody in your state.

WrongWayDiva
by Bronze Member on Apr. 12, 2016 at 9:51 AM
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I'm glad you popped in here from the other forum.   How far apart do you live?   Why were there no previous custody orders?   Typically, judges see right through the child support order/file for custody argument, but like Tottaxi says, Florida is doing some crazy stuff these days.   

Jennaleigh_87
by Member on Apr. 12, 2016 at 9:56 AM
Currently we live about 25 minutes away from each other. Next year they've talked about moving closer. (The odds) We have a temporary order in place that started two weeks ago starting off with supervised visits leading up to overnights in a 6 month step up that way it's a slow process for my son.

Quoting WrongWayDiva:

I'm glad you popped in here from the other forum.   How far apart do you live?   Why were there no previous custody orders?   Typically, judges see right through the child support order/file for custody argument, but like Tottaxi says, Florida is doing some crazy stuff these days.   

tottaxi
by Battle Weary on Apr. 12, 2016 at 10:15 AM

As I said before, Florida is a mess, so normal assumptions don't necessarily apply there.  But, if it is like it is in the majority of states I would tell you this:

Shared custody requires a high degree of communication and cooperation.  It also requires living within the same school district so that the child's life is not disrupted.  That school district (in Illinois) is the high school district.

I would suggest that since your child is three and old enough for preschool that you enroll him right away to establish where he will be going to school.  I don't know if your public school system offers preschool, but if they do, that would be the way to go.  Or at least a preschool that operates on the public school calendar.

That is assuming that your temp order still has you as having sole legal rights over your child.  

Another thing...child support...did ex pay any type of voluntary support during those first three years?  If you have been going this alone then, IMO, it is best to appear willing to continue to do this in the future.  Let him be the one to make this about money, not you.

Jennaleigh_87
by Member on Apr. 12, 2016 at 10:21 AM
That's very good information. Thank you. My son is in a year round preschool now. His father fought child support for the last 2 years so I just started getting it a couple months ago. My son is 2 1/2 and he's been absent the entire time and they just met two weeks ago due to a temporary order we put in place.

Quoting tottaxi:

As I said before, Florida is a mess, so normal assumptions don't necessarily apply there.  But, if it is like it is in the majority of states I would tell you this:

Shared custody requires a high degree of communication and cooperation.  It also requires living within the same school district so that the child's life is not disrupted.  That school district (in Illinois) is the high school district.

I would suggest that since your child is three and old enough for preschool that you enroll him right away to establish where he will be going to school.  I don't know if your public school system offers preschool, but if they do, that would be the way to go.  Or at least a preschool that operates on the public school calendar.

That is assuming that your temp order still has you as having sole legal rights over your child.  

Another thing...child support...did ex pay any type of voluntary support during those first three years?  If you have been going this alone then, IMO, it is best to appear willing to continue to do this in the future.  Let him be the one to make this about money, not you.

tottaxi
by Battle Weary on Apr. 12, 2016 at 12:03 PM
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Sadly, money is usually at the center of most custody issues.  If you had never asked for CS he may have just disappeared.  As soon as money is involved they suddenly want to pretend they are parents.

If I could figure out a way to do it...not in writing because it would come back to bite me...I would tell ex that he could stop paying cs if he would sign away his rights.  I do know of a woman who had her ex's (never married) rights removed.  I dont know if it was voluntary on his part or if a judge did it.   That would have been better for you.  He could keep his money and just disappear.  No amount of money is worth the crap you are going to have to deal with.  And having CS ordered doesn't make it guaranteed.  They should give you that warning when you apply for it.  Visitation and CS are separate in the eyes of the court, but in reality they are definitely linked. 

STBSingleMom
by Bronze Member on Apr. 12, 2016 at 11:19 PM
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Just seeing this and if you message me, I am happy to share my number and answer whatever specific questions you may have. Based on what you've said, let me address your concerns first (I would have to know what district you're in to give you more specific details and what case law you may be able to cite):

1A: Senate tried to pass the 50/50 default (FL SB 250), but as of March, the status is "Died in Messages" https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2016/0250 - the House has a separate reform bill that basically kills alimony, but doesn't touch time sharing. They have vowed to push through their bill, not the Senate's. 

1B: In reality, many judges already just go with blanket 50/50, state supreme court form. At least your judge had the sense to implement a step up. My ex had nothing to do with our son for the first 3 years of his life, had a history of domestic violence, is an alcoholic and has substance abuse problems (cocaine and Adderall). Even though our son had never spent more than an hour or two alone with him in his life, and despite PI footage showing my ex on multiple occassions driving under the influence, clearly impaired, the judge said, "unsupervised 50/50." Same judge is now under investigation for corruption and abuse of power. Unfortunately, because you're JUST getting to court, expect that he'll demand 50/50. Even convicts and addicts are given reunification in Florida - but more on that below.

2. You need to MEMORIZE Florida Statutes 61.13 and the criteria for "best interests of the child." Do that now and start a journal documenting everything in YOUR favor and everything against him - AND everything that you do that could be perceived to be in his favor. Who takes the child to the doctor? Who is more familiar with his routines, schooling, friends, schedules, foods, etc? ENCOURAGE a relationship in a way that is in the child's best interests - if you have concerns, commit them to writing (I would like to ensure that you aren't drinking while you have him because you have a history of whatever). Does he show up for kiddo's events? No? Write it down - school functions are fair game for either parent, regardless of whose time it is (don't tell him that though). Does he have toys, clothes, a bed, necessities for kiddo, or are you always packing a suitcase?

3. Buy a big calendar and use it - I don't know the specifics of your visitation, but if he shows up late - mark it. If it's 15 or 30 (or whatever your cutoff is) minutes, let him exercise his time, but send a text at the cutoff time asking where he is - that way it'll show that he was late and legally, forfeited his visit (if he was there and had the child, he'd reply with something like, "Are you crazy, I picked up X at whatever time," whereas if he says, "ETA 10 minutes" or something similar, it's an admission that he is late). If he's an hour late - don't be there when he gets there. If he starts missing visits, document it - don't communicate by phone, keep to text and email so you have a paper trail and you can show the judge, "Your Honor, he was given a step up opportunity, yet he missed 1/3 of his visits."

4. You need to look at a range of factors regarding the feasibility of 50/50 and stack those factors in your favor. Florida does NOT require you to live in the same school district to have a shot at 50/50. You have to live within 45 miles of each other - model plan is at the end. However, there are things that you can do to show that it's not a feasible schedule. If he lives 25 minutes away, that's peanuts in Florida - my ex lives 45 minutes to an hour away without traffic (and he has to take 95 for like 20 - 30 miles - through PBC - it takes more like an hour and a half!) and it doesn't disqualify him. And even if he did live farther away, there is a model that allows him to make up that time during school breaks and summer vacations - not what you're going to want. What's his job? Yours? Who's able to spend more time actually with the child, rather than leaving the child with relatives? In Florida, there is right of first refusal - default is 4 hours but you can demand 2 or less. If he's going to say, I want 50/50 but I will be working during my time, so kiddo is going to really be time sharing with my parents or my girlfriend, that won't fly with the courts. Not to mention, you can cancel any visit where he won't be with the child for 4+ hours ("I'd like to exercise my right of first refusal and have the child with me" - remember those words) https://15thcircuit.co.palm-beach.fl.us/documents/10179/23165/ModelTimeShareinstatelessthan45miles.pdf

5. And this is an important one - get yourself to mediation. Get a final order in place. If you do not have a final order and SB250 gets reintroduced, that'll be your default. HOWEVER, laws cannot be applied retroactively. If you have an existing court order, he has to meet the two pronged test in Wade v Hirschman (https://www.floridabar.org/divcom/jn/jnjournal01.nsf/Author/B742866AB1AA2CE4852570A7004BE278). The parent seeking to modify an existing order has the "extraordinary burden" of proving that there has been a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances so extreme that a change in time sharing is in the best interests of the child. "I moved closer" is not enough. "I am pissed that I have to pay child support so I want more time to offset that" is not enough. In order to modify an order, you really have to have either a smoking gun ("She got a DUI with the child in the car, Your Honor," but it doesn't have to establish a detriment - just that there would be a clear and glaring improvement in the child's life to modify custody), or a laundry list of items (I'm building my case up to modify his time down - in my case it's continued denial of emergency medical care, contempt of court order, attempt at alienation, continued threats, he moved an hour away, he's living with someone who I haven't met who may not be good for the child to be exposed to, etc). Even with that list - it'll be a long shot. Remember - the courts in Florida, once you have a set order, don't want to be bothered with you again unless it's something major. There has to be a serious reason to disrupt the child's life. Or you need to have a crazy judge.

6. Do what you can to get your kiddo caught up in as much as possible where it won't be fun for him. He's the same age as my son was when we got into the divorce - so I know options are still limited. But try swimming lessons, then little gym, whatever activities you can afford that keep him tied as much as possible to where you live, and that will keep you going until you drop for the time being, but will give him a taste of what fatherhood is really like. You have to be careful not to overstep and every court order is different about scheduling over the other parent's time, but you can schedule like a pediatrician's checkup during one of his unsupervised weekends (and then you go, too). "That was their available appointment time." (There's no law in Florida saying responsibiilities take place only during mom's time). Or make sure that he has extracurriculars that happen during dad's time and let him skip them - it'll show the courts that he's going to maintain that pattern long term. Better yet, he'll see that it's not just "pick up a cute kid for a few days and show him off, play Legos, eat pizza and hot dogs and deliver him back for mom to take care of all the hard stuff." Do this NOW, while he still has limited supervised visits, so he later doesn't tell the judge you're overscheduling to alienate him. Then you can say, "Your honor, this is the child's schedule, and he has a rich life. His father wants to be a part of that life? I've not stopped him from doing it, but the child shouldn't have to sacrifice his activities and calendar because his father isn't interested in parenting." He may run for the hills when he realizes that being a parent is actually "work."

tottaxi
by Battle Weary on Apr. 13, 2016 at 9:14 AM

STBSinglemom...We have a lot of members from Florida that can benefit from this.  Can you copy and paste this in a separate post, label it with Florida Child Custody or something to draw Floridians to it and I will make it a sticky.  If you don't want to do this or don't have time, please let me know if I have your permission to move this reply.  Thanks!

STBSingleMom
by Bronze Member on Apr. 13, 2016 at 9:31 AM
1 mom liked this
Sure thing - either way. Or if it can wait until tonight I can put up a list of these forms and links for Florida
WrongWayDiva
by Bronze Member on Apr. 13, 2016 at 9:58 AM
1 mom liked this

Please please listen to these wise women!!  They have truly been in your shoes!   

You may have to resign yourself to the fact that Dad will get some parenting time, but remember, the bond you have with your son will always be there--that doesn't just go away because Dad steps into the picture.  

Quoting Jennaleigh_87: My sons father has had nothing to do with him or I in almost 3 years. My worry as well as my family is that we live in Florida and their trying to pass a 50/50 law. I couldn't imagine that It could be that easy to just give every father 50/50. I understand in divorces where the child already knows the father. in a case like mine unwed and born out of wedlock...I hate to believe they could just take my son from me when I raised him for 3 years while his father had nothing to do with him and just give him to his dad half the month without truly bonding and having a close relationship. Even after 6 months step up process I don't think they'd be even close to spending that much time together. We only had visitation two weeks now But will be 3 hours a week and will be a 5 month step up process to where the eventually does every other weekend. How do I fight this and explain my reasoning. Has any other moms been through this? He didn't become interested until he was court ordered to pay child support.


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