Monday, June 27, 2011 - Child Custody Issue

Dear Private Eye:

My wife and I divorced over a year ago.  She's a spiteful, angry woman, from a spiteful, angry wealthy family and I'm a blue collar working class guy they never liked from day one. We have a 3 year old son. My wife started drinking, we started fighting. She had an affair, filed for separation, then divorce.Now she's got the house, she's engaged to a guy 10 years younger than her. He moved in. She managed to get full custody based on false claims against me and the fact that she had an attorney and I did not.  Besides, I live in a state that favors single mothers, not fathers. I pay my child support every month, am supposed by law to see my son two days a week. I also do not trust her live in boyfriend. I am paying child support on a minimum wage job so there's no money to spare for me and it really gets me that my money is going to her and her fiancee. What's worse is my ex is not complying with child support orders. They are a four hour drive from me. So she either leaves town before I get my son, claims he is sick,  sends him to her parents.  I have not sen him for two months and my wages are being garnished. I am beyond angry, don't have enough for the bills, don't see my kid and have lost faith in the legal system. Money talks, I have none. An ideas?
Pi**ed Off
Dear Pi**ed Off,
I get it completely. I would be equally pi**sed if I were in your shoes. If you have child support orders and you are paying your child support, the law mandates you be allowed to see your child according the court orders. I feel, regardless of name or state, the Departments of Heath and Human Services, or Child and Protective Services, often rule in favor of Mom simply because she is Mom. Often this is a very good decision.
Othertimes, it's not a good decision because Dad would be the better full-time parent and Mom still gets custody because Mom is a good actress or liar.
Some Moms can be as bad, or even, much worse, than Dads.
They get the child support, don't spend it on the children, then they don't you see your sons.
I will spare you my own angst on the subject (which reflects to yours) and cut to the chase here.

If I were you, I would pick myself up and walk myself into the nearest office of whatever agency your state has that deals with these matters.
Here in Washington State it is DSHS.
I would clean myself up, make myself look good,  credible, I would  control my emotions and put myself into a very calm, chillaxed headstate. Remember when anger enters the equation, logic is impossible.
I would write everything down on paper on a notepad that I plan to tell DSHS (or whatever agency manages custody and child suppport and custody in your state).
I would make copies (keep the originals) of all court papers and child support orders you have.
I would hand the papers in a file to the DSHS worker.
And give them everything I know or think they they need to know in writing including:
-the child's names
-the addresses
-the name of the guy living with them
-social security numbers (i think you can give your family's not his, which you aren't allowed to legally get anyway)
-dates of birth
-and as much as you can about income.
I would present my case consiely, clearly, and kindly. The goal is to evoke compassion from the person you are speaking to. And to convince them you are rational, credible, and definitely won't be a long-winded pain in their ass.
If the person looks at your case and could care less, I'd say thank you, nicely.
Then I would go to another DSHs office. I'd keep office hopping until someone takes my case and has my back.
Trust me on this, there are more good, helpful government workers, than bad, out there. All they want is respect. Ask them how their day is. Thank them for their help. And if you do get a loose cannon, sep away and go to another location/office in your state and talk to a different person.
I would also call my state and local/country bar association for the free legal advice they often offer communities.
If I were in your shoes I'd scream from the pulpit, shout from the rooftops, contact the media, set up a Facebook page,  demand my rights to be allowed to see my children.

Here's one thing I wouldn't recommend.
Or overt acts of hostility.
Recently, in Seattle, the leader of a father's rights group walked into a the courthouse with an unarmed hand-genade to take a public stand against abuse of Father's rights. His was shot on the spot.

As Churchill said, "Never, Ever Give Up".
Just don't act Pi**ed Off.  People who work for the government don't like to deal with angry people and appreciate calm collective people who won't take too much of their time.  They also like being handed well-organized facts and notes.
You are paying child support yet being denied state mandated child visitation and youmake less than your wife, who's living with an unknown man who could have some kind of past offense or current warrant.
And even if he has no record, yet works and lives with her -- he's living off your child support.
And even though I know this sounds ridiculous, your ex's fiancee  could be liable for child support under your state's law. His wages (if he has any) could be garnishable.
Were it me, facing your circumstances, I'd go for half or full custody.
Half's probably best.
It's what I did and it makes everyone less adversarial.
At the very least.... make a case, state it, and demand your right, legally, to see your son.
In my opinion, she doesn't have the legal right to keep him from you.
I'd go for more custody and also,  more child support. I'd spend some time in the law library (free) and if I was flat broke... once educated, I'd become my own attorney and ignore others who call me a fool for being my own attorney because I couldn't afford one.
And most important, I'd turn the state child custody/ support agency into an ally instead of an enemy. Key to it all, is controlling the emotions.  Keep your cool, gather the facts, documents, study the law and chances are good, the courts will help you reunite with your son.

Good Luck!
Your Private Eye

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