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Custody battle looms ..

SMof2Girls's picture

Just venting .. or maybe looking for hope .. it's been a while since I've posted. Not much has changed in our custody arrangement; legal battle has been dragging on after delay and delay and delay. They go to court now, hopefully for sure, March 3-4. We had a baby 6 months ago so that has pretty much preoccupied all of my free time! But alas, the stress is starting to return Sad

BM is military (Navy). Skids have lived with her for school years since the divorce. SD8 is in 2nd grade; SD9 is in 4th. In all this time, they've only relocated out of state one time; but BM has moved voluntarily in addition to her relocation. So all in all, this means that SD9 is in 4th grade, and in her 4th school.

She is voluntarily negotiating for new orders early. She plans to leave the state by next school year. She wants to go to TX (we are in MD) to further her career. BM has admitted that her move is voluntary, and not required by the military. She has stated that she is only moving to pursue promotion, but she could stay in her current duty station for the duration of her military service due to under-staffing of her position. So, a custody battle that has been dragging on for years now, is finally coming to a head in March. DH is terrified. Most of it (IMO) is unfounded .. he's a good dad, fights to stay involved, skids are involved and rooted in their lives here. They currently have joint legal/physical custody; close to 50/50 but not exact (due to distance, it's just impossible).

Further, their agreement also states that if she deploys or is duty stationed more than 30 days, custody reverts to DH. So even if she DOES get to take them, chances are they'd end up back here anyway (but not a guarantee; TX would be a teaching duty so deployment is less likely than a ship duty). When she relocated last time, DH agreed to let the skids go under false pretenses .. BM essentially lied in mediation and never sent the kids back when she was supposed to. This was 3 years ago now, but maybe the biggest downside to his case.

Further, while she was stationed in TX last time, she pretty much refused to allow DH any contact with the skids .. tried to refuse his visits, wouldn't allow phone calls, even told him not to contact their coaches/teachers. Most of that is all documented in email.

IDK .. I'm just ready for it to be over (not that it's ever REALLY over), but he's so stressed out that I can't help but to be stressed. Anyone else deal with anything similar? Words of hope/wisdom welcome!

SMof2Girls's picture

He tried to go after her; his attorney at the time dropped the ball. By the time it went to court, she had relocated back here and the courts dismissed the case based on irrelevance .. it didn't matter anymore.

Since then, the courts haven't found her in contempt a single time. Despite filing on what I would think are pretty black/white issues; including right of first refusal. But nothing as serious as the relocation to TX the first time.

In all honesty, the kids can have a better life than being bounced around forever. But BM will always put her career first and DH will always be fighting the uphill battle to win more custody.

But he does fight her (not sure where you got the impression he didn't). And because of that, I do support him. Our courts, however, don't really seem to like parents who fight.

SMof2Girls's picture

But I guess my next question would be .. what exactly do you think the next move is? What would you say qualifies as being proactive? He volunteers in classrooms, chaperons field trips, attends doctor appointments. He's as involved as she lets him be .. and she does her best to restrict that involvement by not sharing information, or waiting until it's too late to share it.

The last move was completely voluntary .. she just moved to a new town to save money (not a change in military station). DH didn't find out until 30 days prior; she'd already signed a new lease and provided intent to vacate. She had already registered the skids in a new school. By the time he would have filed in court to stop it and actually got a hearing, they would already be attending the new school. Those contempt charges were dismissed, BTW. Agreement says she has to give 90 days notice of a move. Judge thought 30 was fine.

So .. knowing all we know now .. what can he really do to "head her next move off at the pass"? He meets with his attorney weekly to organize and build their case.

SMof2Girls's picture

This is helpful .. thank you.

He is on every notification system and email list he can get his hands on at the school. the trouble is, teachers STILL send some info home only in backpacks. So field trip forms, party invitations, etc don't go through any other method of communications. Those are the things he doesn't get, and trust me, BM withholds every single one she can. She says the same thing .. he can call/ask the school directly; but in trying to foster good relationships with the teachers, he doesn't want to be emailing them every week asking for any upcoming events. Maybe he should?

Their agreement says 90 days because of her military status and her orders. She has a history of not being forthcoming with information regarding her moves. I think 90 days is excessive too; but the intent was that she would let him know as soon as she knows. Clearly that's never been the case.

We haven't moved in over 5 years, and even then we stayed in the same school district. We have no plans to move; but I can see how having that in the agreement would be useful.

Nothing in the CO prevents her from moving; it only states that custody will be revisited if she relocates more than 25 miles. That's actually why they're going to court now; she has moved within about 15 minutes of us and absolutely refuses any discussion of DH having more time or changing their arrangement. His attorney has said that this is the time to go for the change for a clear 50/50 as opposed to the choppy schedule they have not that sort of gets them close, but not exact.

Rags's picture

Oh, fun, fun, fun. Time to bring every fact to bear against BM and own her ass. I would.

Every email, a transcript or recording of every phone call (if recording your calls is legal in your state), a copy of every email, every deviation/violation of the CO, bring the pain.

Sure, DH is stressed. It is always stressful to go to court over a family law issue, any issue for that matter. But particularly in family law situations. Family law judges are rarely from the pinicle of the law profession. I refer to them as the bottom 10%ers for a reason. In my experience that is the only place that most of them could possible originate.

But, BM's behavior seems to be your greatest weapon so use it. DH needs to calm down, work his strategy, align with his attorney while making sure that his attorney is following DH's directives and pushing for what DH wants. After all, the attorney works for DH.

Get your battle rattle and game faces on and go destroy the opposition.

I would were I you and DH.

SMof2Girls's picture

My only hesitation is that his attorney and parent coordinator have both advised him AGAINST trying to smear BM through the mud. That playing the finger pointing game will only frustrate the judges. And since we are the ones asking for the change, it's not the best approach. But she really is SOOOOO difficult. I am really hoping that her behavior the last time she lived in TX comes back to bite her in the ass ..