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Is this worth fighting in court? Can BM really do this???

EricaT1980's picture

BM got remarried two years ago. SS15 and BM's husband DO NOT get along. About 9 months ago SS15 came to live with us as he was no longer welcome in BM's home. There was a court date 3 months ago and BM agreed to give DH full Legal and physical custody. Prior to this BM and DH had 50/50 custody. 

Here is the issue. BM is refusing to give SS15 his stuff that he had at BM's house. This includes laptop, expensive camera, SS15 personal money, clothes, electronics ect. The Law guardian asked BM if she would give SS15 these items and BM said no. No reason was given by BM. DH asked his attorney if we could sue BM for these things and he said no. According to our attorney whatever "stuff" SS15 had at BM's house was legally BM's not SS15. If BM refused to give SS15 his stuff including SS15 money there is nothing legally DH can do. BM can't be forced to return anything that is currently in her home. 

Has anyone been in a situation like this? Can BM legally refuse to give SS15 his personal stuff that is at her house? Should we get a second opinion? We don't want to spend more money in attorney fees if it's pointless to even try. 

Yes we have tried to tell SS15 we can buy him replacements BUT he wants his personal stuff from BM's not new replacements. 

EricaT1980's picture

1. The fact SS15 in a minor not sure HE can take her to small claims court??

2. I think small claims court is for matters under $1000. SS15 laptop alone cost that. All SS15 "stuff" at BM's including money would be around $4000.

notsurehowtodeal's picture

In most states, small claims is well over 1,000 - check the amount for your state. That might be an option.

It might be worth a call to the local police just to talk to them about the situation. They might try and say it is civil, but I would think there might be a case that it is actually theft.

Is there anyone who could reach out to BM on SS's behalf that she might listen to? Another sibling or family member? I feel for your SS, what she is doing is awful.

EricaT1980's picture

BM's family are as Dysfunctional as she is. BM's parents live three states away and only visit once every 4 or 5 years. Don't think they ever came up for Christmas/Thanksgiving/Birthdays. They have $$$ so they are busy going on cruises or Traveling Europe rather than visiting their only daughter. Since BM threw SS15 out 9 months ago his grandparents have not called SS15 or even sent a card on his birthday. I'm sure BM told them not too but what grandparents would listen to that crap. 

Guess we could try the police to see if they can do something 

ESMOD's picture

There would have to be pretty decent proof that these things were in fact his posessions.. and not just things he was allowed to use/have at her home.

Are there photos of him at christmas with his laptop and new camera?  Is there any way to document the cash he had that she was holding?  Was any of it given to him by you or your DH?  Did he buy any of it himself? and could he prove that?

At the cost of what you are mentioning.. a lawyer is likely to eat well into that to take a it wouldn't be worth it.  Small claims maybe is an option if he has any evidence that these things were actually gifted or purchased by him.

Ultimately, this may just end up being collateral damage to his inability to get along within her home and with her new husband.  The reality is that he could have been at least a decent part of the conflict himself.. and it usually means both parties have some blame in the situation.  I don't know to the extent he has no relationship with his mom.. or what her issues are.. is she an otherwise normal person.. no drugs/abuse issues in her home?  Did they have a good relationship prior to her new man coming on the scene?  Does she want to repair their relationship?  Would she go to counseling with her son?  If so.. there is always the chance that perhaps if they heal the relationship she may relent and give him at least some of the stuff.. but i don't know.. maybe she and her new husband spent his money... sold the items.. it's always a possibility.. esp if they are in any kind of financial crisis?  

EricaT1980's picture

Yes there are pictures of him opening his computer at Christmas BUT BM took those photos and highly unlikely she would hand the over for Evidence. The money SS15 Earned/gifted but has no proff since it was Kept in a safe at BM house. Therapy was offered to BM but she refused.   BM comes from money so highly doubt she sold any of his things. 

Honestly I think BM thought SS15 would come crawling back after a few months begging for BM's forgiveness. BM threw SS15 out to "scare" him into doing whatever she and her husband wanted. BUT it backfired on BM and now she's pissed off things do not go as she thought. Instead SS15 is highly pissed off and wants ALL his stuff from BM. 

ESMOD's picture

This might be an opportunity to teach him the lesson that being stubborn is not the best way to go through life.  He may be a "child".. but he can be the bigger person.... clearly there was some behavior at her home she was at the end of her rope over.. that he probably should be taking some ownership for part of all of this.

No.. it's not right to kick your kid out.. but on the other hand.. he did have another parent.. and maybe she thought that his dad would back up the need to follow a parent's rules? and send him back to her vs providing an escape from her consequences.

Her behavior isn't right.. but.. again.. I'm guessing the boy did things that may have prompted such a bad response from her? and maybe he needs to communicate his apology for HIS part in it (without calling her out.. just apologizing for his part.. and asking her to consider working things out because she is his mother and he loves her?).

CastleJJ's picture

SS15 is a minor so I would agree with legal advice that anything he has at BM's is considered BM's property. If you can't take legal action, I would recommend telling SS that you guys will help to replace the items but ultimately it is between him and BM if he wants his stuff back. Ultimately, it is showing SS just how shitty BM is if she won't give him his stuff. I hope it is a lesson to him to not trust her. 

Harry's picture

He can not own real property.  These items including money is actually BM property.  I know we all feel that minor chrildren own things,  as there ,, cloths gifts,, money in college accounts.  But they really don't. 

Flustered's picture

Not exactly true. Kids do "own" things that they are beneficiaries on ( when and if they get it) and things like trusts set up for them. My DH and  I set up trusts for BGK and I am the trustee, then my BD and a nephew. We did this to keep theirBD from ever getting his hands on it. The money can only go to them for certain things until age 21. And then they each get some and get the rest at 30. Technically, they " own" it but cannot access it until adulthood/ just good protection to keep their BD's hands out

Dogmom1321's picture

I would let it go. BM could easily say cash was hers and she purchased the laptop or camera, technically making it hers. Like above mentioned... use this as a life lesson. This should help SK see BMs true colors.

Sidenote: she also might be refusing because she sold his things. One year DH kept asking for a North Face jacket to be returned. Turns out it was on Facebook Marketplace. 

advice.only2's picture

The kid is SOL honestly.  When DH got custody of Spawn he called GrandHag to see if he could get Spawn’s things.  GrandHag told him flat out, he got custody it was up to him to get those things for Spawn.  We had just gifted her a brand new IPod for her birthday, he asked for that and they said they would “look for it”.   She never saw it again and we learned it’s best just to get her new items that stayed at our house and whatever was with Meth Mouth was her “possessions”.

1st3rd5thWEInHell's picture

Its not his property. She bought the clothes and electronics so she has a say on who gets to use them and whether they can be used outside of her home

When SS21 (then 14yo) decided to move in with us, BM1 punished him by not allowing him to take his clothes and belongings. He had left abruptly after an argument and only brought an xbox and phone and the clothes on his back. We had to buy everything brand new. Eventually as time went on, she started bribing him with his stuff or brand new stuff in the hopes that he would come back. She would tell him "if you come back, you will find all your stuff left in the room as is and i will buy you a car and you wont have to go to school once you are 16"

Your SS BM is probably keeping the stuff to blackmail or bait him to come back in the future.

EricaT1980's picture

I feel 100 percent BM is holding onto SS15 stuff to blackmail him into bowing down to her new husband and her! BM knows if she hands over the stuff SS15 wants BM will no longer have anything to Manipulate SS15 with. BM is trying to Deny SS15 his Belongings in hope SS15 gives in. It's a 50/50 chance SS15 could fold and BM knows it. This is why we thought Legally maybe we could get SS15 stuff back but it sounds like the court won't do anything 

1st3rd5thWEInHell's picture

Thats exactly what happened in my SS case but my husband bought him new clothes and everything else. SS did not care about much except his phone and his gaming console which he had brought with him. They did go back and forth about it but after spending a full school year with us, he went to spend the summer with her and she let him get most of his stuff since he was talking s*** about his dad and that was a sure way to butter up BM.

He stayed with us for 2.5 years. What got him to move back with BM was the purchase of a car and the promise that no school would be required. In our home, my husband was going to make him get a job and save up to get a car and match it when he graduates at 18 but SS said that his father was "controlling, toxic and hating on him because he was going to get a car at 16yo brand new and gifted"....BM said that my husband was jealous of his own son for being able to get a car. The funny part is that my husband has 3 vehicles and one of them is it would be hard to "hate on your son" for something you already have. Btw after SS moved back, it lasted 3 months before we got panicked calls from BM about him needing to move back and how he was out of control and it was all because of us lol...BM told my husband "you need to tell your wife that she needs to get along with my son! My son was there before her....You had your kids before your wife!". Against my opinion, my husband offered his son to move back in and in exchange he just had to enroll for school/ged and follow the rules at home. SS refused because it was too hard and he needs to make money. My husband ended up telling BM that there was nothing he could do and by law she was required to provide food and shelter until he turned 18yo. She let him stay with her under the condition that at midnight on his bday he would be out. He was kicked out at midnight on the day of his 18th. All of this was because of child support and benefits which she would have lost if he moved in with us and my husband had filed paperwork. Instead my husband wanted to be nice and told her to drop the child support and keep the custody order as is in case she wanted him to come back. She never dropped the support so he accumulated arrears for 2.5 years while SS was living with us and BM was making up excuses as to why she couldnt go to court. 


Your BM will probably relinquish his stuff if he bonds with her over her hate of your husband. Give it a few months...

DPW's picture

This is a new low... poor kid. 

I wouldn't pursue this any further legally based on the many arguments other posters have made above. This is a game. SS, while early in his life in my opinion, needs to understand that this is a game and he should not engage as it only feeds BM. Unfortunate for the kid. 

Mominit's picture

As you've alrady heard, it's not likely a court will do anything about it.  But I'd like you to re-read ESMOD's post and think about what you're going to do next.

It's possible he was in a terrible situation, or that he was contributing his half to the disaster.  Mom would like him to behave politely in her home, even with people he doesn't ge along with (a skill that will serve him well in the work force).  He basically says he hates her and everything about her and her house.....but can he keep all the stuff?  Can he write her off, but take all the material things from her home to set him up to be comfy and happy in his new life?

And how are you dealing with this?  When my SK was estranged from BM, we gave a week or two to settle in and settle down.  Then we insisted on a short visit, followed by a longer visit as everyone got along a bit better, followed by a routine of EOWE.  We could very easily have said "Well it's all your fault SK is estranged, and we'll support SK's decision to speak to you when their ready".  But how would we have felt if the shoe was on the other foot?  If SK had marched out of our home over something small or something fixable and decided to cut Dad out of their life as a teenager.

It's our job to parent and raise the kids.  Which for now may mean give it a week or two to settle down, but then encourage that relationship to pick up in some formal fashion (dinner once a week? sleep overs in a few weeks?).  He may not get his stuff back, but he'll have his Mom back.  And unless there's abuse or she genuinely refuses to have a relationship with him, that's important.  That way you can all look back at this time and say "I tried".

ESMOD's picture

I think sometimes we see the NCP just overjoyed to have finally won one against the EX... when the reality is that their child's behavior may have fallen way below acceptable at the other home... and just like SP on here want the kid to not come over.. it can happen that the Exes' spouse/SO may not want the child to be there either.. if they are causing too much conflict.  And many Bio parent.. will do that to keep a partner.... (and to avoid the coddled disasters they had a large part in raising)

We did try to back up BM in rules she wanted enforced regarding room cleanliness..chores.. My DH would give a child a "respite" from the stress in a crisis situation.. but they wouldn't allow a kid to escape consequences that may have well been deserved.

Russell1981's picture

Follow Mominit's advice.

The biggest regret I have with all of my SDs was something that occurred with the oldest who came home hating her dad. I had only been married two years, had no idea what I was doing, and fell into her drama. She was 15 and within 3 years she flipped the script on me and blamed me for everything because she did not like my rules. They learn how to triangulate early. I wish I had forced the issue and taken a slow approach as stated above. 

This BM does sound difficult if she is offering a car to a 15-year-old so I do see where you are coming from.

Legally what is the point? Are you and your husband going to pay a $5,000 retainer to sue the mother? Even if there was a way, which is highly unlikely, is it worth the money? 

Good Luck with this situation.