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Father of infant moved 2000 miles away, now wants to get custody

Your Question:
Dear Eric,

I would like to get your opinion about my close friend's situation. He was married to woman for 2 years and in that time they had a son. They will be divorced in 2 weeks and their son is now a year old. My friend recently moved to Southern California while his ex and son remain in Chicago. He would like nothing more than to have his son with him but I was wondering how realistic that is considering his son's young age and the distance between LA and Chicago. Though the relationship he has with the mother of his child is far from healthy, his intention is not to rip the baby from his mother's arms. He has been sending her (the mom) half of his paychecks of his own volition since they have been separated. He has also made an effort to go visit his son every couple of months despite his ex making it very challenging to see his own son. He is currently working on improving his financial situation, though secure, by starting a new career and purchasing a home. His ex still lives with her mother and works part time as a waitress. I do not know what kind of a mother she is but I have heard a few things that did not sound kosher. There was one instance that she left her child alone in her vehicle while she went into a bar to have a drink. I am not saying that this is a recurring event but once is one too many times, in my opinion. I'd like to know what you think my friend's chances are of getting custody. Is the mother going to end up with sole custody by default? If you have any light to shed on the situation, I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you in advance.

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing.

You also informed me (not posted) that your friend moved 5 months ago because he wanted to get away from his ex who cheated on him. He also moved to try to pursue a new career path.

Your friend will have to prove that the mother is unfit.

If he can't do that, he's blown it and can expect that the mother will likely get sole physical custody, and perhaps sole legal custody too.

When a parent moves 2000 miles away from his/her infant (regardless of how much she/he hates the other parent), the message about devotion to the child is pretty clear.

Many parents go through hell to stay connected to their kids. Your friend was not willing to be near the mother due to his own hurt feelings, and a court won't care.

If the mother is unfit, I suggest you purchase a couple books for your friend, so he can build his case to take custody away from the mother. You can see what I suggest in my Recommended Books page.

But, her attorney can always ask the rhetorical question, "Well, what sort of father would leave an infant in the sole care of a so-called unfit mother?! This is ridiculous!"

For the sake of this child, I strongly suggest that he move back to Chicago and try to get court orders for regular contact with his kid and take seriously the role of father (i.e., more than simply making $$), which will be most important to the child.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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