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Never-married father hasn't seen his young son after mother disappeared with child a few years ago

Your Question:
You are my last hope and pray that you will be able to help me or guide me in the direction of someone who can. I had a child out of wed lock almost 4 years ago, with a woman that I was engaged to. The relationship dissolved before my son was born. I was in my son's life for his first year. I then got married to another lady and my son's mother refused to let me see him and has moved from the last known location, changed jobs and phone numbers. I signed a Declaration of Paternity at the hospital and have been paying over $500 a month in child support thru the Riverside County Child Support Services. I have not been able to financially afford an attorney. There is no court orders of any kind, the child support is internal due to the fact that she went on public aid. I have done internet searches and every means possible to locate my sons mother to no avail. I stumbled across the internet and found a sight to fill out a petition to establish parental relationship and order to show cause for visitation and joint custody. I have begged the child support department to provide me with her address so that I can have her served the paperwork. They have put up all road blocks possible, I have sent letters to them to forward to my son's mother. The last letter demanded child visitation and I also copied onto the letter the penal code about abduction, because she was refusing to any type of visitation or contact. The district attorney said that they would not forward that letter because it was threatening. I was just stating the law and was hoping that my sons mothere would realize she was breaking the law. I am heart broken and I want to see my son. I pay child support, and I do not want him to grow up without a father in his life like I did, but I can't get any help in locating him. Why is it the D.A. can take my money, take my license, garnish my bank account and tax refunds? I had a heart attack in November 2004, and all my finances got behind including child support and they say they are doing what is best for my son, but wont help ME be a part of his life, which is the most important thing. The District Attorney knows her address as well as she has superior court cases for recent traffic violations, and I'm sure they have her address also. I have sent letters to the district attorney to forward to her asking to see my son, they said they forwarded it to her but that is all they can do. Please help me, I don't want to give up hope, but the light at the end of the tunnel is gloomy. I now see why so many fathers just stop trying. All there money is taken to support the children so nothing is left for legal help, so they just go on with there lives, and 20 years later there is a knock at the door, and the child blames the father for leaving them. I live in Temecula, California, and I'm 90% sure the mother lives in Hemet, California. I have used the internet and even paid for private investigator internet searches with no results to locate my sons mother. Please!!! any help or advice on what to do would be heartfelt grateful.

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My Answer:
Hi friend,

What a travesty. No words that I can write will do anything to provide comfort for your obvious pain. Just take some solace in knowing that if you do get that knock in 20 years, you can look your son in the eye and tell him everything you did to try to find him.

Near the end of my note, I'll tell you some good news about your situation that you may not have realized.

If the online investigative searches like didn't turn up anything, then I would suggest going to a private investigator. If you were engaged to the mother, then I assume you have her date of birth, approximate height, last known hair color, eye color. She may have changed her name or gotten married, but if you somehow know that she has recent traffic violations, I guess her name hasn't changed. You may have her social security number. You know your son's date of birth, and you may have his social security number. Take all that information, along with what else you have (a photo of the mother?) to a private investigator.

If you're feeling like she's in Hemet, you may want to find a good private investigator in Hemet so that your costs are kept to a minimum. You can call a family law attorney in Hemet, briefly explain that you're looking for a private investigator, and could they recommend one. You can likewise perhaps go to the police department in Hemet and ask the same thing. On cost, expect it to be at least hundreds of dollars, perhaps more. No guarantee of results, of course, but you should at least get her last known address. On the other hand, a good PI has access to tools that may result in information within 24 hours.

Once you have that information-- and this is going to be the tough part for you-- you need be very patient and go through the proper channels in the family court in the county of the child's residence. It may be several weeks for you to get before a judge. DO NOT CONTACT YOUR EX. If she knows that you found her, she may disappear again.

Quit trying to go through channels that don't care and that can't do anything. It's a waste of your time and can potentially cause you trouble. It's the D.A.'s job to collect child support and enforce the law. It's not the D.A.'s job to locate people with no legal authority to do so. A never married mother, who has no orders to give the father any time with the child, is not breaking any laws and is not abducting the child. However, AFTER you get court orders to see the child, you have some legal power to enforce.

You will file a paternity action in a courthouse in the county of the child's residence. Hire a private process server to personally serve your papers to your ex, because if she disappears before your court date, you'll be able to prove she knew about it. Don't serve her by mail. You should probably ask for reunification services from the court either paid by the court or by the mother, to help you rebuild your role as father. The "visitation" (an awful word, because parents don't visit their children) orders you get from the court will depend upon a number of factors, including distance between you and the mother.

Remember the good news to which I alluded? Because you've been paying child support, the state of California has already determined that you're the father. The mother cannot suddenly go into a court and say you don't have parental rights, unless she's willing to admit that she defrauded the state and you alike by fabricating you to be the father. Plus it is AWESOME for you to be able to stand before a family law judge and say, "Your honor, I've paid child support for years for my son, even though his mother kept him from me for 3 years. I'm current on child support. I'm devoted to his welfare, I have a positive role to play in his life, and it's imperative that I be involved in his upbringing."

Words of warning: when seeking anonymous advice, people sometimes exclude negative things about themselves. If you have very few skeletons, don't worry about it. However, if you're a drunk, if you're violent, if you're an addict, or if you're a serious criminal-- and if the mother knows it-- you may not be too successful in court. If any of those things are in the far past and you've been straight, clean, and sober for years and can show via rehab, treatment, probation officer testimony, etc; then it's less of an issue. If you have any of those issues and haven't resolved them, it's time to straighten your act and seek help before approaching a court.

Please keep me updated on how this turns out for you. Even after you have any court orders, you may have difficulties with the mother following them. Don't set high expectations that this will be resolved with one trip before a judge. However, once you have those orders, and the mother ignores them, you're in a whole different ballgame, and you'll have much more authority to do something about it.

Best wishes for you,

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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