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Unmarried father wants temporary custody of infant who is 1,000 miles away

Your Question:
I am about to go to court for a temporary custody hearing in Idaho. Mind you, I live in Wisconsin. The mother moved there after she became pregnant. I had tried everything to get her to move back to Wisconsin including proposing. I thought we could work things out for the children, but she said no. I tried to talk out custody with her, but she would not and said "Let the courts decide" She also has another older child that was also conceived in Wisconsin, but she moved to Idaho than also.

So that is the quick synopsis, and now we have to go to court for the temporary hearing on March 2nd. And events after my last visit in October are what make me want to get the children out of what I believe is a very unsafe situation. She is dating a man in Idaho that use to be her best friend. On one occasion, this man, lost his temper with her older child because she was throwing her peas on the floor. He than proceeded to throw her plate at the child and hit her in the nose and gave her a bloody nose. He also dumped her cup of milk on her and threw the cup at her. I know this because I found out from my ex's best friend and mother. My ex's mother called the police, who showed up and did nothing. (I don't know if my ex lied to the police or not) She also called child protective services that did nothing. And my attorney told me that this incident is so small in what they are use to dealing with that they wouldn't do anything. And of course this blows my mind because I have never heard of a one-time abuser and these children are obviously in danger. My ex's best friend has not stopped communication with my ex because of this incident and her anger at it. But after the incident, my ex, simply told her friend that her boyfriend is "going through personality problems and trying to find himself". Her boyfriend also decided to email me and try after he found out I knew and admitted to the situation but in a lot less serious way than was described to me. He told me he "pushed" the plate at her and dumped the milk on her, all be accident.

On top of this I started to look up "borderline personality disorder" on advice from a father's group and it doesn't give symptoms but describes her to a tee. And this mental disease explains so much of what has occurred in her life. She is a very dependant person that seems to thrive in abusive relationships. She seems to look out for herself and not the children.

Another factor that has popped up is she has HPV. I talked to a few doctors, called the hotline and read what I could on the internet. While she wants to blame the STD on me, it is very unlikely she contracted it from me because her pap smear was clean before giving birth to our child. More than likely she contracted it from her current boyfriend and probably gave it to our son through breastfeeding. Unfortunately there is no way to test men, so I can not prove whether or not, I gave it to her or if my son has contracted it and is now a carrier. On top of that she has to be scraped and refused to go to the doctor to get it done and this could lead to cancer.

I have filed for custody of my son and guardianship of her daughter because I love them both very much and want to make sure they don't get abused and give them the best possible life. She has hired an attorney and a psych to tell the court that the bond between her and the children is to built to remove them. So I am looking for any advice I can and want to do what I can for those kids. I want her to be a part of those children's life but not until she detaches herself from her boyfriend and seeks psychological help. (BTW, she also tried to commit suicide five years ago) I know that she loves the children but I don't think she is capable of taking care of them until she gets help.

The cards are stacked against me because she moved to Idaho and I am only willing to move as a last resort because my family is here. I tried to get a judge to sign an ex-parte in Wisconsin but he wouldn't because he said Wisconsin didn't have jurisdiction. Also she is the mother and has custody of the children and I have only been able to visit twice in ten months because of the distance and the cost involved with visiting.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions on how I should proceed. I know the children would be better off with me and I wouldn't be doing this if that wasn't the case. My lawyer told me that there is very little chance of me getting temporary custody with these facts and the fact that she will probably get primary placement with just small amounts of placement for me. And this really bothers me because as the law states, I am interested in the best interest of the children. So any help you can provide would be much appreciated.

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My Answer:

Wow, what a mess, eh?

Here's the foundation that I'll start with, taken straight from your note: " the law states, I am interested in the best interest of the children."

I'm also going to assume that everything you wrote is true, as that's all I can do.

First, take a deep breath. I'm exhausted just reading everything you're trying to manage here. The reason for the deep breath is this-- you're on a course that will likely be years before you get what you think is best, if that.

Second, because you do have the odds stacked against you, and because you are on a long path, it's critical for you to educate yourself about how this process works, what's important, and what's not important. You mentioned cost-barriers in travel, so I'll assume you don't have much cash. However, you write well enough to suggest that reading isn't a burden for you-- so there's no excuse for ignorance about how to approach this situation (i.e., I'm telling you that your current approach is the wrong one, as your attorney may have likewise suggested). Pick up a copy of Win Your Child Custody War (link is available in Recommended Resources).

Following are a few comments on the details you outlined. For efficiency, my style is sometimes direct and blunt, but it means no disrespect for your situation and how tough it is:
  • Personality Disorder. You can learn about Borderline Personality Disorders at It lists symptoms and ways to interact with such people. Great discussion board too. However, don't worry about trying to diagnose her. The court pays less attention to diagnoses than it does to actions. Document her actions, and let some other person diagnose her based upon what you documented. Don't ever tell a judge or a psychologist that she has Borderline Personality Disorder until an expert has diagnosed such. Claiming you're an expert would taint your credibility on other issues.
  • HPV. Not relevant unless a pediatrician says that it's a threat to the child. Same thing with any other STD. Doesn't matter who gave what to whom, unless it was intentional and/or threatens the child. Drop it.
  • Live-in boyfriend. Your word against his and hers, so drop it. Instead, it'd be better to do a criminal background check on him. If you know his DOB, and if his name is relatively uncommon, that's your starting place. If he has a background filled with DUI, violent crimes, drug convictions-- that's what would be valuable to an attorney to argue "unsafe home" in front of a judge. At the time of the bloody nose, someone should have called Dept of Child Services for an investigation, which would be good evidence. Now, that's too late.
  • Suicide attempt. If it happened 5 years ago, it may be irrelevant unless it's tied to some psychoemotional problems that still exist today. You'll need a psychologist to assess that. It has no weight coming from you, unless you have direct knowledge that she jeopardized the immediate safety of her older child during the suicide attempt.
  • Guardianship of child not yours. Based on what you wrote, it ain't gonna happen. Unless you previously adopted this child, you have no parental rights. Drop it.
  • Temporary custody at your residence. In your child's first year, you've spent time with the kid on two occasions. I hear you when you discuss difficulty of WI to ID travel, but no court will give a stranger an infant. The child has no bond with you. Ain't gonna happen.

So, I'm likely saying the same thing that your attorney told you. In your current situation, with your current focus and approach, you're going to lose. I'm blunt because I want to jump-start you in a better direction for your goal.

The goal is... best interest of the child. That's what you wrote, right?

You can't be a parent from 1,000 miles away. If you want to have the best shot at the outcome you desire, you need to move to Idaho. Hopefully, she's in Boise. Boise is a nice town, actually.

At your March 2 hearing on temporary custody, you can ask the judge for a long-distance parenting plan, as well as a parenting plan for when you move within 10 miles of mother's residence in coming months because that's your only option for being involved in the child's life. The latter plan would give you much more contact with your child, and allow you to build a bond. Judge may order a contingent plan based upon your move to local.

Once you're in Idaho, you may see your child a few times a week... if judge orders something like that. You'll have your finger on the pulse of what's going on at mom's house, and you can contact authorities if anything awful happens (e.g., more violence).

You'll also have to document all the nasty, unpleasant things that mom does, especially how it damages your child.

Some time later, perhaps a year, you can ask the court to modify the parenting plan so you have more time. Or at any time there's an emergency (e.g., mom spinning out, boyfriend beating up everyone), you can petition for immediate custody.

I think you may also want to take a parenting class that offers a certificate of completion. You can enter that certificate into evidence with the court (i.e., show your parenting abilities and dedication).

As another immediate reading assignment, I recommend that you read a book about being a new dad. Armin Brott is an author who has a book called The New Father. I suggest this for one concern I have-- you don't seem to appreciate the trauma your child will endure if ripped away from mom and placed into the home of a relative stranger with whom she has no bond. I'm not saying that your ultimate desire may be wrong, but that how you approach it could really come off as insensitive in the eyes of people who make decisions about a child's welfare (e.g., a judge).

You have a long, hard road ahead of you. Moving to Idaho may suck in many arenas, but being an involved father will be a tremendous gift to you. Please let me know updates as they happen.

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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