Alright, so here goes – I need advice about fathers’ child custody rights. I’ve got a three year old little girl through an ex-girlfriend from when we both lived in MN. Her mother is a native Oklahoma resident who moved up here to get away from an abusive ex-boyfriend with whom she already had two kids by the time I met her.
We were together for perhaps 9 months and when she found out she was pregnant with my child, she left me. Fathers’ child custody rights did not appear to be an issue at first. She stayed local for a while, letting me see my child on her schedule (ironic, since I was working and she wasn’t) and eventually letting me take her to my own place. As soon as my daughter was born, I insisted on taking a DNA test even though I knew in my heart she was mine; I wanted to do everything “by the book” so that nobody would be able to “one-up” the other and ensuring
I felt more secure pursuing fathers’ child custody rights when the DNA test came back positive. I signed the ROP but she would not permit me to alter the birth certificate, since I had “expressed doubt” as to whether my child was truly mine. I spoke with a family lawyer who assured me that the ROP held more importance than the birth certificate. The only court-ordered documents that have my name/signature on them are for child support, and there has never been an officially established custody order. I never pressed the issue of fathers’ child custody rights before because the mother and I were able to act as reasonable, rational adults, acting in the best interests of our child.
I found out maybe six months ago that she was planning on taking off back to Oklahoma with her now ex-husband to be with her ex-boyfriend (XBF was released early from Oklahoma prison for sexual assault on a minor and had served 4 years of a 12 year sentence) and was going to do so with or without my consent. She was not considering fathers’ child custody rights while making this decision.
She kept repeating her desire/intention to move, and I never said anything to her about my concerns beyond that I was not thrilled with her idea. The last time she mentioned it was in front of me and my now-fiance. I walked out her front door and had a cigarette, and apparently my silence was interpreted as, “Okay, go ahead, take my daughter, I don’t care.”
My fiance and I have been together for almost two years and my child’s mother knew her before I did, and was fine with us dating. My fiance and I now live together and have made every effort to be cooperative with the mother. The mother has changed her mind repeatedly about my child calling my fiance “step-mommy” from being okay with it to flipping out about it. Sadly, my fiance has been more of a mother to my child than her own mother.
My child now lives in OK with her mother, her ex-husband, and is very involved (no proof beyond a gut feeling, but the gut rarely lies) with her mother’s ex-boyfriend. I have extremely limited phone contact with my daughter due to my work schedule (6pm to 6am) and her mother’s desire to replace me with a “surrogate” father. Her mother basically wants me out of the picture, regardless of fathers’ child custody rights, with the only rights being to pay child support… basically, her mother is fully content to game the system. I’ve blown the whistle to Social Services down there, as best I can, but have met with little cooperation, at best.
I guess my primary concerns are that my child is living with an irresponsible parent who is more concerned about going back to an old boyfriend than raising my child and how fathers’ child custody rights can help me. Social Services/CPS aren’t interested in doing anything because there is no abuse to be proven and no drug usage; and I can’t afford to hire an attorney to even represent me in court. I’ve decided to self-represent, which I can do, but I don’t know how I’m going to get the paperwork served to her down in OK. Law enforcement is pretty much not to be counted on since she’s related to half of them where she’s from.
(Side note: I grew up without a father and I know how damaging it can be, and I wanted to prevent that from happening… her mother, on the other hand, is he11-bent on having that happen.)
Any fathers’ child custody rights advice? I’m willing to do anything physically and fiscally possible to get custody of my daughter and take her into a loving home with a dad and a step-mom who actually care about her. Thanks in advance.
Thank you for your question – in my experience as a Chicago divorce lawyer for men, your story is sadly all too common. Clearly, you are a loving father concerned about your daughter’s well-being and I’m glad you’ve taken the time to look into fathers’ child custody rights.
You stated that you signed an ROP (Recognition of Parentage) but the mother of your child would not agree to change the birth record to have your daughter carry your last name. Consider filing a Petition For Name Change. You must demonstrate to the court that the desired name change is in your daughter’s best interest. The length of time a child has used a given name, is one of the factors (among others) the court will look at in deciding whether to grant your name change request. Remember that time is crucial in fathers’ child custody rights.
Further, the ROP you signed gave you no rights of custody or visitation with your daughter. Only a judge of competent jurisdiction can grant you those rights. There are time limits in the law that dictate where you would properly litigate the issue of your daughter’s custody or your visitation with her. (See the UCCJEA-The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act).
Fathers’ child custody rights do vary by state. Additionally, the removal of your daughter from MN to OK could be contested if a timely filed Petition for Return of Child is (was) presented to the Minnesota court.
These issues are intricate and statute specific. In order for you to be properly advised, you must consult a lawyer with all of the facts and relevant dates. And please remember, time is of the essence. I encourage you to fight for your daughter’s best interest and to obtain all of your father’s rights.