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I don't know what to do, my husband and I didn't have a good way of going until about a month ago.

Last year in August his ex started harassing us every time we got his daughter.

His anxiety got the best of him and so he didn't get her for a few weeks hoping it would stop, then our vehicle tore up and we couldn't afford one for a few months when we finally got one it didn't run a month.

The whole time we were letting her know what was going on.

Now that he has a depindable way of going. She won't respond to his text and she isn't showing up at the city hall on his weekend and we don't know what to do.

Can she legally get away with this just because we don't have money for a lawyer?

Yes, my husband has a child with his ex and the last time we tried to reach her on Facebook she threw a fit about it and then had something drawn up by a lawyer saying that we had to contact her only by phone and that we are to have a phone for her to be able to contact us at all times and we have.

As far as our vehicle situation and any other time that we couldn't get her, we let her know usually 24 hours ahead, if it was possible. On a few occasions our car broke down on our way to get his daughter and so we called and texted her and got no response. We are trying so hard. We want to get his little girl. We have missed her so much.

  • Hi, Shawnda, and welcome to Parenting. The site tour and the help center will give you an idea of the best way to use this site. – anongoodnurse Nov 8 '14 at 5:04
  • I'm not sure I understand. It sounds like your husband and his ex wife have a child. The mother is not respecting your husband's visitation rights. Have I understood that correctly? – A E Nov 8 '14 at 8:34
  • Does 'way of going' mean transportation? – A E Nov 8 '14 at 10:20
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    Since this is entangled with legal issues it might help if you would tell us which country you are living in. Laws differ around the world. – sbi Nov 9 '14 at 20:55
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If I understand your question correctly, you and your husband have not been picking up his daughter for his regular visitations - partly because of transportation issues, and partly because his ex was unpleasant to him and he stayed away to avoid that. While you "let her know what was going on" you probably didn't make specific plans about when things would be back to normal.

Now you'd like to get back into the rhythm of visitation but she is not communicating or appearing at the pickup. Any number of things could be happening. First, she could be in the very same boat you were - either transportation issues or being upset over the interaction between her and your husband. Second, she could be angry and trying to punish you for skipping visitations. Depending on how old the child is, the child could have been upset by short-notice cancellations, or a belief that the reason for the cancellation wasn't "good enough" and you should have visited anyway. Third, she could be unaware that you were ready to start again this time for completely mellow reasons - for example maybe her phone is broken.

Either way, you need to solve the communication issues first and foremost. Since you mention "city hall" as the pickup location, I suggest you talk to the people there who help arrange the pickup or visitation. Ask them what you can do. There are probably advisors for people in your situation - not everyone can afford a lawyer, and children should not be in suboptimal situations just because one or more of their parents can't afford a lawyer. Even if nobody there can help you, perhaps they can recommend another agency that will.

Keep sending pleasant texts such as "sorry things didn't work out on [date]; we're looking forward to seeing [child] on [next date]. Anything we need to know before then?". If you have another way to communicate, such as email, calling a landline, or sending a message to a friend or relative, try those too - but keep them happy and friendly. "Your $^^%# daughter is keeping me from my kid, tell her if she knows what's good for her she'll be there this weekend" is going to make things much much worse. But "Do you know why [ex] isn't answering my texts about [child]? She missed visitation this weekend and we were really looking forward to it. Hope there won't be an issue next weekend. Let me know if you have a way for me to reach her before then." might actually get you somewhere. At the same time, get advice from someone who can help in your jurisdiction and who knows the specifics of your case.

Good luck. Maintaining a relationship with your child while that child lives with someone you're angry at is very difficult. Keep telling yourself that what you and your husband are doing is hard work, and it's work you're doing for that child's sake.

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I'm a little shocked by the answers so far. I am not a lawyer, but I am someone who handled his own child's custody case by himself without an attorney. I'd like to clarify a few things:

  1. The mother can do whatever she wants, but it does not mean that it is the correct thing. How she tells the story in court will matter a lot -- a claim of abandonment, for example, is very damaging and though she has to prove it, can be hard to disclaim.
  2. Not everywhere has free attorneys to help you -- in my county, they did not! What they did have was an office to help those representing themselves pro se in court. They can give you legal guidance, but will not prepare your case. Here are some questions which will help you to get answers which are useful:

    What paperwork do I need to file when "..."?

    What paperwork do I need to file to waive the cost of filing? (NOTE: Not all counties make the wealthier person pay things, but they do have paperwork to waive filing fees for those who are low income.)

    Do you have an example of paperwork filed recently for a case similar to mine?

  3. Treat every court clerk or representative as your best friend. They can give you a lot of help, but they are by no means required to provide such help. A lot of rude, self-presuming people bother them every day, so they are used to casting people aside, but when someone is friendly, honest, and complimentary, they will open up and be the same (in many cases).
  4. By absolutely no stretch of the imagination should you consider that all judges in all counties are biased for the child. They should be, but some are more biased towards the mother... and some are even more biased toward the father.
  5. DO NOT keep sending her messages! That can be considered a form of harassment. If she has a lawyer, official communication ought to be done through the lawyer. This includes notices of an inability to meet at a pre-ordained time (and in such cases, if allowed, with the other party, too). She can say, for example, that she did not receive the message. The lawyer is substantially less likely to make such a claim as a "friend of the court".
  6. The discussion regarding meeting at the courthouse is irrelevant. She either has an order keeping him (and perhaps you) away from her house or it is simply defined as a neutral meeting ground.
  7. If you do have a custody agreement and these actions are in violation, filing with the court is your only recourse.
  8. Every court has its own set of rules... learn them and live by them when you are at court... an angry/agitated judge is not a friendly judge.
  9. Never speak in terms of the other parent, yourself, or any problems. Always speak in terms of the best interest of your child. This is true at court, when talking with the other parent, and when contacting the lawyer.

    NOTE: Your statements will be manipulated! Take, for example, "We want to get his little girl. We have missed her so much." Another inconsiderate person could translate that as, "It doesn't matter if we can't take care of her or might break down on the way back home and she will suffer, we want her because we miss her!" Bone-chilling to read, but you'd not be the first for whom that has happened. On the other hand, saying, "We know she misses her father and that quality time will help her, so we've done everything we can to make sure she can spend the time with him she wants." comes across in a completely different light -- it was all about her.

  10. Write your daughter letters and send them by registered mail to the attorney for delivery to your daughter. Keep a copy of the letter and the registration and receipt of the letter. Hopefully they get to her and will at least serve as maintaining some kind of relationship with her while the details are worked out.
  11. Document everything: Date, Time, Duration, What was said by both sides, Reason for the interaction, & any comments. When it's needed, such documentation will be a god-send.

A fight with another parent is never fun. The key thing is to do what you can and never lose sight of the most important thing: the child(ren).

I wish you the best in your endeavor and I wish your child the best, too!

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    I disagree with point 1, and I believe you contradict it yourself with point 7. The custody agreement has to be followed by all parties. Technically, the mother can do what she wants, but that doesn't mean she's allowed to. – user11394 Nov 10 '14 at 5:10
  • @CreationEdge I'm not sure why you start by disagreeing and then summarizing stating the very point of those 2 items. They are tangential in their relationship, but by no means contradictory. – Sylas Seabrook Nov 10 '14 at 5:47
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    I think they're more closely related than the list format would make it appear. Specifically, I was trying to illustrate that point 7 is a direct caveat to point 1, making more sense to be included with it. Putting it halfway down the list, for me, made it seem more like a "Oh, BTW" that was easily missed. – user11394 Nov 10 '14 at 6:33
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    @CreationEdge Ah, now I better understand you -- and you're completely right. I was typing up things as I remembered them and didn't want to go through and move the numberings all around. Thanks for the clarification! – Sylas Seabrook Nov 10 '14 at 6:48
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I think Crys's answer is great.

Co-parenting is tough, particularly if the other party is harassing or trying to make it unpleasant. But for the sake of your husband's daughter, please stick with it. It's important to her to see her dad, and hopefully to see an alternative way of life. If his ex-wife is harassing him you don't know what kinds of things she may be saying to his daughter. So it's important for his daughter to see that he loves her, he misses her, and he (and you) want to be part of her life.

Now, as to the legality.

If there is a legal visitation agreement, it's not at all legal for her to block visitation rights, regardless of affording a lawyer. If there' isn't a visitation agreement worked out with a judge, it's probably legal, but a judge won't be happy to hear about this kind of thing. (My ex-wife denied visitation rights while I pushed for shared custody of our kids, and the judge got very angry with her and her lawyer.)

You don't say where you live, but in the US, and in most countries, there are public, government-paid family lawyers. Their job is to advocate for the child.

Laws vary considerably, and I'm not a lawyer. But as I said, if there's a binding agreement saying that your husband has visitation rights, a judge will quickly rule for your husband. More importantly, your husband's ex-wife will need to pay the legal and court fees.

If there isn't a binding agreement, it may take a while, but your husband should be able to get some visitation rights. As I said, at least in the US, family court judges favor the child and will be unhappy to hear that a father is not being allowed to see his daughter.

Either way, you should be able find a public lawyer to take your case at no cost to you. Usually at family court, you can ask about these arrangements.

Good luck and please stick with it for the sake of your husband's daughter!

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