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I have a situation that I could use some help with. My wife and I started living in separate houses because our marriage was failing. My ex and I were both ok with that. I have 3 daughters with my ex: 8 year old twins and a 4 year old.

The reason I left the residence in the first place was because of drug activity in the household from my ex's sister and her drug dealer boyfriend.

When I initially left the house my wife was not happy with the drug activity. My ex said she told her sister to stop because we had kids living there, but it didn't stop any of the activity. And my wife at the time said there was nothing more that can be done. My wife also told me she asked a local police officer and she was told there was nothing they could do about it if they see nothing going on. So in the end, I was not happy and we argued too much.

Regardless, we split up because I wanted more done about the activity. So I left and left my daughters as well. I did not want to do that, but I did. I got a new place about a half mile from my ex's house. I was going there often to see my daughters and they came to my house whenever they wanted or if mom needed help with them. My daughters never had a problem going home.

Then mom gets a new boyfriend, which is understandable because we had been separated for about 2 years. After about a week of the new boyfriend I had my daughters at the local pizza place for dinner and my oldest twin tells me that she feels very uncomfortable because she has to sleep in the same bed as the new boyfriend along with her other sisters. So I asked her isn't there anywhere else to sleep and she tells me the couch but my ex's cousin, an adult male who was just convicted of meth possession and child abuse sleeps there. And I lived in the house; I know there is nowhere else to sleep except the floor so I said she should sleep on the floor. But this has gotten out of hand because my young daughters should not have to do this.

Also upon further investigation, I have learned that the new boyfriend is friends with my ex's sister's boyfriend, the guy who was selling the drugs out of the house in the first place.

What can I do? What should I do? Please help me.

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    Can you please provide your country and state (if applicable)? Aug 9, 2023 at 13:20
  • 20
    Its outside the scope, but I can't help thinking that your ex also needs to get away from her criminal family and their contacts. I'm wondering if keeping your daughters out of that house, but letting Mom come and stay with you for access might be a way to do that. But I have no idea if that is practical, or if it could work at an emotional level for you. Aug 9, 2023 at 14:07
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    Say no more and wait no more, these daughters of yours need to move in with you asap as they are in imminent danger, not only according to any adult's reasonable assessment but also their own testimony! Aug 9, 2023 at 16:07
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    You're saying "wife" and "ex". Is that the same person? If so, I would pick one word and stick with it. If not, make it clearer that you're talking about two people, and which is which.
    – nasch
    Aug 9, 2023 at 17:22
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    You sue for full custody. How is that even a question at this point?
    – Mazura
    Aug 9, 2023 at 20:49

6 Answers 6

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Your priority has to be the safety of your children. They are not safe living with their Mom. So if at all possible you need to get them moved in with you. You don't say what kind of a place you now have, and whether that is feasible. But even sleeping bags on the floor would be an improvement on where they are now.

It would also be a good idea to have a talk with them (if you haven't already) about good and bad touches, what the right words are, and what to do if someone tries to touch them in a bad way. Horrible that you have to do this, but it sounds like they might need to know.

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What country are you in? Family law changes depending on country (and down to a state level in the USA)

However this is a pretty terrible situation for your children, there are drugs, abusers and they are for some reason all in bed with an adult male!? Your country probably has some sort of child protective services/social services and you absolutely should get in touch with them and report the unsafe living conditions.

Here is information on social services in the UK, where I am based. Failing that, actually ring the police yourself about the situation.

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The easiest solution is when everyone agrees on the solution. Ask the mother if you can reverse the situation and have the children can live at your house. If she agrees, problem solved with minimal drama.

If she doesn't want to give up primary custody, most locales have procedures that you can use to have a court grant you primary (or even sole) custody of the children. A family law attorney will be helpful but isn't necessary in all cases. Some jurisdictions have a simple-enough process that's designed to be doable without an attorney. I suggest asking a police officer or a social worker about how that process works in your locale and about which aspects of your situation would be taken into consideration by a judge and which would not. They will have dealt with many cases of that sort, have seen what works and what doesn't, and can point you towards any additional community resources that might be available for you. An officer can also explain which aspects of your situation might cross the line into child endangerment, which gives you a very solid case. Where I live, I've seen people win sole custody over far less than what you've described.

Also, given the situation that you outlined, this probably isn't the best stack to ask this question on. You'll almost certainly get better and more detailed answers on the law stack site. Tag the question with your specific locale and you can get some extremely detailed answers.

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    Law.SE can answer questions about what the law says. It can't give you advice about what to do. In a case like this it might be able to point at the relevant court where this kind of issue should be raised, and the web pages for that court. Aug 10, 2023 at 11:49
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Have you asked your ex if they can move in with you? The lack of beds seems like it wouldn't be as contentious as the drug issues, so she may agree to have them sleep at your house if they'll have their own beds without having to accuse anyone of drug use.

If she refuses the problem for you may be that local laws consider your ex the primary guardian of the children at this point absent a formal agreement, so just refusing to return them to her may be illegal. To that end I'd suggest before talking to the police or social services you talk to a local family law lawyer and ask them what the best way to deal with this is.

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    I would guess his ex/wife is using drugs as well. I can't think of any other reason why a mother would allow their children around drugs and destroy their marriage over it unless they themselves were doing them.
    – rtaft
    Aug 9, 2023 at 18:10
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This is basically a rehash of what other answers and comments have said but I think it's worth laying out very directly:

  1. You are very much correct to be concerned. If things are as you describe, your children are in danger at their mother's house.
  2. You seem to have a good relationship with their mother. Have you considered asking her directly to allow the children to stay with you until she can get it together? Offer to let her visit and/or spend time with them away from her home.
  3. If you cannot get her to agree to this, you must seek legal assistance. In many jurisdictions, courts have historically tended to side with mothers. That's changing but you may need a lawyer.

I strongly suggest you try #2 before #3. It's a lot cheaper for starters and you might find that she is open to it. You have to assume that she is also involved in drug use at this point. It's just highly unlikely that she would allow her home to become a drug house (sorry if that sounds harsh, but that's what you are describing) and putting her children at risk if she was thinking clearly. Explain your concerns and make sure she understands that you are not trying to take the kids from her, just that they need a safe and stable home. She might even be relieved.

The situation you are describing is very bad. Do not wait for something terrible to happen.

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  • I think it is unwise to let her visit regularly until the drug problem is dealt with. Otherwise you are just inviting the drug dealers to follow her over to your house too. It's harsh, but look, the point is whether you (the asker) care about your children enough or not. If she is as reasonable as she sounds, she ought to understand that her children are in danger and she's letting it continue...
    – user21820
    Aug 11, 2023 at 9:28
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    You should do what this answer suggest first, but ultimately you top priority should be not sending your young children to live with in a drug den with a convicted child abuser. Legal issues come second. You need to decide what your priority is: not messing up the rest of your children's lives by exposing them to a situation where they are liable to be sexually abused, or getting a pat on the back from the police for following the law about child custody like a good citizen. In case the mother of the children sues for custody, surely her own living conditions will come under scrutiny.
    – Pilcrow
    Aug 11, 2023 at 11:15
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    @user21820 I don't get the impression that OP has fully grasped or accepted that the mother is using. If that's correct, she's managing to hide it from them and I don't see anything about the kids being afraid of their mother. I'm simply suggesting ways to get to the goal with minimal escalation but ultimately the only important things is keeping the kids safe so the OP will need manage that.
    – JimmyJames
    Aug 11, 2023 at 15:21
  • @Pilcrow I don't disagree at a high level. We don't know what the jurisdiction is, but in many places, unilaterally taking full custody of the kids is kidnapping. The father can't protect the kids if he's in jail or the police have forcibly returned the kids to the mother. Yeah, if they go the legal route, the mother's home life will be scrutinized (and so will the father's, BTW) but that can take time.
    – JimmyJames
    Aug 11, 2023 at 15:28
  • +1 for the direct and instructional nature of the answer, which the urgently of this issue needs.
    – komodosp
    Aug 11, 2023 at 15:49
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As others have said, you really need to state your country.

Assuming Norway: Call the The Norwegian Child Welfare Services (barnevernet) at 116111 and explain the situation. They will take it from there. I guess they'll arrange a foster home for when they cannot live with you, but that's just speculation. I guarantee they will not allow your children to live with a person convicted of child abuse, and neither should you.

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