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-   -   Custody Battle- Starting to get scared (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=32979)

BlazenBurn 11-15-2012 04:35 PM

Custody Battle- Starting to get scared
I have always been poly but was in a mono marriage for 18 years. When I finally approached my husband about opening our marriage, at first, he was accepting and excited. In reality he couldn't handle me loving someone else and we separated (if it had merely been sex he says he would have been okay). He states I cheated on him. We have two daughters 15 and 13.

I am now seeing Darling who is married to Micky and also dating Chatty. We are pretty open about our relationships. My daughters know about Micky and Chatty, stating that "it's weird but not bad". They have accepted everyone as part of our family.

Darling wants to be their step-dad. He loves them and they love him. He is emotionally and financially supporting my children. Due to some violence in our home, they only see their dad for an hour a week, supervised. He contributes nothing financially.

We are now in a custody battle with Dad. He has stated that our lifestyle is abnormal and that I am "rediscovering" my sexuality (because I'm bisexual). I know he will bring up being poly in the custody evaluation. We live in a fairly conservative area.

Darling is more than willing to be interviewed during the evaluation and confirm that he loves me and the kids. That he will take care of us. His wife is willing to do so also. I would like to keep Chatty out of the process because she has serious mental instabilites. I am really afraid she would make things worse.

For some reason, people we have opened up to have been okay with Darling having a wife but another GF doesn't seem to go over well. We certainly don't want to hide anything but I am very concerned about losing custody of my kids. Would it be advisable to downplay Chatty's involvement. It just feels wrong.

Anyone go through this?

snowmelt 11-15-2012 07:17 PM


Originally Posted by BlazenBurn (Post 167165)
Would it be advisable to downplay Chatty's involvement. It just feels wrong

This is a question for an experienced family law attorney who has spent a lot of time in the court room. An experienced attorney will know which judges are available to preside over your case. He will not be able to choose the judge who will hear your case, but he will have a pretty good idea of which ones could be assigned to it and how they think, based on their past decisions. He will be skilled in finding the truth and presenting it to the judge who is assigned to hear your case.

It's time to find an attorney with extensive courtroom experience, because it sounds to me like your situation is not very likely to be resolved at the negotiating table.

Razorbacktat 11-15-2012 08:11 PM

Where do you live? I am interested because I am attorney. You do need a good lawyer. Most will be scared more than likely because of not understanding poly. You should research laws concerning same sex relationships and the rulings of the appeals courts in your state. Or any other non traditional relationships. It will give u a good indication of how the court will treat this.

You do have an advantage because you have temporary custody and there is supervised visitation. You are ahead at this time. Also because your husband participated in non traditional relationship you are at an advantage. He gets less traction because he participated also at some point.

Finally I would have kids testify to prove they are not negatively effected.

BlazenBurn 11-15-2012 09:23 PM

We are in CA. My attorney says that my sexual orientation is not an issue. The courts here can not use that at all in determining custody. However, she is not too happy about Darling being married. She keeps emphazing that he needs to be "seriously considering divorce" when we go into the evaluation. Most of the judges here are conservative and rule on the side of the traditional family structure. As far as Chatty goes, everyone including my therapist (who is poly friendly) says to keep her in the background. Keeping Chatty in the background bothers Darling.

psychomia 11-15-2012 10:26 PM

don't leave this up to an attorney. I learned the hard way that the only way to get your money's worth out of a lawyer is to educate yourself on the laws and statutes as best you can, so you know what you're dealing with.

some states have made it very clear in their courtrooms that sexual orientation is NOT to be considered in custody cases, and neither is extramarital sex a factor in the fitness of a parent.

if you can, for your own sake, get down to your local law library or see if you can access lexis nexis... search for published court cases covering dissolution of marriage, adultery, affairs, sexual orientation, sexual conduct and see what you turn up. if your ex is represented, you will want a lawyer as well, but if he's going in pro se, you can get away with going pro se IF you make sure you're informed on case law to make a defense against any attack he brings in regarding your personal life.

psychomia 11-15-2012 10:29 PM

oops sorry Blazen... I missed your last post before I wrote my rant.

it might be useful to check into a family evaluation. it's doubtful that your kids can testify... family court judges don't like to bring kids into divorce proceedings... but a family evaluator can interview everyone and write an assessment based on parenting fitness and whether or not your kids are thriving.

psychomia 11-18-2012 04:47 AM

for anyone who's interested, the PA court of appeals just overturned a case where the grandparents won custody because the parents were poly. the appeals court determined that the trial court's interest in the parent's sex lives was improper.

SchrodingersCat 11-18-2012 09:12 AM

I don't understand why you think it would be helpful for either of Darling's partners to testify. They are not the parent, they are not the step-parent, and I don't see how bringing your boyfriend's other partners into a custody hearing could do anything but hurt your appearance to a conservative judge.

If the courts won't even let your ex visit the kids without supervision, then they sure won't give him custody any time soon. So he would have to claim that the kids are in such a bad situation that they would be better off placed in foster care. That usually only happens if you're doing something harmful or neglectful.

I would also recommend contacting a social worker and explaining your situation. My friend had an abusive ex who tried to have her kids taken away. He got as far as getting Child & Family Services to come do a home inspection. They basically concluded that she, as a single mom on social assistance, needed more help. Rather than taking her kids away, they provided her with support and programs. Talk about backfiring, as far as the ex was concerned. If a social worker does an evaluation on your family and finds that the kids are not at risk of harm, then they can testify on your behalf. That will carry much more weight than your boyfriend's wife.

Stevenjaguar 11-18-2012 04:04 PM

You're well aware that you're entering a mine field where you have to know the terrain and a misstep can be disastrous. Yes, you need a lawyer, and a good one.

-Check any gay and lesbian local alliances for the names of lawyers who are experienced in alternative lifestyles and who know the judges and officials in your community to avoid.

-Do research at your local law library as suggested, but be prepared to bull your way in. Most have instructions not to allow the public access, even though your tax dollars support the facility. Be persistent and insistent if necessary.

-You will need a home inspection by a licensed social worker, which you pay for. Again, ask around for one who is sympathetic and has dealt with alternative families and interview her before you hire her.

-Leave anyone outside the family out of it. Lovers and their families are just noise in the program, legally, and the best their presence can do is 'no harm done', and that's unlikely.

-Always ask "What questions should I be asking that I'm not asking?" Many people are willing to help, but need to be prompted that you want it.

-Ask the lawyer what you can do to reduce the bill. Don't be afraid to offend them. You can pick up and fill out forms, pay fees and other things that the lawyer would otherwise charge (an arm and a leg) for.

-And yes, the kids statements as taken down by the social worker count for a lot. Other things being equal, that tips the scales.

-One thing on your side is that courts are loathe to grant custody to the father unless the mother is clearly unfit, i.e. is incarcerated, a drug user, prostitute or child abuser.

-If at all possible try to hold your nose and work out an agreement with your ex without resorting to "the system". Things can get very complicated very quickly. I won't even go into any horror stories. And good luck.

Helo 11-18-2012 11:30 PM

This should not be construed as legal advice. I highly recommend seeking out a well-qualified lawyer. It sounds like you already have one but I would see if they have any experience dealing with the poly community.

This may be of some help

First off, you're in California. California sides with the mother in the overwhelming majority of cases and that goes up dramatically if the father is anything less than an ordained priest.

I would not recommend hiding your way of life because it says to a judge that you feel its wrong somehow and should be hidden.

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