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.
Last edited by Stevenjaguar; 11-18-2012 at 04:07 PM.