How do I get custody of my children after nine years? 31 Answers as of June 20, 2013

I married at 16 and divorced at 21. I was young, dumb and naive when it came down to court stuff. The long story short I was nickle and dimed out of court and my kid's dad (convicted felon) was granted custody. I disappeared out of confusion, guilt, shame, lack of funds and support (steams back to my own abusive childhood and now suffer in my adult life from post traumatic stress, anxiety, social phobias. None of which make me incapable of caring for another human being, especially my children. Now 9 years later, my 14 year old contacted me. What are her and my rights in order to build our relationship? Her nor my 10 year old son live with their dad (my 13 year old does which he refuses to let see me). I wasn't denied custody due to abuse/neglect. I was a scared teen, then once intimidated. And yes I should have came forward before my 14 year old daughter found me online, but it's obvious my children want to work on our relationship. The kids eventually get curious. So my question is- their 14, 13, & 10, what are our rights or with needs to be done so my kids (who are old enough now to know what they want) and I can rebuild what we missed out over the last 9 years. I don't think it should be up to him to punish me for being a coward at that young age. If my kids forgave me then that's what matters! The 14 year old and 10 year old have always lived with his parents (whom helped me reunite and visit with the two living with them until their dad found out). My 13 year old daughter lives with the dad and his new two kids, which I was told by my oldest daughter she wants to see me. just nervous and scared to tell her dad. I don't want to take them away or anything. I just want to be able to see each other when the kids want to see me without the chaos or drama. They should have that right. I'm going to try 1 last thing. Hopefully a letter and me addressing him directly helps but if not, out of his own pain and selfishness, what should be my next move? Do I even have rights? The kids should, but do they?

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Bruning & Associates, PC
Bruning & Associates, PC | Kevin Bruning
You need to hire a competent Family law lawyer. Your case will be expensive. However, you will likely succeed in your effort to establish a relationship with the children who want to know you.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 1/9/2012
Michael Rose Attorney at Law
Michael Rose Attorney at Law | Michael Rose
I think that the Children's Court in Monterrey Park (Los Angeles) has reunification of parents with children. That Court is not Family law, they deal with Juvenile law with some issues overlapping. Call and I can help you figure out how to get your case in front of the judge. Or you may want to file under your divorce for a hearing for visitation. It will bring up the past but the past is the past and things change.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/8/2012
Diefer Law Group, P.C.
Diefer Law Group, P.C. | Abel Fernandez
Yes, you do have rights especially if the children want to see you. If the children did not want to see you it would be harder. Here, if your daughter wants to see you go to court. Your children also have rights. File a custody motion and go to court and seek custody and visitation orders.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/6/2012
The Law Offices of Laura A. Walker | Laura A. Walker
At age 13 Wisconsin allows the children to decide where they want to live provided there are no other problems with the placement. Go back to family court and petition for visitation, the older kids can express their wishes to the judge.
Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
Replied: 1/6/2012
Neighborhood Law Office, P.C.
Neighborhood Law Office, P.C. | Jim Underhill
Unless your parental rights were "terminated", which is unlikely, you have the right to go to the divorce court and request a change in parenting time at any time. You should see a lawyer as these areas are complicated, but ultimately the rules are fairly simple. The older the children, the better for changes because they can now express the3ir own desires. Moreover, you'll have to talk about why the grandparents have the kids and not dad. Is there an order to that effect? If so, why? These are all issues to discuss.
Answer Applies to: Colorado
Replied: 1/6/2012
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson | Kathryn L. Hudson
    If you only lost custody and not your parental rights you can file for modification of visitation allowing you to have court ordered visitation. The age of your children will certainly be of help as they are old enough to speak with the court about their desire to have a relationship with you. The court encourages and desires that children have both parents in their lives. I would retain an attorney and move forward towards being reunited with your children as soon as possible.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Peyton and Associates | Barbara Peyton
    You can file a motion with the family law court and begin the process of reunification. Nothing will happen until you start that process.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    H. Scott Basham, Attorney at Law, P.C. | H. Scott Basham
    You can bring a court action to modify custody and visitation. A child 14 years of age or older can pick which parent he or she wants to live with, and the judge can overrule the child's choice only by a very strong showing that it would not be in the child's best interests. A child 11 but not yet 14 can inform the judge of his or her choice, but the judge does not have to give any particular weight to the child's wishes.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Law Office of James Lentz
    Law Office of James Lentz | James Lentz
    Dust off the court papers that assigned custody to dad and take them to a lawyer. It is likely that while granting father custody, the same papers also granted you visitation. If not, the lawyer can help you file a motion that will modify the orders so that the father has to let you see the children. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
    File an Order to Show Cause in the Paternity case seeking to modify child custody and visitation. You would best at least consult, if not retain an experienced Family Law Attorney to represent you. You may qualify for an attorney's fee order on your behalf in the Paternity case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Wolfstone, Panchot & Bloch, P.S., Inc.
    Wolfstone, Panchot & Bloch, P.S., Inc. | Mark Brown
    The starting point in identifying yours option is to review the terms of the existing court orders entered 9 years ago. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney who practices in the county where the children currently reside about modifying the 2002 court orders. I must also note that, under Washington state law, the children do not have the power or authority to decide where they reside until they attain the age of 18 years and are legal adults.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Rice & Co., LPA
    Rice & Co., LPA | Kollin Rice
    First, you should review past court orders to determine if you have already been awarded visitation rights. If so, you should notify whoever has the children that you plan to begin exercising them, and do so. If you do no already have visitation rights, or if their present custodian refuses to acknowledge or honor those rights, you should promptly file a motion in court (whichever court has previously exercised jurisdiction over the children most likely) asking that visitation rights be either awarded to you or enforced. If you have some relationship with the children, and have not given any reason to think that you would be unable to safely supervise the children, you will in all likelihood be awarded some sort of visitation rights. This may take some perseverance on your part, but if you keep at it, the odds are likely strongly in your favor.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock
    Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock | Arlene D. Kock
    You should file a motion requesting visitation with your children. I urge you to meet with an experienced family law attorney to explore your legal options.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Law Offices of Frances Headley | Frances Headley
    Unless your rights were terminated you should be able to request that the court set up visitation for you. You will need to explain why you have not been in the children's lives. You should consult a family law attorney on how best to accomplish that.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Fox Law Firm LLC
    Fox Law Firm LLC | Tina Fox
    If your rights were never terminated then you have to right to visit your children. If your ex-husband will not allow this to occur, you may have to petition the court in order to enforce your visitation rights. Your ex-husband will more than likely turn around and file for child support, but whether you pay child support or not does not have a bearing on your right to have contact and visitation with your children.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Smith, Gildea & Schmidt | Michael Gene DeHaven
    In Maryland, parents always have "the right" to petition the court for a modification of an Order that has established custody, visitation and support of a minor children. However, if contested, a court must first find that a material change of circumstances has occurred before it can consider what type of modification may be in the best interest of the children. Based upon your facts, I would feel very comfortable making the argument that circumstances have changed, and that you should be able to have contact with your children. You should discuss you circumstances with an experienced family law attorney who can advise you what needs to be done to help you accomplish your goals.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Attorney & Counselor at Law
    Attorney & Counselor at Law | John Hugger
    Yes, you are a parent and have legal rights to see your children unless your parenting time would endanger the children or impair their emotional development.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    SHC Law | Shumsha Hanif-Cruz
    It's never too late to try to establish a relationship with your children. You will need to locate the self-help center of your local courthouse to get the documents needed to file a motion (called an Order to Show Cause (OSC), for modification of child custody and visitation. These documents will have to be filed in the county your children reside in.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Dunnings Law Firm
    Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
    Has there been a substantial change in circumstances or good cause for the court to consider a change of custody? Just because you feel you are now capable of raising the kids is not sufficient. Has the father been neglectful? Are the kids performing poorly in school? Do they have behavioral problems related to the fathers caring for them? Does the father do drugs or had any recent criminal charges?
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/20/2013
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
    The simple answer is that you need to convince the court that made the original custody decisions that (a) things are different now and (b) that the children's best interest will be served by permitting you to reestablish some involvement in their life. While you have a constitutional right to be involved, the question of what kind of involvement now, after some 9 years of absence, is best for the children is not something that can be answered without much more information about your situation and that of your children. That is why your best option is to retain a lawyer experience in child custody matters to assist you in pursuing your goals. The kids "rights" are to have a judge decide what is in their best interests.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Doug Jeschke, Attorney at Law | Doug Jeschke
    Unless your parental rights were terminated (which almost never happens in the course of a custody case) you have the right to petition for parenting time. You need to start with your original custody order - you might have rights to parenting time that you simply have never exercised. If you can reach out to the dad, or whoever has custody currently, and start this process informally, that would be best. But even if that person is unwilling, you have the right to petition the court for parenting time. After so much time has gone past, you should have a good chance to at least reestablish a relationship with your children.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Attorney at Law | Ruchee Patel
    If your parenting rights have not been terminated, then you can file for a modification to the parenting plan. Any change in the visitation schedule will affect the child support calculation. The Judge will probably grant a temporary order and appoint a guardian ad litem before making a final ruling on the modification.
    Answer Applies to: Tennessee
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Glenn E. Tanner
    Glenn E. Tanner | Glenn E. Tanner
    Enforce your existing parenting plan if you have one. If not petition the court to establish one.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Willick Law Group
    Willick Law Group | Marshal S. Willick
    Your first step would be to get the paperwork from the divorce - including any further orders that have been entered that you might not even know about. Contact the clerk of the court that heard the divorce. Then take a look at how child custody matters work. Then make an appointment with a qualified family law specialist, to determine your options. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Correia-Champa & Mailhot
    Correia-Champa & Mailhot | Susan Correia Champa
    You are always the parent of your children until a court terminates your parental rights. That being said, you need to petition the court for visitation. Start slowly and work up to more consistent contact with your children. The court may order supervised visitation the beginning to establish and begin the process of reunification. If it goes well, then you will be able to build up the time you spend. I suggest you contact an attorney to help you with this process.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    The Law Office of Erin Farley
    The Law Office of Erin Farley | Erin Farley
    It appears that although you have not seen your children, that there has been no termination of yur parental rights. If that is so, then your next move would be to file directly with the family court and request visitation/reunification. Tell the court your story, keep every appointment/court date/visitation. You may have been scared then, but you need to be proactive now.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Law Office of William L Spern | William Spern
    You need to seek a modification of your divorce case to allow for visitation. In Michigan, the court's will consider the wishes of a child 14 years or older regarding visitation. Your ex-spouse can not stop or interfere with the visitation or change in custody. Your ex-spouse can object and oppose the petition to change visitation or custody. Since you've been gone for so long, the court will probably grant some type of limited visitation and then revisit the issue every so often to change or increase the visitation or change it to full custody of one or all children.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    The Davies Law Firm, P.A.
    The Davies Law Firm, P.A. | Robert F. Davies, Esq.
    I understand what you have written. The short answer is that you will either 1. get their father to agree, and let you see the children and have them live with you part or all of the time, or 2. go to court and ask the Judge to order that you see the children and have them live with you part or all of the time.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 1/5/2012
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    A significant amount of time seems to have passed since your last court order. That can create significant problems reunifying with children. Ultimately, parenting schedules may be modified if it is demonstrated that the modification serves the children's best interests. Any analysis of te case would require a full review of the facts.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 1/5/2012
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