Question #50: I am a 31 years old mother seeking advice how to obtain legal custody of my 8 years old son. My son and I live in NY. He has been living with me since birth. I don’t really know how the system works in regards to choosing which parent should get custody of the child. I have been recieving child support since 2004 in the amount of $127 biweekly. That is all I’ve recieved from him since then nor have I asked him for anything more. Hardly ever he would buy things for my son. Once in a blue moon he would buy clothes for him but other than that, child support is all I recieved. He and I have a verbal arrangement of taking my son every other weekend. Our arrangement is for him to pick him up on a Friday and bring him back on Sunday. However, when this Friday comes, it almost always turned out to an arguement because he always finds reason not be able to pick him up. Majority of the times, I get my son’s weekend bag all packed ready for him to come pick him up but leave my son hanging. Most often, I ended up covering for him just not to disappoint my son. Because of this I have lost respect for him. Whenever we come to a discussion, I lose my temper and find my self using profanity. I am afraid that he might have recorded our conversations and use this against me to obtain legal custody of my son. Just last week, I decided to go to family court looking for informations how to increase my child support. I came to find out that he has been making almost 70,000 a year for the past 3 years and all I’ve been recieving is $127 biweekly. So, on that day, I filed for an increase. I am saddened for this information I just received because all this time he’s been making this much money, not once he spent a dime for his birthday since my son was 3 years old nor not once did he bothered attending any of his birthday party. To make a long story short, he has filed for legal custody. He claimed that I am always busy and that I don’t have that much time to spend with him as well as not providing him enough care. I admit, I am always busy. I am a single mother, a student, and also have a day job, but despite of all of this, I still manage to sit down with him at least 4 nights a week to do homeworks. My mother does the other night. I am not always there to pick him up from school but I take him every morning. I also manage to take him on vacations, something that his father never did. What can I do as a mother to keep my son.

I strongly suggest that you and your husband come to mediate this matter of child custody and child support, as well as all the other matters that are involved in separating. Mediation will provide both of you the opportunity to do what is best for the child. It is less expensive, and less emotionally traumatic, and you will not have to make court appearances or be subject to the decision of some uninterested judge.

In any case, you should not go to court without experienced, legal, matrimonial counsel. You must consult with an experienced matrimonial attorney to discuss your particular case and to advise you on how to proceed. The fact that you work during the day and that your mother takes care of the child is, in itself , not determinative regarding child custody. You did not mention it , but I assume your husband is also working and cannot devote his daytime hours to the care of the child himself either.

If you are living in the New York City metropolitan area, I strongly suggest you call me at 212-370-1660 to arrange for a meeting to discuss the matter at greater length.

Leonard M. Weiner, Esq./Divorce Solutions