My ex and I do not have a custody agreement or a consent order in place. Since the day we separated 2 years ago, I have been the custodial parent with their father having every-other-weekend visitation with an occasional overnight during the week. He has never paid child support and I have never filed for it as I make substantially more than he does.
My 10-yo daughter does not want to go to her father’s. He is emotionally abusive, has age-inappropriate expectations, constantly criticizes and rants and raves at the slightest infraction. She has an intense fear of him and cries all day at school on the Friday before he picks her up and has anxiety and sleep disturbances prior to the visits. Her pediatrician and sleep specialist have her taking anti-anxiety meds so that she is able to sleep. She begs me not to go and has attempted to run away to avoid these visits. There have been 2 occasions (that I know of), where he has hurt her physically. One where he picked her up in anger and put her in her room on the floor in front her dresser so hard that it left a large bruise on her back (I have a photo of this). Another time he picked her up angrily around her waist and she told me that it hurt.
He has told her that “what happens at daddy’s, stays at daddy’s” and she’s been afraid to confide these extent of these issues and fears to me. I now have her seeing a counselor and she has finally shared some examples of his behavior with the therapist. The counselor met with her father a few times with the intent of helping him find ways of parenting without anger. The therapist called me to say that he is very resistant to her viewpoints or advice. She said that she was going to document the fact that she was recommending to me that my daughter “take a break” from visiting her father and that in absence of an agreement that I should communicate to him that she doesn’t wish to see him until he is able to demonstrate a change. She also requested to meet with my 3-yo son to assess the situation through “play therapy”
I am reluctant to file for full custody because I worry that the evidence above is not enough to “win” custody, and then the judge would institute a visitation schedule that I would be required to follow. At least now without an agreement in place, I can limit their visists.
From your experience, how much do judges take situations like this into account when determining visitation schedules? I’ve heard that unless children are in a severly abusive situation or are in danger, that judges make every attempt at continuing the visitation patterns that have been set. Are ther any statues I can read that outline what NC considers an inappropriate environment for a child? If I limit their visits and he files for custody, would that negatively impact my case? What should I be doing/not doing at this point in preparing for a possible custody claim while at the same time being an advocate and protecting my daughter?