On monday, april 23rd, I made a post here regarding my daughter, my ex-girlfriend (the child’s mother) and myself. We’re going through a ridiculous amount of drama right now and I fear it’s only beginning. I am cutting and pasting a bit of my previous post and updating tenses to give a more complete and comprehensible picture of the new events.
My daughter Sophia is almost 2 years old. Her mother and I unmarried and going through a rather hectic separation. This is only the second week. For the last 1.5 years, I have been a stay-at-home-during-the-day Father. I work nights. The mother works days. The mother wanted me off the lease and to have supervised visits with little girl, even though there is no history of abuse or neglect on either of our parts. Due to the nature of our separation (I was flirting with the idea of cheating on her, and she discovered me,) I feel that she is speaking from emotional hurt at the moment. She enrolled our daughter in daycare without my knowledge or consent, doing so by calling SServices and telling them that I no longer live here, therefore financially, she could qualify for subsidized childcare. I have been staying elsewhere than the apartment we both rent for the last nine days, except Sunday night when I returned. I wanted to talk. She did not want to. I said I was staying. She packed up Sophia and took her to a friend’s house and then sent her to daycare today. This upset me greatly. I didn’t stop them from leaving.
Monday, I sought out legal advice. Legal Aid of Watauga County (in the NC mountains) suggested filing for a temp. custody hearing by way of forcing mediation, in other words having her served by the sheriff at work. There wasn’t a legally binding custody agreement at the moment. As I said, this all happened within the last week. On Monday evening, I met with the mother, my daughter, and a mutual friend of ours for dinner at a restaurant within equal walking distance of the place where I am currently staying and the legal residence the mother and I still share. I had all the necessary things packed to make sure my daughter does not want for the evening. My reading of kidnapping law suggests that, legally, I should not have anything to worry about if I did such a thing. Also, as an additional precaution, I called the local (Boone) Police Department and spoke with dispatch for 15 minutes on what I intended to do. She informed me that there was nothing illegal about my intentions and that I could proceed if I wanted to. After dinner, I walked over to the grocery store with my daughter and the “supervisor” in tow, shopped for some basics, packed my bag, played with my daughter as best we could inside a grocery store. When leaving the store I informed the supervisor that I would be taking Sophia for the night, that she should call the mother, let her know she was safe and where she’d be, and that I’d bring her back in the morning when we met to take my name off the lease. The supervisor-friend called the police, and the mother. The mother came jogging down the road after me, caught up with me, and attempted to restrain me from proceeding. I kept my arms around Sophia and simply kept walking forward. She gave up after a few minutes and let me take Sophia into my friend’s place, where I’d been staying. The residents there are two gentlemen in their mid-twenties, one of whom I have been friends with for 9 years. They are safe, clean, and polite guys.
Within 10 minutes, while I am helping Sophia eat some yogurt, the police knock on the door. They’re invited in, one at a time, both interviewing me about what had happened. I showed them my phone to confirm that I had talked to their dispatcher, allowed them to confirm that I had everything Sophia would need for the night, and they pronounced my condition sane, stable, and safe. They pronounced the apartment safe. While this is not in my personal copy of the incident report, it is almost surely contained in their notes, the non-public part of the report. The mother refused to let her stay with me, despite all this. The police offered us a choice. Either one of us would give in to the other, or they would get DSS involved to make the choice for us. The mother stated that she would rather they make the choice than let our daughter stay with me for the evening. I stated that I would rather the mother stay with the child than to begin putting my daughter in the system. I feel that I made the right choice, and I’m glad that there is an official, impartial record of it, particularly the part where the police thought that the child would be safe with me. While the incident and my instigation of it may not have been a good ideal, I know it was legal. My poor judgement on this is limited to the fact that I did indeed state to the mother, that “perhaps she should understand what I have been going through, not being able to stay with my daughter without any cause.”
The next morning (yesterday the 24th) we were set to meet at the leasing office to take my name off the lease. I’m still not sure about whether or not I should do this, but for the moment it’s moot, as when I arrived at the Leasing Office, she called them to ask to push it back to early afternoon from the previously agreed 11:00 appointment. At this point, 11:00, she stopped answering my calls and texts. I should have been faster. While this was going on, she was filing, as told by the timestamps on the papers, a DVPO, on the grounds that I was “suicidal and she was afraid how far I might go, that I might even become homicidal.” This is a mere 12 hours after she had told the police that I had never made her fear for her person or our daughter until all this happened. A mere 12 hours after she called me a good daddy when the cops asked her if I was a good father.
While handing in my paperwork with the courthouse deputies to serve her with custody papers (so that we can get the ball rolling on mediation), I was handed at the same time the DVPO. I couldn’t believe it but I suppose I should have expected it.
My questions regarding this long-winded and perhaps non-germane explanation:
At the DVPO hearing, should I seek to bring statements from friends and family testifying to what kind of father I am?
1b) Should these statements be signed by the individuals in front of a notary?
1c) Are they admissible and up for consideration by a judge in a DVPO hearing?
1d) How do I go about subpoenaing a full copy of the police report from the incident mentioned above.
Since she has not alleged that I have caused her anything other than stress and fear, should I take this seriously enough to acquire an attorney? Legal Aid will not be able to handle my case in time, and I have extremely limited means with which to hire an attorney, much less pay for a $250 consultation (the going price of every family lawyer in town, and I’ve checked them all.)
What can I do to show that while I have put her in emotional duress, she has done the same to me and perhaps our daughter by preventing me from having time with her?
At the DVPO hearing, what other factors or information is a judge allowed to consider? Will I be allowed to speak on my own behalf? This is why I want to know if I should get an attorney.
It’s my understanding that DVPOs are easily granted. (I have a friend who is a former survivor of serious, serious domestic violence, and while she laughed about the charges listed on mine, she told me that because a judge can never be absolutely sure, erring on the side of caution is the most common outcome. This makes sense to me.)
I have been, by her own admission, a great stay-at-home father. My main concern is that I intend to ask and seek joint legal/physical custody. At least 50/50, as it were. There is nothing in our history that would prevent it, I feel, and only mitigating factors in my favor. This DVPO will probably stand against some of that, but I have no way of telling. I don’t even know if she has a lawyer or if she simply filed the DVPO to force me to give her time away from me so that she could feel “safe” - something I suspect but still find ridiculous. The only way she has allowed me to see my daughter has been Supervised visits in public, not even at the apartment we share (which is my daughter’s natural habitat - she’s a wild creature). It’s so shameful because I know that she knows I’ve never been a risk to Sophia before.
I have full intention of complying with the DVPO and avoiding contact, even though it’s made me extremely sad that I won’t get to see my daughter for another 7 days at the very least.
For the last 1.5 years:
I have been the primary cook and cleaner of the apartment.
I have been the primary daytime caregiver.
It is well-documented that my daughter has never been in danger or allowed to be put in danger by me.
The nature of the mother’s job does not enable her to work during the night and stay with daughter during the day.
I worked two jobs for the first seven months until the mother was able to obtain employment.
How should I tackle this? Should I fear the DVPO hearing? I know I’m not a threat, but I have no way of knowing how she is going to play this.
Thanks for any reply, timely or no.