I have been the sole custodial parent of my 10 year old son (minor child) since his father, my ex-husband (paternal parent) abandoned our home in 2007. Paternal parent has made no attempts to bond with minor child since 2007, only contacting minor child occasionally in these years, usually before the paternal grandmother was scheduled to visit NC, or after meeting his now wife. I originally agreed to let minor child stay at paternal parent’s home which he shared with his girlfriend in hopes that minor child would be able to bond with paternal parent. This was not happening due to several factors, incl. but not limited to; 1) Paternal parent’s continued lack of involvement in minor child’s extracurricular or school activities; 2) inviting minor child to paternal parent’s without planning activities or attempting to show minor child a genuine effort was being made by paternal parent; 3) there were usually multiple adults at the home, including a roommate with a lengthy criminal record that I was initially unaware of, when minor child was invited for visits, along with one of the visitor’s 8 year old daughter who was also visiting non-custodial parent; 3) the adults usually appeared to be hungover, high, jumpy or a combination of these when I would arrive to pick up minor child. Minor child expressed to me that he no longer wanted to go for overnight visits at paternal parents’ home. I let paternal parent know that I did not feel comfortable bringing minor child back for overnight visits, and suggested other ways the paternal parent could become involved in minor child’s life. That did not happen and as usual, paternal parent put forth no effort in connecting with minor child to gain his trust and therefore my trust. Several months later paternal parent called several times to speak with minor child and minor child said he was too shy to talk to him, but eventually became defiant in saying he did not want to speak with paternal parent. I made paternal parent aware of this, but eventually had minor child speak with paternal parent on the phone at which time he minor child told paternal parent at the end of their conversation that he would let paternal parent know if he wanted to see him. In May of 2014 (approx. 6 months after minor child no longer wanted to speak with paternal parent (who previous to this had rarely ever called minor child on the phone)), I received a complaint for temporary child custody/visitation via certified mail. I met with an attorney, prepared a response to the complaint and attended the mediation session where paternal parent and I could not come to an agreement. The complaint was later dismissed without prejudice by Judge Walzyck. Months later I received a new mailing in an unmarked envelope with a incomplete two page document. I took this to an attorney who said the document did not look credible and the hearing could also not be found on the Wake County Court docket. Unfortunately, there was a hearing where paternal parent was granted temporary joint custody/visitation. I received the notice via an email from the paternal parent, not via regular mail or sheriff, where paternal parent notified me that he would pick-up minor child that evening for dinner and that we now had joint custody of minor child. After immediately contacting my attorney, they were able to pull the judgment which included a custody schedule that seemed surprisingly and blindly generous to paternal parent given who had been almost nonexistent in minor child’s life since 2007, and also given that I, the custodial parent, was not present in court. The minor child is one of the sweetest children you will ever meet, exceling in school (winning awards for his academics and his character on a regular basis), with a well rounded social life including time with friends, playing sports and attending church. My question is this: Is this normal procedure for a judge to overrule a previously dismissed case and suggest changing the status quo living situation for a minor child thriving in his current living situation without any input from the custodial parent, or at least inquiring as to why the custodial parent may not be in court? The temporary court order describes a schedule of every other weekend with non-custodial parent from Friday at 5pm until Monday at the start of school. The paternal parent did not know where minor child attended school until this court order (minor child has attended the same school since 2009). It is my opinion, and the opinion of many friends and family, that the paternal parent is using the court order as a way to hide behind telling the truth to his current wife re: his past involvement with minor child’s life without consideration of the well-being of the minor child. The minor child became very distressed after learning of the court order requiring dinner visitations, every other weekend visits and alternating holidays (with people who are basically strangers who he has learned from past experiences that he does not trust). The minor child has begun therapy sessions where therapist has decided not to counsel minor child towards any type of transition to joint custody with paternal parent at this time given minor child’s anxiety regarding visiting with paternal parent, and is instead continuing therapy to help minor child deal with the stress of the visits required during this temporary court order. I’m assuming that the direction of the therapy sessions would change if the current temporary judgment is not reversed and visitation immediately reduced. As I just mentioned, my current attorney has filed a reversal, scheduled to be heard on March 5th, however my family and I think it is wise to get a second opinion as to if this is something that can happen, or if it is so out of the ordinary that something more egregious may have occurred in court that we are not yet aware of, or if there is anything else we can or should do at this time? Although the paternal parent is rarely ever reminded he is in arrears on child support payments, even after being required to pay just the minimum amount each month, the paternal parent now feels comfortable threatening me continuously with contempt of court if I do not comply explicitly with the temporary court order, despite how minor child feels about visitation with paternal parent. This is all very scary and frustrating. I feel very helpless and something just seems wrong with all of this. Any additional advice would be much appreciated, and if this requires a brief phone call I will be happy to pay for the time.
There seems to have been some procedural mishaps in this case. At a minimum you should have been served with a notice of hearing so you could appear at the hearing. It sounds like you have an attorney working on this matter, but if you are unsure of the advice you have been given or would like another opinion it is certainly permissible to have a consultation with another attorney. You can always consult with other attorneys even though you have retained an attorney.
If paternal parent has not been paying child support, you need to initiate a separate action to enforce that. If child support is set forth in a court order he can be held in contempt.