Sexual abuse and custody


#1

I don’t have a legally “biding” custody agreement with my ex. We did it ourselves, had it notarized, but never filed anything with the courts. CSE is in charge of child support, but that’s the only legal thing we have going. I have primary custoday, and he has visitation, but we usually just work things out between us. This past weekend, our teenage daughter came to us and told us that her stepbrother (not legally, it’s her father’s live in girlfriend’s son; has been since we split up), had been sexually molesting her for four years. I immediately took her to see a counselor, and DSS as well as the local police department were informed. We also have a son together. My question is, can I legally keep my children out of the home without any sort of custody arrangement? I’m deferring to DSS for any neglect/endangerment issues on the part of it happening in her father’s home, and the police department for any other issues. I’m wondering if I should contact an attorney about getting custody through the courts? Obviously this situation is shocking, and the molester moved out of state to live with his biological father, which is why she felt safe in letting us know. Any advice or help on this one would be appreciated.


#2

It is a good thing that you have the police and DSS involved in this matter. Since you have no formal custody arrangement, you are under no legal obligation to let your ex have visitation with your child. However, I would go ahead and file for custody if I were you. You may file an action for emergency custody if the children are at an immediate risk of harm, otherwise I suggest you file an action for temporary and permanent child custody and support, and set a hearing date so the judge can make a ruling on a custodial schedule and whether visitation needs to be supervised. I would also say that since the step-brother is now living out-of-state, a judge could decide there is no exigency under these circumstances, however the fact remains that this abuse still carried on while she was in your ex’s care, in his house, plus the step-brother could theoretically return at any point. I think you have a chance for emergency custody, and certainly for custody. In the meantime, you do not have to permit visitation.