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Question - Disputing Child Custody

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My wife and I separated years ago and had joint custody at the time. Following many signs of abuse by her and her live in boyfriend at the time, an addiction to pain killers by their Mom and numerous illnesses/hospital stays for the boys she was confronted and signed her rights away. I have maintained full custody of the boys, 11 and 13 years old, for 5 1/2 years now. About 1 1/2 years ago, I began allowing the boys to have supervised visits and a few day trips with their biological Mom as she was no longer with the boyfriend and holding a full time job as a waitress. She recently began mentioning wanting "equal rights" and shared custody of the boys. However, the original document also mentions child support which she has not paid once in the past 5 1/2 years. My Mom (the boys' Grandma) and myself have numerous documentation regarding the abuse and situation the boys were living in when with her. We're interested in seeking legal consultation to see what may be done at this time to prevent her from requesting a reinstatement of her parental rights. The original paperwork was completed in Pennsylvania however we all live in Florida now. Where should I begin - Pennsylvania or Florida?

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You cannot prevent anyone from requesting the court to reinstate their parental rights. Whether the court would grant their request depends on the judge, the applicable state laws and judicial guidelines, the reason their rights were limited or terminated in the first place, and if and how the circumstances have changed to make reinstatement feasible, assuming it's even possible. If you want to oppose reinstatement, it will be up to you to produce evidence that rebuts their claim to reinstatement.

If the mother has not been paying court-ordered child support, that's on you. It's up to you to enforce the order through appropriate legal action. The court with jurisdiction is the court that issued the original custody order or its most recent modification. A local family law attorney can best advise you of your rights and possible options under the circumstances.

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I understand we can't prevent them from requesting it. The question was more aimed at how to prepare and what documentation we should have in place prior. Thank you for your help.

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I would like to clarify two things. First of all, it appears you are still married to this woman (you referred to her as your wife rather than your ex-wife and made no mention of a divorce). Is that correct?

Second, when you say she "signed her rights away," what exactly do you mean? What "document" did she sign? Did a court issue an order divesting her of her parental right or did she merely sign some document?

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We are no longer married; have been divorced for over 7 years. She signed a court document/revision of child custody agreement granting me (their Dad) the responsibility of making all decisions pertaining to the children. She currently has no legal decision making rights with the boys.

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That doesn't really answer the question. What your ex-wife signed isn't very important. What the judge signed is. Is this so-called "court document/revision of child custody agreement" a court order (i.e., signed by the judge) or not? If it's not, it's really just a piece of paper you cannot enforce, and your ex retains all her parental rights.

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I agree with "Ted." However, it sounds like the document your ex-wife signed was actually an agreement that you would have legal custody (i.e., decision making power regarding things like education, religion, medical care, etc.). Such an agreement (or an order based on such an agreement) would not constitute "sign[ing] her rights away."

In any event, as "Ted" pointed out, your ex-wife is free to seek a change of custody. Evaluating her chances of succeeding requires a thorough knowledge of all relevant facts. I don't really understand your question about "how to prepare and what documentation we should have in place prior" (nor do I understand who "we" are). The best thing to do would be to consult with a local family law attorney. You probably don't need to do that until and unless your ex files appropriate paperwork to seek a change of custody.

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