Q: Advice on custody hearing from struggling single parent
My ex, who lives out of the country and hasn't made financial contributions in my child's upbringing, wants visitation and decision-making rights. Can I insist that if he wants visitation he should pay child support? Should I mention in the final hearing that I have a boyfriend who wants to adopt my son?
A: There are so many variables. If there is any way you can consult with a competent family law attorney in Pima County, I suggest you do so. If your ex has not made any financial contributions and lives outside the US, I think you have a good case for limiting his visitation to supervised visitation out of concern he might take the children out of the country and not return them. If he has not been involved in decision-making for an extended period, he is likely not entitled to much say in decisions. Depending on how long he has been absent, you might have a case for termination of his parental rights. I would not mention to anyone that your boyfriend wants to adopt your son. If you boyfriend decides to marry you, then you could discuss adoption. You are unlikely to displace your ex's parental rights for a boyfriend.
I understand where you are coming from, and certainly what you want to argue makes sense. However, both arguments potentially harm your case.
Child support and child custody are separate issues. It is inappropriate to condition parenting time on child support. If child support has not been ordered previously, you can request back child support back to the date you and the other parent separated (though it's generally limited to three years and the award is at the discretion of the court). If child support was previously ordered and has not been paid, you can file to enforce child support.
As for the adoption thing, if you bring that up, it will almost certainly backfire. I understand where you're coming from on it, and it may be what's best to the child, but judges are very sensitive to anything that may look like you are trying to replace the other parent.
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