To lawyer or not to lawyer?
September 21, 2014 7:23 AM   Subscribe

Questions about legal proceedings for parenting time in an unusual 'divorce'.

So, I have been co-parenting with a best (female) friend for the last ~4+ years. Two years ago, we added a (male) friend to our family as the parent of two new children, because she and I wanted to have more children. While originally we brought him on as a new co-parent, it morphed into a triad relationship.

Just this week, they told me they wanted to leave me and be the two of them.

This is an enormous shock and I'm trying to just focus on logistics to cope. In the 72 hours that I've known, I've made a new budget, picked out an apartment, made to-do lists, and started shifting through belongings to choose what to donate and what to later pack.

I also saw a lawyer. (YANML!) This was just a consultation; no paperwork was signed. I told them I had done so, and they said it was "very aggressive"; 'ex-husband' said he was "shocked and appalled" that I would do that. Now, they have had lawyers for other child custody cases. I thought I should be as educated as them on the details so spoke to someone. But again, nothing has to go forward; I didn't actually hire her.

Last night we had a visitation schedule discussion. I am taking my bio-child, they theirs, and the bio-child we share in common will have to switch homes. The agreement gives me less time than shared-bio-child than I would like, but it does solve lots of issues like childcare, his PT appointments, transportation, ect. Logically it makes perfect sense and the pockets of time I wouldn't see him is 2-3 hours just 2 days a week. He's only a year old so I'm sure the schedule will change as his needs change.

That schedule also has room for me visiting them with bio-child twice a week, so that we have dinner together, the kids see each other, and I see them. While we have a day-to-day there is room for flexibility.

With my friend and co-wife, I have basically no concern about that flexibility and fairness. I know that we'd feel completely comfortable coming over to each other homes, leaving kids with each other on a night out or if we're sick, having holidays together and even going on trips. We said so last night. I am 99% fine with her proposal, which is just to write this all down and have it notarized.

With the ex-husband, I am not as sure.

That also leaves out the question of child support. They think I would end up paying it, since shared-bio-child would be at their house more often than not. (I make more than her, less than him, and far less than them together.) I again would be fine with her and I not paying anything to each other and splitting special costs like trips to the zoo.

I am not as sure about the ex-husband. I WANT to think that everything will be fine, but:

*My default emotional state is to want to be nice above all, and sometimes I give or give up too much for fear of hurting their feelings. (I was very, very hurt by their reaction to my consultation.)
*He can be very passive-aggressive and critical
*Now I feel like I don't 'really' know him; I wouldn't think that he'd just spontaneously decide to leave me, but he has.
*I don't want to be unfair to the bio-child, whether I owe them money for him or whether I'd get money and I'd put that into a savings account for him. Money for me is going to be much more tight since it is just me instead of two incomes as they have.

Because of that, I am torn between hiring the lawyer and having it go to the system - as kindly as possible, and with that already-approved schedule (although the lawyer thought I could get a lot more time than that) - or just having visitation notarized and dropping everything else.

My beginning reaction is to just trust them and not bother with the lawyer. But since my reaction was also to trust that they wanted to stay with me, and we were a family - at least a family that wouldn't just leave without trying to resolve things - then maybe that instinct isn't sure enough. I have a history of abuse. I don't want to give in as I always do if it's going to hurt me and my children.

On the other hand, I don't want things to become confrontational. I know it would extremely upset them if I did hire a lawyer.

I would appreciate your feedback ("lawyer or no lawyer"), and pros and cons I haven't thought of. If you have any associated advice about good logistical steps to take, or tips on dealing with the emotional fallout, or about how to be a great single parent, I would also really appreciate that.
posted by blue_and_bronze to Human Relations (43 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

(Sorry to shout.)
posted by Salamander at 7:34 AM on September 21, 2014 [59 favorites]

Hire a lawyer. You say that they have had lawyers for past child custody issues, you should have a lawyer for your child custody issue. It's great that you don't want to upset them, but you need an advocate to help you out.
posted by Rob Rockets at 7:35 AM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

(Can't elaborate now due to time constraints, but will later. But yes yes yes to 'lawyer'.)
posted by Salamander at 7:35 AM on September 21, 2014

Lawyer. At a time when you are shocked and hurt, you need someone experienced and professional to help you make the most stable and healthy physical, emotional and financial arrangements for your children going forward. You will look back years from now and be glad you prioritized their long-term happiness over any short-term hurt feelings it might cause your exes. They're adults.
posted by judith at 7:40 AM on September 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

Yes. Lawyer up. I don't mean that in the sense of hiring a barracuda, but retain legal counsel to advise you of your rights, review arrangements before you sign off on them, and possibly represent you and your interests in legal proceedings.

Your partners do not put your interests at the same level as their interests, even as they might think that they are being even minded.
posted by coldhotel at 7:47 AM on September 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

"Yes!" to lawyer, but also, "No!" to giving them a daily blow-by-blow of your current, random, reactive thoughts and actions. That just stirs the pot and you all (but I think, you especially) are dealing with emotional stuff at the same time and it's hard to separate the two and not dive between legal and emotional. Give yourself some time with a lawyer to understand your options, your rights, their rights, and, finally, after some consideration, what you want. Then you really should all meet with a lawyer or mediator present. I don't think you should be negotiating directly with two people whose experiences in this matter outpace yours. It's not fair to your kid, if it helps to think of it that way.
posted by cocoagirl at 7:53 AM on September 21, 2014 [12 favorites]

Lawyer up, for the reasons everyone else has given. The outcome of this process will have significant bearing on your future life with your shared-parentage child and your future financial situation (for your other child as well). You should enter into it with professional, dispassionate support in place.

On preview: yes to Cocoagirl's point re: communication, and the difference in your and their experience levels being more reason to get a lawyer, and only meet with them with that support.
posted by Alterscape at 7:56 AM on September 21, 2014

Lawyer. You don't have to use the lawyer in an aggressive manner, you do need to have at the absolute very least legal advice from someone that isn't in the middle of a lot of complex emotions

Get that legal advice for every step, follow that legal advice. Do not sign or verbally agree to anything without running it past your lawyer, hell they might not ever have to meet or confront the lawyer but you need to know where you stand and what your rights are before going into discussions with them. The fact that they assumed you wouldn't consult a lawyer after such news, when they have both previously had child custody situations makes me wonder what on earth they thought you would do. If it makes things more stressful around them, just say you need to think about it and will get back to them, then think about it with your lawyer, you don't have to handle it in a my lawyer says this, my lawyer says that kind of way, if things remain civil, but you have the lawyer if things don't. Though honestly a mediator might be a good way to go.
posted by wwax at 7:57 AM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I agree with cocoagirl. I know you're used to sharing everything ( most relationships, that's the case), but for this, you have to have a lawyer, and you have to keep a lot of stuff close to the vest. It sucks, and it will feel lonely, and you will feel pressure to talk about it, but for this, you have to protect your interests first and foremost, and it's especially complicated in that it's "two against one," as it were.
posted by xingcat at 7:58 AM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

You need a lawyer. You need someone to work with. They had each other - obviously they talked about this and worked things out and were advocates for each other.

You need an advocate. In addition to a lawyer, I think you should reach out to local womens advocacy and support groups. They are good resources for bad situations that aren't abuse.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:07 AM on September 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

Lawyer lawyer lawyer. Not just for you, but for your kids!

One thing to note: the shared-bio-child... biologically the child of you & husband or co-wife & husband? I ask because it'll make a difference when they bring up child support: as far as the court is concerned, if the child is with both their bio-parents (co-wife & husband) I deeply deeply doubt you would be liable for child support; if you are the bio-mother and the bio-father has custody plus makes more money than you, again that'll be considered.

TALK TO YOUR LAWYER: do not 'just trust them', do not avoid having a lawyer because it might hurt their feelings.... heck, they just hurt your feelings by springing this on you, didn't they?
posted by easily confused at 8:21 AM on September 21, 2014 [21 favorites]

So they deciding to leave you is NOT aggressive, but you protecting your rights and the rights of the children IS? Fuck that noise. Get a lawyer and get into arbitration.

Child support isn't always about who makes what, so don't put the cart before the horse in that matter. And you don't put child support money in a savings account for the child. You buy housing, food, clothing and pay utility bills with it.

You sound VERY submissive and not very protective of your rights. You need to cut that shit out. You're modelling horrible behavior for your child. Stand up for yourself and don't let these folks bully you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:24 AM on September 21, 2014 [32 favorites]

Lawyers exist for two reasons:

1) As part of a third-party arbitration system -- they translate your issues into a common language so a judge can decide on the solution.

2) As a result of doing that full-time, they see a lot of similar issues and can advise you on what issues might come up that you're not thinking about.

Neither of these things is "aggressive" or appalling. Get a lawyer. Encourage your former partners to do the same.
posted by Etrigan at 8:29 AM on September 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

I would be very suspicious of someone who gets angry with you for hiring legal counsel after they have initiated a legal matter (separation) with you. This is like someone getting angry with you for going to the doctor after they injured you.

Please, please get a lawyer. These former partners are no longer your friends.
posted by 3491again at 8:34 AM on September 21, 2014 [41 favorites]

I cannot imagine there is anyone out here who is going to tell you not to get a lawyer given the complicated situation you have outlined. You absolutely need one, and the fact that your co-parents have gotten angry about you consulting one and almost convinced you not to hire one scares me a little bit about what their intentions are and how they might be manipulating you in ways you are not aware of.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:59 AM on September 21, 2014 [15 favorites]

Give them a little time to get used to it. What you are doing is completely reasonable and makes sense, and they may realize that after they've cooled down a little. Your relationship has changed a lot in the last 72 hours, and while they initiated it, it might be hard for them to see as well. The 'coming over for dinners, watching the kids on vacations, holidays together' thing is either going to work or not, and if it is going to work, then they're going to be able to get over this as long as you otherwise act with decency (which includes sticking up for yourself and your relationship with your kids!) If they continue to give you shit for it, then I'd become suspicious of their motives, honestly. You already seem suspicious of your ex husband, and I think you should trust your gut on that and watch out for manipulation on his part.

I like the way it was framed above if it helps you think about it or explain it to them: Lawyers have dealt with lots of these situations, they know the ins and out of these situations and the pitfalls and best practices of designing a situation that will work for all of you.
posted by geegollygosh at 9:04 AM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Great advice upthread.

Time is your friend here. Use it.

Take your sweet-ass time about making any decisions. Don't ever automatically agree to anything.

When I went through my divorce (I had three kids), I was just so happy to finally be rid of the rat-bastard that I agreed to everything so I'd never have to talk to him again.

It was a mistake. My kids and I ended up getting financially screwed by my ex because he and his lawyer knew I was just itching to be done and I would accept the worst possible agreement.

While you can go back to court and modify agreements, you will be doing yourself a huge favor if you just slow down and think long-term about finances and visitation.
posted by kinetic at 9:07 AM on September 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

Sometimes you just need "a lawyer." Particularly in divorce and family contexts, sometimes merely having legal counsel present can forestall a lot of problems irrespective of whether the particular attorney is any good. It's like buying groceries: mostly you just need a supermarket. Unless you're throwing a Thomas Keller–themed dinner party, any old supermarket will do.

Other times, you need a good lawyer. You need to spend some money, and you need to ask around and find out who's good. This is not about hiring the most ruthless sonofabitch. It's about finding someone who knows the local system and its machinery and which buttons to push and levers to pull. It's about finding a lawyer who has worked on enough cases in a given context to have acquired a lot of different clubs in his or her bag. And it's about finding someone who will give you an individually tailored service—because a lot of attorneys, particularly in this context, work mostly by Word cut-&-paste, and sometimes that won't do.

My advice is that you need a good lawyer.
posted by cribcage at 9:08 AM on September 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

Please lawyer up. You might actually want to consider a non-profit organization that does LGBT rights, as they often do work in the areas of parenting rights for non-biological parents. You should absolutely have access to ALL of your children, as should your ex-partner(s).
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:12 AM on September 21, 2014 [9 favorites]

As well as everything said above, here's why you need a lawyer:

(TINLA) A notarized agreement means diddly squat in terms of your legal rights to your children, in every jurisdiction I'm aware of. Only a court order can define and protect those rights. If you go forward without a plan that is formalized by the court, you can do irreparable damage to the rights you have now, at the time of separation.

Get a lawyer.
posted by freshwater at 9:36 AM on September 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

dude was trying to gaslight you into not getting a lawyer. when good polyamorists go bad and break off a corner of their complex structure, preparatory to dumping it, this is a thing that happens. retired lawyer here, agreeing with everyone else that you need to not let this happen. the devil is in the details of your custody/visitation/support agreement, there are little things that you wouldn't notice but i would, and your associates, who have had counsel before (and might have it now without telling you) might notice them too, and they inevitably morph into big trouble.

also, don't tell them you're seeing a lawyer; your lawyer will determine the right time to parachute into the situation.
posted by bruce at 9:37 AM on September 21, 2014 [24 favorites]

Please get a lawyer! You need someone to advocate for you. Your ex is being manipulative when he says you were aggressive in seeking legal counsel. What you did was smart and wise for protecting yourself and your kids.

I get the sense from your question that you trust her but not him. This worries me because if your exes sense this, all their requests might start being filtered through her to make them more palatable. She's in this with him now, not with you, and you need to know what your rights really are.

I'm sorry but I wouldn't trust either of them at this point. Please do get a lawyer--a good one! Best of luck to you and your kids.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:37 AM on September 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

As soon as someone breaks up your family arrangements and then attacks you for speaking to a lawyer -- not even hiring one -- the first guess is that the person who attacked you is planning to screw you.

Please, find a good lawyer who knows about family court. (One with experience in poly relationships, perhaps.)
posted by jeather at 9:38 AM on September 21, 2014 [9 favorites]

"Shocked and appalled" sounds like a deliberate guilt trip to me. Trust yourself. What you did was smart. I'm sorry this is happening to you.
posted by salvia at 9:48 AM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've been in a somewhat similar situation to you -- my poly relationship dissolved, there were multiple children with different biological parents involved. I got a lawyer and one of the participants was PISSED that I did so. Best thing I ever did. I was not able to think things through rationally and having someone on my side helped tremendously.
posted by woodvine at 9:59 AM on September 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

"dude was trying to gaslight you into not getting a lawyer." Quoted for truth.
posted by Mr. Justice at 10:44 AM on September 21, 2014 [14 favorites]

Lawyer lawyer lawyer. They know more than you and they've created a legal situation. You need information and help in making decisions. Your lawyer doesn't need to be evil. Mine was able to see that my ex could be reasonable, in spite of an abuse history, and she was able to help me navigate that path - and her fees were extremely reasonable as a result. You should also ask if you will be asked to pay spousal support or if you might be on the hook for child support to the non-bio children, depending on the length of the relationship.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:49 AM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

You need a lawyer, I think. It sounds like he was upset that you aren't blindly letting him control this process,which means he is not looking out for you, to say the least. A lawyer doesn't need to make any of this confrontational (they do what you tell the to do), and if you think appropriate, you can explain that. But this is a complicated situation, and that guy isn't on your side, so you would be well served to understand the legal consequences of anything you are considering.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:50 AM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I know you are reluctant to get a lawyer and put the relationships on an adversarial basis. But this is what is best for everyone concerned. You, them, all the kiddos, etc. I think you can "sell" it to them by explaining that legal advice will save ALL of you from making mistakes concerning the welfare of your children and prevent an adversarial relationship. This is not something you are doing to protect yourself. It's what adults do to make sure a split remains civil and fair. It's what mature, rational thinking adults do. Everyone needs to be a grownup and work together to figure out what's best. Legal advice helps you do that.
posted by raisingsand at 10:52 AM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

You all need legal advice from someone with experience with the needs to be met down the road. This will help ensure a good plan is in place to hat is fair. For example, experienced lawyer can advise on planning for kids' education fund, for grandparent rights, etc. You have newborns and young kudsm you need advice and a plan that can carry your relationship to the children's adulthood, and knows the kind of agreement that will make things run smoothly through all the changes to come.
Good lawyers can also help you all plan for the best interest of the kids, as an impartial person.

It is not uncommon for people to react emotionally to the introduction of lawyers, give them time and hopefully they will see the advantages, and become more amenable. If not, all the better to have the lawyer involved.

Also not sure where you are, and what the rights of non-biological parents are, but I'd call a local Pride society for a referral to lawyers or mediayors aware of alternate families and their particular legal needs.
posted by chapps at 10:59 AM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

You're in a fight right now for your money and your kids -- and your ex-co-parents don't want you to know it. That's why they were upset. As long as you don't know you're in a fight, you're less likely to win. Talking to a lawyer shows that you know it, and evens up the odds for you.

You're outnumbered; it's as simple as that. Two people with a shared interest vs. one person on the outs is bad news - especially for the person alone.

Get a lawyer.
posted by kythuen at 11:19 AM on September 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

You might consider looking for a mediator who can help you three try to do a collaborative divorce - it is a less adversarial structure and I believe tends to produce healthier results when the parties can actually stick with it. Definitely don't do it without a professional - there are too many details that can really bite you if you don't know what you are doing. (Example - spousal support commitment based on partner's current job. Partner lost job, was unemployed for many month, finally found work at less than 75% of original pay. Spousal support was due every month, even when unemployed, all the courts would do for him was to allow it to accrue with interest in the months he couldn't pay - no way to adjust for changing circumstances when the ex insisted that he live up to his legal commitment.)

Seconding the suggesting that you try hard to find someone who is not only good but also familiar with non-standard family arrangements.

Warning - I have seen divorces start out amicably and then go very sour when one party gets hurt and the relationship turns adversarial. So, even if you trusted them more than you do, you would still need to structure things so that if the relationship gets strained later, you have a solid foundation.
posted by metahawk at 11:21 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

In addition to a lawyer I hope you will consider seeing a therapist. I just glanced at some of your previous questions and it looks to me like you've been through more than your share of difficulties in your young life. I'm speaking here as a mom of grown kids who has seen and been through a lot myself. I'm giving you the same advice I'd give to my kids and their friends, without judgment. Please, honey, stop trying to be so nice and good, and stand up for yourself. And consider checking out your local adult children of alcoholics group.
posted by mareli at 11:48 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

1+ on metahawk's last paragraph. Simpler situation than yours, but - wife decided to get a divorce from me.
At first, she told me child should stay with me because I had a much more stable life than what she was looking at. I talked to the best two lawyers in town. She was mad I had talked to a lawyer, and even more pissed when she discovered that since I had had an initial consultation with these two, she could not hire either one.

Then, she decided she wanted Child, even though she wasn't sure where she was going to live, (just finishing up PhD) and if she could find a job. My thought was she basically wanted the income from Child Support. This was later verified in court, through an unprompted statement of hers.

I hired Pitbull Atty. LLC.
It came out she had been having an affair with another student, she was incredibly in debt, with no real job prospects.
That was 6 years ago. Child is upstairs, I am helping her with a project for school, mommy has visitation 2 weekends a month, and is required to pay me child support.
If she had just left and given me custody, I probably would not have asked for child support.

And in this state at least, and I think most others, child support amounts *are* based on income and how much time each parent spends with Child. Certain amount of money per child is required by the formula. It's a really complicated formula that is figured on a spreadsheet.

Please remember, the whole aim of this is to do the best by the children. This is the court's attitude as well. They did not have anything to do with what went down.
posted by rudd135 at 11:56 AM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

You will need a custody agreement, and for that, you need a lawyer. That doesn't require that everyone/ anyone be adversarial and have drama.
I'm sure the schedule will change as his needs change.
My beginning reaction is to just trust them
This is precisely why you need an experienced lawyer.

Is there any property/ assets involved?

You've done a great job of coping with a horrible situation. My advice is to keep the needs of all the children foremost in your thinking and planning. Split-ups are hard on kids, and many parents go straight into denial about that. Tell the kids, and keep telling the kids, that the breakup is a grownup issue that they didn't cause. The suggestion of putting some money in trust for your shared child is pretty good, but don't let yourself be bullied about money. In the hurt of loss, money is often inconsequential, but when raising kids, it's incredibly useful. Again, lawyer is helpful.

You are a stepmother to the kids who are not biologically yours. Perhaps a less formal visitation agreement could be arranged? It would be to their advantage to have a babysitter and it would be good for the kids.
posted by theora55 at 11:58 AM on September 21, 2014

You need a lawyer to protect not only you, but also all of your children. Because no matter how amicable things are right now, you want to make sure that you have an agreement that preserves your children's family bonds as much as possible (both with their parents and with their siblings). All three kids have known all three of you as parents, and each other as siblings, and that's worth preserving. If you don't have it in you yet to stand up for yourself, do it to stand up for your kids.

Do not sign anything, notarized or otherwise, without having an attorney who works only for you approve it and explain all the ramifications of it to you. Notarizing a document doesn't make it any more legally binding; it only makes it harder later for you to claim later that it wasn't you who signed it. You need an actual, legally enforceable custody and support agreement that protects all of your children and you. You also need a separation and divorce from anyone you're legally married to or otherwise legally tied to. You don't need to be hostile and aggressive at any point if you don't want to be. But you do need to stand firm, and you need professional help to do that. Because these people are no longer looking out for your best interests, and you have no assurances that they're looking out for the best interests of your kids.

I hope that, in addition to legal help, you also have emotional support. Whether that's your own family and friends, or therapist, you need someone to talk to. Your kids might also benefit from counseling, and they should definitely know that it's always okay and safe to talk to you (and their other parents) about how they're feeling and what they want and need. Take care of yourself and your family.
posted by decathecting at 12:10 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

After I read mareli's comment, I wanted to understand what posting history she was referring to. After reading your previous posts...I just wanted you to know that your immediate response of getting your practicalities in order and visiting a lawyer to get the lay of the land for yourself and your wasn't just smart and wise, it shows you are light years away from where you were. You recognized that you needed to protect your kids and yourself and you knew what to do and you did it instinctively. Wow! Good for you. In your previous question that referenced your childhood trauma, you seemed hesitant and self-doubting, like you weren't sure you deserved to be treated well. But again, in this situation your immediate instinct was to do exactly the right thing: consult a lawyer!

Your question seems to have a bit of that previous self-doubt creeping in: you're not sure if you should be doing this because two people you trusted are telling you you were wrong and now you're being aggressive. But their opinion is NOT worth more than yours in this instance. You were right; they are wrong. Keep telling yourself that: your instincts are working as they should and you are on the right path for making sure all your kids are taken care of in the best way possible.

I think mareli's suggestion to find someone objective who can support you emotionally (e.g. therapist, women's resource centre) is very good. If nothing else they can reassure you that you are indeed doing the right thing and support you when you are facing two people telling you that you're wrong (when in fact you are not).
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:18 PM on September 21, 2014 [15 favorites]

I know it would extremely upset them if I did hire a lawyer.

You don't tell them you are hiring a lawyer until you've cleared telling them about the lawyer with the lawyer.

Also, you NEED to figure out if you've actually been married to anyone, and then decide (by talking with your lawyer, again clear it with the lawyer before talking with others) if it makes sense to get a divorce.
posted by yohko at 2:01 PM on September 21, 2014 [9 favorites]

Explaining very calmly and in a friendly fashion that you don't need to get a lawyer and that everything should be done on personal terms and taking offense to the very idea that you would get a lawyer is always the first step someone takes when he plans to screw you over.
posted by deanc at 3:07 PM on September 21, 2014 [11 favorites]

Adding my voice: please get a lawyer. The money I spent on mine helped end literally decades of bickering and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. And please find someone to talk with outside your exes - I know you need support, but they can't be your support right now. Friends or therapist?
posted by quercus23 at 5:18 PM on September 21, 2014

You will be surprised as to what your actual rights are and what assets and custody you might have access to. Lawyer up. Now.
posted by k8t at 6:08 PM on September 21, 2014

I probably wouldn't say this, but I'd think, "Hell yeah I'm being aggressive -- to protect my kid and myself, and I'm being wise and rational for taking that approach."

From the didn't-get-a-lawyer perspective.... a childhood friend had a child w. someone, they weren't married, they split up, friend refused to get a lawyer (and the partner/other parent didn't exactly reek of being stable and rational) despite the open pleadings of at least one person.

(In case you're wondering, friend doesn't like lawyers and the legal system, can be pig-headed and contrarian to a point of absurdity and real loss.)

It quickly turned into a colossal, painful mess that's cost a ton of money and heartache for years.

That aside, much respect and admiration for getting so much done in such a short period of time, keeping your head on your shoulders. I'm some way from convinced that I and a lot of people would have done so much and so well in your shoes.
posted by ambient2 at 6:09 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Right now you need a lawyer.

Later, if you have a dispute with the other parties, you can certainly have a mediator help sort that matter out rather than the courts, and this may be less stressful and confrontational, but right now you need a lawyer, before you go to the mediator.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:57 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

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