Who will take care of my kid if I go nuts?
July 29, 2006 7:10 PM   Subscribe

Depression: My depression is outpacing my doctors' (yes, plural) ability to control it, and the time has come for something more than a will and a divorce settlement. My primary concern is my son's welfare. He is in his mother's custody, but she has her own mental issues and my parents would hock their souls if given the opportunity to take him from her. I know I need a lawyer, and I will be making an appointment the next time I emerge from the 'dark place'. I want to cover as many bases as possible, like ensuring disability insurance payments continue, the runaround with Social Security is handled, mental illness clauses in insurance policies, legal expenses if I commit a crime, etc. My question is: What else should I consider that even a good lawyer could miss? Also, how much might this cost?

I cannot get more detailed without the risk of entering delusional territory. I really only need generalizations, a checklist you might say rather than details, to present to the lawyer and help me keep track. Thank you for any advice you can give.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you are planning to commit suicide. I hope this is not the case. Please don't let this be the case.
posted by xmutex at 7:24 PM on July 29, 2006

You need lots of friends and support from good people. Consider going to church. Regular church attendance will help to stabilize you and make it easy to meet people and network (as well as being socially and spiritually nourished).

You need God on this one buddy.
posted by rinkjustice at 7:33 PM on July 29, 2006

Ditto on rinkjustice's last sentence. Believe me, fighting this thing is worth it.
posted by davcoo at 7:39 PM on July 29, 2006

Good for you for thinking about your son, even in the midst of what sounds like a horrible time for you. The thing I feel that you may be missing is how very important your presence , however limited it may be right now, is to him. Regardless of how old he is he needs to know that you love him and would never willingly leave him behind. If you are unable to speak to him directly, write to him. If he is too young to read make audio tapes. Do your best to keep him from feeling that you have abandoned him.
posted by haikuku at 7:44 PM on July 29, 2006

Hold on, please. Your son needs you more than you could know.
posted by oflinkey at 8:04 PM on July 29, 2006

Anon, I think it might be good for you to go into an inpatient setting for a long weekend or so. Given that your depression is outpacing your doctors' ability to treat it, it sounds like you'd benefit from some more focused help. You sound really, really depressed, and spending a few days getting your meds ironed out and having some good discussions might make a big difference in your (and your son's) life.

If you need help lining something up, send me an e-mail (address is in my profile).
posted by nixxon at 8:06 PM on July 29, 2006

Please go check yourself in somewhere immediately if you are totally at the end of your rope. With the correct meds, I DO believe that you will feel better. There are lots of mefites who have talked about battling depression, myself included, and folks usually manage to get it under control with medication.
posted by bim at 8:12 PM on July 29, 2006

I would be thinking about a routine that he could would be doing whether you went bonkers or not. Get him to join a group / after school activity / etc. that all people who would be taking care of your son would agree to make sure he goes too. Having a day to day routine that will give a him a source of security is important.

Ignore rinkjustice and davcoo on the church issue there is no correlation between being religious and happiness. Finding people that care about you is more important and are a good support network is more important, whether they are people from a church or not.
posted by bigmusic at 8:14 PM on July 29, 2006

Perhaps you should enter "delusional territory" here, just to clarify exactly what you're asking for. It sounds like you want advice to help you neatly wrap up your worldly affairs before you kill yourself. (If that's not your intention, just skip everything that follows.)

Because you're depressed, your life looks like a hallway of closed doors, and you feel that you have no real choices or control over anything around or within you. That's a delusion, a product of your illness. But once you're dead -- that's closed and padlocked doors and total lack of control.

Forget any bullshit about insurance or SS benefits. You can't possibly eliminate, or even minimize, the ongoing grief and trauma and pain your suicide would cause the people who love you, especially your child. Of course you're free to choose suicide despite the horror you'd leave behind, but it seems like cheating to do it without being honest about the consequences. (After all, that sort of pitiless honesty is a hallmark of depression.) You must be exhausted, desperate for some rest, some relief from the incessant vicious clamor in your head. (I always imagine it as a gerbil-wheel studded with razors, facing out chariot-fashion, propelled by an endless stream of tweaker rodents.) Please, please trust me when I say that there are other, far less corrosive sources of relief.

You need something immediately and I don't know enough about you to recommend specifics. So, generally: Go to your friends, no matter how many times you've gone to them before. Call one or more of your doctors. Consider a brief in-patient stint, even if it's at your local equivalent of Bellevue (which is not a bad place, really). Get on your bike and ride it as far as you can, and then turn around and ride back. Read Bleak House. Tell yourself you'll decide tomorrow and go to sleep.

I'm sorry that you're struggling this hard, and that it's been going on for so long. But it really is worth trying yet another combination of meds, or yet another talk therapist, or yet another anything.

I'm sure anyone on the thread would be happy to talk to you further via email. I certainly would.
posted by vetiver at 8:33 PM on July 29, 2006

Much as you might like to, you can't entirely insulate your remaining family and friends from the pain of your death, or your involuntary descent into madness, if that be your lot. Moreover, you can't, by trying to do so now, absolve yourself in advance if your death is self-inflicted, or give them much that will be of comfort afterwards. So, you can't give yourself permission to quit this life, by doing your best to quit it honorably. In that perhaps, modern civilization is inferior to the ancients, but it is a debate of some 30 centuries, and stands resolved as it is in our law and culture for reasons that are broadly held.

What you can do in the face of terrible pain or emptiness, which utterly exceeds your capacity to bear, is to share the burden, and share the responsibility to find a solution. People do understand that not everything life throws at us can be humanly borne; that is why there are hospices, and why compassionate medicine can help us come to an end unquestioned, if we must.

Approaching a legal or medical professional with a detailed checklist such as you request would call for them to become party to your decisions about ending your life, if that is what happens. Ethically, they can not help you in planning suicide, at risk of their careers and well being. That's the Dr. Kevorkian lesson. You can ask hypothetical questions, and they can answer such. You can expect to pay hourly consultation fees (which will vary with your locale, but will generally be in the range of $150 to $400 per office hour, or thereabouts) for such conversations, and you can expect that they will not be as prolonged or detailed as you might wish, because of the difficulty of keeping them on an entirely ethical basis. Not to mention that such consultations quickly exhaust the planning territory you are trying to cover.

Generally, you can only settle custody issues within the framework of state law as it exists when questions of custody arise. Typically, you can't make agreements for care of a minor child which anticipate the disability or death a parent while the other survives and has continuing parental rights, that somehow override the surviving parent's rights and wishes. If you feel it is in your son's interests to be removed from his mother's custody, and live with your parents, you must survive to successfully terminate his mother's custody and parental rights, and have your parents named as guardians before your demise. If you die before that is accomplished, you have no standing with the court with whom you have been pleading, and nothing comes of your case.

As for the rest, the general thought is that you use a will, and perhaps living or testamentary trusts to transfer assets under conditions you specify. Your estate executor and/or trustee is bound by your instructions, as expressed in your will or trust instruments. But generally, you can not will someone insurance payments or Social Security payments being made to you, and if your death changes their beneficiary standing with Social Security, they will be subject to new case rulings at that time. Insurance contracts will have varying death benefit limitations for cause of death in questionable cases, and you can ask an attorney for general explanations of language you don't understand, by bringing him your contracts.

For what it is worth, I too urge you to seek voluntary admission to a resident mental health facility. I'd be disingenous in saying that, suspecting as I do, that you are carefully considering what your history will look like to third parties in a few months, without acknowledging that you may honestly think volunteering for such treatment could make things worse, later, for your son. But the fact is, you are already being treated for depression medically; your condition is on record, and will figure in any consideration of outcome. What you can do now, is to gather what courage you may have remaining, against the blackness, and reach for help.

Reach. Tired and troubled as you are, reach.

[My email is in my profile.]
posted by paulsc at 8:37 PM on July 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

My depression is outpacing my doctors' (yes, plural) ability to control it

Having been there, I will say that your perception of the progress of your treatment (or of your depression) is colored by your state of mind. It is not hopeless; you only feel that it is hopeless. Your feelings of hopelessness are not reality, they are feelings, and they can be dealt with and managed. This is the first step to beating depression, and an essential one.

Run, do not walk, to the nearest in-patient facility. Your son does not need your post-suicide planning, your son needs you. It will be unquestionably the most important thing that you will ever do for him.

MetaFilter, kind and open as we are, is not equipped to help you through this. We're amateurs. This absolutely and unequivocally requires professional help. Do you have a telephone number that you can call right now? Do you have someone you can tell vocally that you are contemplating suicide? Call them, right now, even if it's long distance. Then promise them you won't do it. That can be family, friends, or professional assistance, but the closer to you the better.
posted by dhartung at 11:17 PM on July 29, 2006

Stop thinking about yourself for a second and think about your son. Suicide is the most selfish of acts. How do you like this depression? Sucks doesn't it. If you commit suicide what do you think your son will go through? Killing yourself is the surest way of passing your issues straight to your son. Get help, if not for yourself, for your son.
posted by caddis at 11:33 PM on July 29, 2006

I STRONGLY caution you against beginning in a church until you are feeling stronger. I was weak and very vulnerable and was preyed upon by an abusive, cult-like church for 5 years before I was finally able to see how they were hurting me and get out.

I also have made suicide attempts in the past and am now doing terrific, thanks to therapy and medications. Hang in there, life really is good.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:30 AM on July 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

legal expenses if I commit a crime

Would other people, or property, be endangered by the method of suicide under consideration, or are you planning something even darker?

Please get help, if not for yourself, for the legacy that would be left for your son. There's a reason the gold standard for any psychiatric emergency is "Are you a danger to yourself...or others?"
posted by availablelight at 2:01 AM on July 30, 2006

I've read the original post three times, trying to figure why everyone is assuming it's about planning for suicide, and I can't see it.

If that's not what anonymous is asking about, then this entire thread has become massively derailed.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:22 AM on July 30, 2006

I am not sure if everyone is reading anonymous' question correctly. It would be best if he could clarify (e-mail an admin or anyone who offered to talk to you).

I think anonymous may not mean: what will happen to my son when I kill myself, but: what will happen to my son if I go even more insane and end up in a mental hospital.

I was in a mental hospital once, and it was awful. Women lost custody of their children because of their illness. It is good to prepare for this and talk it over with a lawyer. It is even better to try your hardest that this doesn't happen, but it is hard to talk about this to someone I don't know. What do I know about your problems?

If you can, go do fun things with your son now. Do things that you feel up to and that he will love. Connect with him.

If you feel your depression is going down hill even though multiple doctors are involved, try other doctors/therapies. If you haven't had a complete blood test, get it done. Some vitamin deficiencies can cause mental problems (be sure to check B12 through an MMA or homocysteine test). Take fish oil or vegetarian DHA.

Take care of yourself. If you want to talk, feel free to e-mail me (see profile)
posted by davar at 3:32 AM on July 30, 2006

share the burden

For an empathetic person that knows that sharing the burden will hurt others, this is a tall order. Also a lot of people one might turn to for support become like a deer in headlights when faced with profound problems of those they are close to. They simply don't know how to help. And if they express dismay at hearing of the news (which they will be very likely to do), then the person in trouble just knows that they have spread their misery. It's a heavy psychic burden to bear.

This is why I don't let my family know how hard things are for me - it would hurt them tremendously. A facade is much kinder.

Women lost custody of their children because of their illness.

*Raises hand*.

Best of luck to you, anon. I hope things can get better for you. Odds are, they can, and you can put this dark time behind you.
posted by beth at 5:12 AM on July 30, 2006

Church is a hospital for sick souls. Souls that are wounded by betrayal, dispair, loneliness and other such maladies need healing and comfort. Those people need support and would do well to go to church.

For those who are mentally unfit to be in public, amongst a congregation, then IndigoRain's advice is sound.

But the crux of what I'm saying is anon needs to pray to God for help. He can do that anywhere, anytime, all the time, even if it's a prayer in his heart while he goes about his day.
posted by rinkjustice at 5:27 AM on July 30, 2006

The OP IS ambiguous. It CAN read suicide or institutionalization or incarceration.

(An aside....The number of people in this post expressing support and offering personal contact is pretty heartwarming.)

Anon, either way, I think a good lawyer will be the most help in whatever you are planning or worried about. IF it is post-life issues that you are addressing, and I hope it isn't, there ARE a lot of potential legal issues that can be addressed pre-need, as it were. No guarantees, unfortunately. Legal battles post-demise are not as predictable as you may thing.

If it's institutionalization, or you are worried how to protect your child if you do something criminal, I'd think a good lawyer chat and a lot of research would be a good thing, if you can manage the effort required to do it.

It seems that either way, legal help would be useful. But you do also need support. The best thing is to avoid needing any of this by getting your problems addressed more effectively. Is it possible for you to try better/different doctors or perhaps trying a different approach? May allopathic medicine isn't effective for you but something else may be? Are there things you haven't tried?

I'm not much into church, but ANYTHING that works for you is perfectly appropriate, and you'll know what that is. THere are folks out there who DO care (as evidenced by the offers of support here), and I hope you'll seek out one soon.

Good luck, Anon. Honestly, I wish you every bit of good fortune.
posted by FauxScot at 5:34 AM on July 30, 2006

If you forsee being incapacitated in some way in the future — institutionalized, badly injured (and as the other posters say, please don't), or just too depressed to make your own decisions — you may want to think about a living will. Is there someone you trust enough that you could assign them power of attorney on health care issues?

Actually, you may want to discuss power of attorney on other issues too. I imagine your finances are pretty complicated, and it could be good to have someone empowered to keep tabs on them while you're sick, locked up, or in a bad place.

I realize these aren't directly related to your son's care and well-being, but they are related. The better you've planned these things out in advance, the less confusing and stressful they'll be for him, his mother and his grandparents.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:02 AM on July 30, 2006

Anon, kudos to you for trying to find something that you feel you are in control of at a time when everything else must seem very, very out of control. Depression really runs roughshod over everything we try to plan, doesn't it?

It sounds like you are trying to come up with some contingency plans "in case of"...well...anything that you can possibly think of. It sounds like an advocate would be very helpful to you at this point. Perhaps a therapist, social worker or counselor who can brainstorm with you all of the things that could happen to anyone who is struggling with a deep depression and identify the steps you could take, without having to do much thinking through, if one should arise. That is very smart. That is very sensible.

For example, you mention a plan in case, for whatever reason, your parents try to seek custody of your son and you are unable to support the position of your ex-wife. Or a plan if you feel yourself losing control of your actions in public. Or a plan to make sure your son is financially taken care of in case you are unable to help with that.

Perhaps this person could also help you to determine a plan if you ever feel that you are at the end of your rope and can't take anymore. Who do you tell? Where do you turn before taking action? Who do you empower to make decisions on your behalf when you are just too tired to make them for yourself?

When you are making your way through darkness, those plans can be the only thing that keeps us moving through when we would just rather lay down and give up. Everything else is static and noise and pain, but, if you have a plan, you can focus on it.

I don't know where you are in the country, but I think if you contact any of us who have offered (email is in my profile by the way), we would be more than happy to help you find someone who could be your advocate for making plans to handle roadblocks that would keep you from navigating this bout of depression successfully.

Reaching out here is one step. Keep moving through it. You have our support and encouragement.
posted by jeanmari at 7:12 AM on July 30, 2006

Dealing with a situation in another country (I'm thinking you're in the USA?), where a relative is concerned that she is losing her mental competence, my family is currently investigating the possibilities of getting Power of Attorney, so that a (named) person can eg. manage her financial affairs while she is unable to do so herself.

IANAL and my understanding of the situation is not complete, but IIRC it's possible for her to set up such a power with various conditions, including "only when there's a doctor's note to say she's unfit", or "only when she's in inpatient care". The powers can also be limited, so that it wouldn't be possible to come out of hospital to find that eg. the house/car had been sold.

If this kind of arrangement is possible in your country, and there is someone you can trust to look after your affairs for you (one/both parents? a sibling? Whoever it is you'll have to involve them in setting it up) is it the kind of thing you were thinking of? ok, you're anonymous and can't answer. But. It's the best I can offer. Good luck.
posted by Lebannen at 7:24 AM on July 30, 2006

Although I don't have advice to add to that already given, I am also concerned about the tone of this post. I hope you are not planning to harm yourself; I agree that it could be read other ways, but given the potential for harm, I hope there is some way we could get some clarification.
posted by TedW at 7:28 AM on July 30, 2006

Why does everyone thinks he anticipates harming himself?

This line,

and I will be making an appointment the next time I emerge from the 'dark place'.

would seem to put those fears to rest.

I assume the poster, having shown the sense enough to ask this question about getting his affairs in order, does not see suicide as a possibility in this situation, or else he wouldn't be making plans for things to do after the episode is over.
posted by jayder at 7:33 AM on July 30, 2006

[Cross posted from MetaTalk]

I think that he's asking that if he is AT ALL taken away from his son's life -- death, death by accident, prison, etc., what sort of legal measures should he take to ensure that his child stays in the child's mother's custody, and not his parents' custody. And while the child is in the mother's custody, anon dad wants to make sure that the benefits that child is currently getting because of dad will keep on going to the child and that the child won't end up being financially hurt because of dad's legal fees.

He says "Who will take care of my kid if I go nuts?"

Sure, it is an odd thing to be concerned about, but is it that much different from parents listing in their wills that they want Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary to be their children's guardian if they happen to die? Or creating a trust for children? (Being told which aunt and uncle I would live with if my parents were to die freaked me out terribly as a child.)
posted by k8t at 9:17 AM on July 30, 2006

The "legal expenses if I commit a crime" coupled with "she has her own mental issues and my parents would hock their souls if given the opportunity to take him from her," referring to his son, are making me very concerned that non's plan is not committing suicide, but killing his wife in order to give custody to his parents.
posted by jamjam at 10:47 AM on July 30, 2006

anon, I dearly hope you are not thinking of suicide. As you can see, there are many souls here who wish only the best for you. Hang in there.

As for custody of your child, you should work out with your wife and your attorney who will take care of your son if both of you can not. This is typically the most important part of a will for a young person. Your situation is perhaps a bit unique in that you imply that there is a chance that both you and your wife may be incapable of caring for your son while you are alive. Come to agreement and put this in writing with your lawyer's assistance.

If you are afraid that your actions might cause you financial trouble and want to protect some money for your child you can establish a trust fund now into which you can place money and the proceeds of which are to be used for care of your child. While you are capable you would control the trust and you would pick an alternate trustee for times when you can not. Your lawyer can take care of the details.

Best of luck to you and don't give up on yourself. There truly is a path out of your darkness.
posted by caddis at 10:47 AM on July 30, 2006

Fuck it, I'm coming out of the closet, and my apologies to Matt for making this anonymous in the first place. I need solid advice and I think the answers could help quite a few people in the future.

Suicide is not an issue with me. Hell, I haven't even given up the idea of returning to work someday (although THAT may just be the psychosis talking). My dark place is exhaustion, bone-aching upset-stomach headachy mentally-sluggish easily-startled exhaustion.

In addition to psychosis and depression, I have major heart disease and I am at risk for strokes. So, some sort of vegetative state in the future is quite possible for me. What really compounds this mess is that anything that may happen, IF (if, not when; OK? heh) it does, could be temporary, not necessarily permanent. The idea of coming out of a black spell penniless and matters beyond my control is not a fun one, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I read through my will and the divorce settlement the other day, and I do not feel either of them adequately cover temporary or permanent incapacity. Further, I have been entirely unsuccessful researching the legal aspects of mental illness on the web. This latter point is the reason for this question; if no one has written about it, what could I be missing? (Hey, I'm paranoid, whatta ya expect? ;-)

Thank you to everyone who has answered so far, but I already have the medical, psychiatric and spiritual aspects covered. I have no doubt that I can find a lawyer with experience with cases like this, but because I am already experiencing memory and other cognitive glitches, I want to make a checklist to keep me on track and for my own peace of mind. - luv m . ;-P
posted by mischief at 10:54 AM on July 30, 2006

Thank you for coming out of the closet, mischief.

Now, please reassure me you are not thinking of harming your wife.
posted by jamjam at 11:26 AM on July 30, 2006

Given the interpretive points raised about the OP, both here in thread, and over in MeTa, I'm popping back in with a couple of other thoughts. If the OP was indeed asking about making arrangements for his own and his child's care only in the case of a temporary mental breakdown which would incapacitate him temporarily, some different advice is warranted. Glad you de-cloaked mischief, this was gettin' ridiculous.

In so far as Social Security disability payments are concerned, it depends on the particulars of the program under which you and/or your child receives benefits. SSD is the standard Social Security disability program, for workers who have become disabled. SSI is the Supplemental Security Income program, which provides limited benefits for mentally disabled and handicapped people, which also provides automatic qualification for Medicare/Medicaid level benefits for its clients, covering basic medical care and medications. The SSD and SSI programs have entirely different eligibility and reporting requirements, and entirely different benefits and distribution mechanisms.

If the you are receiving SSD benefits, a change in living circumstance, such as entering a long term treatment facility, or being declared legally incompetent or indigent, may require an assignment of SSD benefits to a long term residential care provider, as guarantee of payment for services, if such payment is not otherwise guaranteed by Medicare or Medicaid benefits. Such declarations are not unusual in cases of severe impairment due to mental illness, and may be in the best interest of the poster, as a means of his getting treatment he can get no other way. If he has family members (spouse is preferable, but apparently not good in this case, parents, siblings, or adult children) who will agree to be the person's guardian or appointee for handling his affairs while he is incapacitated, then he should arrange a limited power of attorney for that person, and perhaps make that person his alternate payee with Social Security, or at least a signature on his bank accounts, if there will be on-going SSD payments to the person while in care.

At some point, if the person is completely disabled, and for some reason exhausts his SSD benefits, or becomes ineligible for SSD for other reasons, he may be encouraged to apply for SSI benefits, as a means of establishing eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid benefits. The SSI stipend is now generally capped at $603 / month, so that an SSI recipient will generally always be a dependent person in an adult relative's household (or perhaps a subsidized community assisted living facility), but the access to Medicare or Medicaid benefits is vital to a person needing ongoing psychiatric treatment and medications.

An attorney can draw the necessary papers for assignment of a limited or full power of attorney, and related legal items such as a medical advance directive. Such services are often sought by people who will be temporarily incapacitated by surgery, and when I had such a set of documents made up for myself some years ago, I think the fees came to something around $250.00, but this will depend on the particulars of the poster's situation and the requirements of the jurisdictions in which he lives.

But the phrase "legal expenses if I commit a crime" remains as troubling to me, without further clarification, as it did in framing my earlier response. At the risk of repeating myself here, I doubt you can seek legal help to plan payment for legal advice you will need after you commit a crime, as that would involve an attorney in a conspiracy, so I can't offer an advice about that. Regarding maintaining some control about the dignity of your life, in situations where you have lost the ability to make a decision, you can try to cover specific instances and outcomes in your advance medical directive, to insure you won't become another Terry Schiavo, and you can set limits and give some written instructions to the person to whom you give power of attorney, or whom you make your trustee. But generally, your grant of such powers is made presuming that you have selected a person who will always have your best interests at heart, who knows your will and personality, and who can flexibly apply this knowledge of you to new situations as they arise, to best manage your life when you can't.

If you don't have such a person, you need to cultivate one, given your stage of life and responsibilities, perhaps a professional or institutional trustee, if no family member can serve.
posted by paulsc at 11:31 AM on July 30, 2006

Thanks for clarifying things; I appreciate that you might not be comfortable discussing all of this openly, but I hope you will get some better answers now that more information is out there.

One thing that I have seen touched on but that bears some further emphasis, is that you first look out for your own interests in the event you should become incapacitated. In particular, since you mention being at risk for stroke, you should make sure your wishes regarding health care are respected if you are unable to state them. An ugly fight over how to best care for you could be devastating for your son (think Terri Schiavo). So with all your other planning make sure you have a living will/advance directive/or similar and have discussed it with your friends and family. A good resource from the American Bar Association is here.
posted by TedW at 11:57 AM on July 30, 2006

I forgot to re-address the custody thing. It's still unclear to me exactly what you're asking here.

1) Do you want to assist your parents in getting custody of your child if your ex-wife also breaks down while you are non compos mentis? Or,

2) Do you want to prevent your parents from making your ex-wife's and child's lives a living hell while you are out of it, at the first sign of any decision or action by her that they don't like?

This goes into a lot of territory in both directions, and there is no point going into one, if your interest is entirely in the other. The best thing, if you can, and if she can, is to initiate a review with her of all your options for persons to raise your child, in the event of your individual incapacities, and then have some agreement drawn to which you both become signatories, while you are both of sound mind. How much standing such a document would have with the courts in your jurisdiction is something you'll have to explore with an attorney, but there is little point in wasting consultation time, unless you feel something like that is even possible.

I hope for all your sakes it is.
posted by paulsc at 11:59 AM on July 30, 2006

jamjam: No, my ex is still my closest friend. Violence is not in the equation.

paulsc: I'm thinking more along the lines of misdemeanor public nuisance. Las Vegas has more than its share of untreated crazies and I have seen how the cops deal with an otherwise non-threatening public freakout. I don't want a public defender getting anywhere near me if something happens.

This is the problem for me: if I were to simply drop dead, everything is pre-programmed by way of my will and the divorce agreement, but the incapacity clauses are generic, cut-and-paste paragraphs. They need updating, and right now, I am trying to compile a list of other things that may not be so obvious and that I should consider when I have the lawyer's ear.
posted by mischief at 12:00 PM on July 30, 2006


If your ex has full custody of your kid, it's up to her to provide for succession in the case of her own incompetence. So, if you are still standing when she becomes incompetent, I suppose you would be her designated next child raiser, and you are his other parent, so it should be straight forward for you to become his custodian, if there aren't other complicating issues. If she's still out of it when you then subsequently become out of it, you'd be the one to designate his care path, if that is allowed in your state, and you and she should be agreeing about that, and drawing the proper papers to support your child's guardianship as you wish it to be handled, if that is common practice where you live. The question you are going to need help from the attorney about, is how is non-parental child custody handled in your state (Nevada?) and what you can do to influence it if both you and your ex are incapacitated? Many states insert their Department of Children and Families as soon as a non-parental custody becomes an issue, to be able to have standing with the courts, and to make sure the child has a dispassionate advocate in the process of adjudication of competing claims from other family members. Good that you are trying to work this out, but see, first, if even you can, given where you live.

On the question of a public breakdown, again, this is something you handle with a power of attorney to a friend. If you are picked up raving on the street, but have something on your person that directs authorities to contact your appointed agent, who then shows up with a valid power of attorney and a medical advance directive, and can bail you out using your own money, and get you a lawyer, you're OK for avoiding the circumstance you fear.
posted by paulsc at 12:20 PM on July 30, 2006

Here's a link to Nevada's version of the UNIFORM CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION AND ENFORCEMENT ACT, which is the governing law for how child custody issues are settled there. You might want to work your way through this before seeing an attorney.

Actually, it looks like I was a little presumptuous in my previous answer. If you ex-wife has custody, she's presumed to be the child's custodian, until such time as someone else appears in a Nevada court, and petitions to have that previous order changed, at which time the court may appoint the party petitioning, or not, or remand custody of the child, temporarily or permanently, to the appropriate civil authorities. If your wife has somebody she'd rather have raise your kid than your parents, she can arm them with something on paper to that effect, but her wishes may or may not prevail, depending on the court's judgement of what is best for the child at that point.
posted by paulsc at 12:43 PM on July 30, 2006

Thank you, mischief, and good luck to you and your loved ones!
posted by jamjam at 1:05 PM on July 30, 2006

Response by poster: I just want to say, I am pretty sure if you check yourself into an inpatient facility you are going to have very little chance of getting custody of your child.
posted by Anonymous at 7:47 PM on July 30, 2006

We've had our run-ins Mr. Peabody, but you've always been more than gracious in IRC. Best of luck to you.
posted by orthogonality at 9:34 PM on July 30, 2006

Too late for that schroedinger, I spent five days in Romper Room back in '99. Luckily my entire life at that time so fucked up, that know one realized I had taken a little vacation.

One good contact via email: the National Insurance Consumer Hotline, 800 942-4242 seems likely. I will be calling that tomorrow too. (Hopefully)
posted by mischief at 9:36 PM on July 30, 2006

You need to consult with someone who practices family law in your area. From what I know working for child welfare and the courts (in foster care, not as a lawyer) in New York State, after a removal in a custody or foster care placement dispute judges generally lean towards family. I'm not aware of any laws about it, but I haven't looked.

I'm not sure I'm grasping from your question whether you actually want the child to go to your parents. But if you can make your wishes known before the courts get to intervene, and have established a relationship with an outside party such that the child is already familiar with them and they have cared for the child (a babysitter, a friend, a teacher, someone at your church), they can be a viable option as a "kinship" placement in foster care. Any potential candidate could even train ahead of time as a foster parent with an agency that deals with your area in order to be an immediate resource if/when the time comes.

I'm not sure about custody. I think that would have to be granted by your wife prior to any breakdown and removal by child welfare. Once the child is out of your control, it's up to the courts and what they think is in the child's best interests. This is just off the top of my head.

One loose end to consider: I don't know whether it's possible to control who gets access to your kids' social security benefits from you in the event that you pass away, but that's something to look into. We have had foster parents or the deceased's widow/widower take kids' money in the past, or we've had kids take all their money that they get at a young age and blow it on sneakers. I'm not sure whether it's possible to designate a guardian for the child to receive these benefits or set up a savings account for it, but consider that.

Lastly: if you think you're up to it, you might think about writing or recording something to your kid explaining the situation for them to read when they're older and giving it to someone you trust for delivery. A lot of kids in this situation struggle with the events that have transpired in their families, and how their parents could "abandon" them, whether their parents loved them or cared about them and what it means to be loved after such an experience and love someone else. I know this sounds weird, but you might also offer advice about taking care of his own physical and mental health in the future, if things run in your family. If you are not able to, maybe someone else could help you, or write something for you to approve.

I hope this is taken in the spirit of encouragement and support in which it is intended. Having gone through similar experiences with others and in my own family, I wish I could be of some help. It is very brave of you to plan for your kid this way.
posted by Marnie at 9:41 AM on July 31, 2006

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