negotiating child-sharing
August 6, 2007 7:16 PM   Subscribe

Custody question for someone with no (?) legal rights:

My girlfriend and I both had kids when we met. We've been raising them as siblings for the last three years. They're still young enough that this is a significant percentage of their lives. Now we're breaking up and she's saying she doesn't want me to be with (her biological) kids. Since we're gay and never adopted each other's children, I'm assuming I have no legal rights. I've asked her to do mediation, and she's refusing. Because we're not talking at all, I'm not even sure exactly what she's imagining, but she has said (in an angry moment) she'll never let me see her kids again. For the record, she's not accusing me of being a bad parent or anything like that. As far as I can tell, she's mostly just angry and punishing me with the kids.

My question is somewhat about the legal issues here, but I understand that I need to speak to a lawyer on that. But the truth is, the idea of turning this into a legal battle is probably more awful than what's already happening. Mostly, I'm wishing for a way to persuade her to mediate this with a professional that will help us figure out together what is best for the kids. So maybe I'm more looking for pointers on the best way to negotiate with someone who is extremely angry and hurt. But any other ideas or thoughts are welcome.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total)
In any negotiation, you need to first find a process that you are both comfortable with. Negotiate first on the process rather than the result, because you can't get the latter without the former. Start with little things, rather than the big things.

On the legal side, no advice you receive on MeFi will be of any use since we don't know where you live -- please email the admins with your location!
posted by modernnomad at 7:33 PM on August 6, 2007

What do you have that she wants? Does she want her children to be able to see yours? Does she want shared assets? Money? Even if her motivation is screwing you over, there might be some things she needs from you. Use this as a way to compromise. You could possibly hire a mediator or arbitrator to talk things out between you.

The legal system might have remedies for you, such as a protective order stating its in the best interest of the kids to let them have continued contact with each other. Or you might be SOL from a legal standpoint. But even if you are, there are services that function as intermediaries so mom and dad (in this case, mom and mom) never have to see each other. You drop the kids off at the front door and they leave through the back door ... perhaps your ex-girlfriend would consider this sort of arrangement so your kids could still see each other.

I really think you should at least consider a lawyer, and e-mail an admin (or any of the users who give you advice in this thread) for additional info such as the state you're living in. This is not legal advice and IANAL(yet).

Oh, also, some lawyers specialize in dispute resolution methods and WILL NOT take an issue to court unless every alternative fails. You might want to find one of those. You might want to check out the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers for a referral - they also have an arbitration and mediation referral service here.
posted by Happydaz at 8:54 PM on August 6, 2007

You're breaking up. Give that time to settle down, then make a plan.
posted by flabdablet at 9:19 PM on August 6, 2007

I don't know about any legal remedies - as you said, it sounds like you don't have much status there. I recommend two books to help you do a calm, principled, win/win negotiation: Getting Past No and then Getting to Yes. These techniques were developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project which focuses on developing approaches to intractable international negotiations.

Aside from that, I second flabdablet's comment that you give each other time to recover emotionally before you try to solve this one.
posted by metahawk at 10:41 PM on August 6, 2007

The HRC has a bunch of info on gay parenting, both legal and psychological issues and social science research articles. Maybe poking around in there might give you some ideas of how other people have solved (or not solved) similar problems? They also have a database there of laws by state.
posted by occhiblu at 11:44 AM on August 7, 2007

There are legal precedents for your situation where the courts have awarded visitation rights to the non-biological parent. I strongly recommend that you do some research and find a GLBT-friendly lawyer that understands these kinds of issues. If you're in CT, I know just the woman...

Good luck. This is an awful situation, especially for the kids.
posted by widdershins at 12:04 PM on August 7, 2007

« Older Help me post a video on Wordpress. Please!   |   Wedding night getaway within an hour of New York? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.