A child of adoption, Pauline Gaines discusses the additional pain of possibly losing custody of her son in Thursday night's personal essay. Her piece sparked numerous insights from our readers. Our favorite came from fidelio_mam, a man who actually did lose custody of his daughter and has been fighting to maintain a relationship ever since.
I sought custody of my daughter when she was 6 years old. Although I presented evidence to the court of her mother's substance abuse, suicidal tendencies, and severe depression, I was denied because of an affair on my part (which I will not attempt to excuse here). The judgement left a lasting psychological scar -- mainly because it left my daughter in the care of someone who really is an unfit parent. Nontheless, I have strived to maintain close contact and as much visitation with her as possible. Now, as she is about to graduate high school, I honestly can say that I enjoy as close and engaged a relationship with her as I have ever known. My contiunued presence in her life has provided a degree of stability that she would not otherwise know. I suppose there are two things that I would suggest: a) if you lose custody, you do not lose parental rights and visitation and, b) if your husband is a fairly reasonable soul (and it sounds like he might be) then he will probably allow you to spend more time with your son than what the court mandates as a minimum. In fact, if a custodial evaluation tends to favor him, I would recommend that you settle out of court with very liberal visitation rights. There is no point in going through an extended divorce case and in the process draining yourself and your ex-husband financially over what might be a lost cause, and the victim in this will be your son. If you think your ex-husband is a decent father and that the court is likely to award him custody, then negotiate the very best arrangement that you can. Remember that if you go to court, the judge will impose the customary 2 days/ 2 weeks visitation, which is certainly much worse than you will get from your former husband. The point of all of this is to stay as involved in your son's life as is possible regardless of the custodial decision; if you love him, he will come back; I promise you!
To read the rest of the letters, click here.