Your first step should not involve the legal system. You should contact the child's mother again, apologize profusely for your absence, and humbly ask to re-introduce yourself. Expect not to get too much right away, but offer to go at a pace that works for them. (I'm not making any moral judgment about your decisions; but this attitude may help you win her favor, and will look good to a court if she refuses and you have to go to the next step.)
If that doesn't work, you could then file a petition for custody in the circuit court of the count where the child lives. You would have to show why visitation is in the child's best interests. The law does generally presume that it is in a child's best interests to have an active relationship with both of their parents, so you have that advantage. As against that, your earlier absence will not look good. No matter whose fault it was - these cases are about the best interests of the child, not the fault of the parents. After so long an absence, you will likely have pretty limited visitation at first, but you can work up to more by reliably attending and showing that you can follow the rules, work with the other parent, and care properly for the child. You can read more about these laws here: http://www.northwestlawoffice.com/custody.html
Please read the following notice: <br> <br> Jay Bodzin is licensed to practice law in the State of Oregon and the Federal District of Oregon, and cannot give advice about the laws of other jurisdictions. All comments on this site are intended for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. No posts or comments on this site are in any way confidential. Each case is unique. You are advised to have counsel at all stages of any legal proceeding, and to speak with your own lawyer in private to get advice about your specific situation. <br> <br> Jay Bodzin, Northwest Law Office, 2075 SW First Avenue, Suite 2J, Portland, OR 97201 | Telephone: 503-227-0965 | Facsimile: 503-345-0926 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Online: www.northwestlawoffice.com
Check out my legal guides on this subject. Good luck.
Be sure to designate "best answer." If you live in Oregon, you may call me for more detailed advice, 503-650-9662. Please be aware that each answer on this website is based upon the facts, or lack thereof, provided in the question. To be sure you get complete and comprehensive answers, based upon the totality of your situation, contact a local attorney who specializes in the area of law that involves your legal problem. Diane L. Gruber has been practicing law in Oregon for 26 years, specializing in family law, bankruptcy, estate planning and probate. Note: Diane L. Gruber does not represent you until a written fee agreement has been signed by you and Diane L. Gruber, and the fee listed in the agreement has been paid.