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Ralph Duthely

Ralph Duthely’s Answers

441 total


  • Can exercise my court order, even though I have not done so in almost a year? or what should I do?

    Ralph’s Answer

    It doesn’t sound like you and the mother have a good means of communicating. I would advise that you communicate by email if you have one for her. Begin by just letting her know that you would like to start exercising your visitation and want to work out a means and schedule that would be comfortable for the child.

    Because you have not seen her in a long time, your daughter will be apprehensive. Don’t blame the mother for this. I would advise that you consider short, supervised visits either by a family member that the child is comfortable with, or by a professional. Don’t try to rush things or be too forceful but do start the process as soon as possible. The longer you are away from her, the harder it will be to resume a relationship with your daughter.

    If the mother refuses, you may have to resort to going to court. Keep in mind that with the Covid pandemic, the mother will be apprehensive. That’s to be expected. Avoiding court, and being able to compromise, is always the better option, in my opinion. Best of luck.

  • So I put modified order in for sole physical custody of my daughter?

    Ralph’s Answer

    I agree with my colleague. If you came in for a consultation, the first question I would ask you is what is the practical benefit of modifying the order and is it worth having the court intrude in your life?

    Keep in mind that once the case goes to court, they are free to look into everything and issue any orders or conduct any investigations deemed necessary for the safety of the child. Family Court is not limited only to the specific request in your petition.

  • Can I move to another country?

    Ralph’s Answer

    The best person to seek advice from is your current attorney who knows the specifics of your case. There are so many variables that may impact whether the baby is removed from your care. Obviously, the previous allegations were serious enough that the older children were removed and you have supervised visitation but it may depend on how far into your service plan you are and whether remedial measures could be put in place to prevent removal.

    Moving out of the country is a very drastic measure and it would likely result in a warrant being issued for you. That might prevent you from being able to return any time soon. You would lose all contact with your other children.

    Please speak to you attorney.

  • When could i petition for visitation ?

    Ralph’s Answer

    You can petition for visitation now. It will likely start in a supervised or possibly therapeutic setting. As my colleague pointed out, the court will look to order what is in the best interest of the child. However, it is rare for a parent to be denied all contact with his or her child. The key is to work everyday to maintain sobriety in order to have a steady and constant relationship with your child. The court, and the custodial parent, want to avoid the damage that is done if you are in and out of the child’s life.

    I would stress to you to be patient and not go in thinking everyone is conspiring against you. Maintain a positive attitude even when it seems the obstacles are great. Ultimately, you will get to the point you want to be in wi5 your child.

    As far as joint custody, that is a big hurdle. Aside from the alcohol issues, joint custody requires that two parents work together and reach consensus on many issues. The likelihood of getting to that point depends on the nature of your relationship with the other parent. That might be a goal in the distant future, but take the first step of re-establishing a pattern of visitation first.

    I would advise that you consult with a family law attorney and let that person review the specifics of your case in order to best advise you on how to proceed.

    Best of luck with everything.

  • What can I do if my ex refuses to cooperate with visitation?

    Ralph’s Answer

    You should speak to your lawyer. It is not fair to him/her, nor is it wise, for you to seek advice from attorneys who know less about the specifics of your case than that person does.

  • Is a notarized letter acceptable for moving with my child out of state from NY to FL?

    Ralph’s Answer

    The notarized letter won’t prevent him from being able to go to court and file a custody petition. NY would retain jurisdiction until the child has been a resident of Florida for 6 months. You would have to defend the case in NY and may be forced to return the child to NY while the case is pending. You could apply for permission to appear telephonically and that would be at the court’s discretion. However, the attorney for the child would want to meet with your daughter in person.

    In short, you’d be taking a chance if you left without court permission. Since the two of you have managed to work everything out thus far without court intervention, you are in the best position to determine if it is a risk worth taking.

  • Can a foreign father gain custody of a child born in the US even if he is not married to the mother?

    Ralph’s Answer

    Before a man can gain custody of a child he would have to first establish paternity. Then he would have to prevail in showing a court, at trial, that it is in the child’s best interest that custody be granted to him. That would almost always require that the father show that he has had regular and meaningful contact with the child. Further, if he lives in another jurisdiction (another State or far enough away but within NYS) he would have to convince the court, through a relocation petition, that it is in the child’s best interest to allow him to move away with the child. That would require him to demonstrate that he would continue to facilitate the mother’s ability to visit with the child. That is difficult enough, but when the father lives in another country it is an almost impossible burden.

    In short, I don’t think your friend has much to worry about as far as the (putative?) father obtaining custody through the courts. I’d be more concerned with him possibly absconding with the child. If he wants to establish a relationship with the child, she should tell him to do it through the courts.

  • Can I file an order of protection against the custodial parent to prevent last minute visitation changes and blatant harassment?

    Ralph’s Answer

    Orders of protection are meant to curb threatening or harassing behavior, not mere annoyance. It is possible that, on occasion, the mother may be violating the terms of the custody/visitation agreement but, unless there is more, it doesn’t sound like her conduct rises to the level that an OP would be granted. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney who would get a complete picture of the conduct described, as well as look at the details of the agreement (order?).

    Also, I find that it is always better to get more visitation than the order calls for rather than having to fight to get what is court ordered. Avoiding court (said by a lawyer) is always the better course.

  • Are cps allowed to pull a case from 14 year ago now in court for my other kids ?

    Ralph’s Answer

    The sad fact about family court isn’t that almost anything goes. A finding of abuse or neglect stays on the State’s central registry until 10 years past the younger child’s 28 birthday. If your 24 year old was the only (or youngest) child in that case, the finding is still on the registry for another four years. ACS will introduce it to demonstrate that there is a “history of neglect.” Depending on the nature and severity of the allegations, a wise and fair judge will not give much weight to the previous findings. If there are new allegations based on current events, the allegations will have to be proven by evidence of current maltreatment. The previous case won’t be the deciding factor. I’m sure your attorney will make good arguments as to why the previous findings are irrelevant to the current allegations. Hopefully, the judge will not give them much weight.

  • How can i defend myself, I recently got served with Joint custody papers?

    Ralph’s Answer

    You can appear in court and challenge service because it was not timely. He has to serve you at least 8 days prior to the scheduled return date. You may also appear and waive the defect in service but ask for an adjournment in order to retain counsel. You may also ask that the court appoint an attorney to represent you. The court will ask what your income is. If you meet the requirements, an attorney will be assigned. An attorney will also be assigned to represent the child.

    Once you are represented by counsel, she or he can best advise you on how to proceed. Generally, it I should my opinion that the best argument against what the father is proposing is not that you don’t want to have the child away from you for that long. The better argument (again, in my opinion) is that there will be that that arrangement will be disruptive to the child’s normal activities and interfere with her school routine.

    Best of luck.