I've been divorced for 2 years. My ex has bi-polar disorder and is a recovering alcoholic. He spent years away in rehab during our marriage. We have 3 children: (almost) 18, 16, and 13. Custody was arranged when he was well and the children do not spend any overnights with him. In the last few weeks, my ex has been exhibiting behaviors that make me think he is not taking his medication. He writes long rambling incoherent emails in the middle of the night to me, people we know, our children. He is not allowed at my house, but the other day when he knew I was out, came to the door of my house and rambled incoherently to my father who was spending the day with my children. He has taken my two younger children to dinner and was falling asleep during the dinner. My 16 year old son said he did not feel comfortable going with his father. My children are (almost) 18, 16, and 13. I am worried about sending them with their father if he is sick again. What recourse do I have if I feel the children should not be with their father until he gets healthy again?
Custody and parenting time determinations can be modified on a showing of changed circumstances. If you no longer feel it is safe for the children to spend as much or any time with him, you could ask the court to modify his rights, either in the normal course with a Motion or on an emergent basis with an Order to Show Cause. Such requests could get messy and require evaluations and hearings with formal testimony, so it would be wise to talk to an attorney first to see what your options are and if there is a way to first try to work this out with your ex before going to court.
This is a very important question. You should protect your children. Restraining counsel to present your concerns to a Court either through the typical process or an emergency process may be required appropriate. Also, it may be appropriate to involve the authorities. It would be wise to have an attorney represent you.
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You need to retain experienced matrimonial counsel who can bring this matter before the Court and seek to limit parenting time and/or make it supervised. Your two older children can testify before the Court as to what their wishes and concerns are. Once a proceeding is started in Court, medical records can be obtained to support to document your concerns. To properly answer your questions and address your concerns, the best way to handle this is by retaining an experienced matrimonial attorney. Use AVVO's Find a Lawyer tool to select a qualified attorney. Good luck.
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As a general rule, you are bound to obey can court order.
However, if you have a legitimate fear for the safety of your children, then you can sometimes disobey a court order. You must also file a motion to modify the order based on the unsafe circumstance.
You cannot do the former without doing the latter or else you'll come off looking like 'the vindictive ex' who wants to deprive the parent of his children. AND you'll be held in contempt of court.
I STRONGLY suggest that IF you do this, then you do it with the benefit of counsel.
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How about a motion seeking to have him immediately see his doctor (if his doctor is known and if not a bi polar specialist) and report to the court on his condition?
I agree with the other attorney responses. I just wanted to add that this sounds like a frightening situation, where the safety and well-being of the children may be at risk if he exercises parenting time. Based on your concerns, depending on all the facts of your case, this may be the sort of thing that would warrant an "emergent" application with the court (heard the same day that it is brought) rather than a normal motion (heard a minimum 24 days after filing). I suggest you speak with an attorney about this option.
You should file an emergent motion and include what you have stated here as a backup. You are always free to file a motion to change custody agreements when there is a change of circumstances and your children are certainly old enough to give their opinion privately to the judge, if it were to come to that. You mention that he "is not allowed at my house." Is that through a formal restraining order? You might want to consider getting one - at least to keep everyone safe until you can file a motion and get a court order. You can find local attorneys here who can help you.
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