The child resides in Houston County, Georgia. The mother has left the child with the step father and just recently we found out has been taken to a mental hospital in Atlanta. The step father is filing for a divorce; however, the child is not his biological child. My husband is biological father and the noncustodial parent of said child. We have spoken to lawyers in Houston County and unfortunately we cannot afford their services. So I am asking can we file a motion to change custody based on neglect/abandonment ourselves? if so where do we file, here in Chatham County or in Houston County? We have no idea where the mother is and the child hasn't seen or heard from his mom in over four months. The child wants to move with us. He is 14 yrs old. PLease advise!!!!
When you spoke with the attorney, do they mention to your husband the possibility of going to the juvenile court in Houston County and filing a deprivation case? Although juvenile courts lack jurisdiction to hear custody disputes between parents, your husband's son appears to fall into the statutory category of a "deprived child," meaning that a juvenile court could possibly hear the case and act quickly on it.
I will would still strongly recommend that you speak with an attorney in that county about this as a possibility. I understand that you feel that you cannot afford an attorney; however, custody cases are very complicated and I would advise you to do your best to find an attorney who can work with you on payments.
The fact that the child is 14 years old will also help you a great deal.
Nothing contained herein shall be considered or construed as creating an attorney client relationship between the party asking the question and the attorney. All legal problems are different. The answer given is only a general response based upon the facts provided and should not be considered specific advice for your case. Always contact a lawyer for advice about your particular circumstances and issues.
Perhaps if your husband and his family members realized that he had a very good chance of getting custody of his son, they would be willing to help him find an experienced family law attorney to help him in this case. Does your husband pay child support? If so, he could use that money, after he gets custody, to pay back his family members for helping with the cost of an attorney. Although he may never be able to get child support out of the mother, because of her condition, he will not have to pay child support, and he will get the tax advantages of being the custodial parent. Of course, the most important benefit to your husband and his family is knowing that his son is safe.
If you absolutely cannot pay for an attorney, have you made any effort to seek legal aid?
I am exclusively a family law attorney, practicing primarily in the metro Atlanta, Georgia trial courts. However, I handle appeals from anywhere in Georgia.
You state that your husband is the "noncustodial parent", thus leading me to believe that he either was divorced from the mother or has legitimated the child. As long as either of these is true, he should have standing to request a change of custody. If neither if true (if there is not a custody order in existence), he would have to request legitimation, and may ask for primary custody within the request. Regardless of which pleading is being filed, your husband would have to file an action in the Superior Court of Houston County (where the child resides). Unfortunately for him, your husband will be required to locate the mother. She would have to be listed as the defendant in the matter, and served with a copy of the complaint, and given an opportunity to object or consent, before the court will grant a change of custody. Since the child is 14 years old, he would be able to make a custodial election, which the court will grant unless it is determined that his election is contrary to his best interests.
Another option would be for your husband (or you) to file an action for Deprivation action in Houston County Juvenile Court. In such an action, the mother would still need to be included as the defendant. However, the court may be able to issue an order of temporary custody even without the mother being successfully served. Juvenile court may only issue temporary custody, thus following this route could only grant custody to your husband for a period of two years or less.
The above answer is a general explanation of legal rights and procedures. It does not constitute legal advice. Nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship between the individual posting the question and the attorney providing the answer.
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