Scenario: A Parent has no child custody order. The Other Parent has no contact with the child and no interest in having Custody time with the child. The Parent-in-Custody has no real “need” to get have a Custody Order. On the other hand, the Parent-in-Custody simply “wants” to get a Custody Order, as a perceived item of “safety” or to be able to tell the world that “I have sole custody of my child”. Are these “good enough” reasons? What may happen if the Parent-in-Custody does file for Custody?
Did you ever hear of “waking the sleeping dog”? In this case, the “sleeping dog” is the Other Parent, the parent who has been out of the child’s life, sometimes for years. When a Party files for a Custody Order, that parent will have to provide the Court with the Other Parent’s address. The Court will want to be sure that the Other Parent was served with and is aware that a Custody Complaint has been filed and a Hearing has been scheduled.
It is very common for the Other Parent to use that “invitation” (from you) to now assert the long-dormant and previously not asserted, Custodial Rights. If the Parent-in- Custody did not have a true need to file for Custody, what they have done is “awoken” this previously dormant Custody claim, and now, the Court will welcome the Other Parent into a Custody relationship with the child. Effectively, the Parent-in-Custody has unintentionally invited this previously uninvolved person into the Court process. A party needs to ask themselves if this is what they really wish to do.
We are faced with this issue often in our practice. Rather than first calling an experienced Family Lawyer to discuss whether it is good practice in their situation to file for custody, a well-intended Parent-in-Custody will file this Custody Petition undoubtedly thinking that the Other Parent will not bother to come to Court, or, that because the Other Parent has been out of the child’s life, the Other Parent has “no rights”. This second thought is simply wrong. The Other Parent, who has simply chosen not to be involved up until that point, or, has simply not asserted their rights, now may come forward with a host of reasons, whether true or false, as to why the Other Parent hasn’t been in the child’s life; some common reasons are :
- “I tried, but the other Parent wouldn’t let me see my child”; or
- “I didn’t know where the Parent lived…they were hiding from me”; or
- “I asked the Parent to see my child, but the Parent made it difficult for me to do so”.
None of these reasons matter. Before you “welcome” a long-lost Parent into Custody Court, think long and hard first..and call a Family Lawyer to discuss it.