Unwed Parents & Child With Special Needs
by Florida Mom from Stuart, Florida, Martin County
I'm the mother of my 6 month old daughter with Down Syndrome. I never married. Her (presumed) father is on her birth certificate. We have dissolved our relationship and despite the fact that he has not been a part of her daily care since she was born.
He is now stating that he wants overnight/weekend visitation and 2 weeks vacation to take her out of state.
Neither of us have legally done anything at this point. I want to know if I can/need to file for legal custodian. Also, I have major concerns about him having her overnight for any length of time.
I already told him that I have no issues with him being a part of her life; however, in terms of him being a caretaker, he is not. He states he will fight me for her.
How can I have sole legal/physical custody and stipulate that visitations be for day visits only? What are the steps I need to take to ensure her well being?
Answer to Florida Child Custody Question
Dear Florida Mom,
My suggestion and your best approach may be to file a Supervised Safety Focused Parenting Plan
In that you can state your concerns that he is not able to care for a special needs baby; and that you do not want him to have her for overnight visits.
However, there is a bias in the law in favor of a child having positive relationships with both parents.
If the judge perceives your concern as being overly controlling, your good intentions may backfire.
The most important factor that a judge must consider in custody and visitation determinations is the best interests of the child. You should be able to explain to the judge exactly why your ex should not have his daughter on overnight visits and take her on vacation with him.
The simple statement that he doesn’t know how to take care of her isn’t enough. Ask yourself: What doesn’t he know? Does she have a special diet? Does she require certain types of physical stimulation? Does she become anxious easily? Etc...Notice:
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