What is the name of your state? Missouri
Background: I have never been married to my sons father. The father would not allow his name to be put on the birth certificate when my son was born. After I left his father I was still receiving Medicaid as was his child, the Division of Family Services ordered the father to pay child support. Paternity was established by the court by telling the father that he could admit to being the father or have a DNA test, a test was never performed, he admitted that he was the father. The father was ordered by the court to pay child support in the amount of $117 per month. Over the last 3 years (as of Feb 2005) the father has rarely made child support payments on time and has been in default over $500 since the order was established (except when the debt of child support was paid off in 2006 due to him claiming our son on his taxes which was illegal as my son spent all his time with me since 2005). I have been informed by countless lawyers, including the Prosecuting Attorney, that I do not have legal custody, I only have parental custody. No visitation rights have been established. I would like to obtain full legal custody of my 5 year old son. The father does not seek to be involved in his son's life unless it fits him. I have tried setting up a schedule for the father to see his son but he will not adhere to the schedule (all on his terms). I have tried everything within my power to involve the father in his son's life but he does not call, ask for holiday visits (or visits at all for that matter), and does not attend school functions. My sons father has recently told my child and myself that he will be moving out of the area (1hr to 4hrs drive time away).
My questions: At this point I would like to file for full legal custody of my son, or have the father sign away his rights. Can I file my own papers, or do I need to get a lawyer and have the courts involved in the process?
( I have been told by every lawyer in my town that I will be charged at least $3000 for the lawyer just to file the papers and I will be responsible for court costs as well. I cannot afford this. I have contacted legal aid and was denied due to the nature of the case.)
If the father signs away his rights or if I obtain full custody, will the father be required to continue with child support payments?
(My son is still on Medicaid and I am myself uninsured at this time.)
My closing comments: I am in no way trying to keep my child from his father. I would love for the two of them to be more involved, but the father has made it very clear that he only wants his son around when it is convenient for him. Losing the child support will not be a problem as I do not rely on it for any purpose, in fact it's just a nice surprise if I do happen to receive it. This whole issue is taking its toll on myself and my son mentally. My son cries to see his father, and on the off chance that his father does try to visit with him, he cries and will not go with him and is suffering from server anxiety attacks. If my son does leave with his father for a visit, the visit usually lasts no longer than 2 hours. Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated, if more information is needed I will answer any and all questions.