What is the name of your state? New York
I have 2 girls ages 9 and 7. Their father and I never married, but were together for over 9 years (most of that time, living together). He was very controlling and verbally abusive - and constantly telling me to leave his house (not in such nice ways). 3 years ago, it got so bad that I left to stay with my mother who lives out of state, and left my girls behind because he would not let me take them with me). During that time, he filed for physical custody of my girls, and we were sent to mediation. I made couple of trips back and forth to New York to attend these mediation sessions. He then asked me to move back to his house since the children missed me so much, and I missed them just the same if not more, so I moved back into his house (although I no longer wanted to be with him). I thought at that point, we would stop going to the mediation, but he did not back down from this issue, and told me that if I didn't sign off on the papers at mediation awarding physical custody to him, he would throw me out of the house again, and he would make it very difficult for me to ever see my children again, so sadly (and ignorantly) I signed the papers giving custody to him (but unlimited visitation to me within NYC).
I reluctantly lived in his home for about a year in order to be in my girls' lives, when I realized that we were expecting another child. When I told him of the news, he said it wasn't his child, and threw me out of the house. Because he had custody of my girls, I wasn't able to take them with me. He even threatened to have me arrested for kidnapping. With the help of a friend (my first in years, because he never let me have friends), I was able to get an apartment and furnish it to accommodate my girls whenever I was ALLOWED to have them over. A month later, I lost my unborn child to miscarriage.
It has been over 1 1/2 years since he threw me out of the house, but during the entire time, I have gone to see my girls or pick them up everyday after work and have them over EVERY single weekend. I make sure they get their homework done, that they eat dinner, and even bathe them everyday (I even tuck them in bed and make sure they're asleep before I head home from his house). He never has the time to spend with our girls - he works 2 jobs and goes to school, and his mother and sisters help take care of them after school during the time I'm at work. I attend every school related event for my children - parent/teacher conferences, music/dance recitals, etc. I love my children and I do whatever I can to be there for them. I also have been responsible for purchasing all of their clothing, school supplies, books, movies, and other necessary items as they come up. I take them places on the weekends, such as movies, bowling, zoo, park, etc. I also pay his mother (through him, since his family no longer speaks to me and are very nasty with me) for babysitting. I just feel that I am doing so much more for the children than he is, and I feel that it would be best if the girls lived with me. I have a 2 bedroom apartment, and am able to house them, although he says my apartment is not big enough or good enough for the girls (he owns a house in a better neighborhood, and his family live with him).
I feel that I look out for the best interest of my girls all the time, but I'm not able to enforce that because he keeps telling me that he's the custodial parent and what he says goes. I have been able to visit my girls daily at his home, but I'm not ALLOWED to voice my opinions on how the girls are raised while in his care. He says it's his house, and it's his rules - the girls live under his roof, so what he says goes for them as well. He also have the children (especially the older one) very scared of him. When he tells her to do something, she gets very scared and paranoid, and she constantly voices how she is scared of having him mad at her. I just don't believe my girls should be living in fear of their own father. Also, when things don't go his way, he threatens to take me to court for child support from me (knowing that I could not afford to pay, although I would find a way to pay if I had to), but I don't believe that's fair considering that I spend everynight after work with my girls and every single weekend. I have had no personal life for 1 1/2 years in order to be with my girls, but he continues to go out with women and friends on a weekly basis to bars and clubs and have an active social life. He would take days off from work in order to recuperate from hang-overs from nights out, but cannot do the same to attend school related events for the girls.
I want to find out how I can go about filing for modification of this custody, and would like full physical custody of my children. Although I work a full time job, I'm not able to afford an attorney, so I would like to know where I could go to see if there's any low-cost or free help. I would really appreciate any advice or information in order to get my girls back. I can't continue to live in fear and under his control, and I also want my girls to be free of it. I want what's best for my girls, and I know that is being with me. Please help.
Thank you.What is the name of your state?