What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? - Missouri
Sorry up front for the long post, but here goes. I've been divorced for over 14 years in Clay County, MO. My son from that marriage is 16, almost 17. He's lived with my ex since the divorce. I had a fairly standard visitation, summers, every other weekend and every other Wednesday. But, I've worked hard to get as much access as I could (volunteered to coach, etc) over the years. As he got older, bought him his cell phone and a text package so we could stay in contact. As a result, my son and I are very close.
I remarried 11 years ago and have a child from that marriage (9 yo) and moved from Clay County to Johnson County, KS (both in the Metro Kansas City area) . My current wife has always loved my son and we've worked hard to create a family environment for him here. We're all very close. He'd made it clear a couple of years ago he'd prefer to live with us, but being in High School and having known his classmates since Kindergarten, he didn't want to have to leave them. I understood and didn't want to move him during High School either, as I felt it might open him up to negative influences.
Well, fate is a fickle mistress. I always knew my ex was controlling, and might have difficulties with a teenager spreading his wings, but it was worse than that. Keep in mind, he's a good kid. Straight A student, no drugs, no alcohol, never been in fights or trouble at all. One Friday night he wants to stay out with his friends until midnight at a public place. She isn't sure "she can trust him" and says "no." He's upset, he stays out anyway. As a result, she calls me at 7 am the next morning to say she's sending him to live with me for a while. I was shocked, but went along. I figured by the end of the weekend they'd both mellow out, we'd all talk and he'd go back. The next day he was ready to meet with her to discuss it, but she "was still upset and wasn't ready to meet him". She felt a week at my place would be best. After a week, she STILL wasn't ready, so we agreed he'd stay at my place for the rest of the school year and drive back and forth to school (45 miles one way!!!). Since he stayed summers with me, we'd work it all out then.
During the summer, he said he wanted to stay with us and she agreed.
In the past, our relationship was sometimes contentious, but mostly civil. We'd made many "modifications" to our agreement by mutual consent and it worked well for 14 years. So, when we discussed it, she said she'd pay me some money in August (when summer custody would normally switch back for the school year). He was accepted into a prep school and prepared for our first school year together. Then she decided that 1) she wouldn't sign the paperwork acknowledging custody now resided with me and 2) said she "couldn't pay child support"! I told her to just tell me what she could afford and, if it was reasonable, I'd agree. She said she couldn't pay ANYTHING! Of course, I think that's totally unacceptable.
So, I attempted to file here in Johnson County, KS for modification but now know that, because she still resides in Clay County, MO, I have to file there. In KS, I can file Pro Se and it'll cost me less than $100. I can download the papers online or pick them up at the court. But, when I called Clay County, they said they didn't know of anything to give me and that I HAD to get an attorney. I spoke to 2 attorneys and they want $1000 up front, and it'd probably be more than that befores it's over.
So, here's my concern. First, he's almost 17. Secondly, I know she's not doing well financially, and based off of most of the calculators I've seen online, I'd only get $200 to $400/month. If I spend $2000 to get $200, I'll barely break even. If I push for a lot more money, I'm afraid I'll bury her, and my son will resent me for "doing it to her". And, I don't want to bankrupt her. I just want some help. After enrolling him in the school thinking we'd get some support, we're struggling now!
Additionally, although I know custody has changed "de facto" because he's been with me for 5 months now and she not only consented, she ASKED him to. But, without a court order, or something signed by her, I really don't have anything showing legally that I am the custodial parent if I have to make any legal decisions (and I'm not even going to get into enrolling in college issues!) Secondly, although I paid her directly, I don't have anything "protecting" me from owing her child support.
So, first off, is there anyplace I can go to get the modification forms? I've looked online, but haven't seen anything in particular. I did ask the Clerk of Courts, and they did say, if I got a hold of it, they'd accept it with the filing fee. And, is there anything else I can do? It'd be easy if she'd see reason and just do the right thing. But, if she won't, I don't know if I have any other choice but to spend a lot of money to do something that, in my mind, is a pretty clear cut issue.....custody has changed and she owes support.