What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? GA
I have a 7 yr. old son. My ex-wife has primary physical custoday, and we have joint legal custody. We have been divorced for 6 years.
I filed for custody modification in 2008, on the grounds that a) ex had roommates in the house that she did not disclose to me, and b) ex decided to change our son's school to a *very* low performance school in GA (because she had decided to quit working to go to college, and intended to ask for increased 'child support' to accomplish this; and in doing so would lose her discount at our son's private school). The case went horribly - the judge applauded her decision to go to school, which would have been honorable for most people, I agree, but I know my ex-wife and how she operates. The judge also increased my child support by $400/month to pay for our son's private school, since up to that point he had been doing well in school according to all documentation. **None of this was recorded - i.e., none of the 'reasons' were documented in the order, and the trial wasn't audio-recorded. Additionally, my ex was awarded attorney's fees of $16k.
My ex kicked the roommate out in time for the trial, and moved herself and our son into a self-described slum. She was in college for one quarter, during the trial. One month after the trial ended, she quit school (**never to return). Then, in the summer of the 2009, she moved onto her parents' house for 3 months (I was hopeful this would be more permanent, as it's better than any other path she'd chosen so far). In the fall of 2009, though, she moved into a house with yet another roommate (this time, the roommate had an infant son, with whom our son was made to share a bedroom). She flowered her email notification of this fact with an 'assurance' to me of what a great 'long-term family-like' situation she was providing him). She withdrew our son from his private school, and put him in a public school for that school year. As all of this happened, I was terrified to try to take her to court again (you have no idea how horribly the judge reprimanded me the first time for my 'overly serious' concerns, and lack of patience and understanding for how my ex was trying to better her future). At that point I couldn't afford an attorney (and will not ever be able to in the foreseeable future), which is fine - I'm willing to go pro se and have the judge hate me for my legal ignorance. But I'm not prepared to be tacked with her attorney's fees AGAIN - it's just not an option - I'm STILL paying off the first round of my and her fees. Additionally, since none of the original reasons for the disposition were documented, my odds of getting anywhere with this judge were slim. The only recourse I got at that point with her was an agreement to decrease the child support amount by $300, and I only got that far with her by filing a petition - that was the only way to get her to willingly start talking to me outside of court.
In the 2009-2010 year at this new public school, our son has had a lot of behavior problems. There was an indication of ADD from the school (they wouldn't state it verbatim, as I understand it's illegal in GA for the teacher to do so, but they started a behavior file on him and indicated all the 'issues' [i.e., ADD symptoms]). At that point, in order to address, we needed to fill out forms from the doctor; the forms needed to be completed by my ex, the school, and me. The end result according to my ex was that his pediatrician saw no evidence of ADD.
As the months went by, his behavior was worse and worse at school. His academic performance is above average (for now), but his behavior stinks. I finally called a conference with the school counselor and teacher in May 2010 and notified my ex of the meeting if she cared to attend. I also emailed the pediatrician and requested a copy of the forms filled out in March 2010. *They had no forms*. It turns out my ex never filled anything out, never sent anything to the school to fill out, and threw my completed form away. I took matters into my own hands and started making the doctor's appointments to address our son's issues. It turns out he is textbook inattentive ADD, and also has Oppositional Defiant Disorder (Conduct Disorder).
Our son resumed the 2010 school year at this same public school. Things have been better with the ADD now that I have forced acknowledgment and treatment. However there is no improvement in the comorbid behavior, as, to-date, he has not started needed counseling (we are having to modify his insurance plan in order to include mental health benefits).
And now, yesterday, I received an email from my ex that she is moving AGAIN, and changing our son's school, AGAIN. In two weeks. This was not a 'discussion', but a notification of her decision. This is where I wonder just what in the hell "joing legal custody" means??
I have responded to her email offering to take custody immediately, putting our son in school in my school district (where the public school is the 2nd highest performing in GA), and giving her $400/month for a year in the meantime to help her 'transition' and get her life in order. I have been married for over a year now, and together with my wife for almost 5 years. My wife has owned her home for 10 years, I have lived there for 3, and during that time my son has had his own bedroom; we have had no roommates. We're about as stable as it gets, and in a wonderful school district. Additionally, we are fully prepared to get him the medical attention he clearly needs.
So finally, for my questions...
I'm ready to take her to court again, fear of attorney's fees and all. I cannot retain an attorney myself - I will have to do this pro se.
I *really* want to file for emergency custody, for my son's benefit. There's no question he's changing schools again in 2 weeks. In a perfect world, I would win the 'normal' custody modification, and he will come to school here. But that's yet another change for him if I wait for the normal process, and it's killing me to keep watching this unfold and wait for the slow legal process. I feel strongly that if he's going to change schools, it should be one more time, and then enough already.
In an imperfect and realistic world, I am about to face an uphill battle with this judge, who is more sympathetic for some reason to my ex than to our son and his needs. I'm praying she'll wake up and see the truth this time. But, based on past experience, am I a fool to even think about an emergency hearing for this? Does this type of instability warrant an emergency custody change, or is that type of change only reserved for bodily harm/physical threat/violence issues?