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  • Mediation Help - Illinois

    Looking for some help from you guys, pretty please.

    I have mediation next week for the visitation case by my son's biological father (who left the picture voluntarily 2 years ago, but has now decided to pursue visitation).

    I do not know the first thing about mediation, and I want to be prepared. I was trying to make a list of points to talk about, but I am just clueless. Can you help?!

    I have to say, I plan to have the very first words out of my mouth to be that I will ask biological father to volunteer to terminate his rights so my husband can adopt the child. I don't think he will, but I have to ask.

    Here's what I have:

    Immediate concerns
    • How to introduce son and biological father (child does not know biological father and hence has no bond with him)
    • How child should address biological father (calls my husband Dad, is unaware who bio-dad even is)
    • Biological father's living situation (he has roomates, they smoke, smoke pot, they have big dogs)
    • Biological father's "recreational" activites
    • Biological father's family - are they aware of this situation, do they have plans to participate, etc.
    • Biological father's history of walking away from the child


    Actual Visitation Issues
    • Supervised visits - who can be there, where they will be, how long they should be
    • When visits begin - I know he is looking to see the child for Christmas, and that just seems insane to me. Should I really be expected to tell a little boy on the most magical dayof the year that SURPRISE! you have another father? Remember, he walked away from the child.
    • Custody plan - I will retain sole physical and legal custody, which I already have. Should I even bring this up, seeing as the petition was only for visitation and NOT for custody?
    • Visitation schedule (long term)
    • Right of First Refusal


    Child Support
    • Child Support
    • Back Child Support
    Last edited by MomofBoys; 12-14-2007, 10:23 AM.

  • #2
    As I recall, you were not married to “P” and although there was a paternity test, it was not established in court yet that he is the father. So at this time, you have sole custody of your son. I see no reason for you to give that up during mediation. Does “P” know enough about your son to make decisions about health care, schools, and religion? Many of your concerns will be brought up by the mediator, but feel free to ask about ANYTHING.

    The first thing to remember about mediation is that nothing you agree to is binding. Even if you agree to a visitation schedule, it will not go into effect until you go back to court and a judge accepts the schedule as part of the order. Stop worrying about Christmas. Even if you come to an agreement it will not be in effect yet. The only way for “P” to see or speak to your son on Christmas, is if you allow it.

    Based on your list, you have a lot of issues. I do not see you resolving them in one session with the mediator. Based on the history, I would expect at least three or four sessions. And if the matter is not resolved after that, it will be sent back to court and a trial date will be set. I know that the mediation can be expensive, but if you feel strongly about something, do not give into it because you want to save money or get the matter settled. Many people do that and then regret it later on.

    Good luck!

    Comment


    • #3
      "P" would not know my son if he were standing in front of him. He is only 5, and he hasn't seen him since he was 3. The boy has changed quite a bit. He has no basis to say yes or no to what color pants I put the child in, let alone anything major.

      He was around when the child was baptised, so he did not have any previous problems with religion.

      I am severely against anything on Christmas, becasue frankly, I don't see how that could turn out any way other than traumatic. "Look, baby, for Christmas, Santa got you a SECOND DAD!!!!" He's not really going to "get" it.

      I don't want to drag this out, and I don't want to be difficult. But I am not going to just give him what he wants either. I honestly think this is more about his guilt than his desire to build a relationship with his child. I don't have a lot of money, but I'll do what it takes to make sure my son's BEST INTERESTS are all that are covered in the end.

      Comment


      • #4
        Then stick to your guns. Try not to come off bitter, but make sure you present your case fully. The mediator can not resolve this situation for you, or tell you what to do. He or she is there to guide you and “P” in a direction towards a resolution. You have put a lot of thought into this matter. Something tells me he will not be as ready for this type of conversation.

        I think you will do just fine.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks! I really appreciate it.

          One other question, regarding not just mediation but visitation as a whole: what role will his FAMILY play in any of this? And when I ask this, I don't really know how to phrase it.

          His parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles... the whole shebang... everyone in his family had met my child. My son was at their home on Christmas and Thanksgiving as a baby. His mother babysat the child. And every weekend that he DID see the child, the visits took place at his mother's house.

          Since this whole thing started two years ago, the contact between my son and his biological father's family absolutley stopped. Just like that. No calls, no letters, no e-mails. They missed two Christmases, they missed two birthdays. They missed a veritable buttload of firsts, and all by LITERALLY stopping contact one day.

          Does that matter? Box of Rocks (P's attorney) seemed pretty surprised by this, as if she were under the impression that P had disappeared, but his family had at least sent birthday cards or something.

          This is literally an entire family that turned their backs on my son. I'm not too chippy about the part where they meet him and want to hug him.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by MomofBoys View Post

            My 2 cents

            Actual Visitation Issues[LIST][*]Supervised visits - who can be there, where they will be, how long they should be

            Have just yourself and he or a hired supervisor do this in the beginning. No extra family members to start.
            [*]When visits begin - I know he is looking to see the child for Christmas, and that just seems insane to me. Should I really be expected to tell a little boy on the most magical dayof the year that SURPRISE! you have another father? Remember, he walked away from the child.

            I wouldn't start with the holiday. This is a child and he needs to ease into this better. Let them know the child will be scared and may throw up on new people. I got that from the fact that my 2 year old does that.
            [*]Custody plan - I will retain sole physical and legal custody, which I already have. Should I even bring this up, seeing as the petition was only for visitation and NOT for custody?

            He should have no custody, just visitation. Let him do the hard work of building a relationship first and then re-file down the road if he feels he needs custody.
            [*]Visitation schedule (long term)[*]Right of First Refusal
            You may want to re-think this. Do you really want to call him every time you require a babysitter? This will affect you giving your son over to him more than the other way around. I think what you are looking for is time limits and constraints.

            Say his visits start on Saturday at 12pm. You can say that if he does not visit with the child by 12:30pm and does not plan to be with him a minimum of X hours, then the visitation is cancelled by default.

            Comment


            • #7
              Have just yourself and he or a hired supervisor do this in the beginning. No extra family members to start.
              There is not a supervisor. I am supervising the visits.

              Here is my issue with why I think my husband should be there:

              This is not a case of my son simply being reintroduced to his father. The biological father CHOSE to remove himself from the situation when the child was barely out of a crib.

              The child has always refered to my husband as "Dad." He was calling him "Dad" and bio-dad "Daddy" when they were both involved in his life, and bio-dad never had a problem with this. After bio-dad removed himself from the situation, there was just one Dad left. Since then, my son has forgotten that there ever even was a Daddy.

              If the initial meetings include only the bio-father and myself, I have what I think is a valid fear that his 5 year old brain will look at it like this:
              • I got in the car with Mom and we left Dad at home.
              • We met a stranger who says HE is Dad.
              • I did something wrong that I need a new Dad.


              And I cannot even imagine the confusion when he gets home...to his DAD.

              I think he needs to see my husband and I TOGETHER telling him that this is ok, that he has a second dad.

              Does that make sense? Everyone thinks that their situation is somehow unique, but I think I have a real point about this.

              I wouldn't start with the holiday. This is a child and he needs to ease into this better. Let them know the child will be scared and may throw up on new people. I got that from the fact that my 2 year old does that.
              I am planning on putting my foot down for Christmas. It really shouldn't be a concern.

              He should have no custody, just visitation. Let him do the hard work of building a relationship first and then re-file down the road if he feels he needs custody.
              I agree with this, but I think I want the actual wording of the court order to reflect that I have sole legal and physical custody. For the purposes of school and such. I don't want someone who is a stranger getting information on this child. He should have to earn it.

              You may want to re-think this. Do you really want to call him every time you require a babysitter? This will affect you giving your son over to him more than the other way around. I think what you are looking for is time limits and constraints.

              Say his visits start on Saturday at 12pm. You can say that if he does not visit with the child by 12:30pm and does not plan to be with him a minimum of X hours, then the visitation is cancelled by default.
              I guess I am not fully understanding ROFR. My brother has this, and it doesn't require always calling his ex-wife rather than a babysitter. It actually specifies a time frame. So if he cannot be with the children for X amount of hours (I think his is 4, might be 6), THEN he has to call his ex and see if she wants the kids. But he dosesn't have to call her if he goes to dinner with a friend.

              I also understood that ROFR is to be used in situation where you CANNOT be with the children for reasons beyond your control, IE, you have to work during your time. But if you CAN be with the children but choose to go out for a while, that the other parent is not entitled to ROFR (for example, husband and I want to go to a movie, we can ask grandma to come over, we don't have to call biodad first).

              My issue with this really comes from any extended time he may get (summer, etc). I am a SAHM. He works full time. My son would not be in his care during extended periods. If he were a little older that would not be as big of a deal, but he will only be six this summer. It doesn't seem reasonable that he would spend extended amounts of time in the care of someone that his bio-father chooses while he is at work, when his mother is just an hour away and at home.

              I like the time issues during his scheduled visits though.



              woah... sorry so long.

              I really appreciate all the help you guys are giving me. I just really want to be prepared!!!

              Comment


              • #8
                Add...


                Isn't it possible to have ROFR written in a specific way, meaning literally tailored to your situation. So it could read something like I would have to call for ROFR if neither me OR my spouse could be with the child for more than 6 hours at a time. I mean, I would be willing to let that go both ways, that the child can be in the care of him or his wife.



                Granted, he's not married...... but I digress.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Yes, you could write it in that way. My ex only had supervised visitation, so there were a ton of time constraints without any extras for him in our plan.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    ......can you tell I am obsessing?

                    I guess I am not seeing how he could possibly object to my husband being allowed to watch the child in my absence, therefor ROFR would not extend to the child being in my husband's care.

                    I mean, he never objected to my husband being the child's caretaker over the two years that he was gone. In fact, he gladly stood back and took no interest in the child while my husband took over all parenting responsibilities. And he never objected to my husband's presence in the child's life even when he WAS involved.

                    I am having a hard time understading why a judge would actively decide to REDUCE the amount of infulence my husband has in the child's life, when the biological father did not object to it previously.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      ahhhhh!

                      I just have a lot of words like "de facto parent" and "in loco parentis" and "in the best interest of the child" flying in my brain.

                      I think I may need to go to BED!!!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Momofboys

                        You are over thinking things a little, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Have you had any sort of conversation with “P” since your day in court? Has he expressed to you in person, not through his lawyer, what his intentions are? Given his record of not showing up in court, is there a chance he might not even show up at the mediator’s office? If there has been no ground work set between the two of you, I guarantee nothing is going to get accomplished in that first visit. And the mediator expects that. In your first session, the mediator will need to know what the situation is, and what both of you are trying to accomplish. When you leave the mediators office after the first visit, he or she will more than likely give you some “homework” to do. You will be encouraged to talk and work things out. The more you work out on your own, the less money you will have to pay the mediator.

                        That being said, here are a few key points. Write the Right of First Refusal the way you want. It will read something like, “If one parent is not available to care for the child for more than X number of consecutive hours, then the other parent will be offered the first right to care for the child before a third party is called.” You can make X any number you choose. If you say four or six hours, this would cover you for a movie and dinner night with your husband. But remember, it goes both ways. He then can have someone watch your son if he is planning to go out for the same time period. As far as writing it to include “parent and/or spouse”, I am not sure if this will fly. You may want to take that one up with your lawyer before mediation. Also, it does not matter what the reason is. If that were the case, “P” could keep your son all weekend even if he had to work, and I don’t think you would want that.

                        As far as his parents and family, they have no legal rights to your son. They will see or visit with him as much as “P” allows during his time. The same goes for you and your husband. The judge can not take away any of your husbands influence, only you can. With sole custody, you get to decide who can pick up your son from school and get information. You can allow your husband to do these things, and you can restrict “P” from doing these things. If he doesn’t like it, he can ask for joint custody. I think you would have a very strong case for denying it at this time. “P” can also not object to your husband spending time with your son on your time, just as you can not object to his family spending time with him when there. Although you may want to put in some sort of restriction about overnight stays with people other than family members. That way, if he has a girlfriend she can not spend the night if your son is there. This could also be used to keep the pot smoking buddies away during visits.

                        I hope this was helpful, if not a little long.
                        Last edited by xpq559; 12-18-2007, 08:56 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I forgot to mention the extended visit in the summer. Don’t offer it to him. At this point, he has not seen the child for two years. I do not see them establishing enough of a relationship to warrant this right away. If things go well, the order can always be amended to include summer visits at a later date.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I have not had a conversation with him in 2 YEARS! I tried calling him when I found out about this latest petition, but he refused to take my call and never called me back. He was the same way back then. My lawyer said I should try to work things out with him on my own if that were at all possible (after all, isn't that what a judge wants, the parents to work together?), but he refused to talk to me then either. I have only spoken with his lawyers.

                            I think there is always a possibility that he will be a no-show, based solely on the fact that we each have to pay the mediator $250 up front. I think it's $125 an hour (each) after that.

                            I am just very on edge, because he didn't just show up after two years, but he showed up demanding to see the child for Chrsitmas. I am preparing myself for more of his "demands."

                            I think I am not too worried about the ROFR just yet, because he will only have supervised visits to begin with. Once he establishes a relationship with the boy, and we have established regular visits (every other weekend), I would not necessiarily be opposed to his mom watching my son while P is at work on his weekend. It is the child's grandmother afterall, and I doubt he would look for a sitter he would have to pay, so it only makes sense he would ask his family.

                            I guess I do not understand how ROFR wouldn't extend to my husband. Yes, I get the "legal stranger" and he doens't have any rights, blah blah blah, so hopefully Kelly will stay away....

                            ...but the boy has been in the care of my husband for the past two years, and in that time I have worked. I even traveled to visit a friend for four days. P has never argued before that my husband cannot care for the child in my absence (even during the time when they were BOTH involved in the child's life), so how can he do so now? I mean, the standard in Illinois is "best interest of the child." How is having him leave the home of the only "Dad" he knows to spend time with a stranger in his best interest?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Momofboys,

                              It sounds like you are all set. Good luck with the mediation.

                              One last thought about ROFR. It is basically an offer to the other parent to spend more time with their child. Don’t look at it as taking something away from your husband. If “P” actually steps up and starts being a good parent, you should encourage him to spend more time with his son. If he is not going to do that, he will simply turn down the offer each and every time. My ex has never taken the children when I have offered it to her. The same goes with his visitation. The visitation schedule is what he will be entitled to, but it does not necessarily mean he will take all of his visitations.

                              Given that his visitations will start with supervised, just leave the ROFR out at this time. When the order is amended to include unsupervised and overnight stays, then add it in.
                              Last edited by xpq559; 12-18-2007, 08:55 AM. Reason: spelling

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