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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm looking for anyone on the forum who is familiar with child custody laws across state lines (specifically FL) or has any experience with getting custody of a minor from a family member. Me and my family are looking to get a little more information to try to help my younger cousin.

Essentially my aunt and uncle down in FL got divorced and neither seems to be willing to take my 13 year old cousin. Both are collecting government checks, wont clean their apartments, and mistreat/neglect my cousin. He's (my cousin) currently living at a friend's house (friend of his, not our family), but visiting us for the week and we just extended his stay for another week. In that time he's shared information about how he's living down there that is making my dad seriously consider taking custody of him, but we don't trust his mother if we take him in without doing everything through the system. We also anticipate a custody battle (if we do try to take him) because we think his mother is collecting a government check for him (should be no surprise to any of you that neither he nor the woman caring for him see a dime of that).

What we really need more than anything right now is some insight into the system, specifically what our options are (if there are options outside of a legal battle). I doubt my dad will want to take on a custody battle, but his mom may be willing to give him up if she can keep her government check. We just don't trust her to not turn around and change her mind in the middle of the school year and take him back or to even try to accuse my parents of kidnapping him. She's not a stable person.

The woman that is taking care of my cousin right now seems to be on the up and up, but we're not 100% sure. My dad just spoke to her on the phone today and that's all the contact we've had with her. Anyways she says that she looked into calling CPS, but the foster care system down there is so horrible that she's afraid to. In my mind it seems simple. Call CPS, let them take him from mom, then apply to adopt him, but I have a feeling the system doesn't work that way. And who knows how long it would take to adopt him.

If anyone has any kind of experience or ideas on what can be done, please PM me or reply in the thread.
 

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WE adopted my son in WV some years ago, and there are federal laws regarding transportation of minors across state lines and something the lawyer called "the Interstate Compact" which required some paperwork to be filed in the state before the minor can be taken...
I guess the best answer is to get a lawyer. not something I recommend lightly, but this can get really complicated, quickly, especially if the current guardians are kinda dodgy.
Good luck, and remember it's not always easy to do the right thing, but you'll sleep better.
mp
 

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You will need to get a lawyer. Unfortunately the only adoption attorney I've worked with in Florida I won't recommend. If your cousin is placed with you will have to wait until NY approves the placement before you could legally bring him to NY. It took about a week for that when we adopted my daughter. Unless his parents voluntarily surrender their rights, you're in for a long process. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the responses. Unfortunately you're both telling me what I thought and was afraid of- there's no way to do it without a lawyer and it's going to be a long process.

I tried looking around online for some information on what happens to a child if the parents are deemed unfit, but of course they're very vague. I'll try calling the agency in charge of that in the morning maybe find out what we'd need to do to be qualified to take him in if that happens.

Another problem is that we're on relatively good terms with his mom right now. She'll let him come visit and we can see him if we fly down to visit. She also lets him stay with his friend which seems to be a better place for him than with her. If we do anything to threaten her welfare check that could all change. Then who knows what happens to him.
 

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In my mind it seems simple. Call CPS, let them take him from mom, then apply to adopt him, but I have a feeling the system doesn't work that way. And who knows how long it would take to adopt him.
It's not that simple at all. Short of a complete voluntary surrender of rights by both parents with evidence of abuse/neglect you're in for a long fight. CPS doesn't just take custody and let the child go for adoption. Even then, once the state is involved they'll decide what they feel is best for the kid. If that means for stability reasons they want him to stay in FL with people there then that's the way it'll probably go. If you don't have that documented history and/or the parents object then you're in a losing battle. If they get involved where they feel the child needs to come out of the home(varies by state and I have no clue how FL works) they may look for immediate relatives locally, or place the kid in foster care. Then home studies are conducted, assessments, pediatrician/medical records are checked and school records checked. This takes time. Declaring parents unfit and terminating parental rights is rare. Courts will generally not wrest parental rights away from parents who don't want to give them up without very good and well documented cause. The courts will always err on the side of the parents if they're making effort, committing to change etc etc.That could take years.

And there's no way that the .gov check keeps coming when the mom surrenders parental rights.

We adopted my son in 2002 here in NY. It involved a voluntary surrender of parental rights of a clinically depressed woman and an essentially unknown father. She had expressed the desire to harm all her children when they were babies. She even said she'd harm this one(my son) to a social worker, judge and her lawyer if she kept him. Even then it took nearly 18 months, legal wrangling and multiple court appearances, and 14k in legal fees. And we had a lawyer doing us profoundly ridiculous favors regarding his fees. We had to pay for her attorney as well who was not so nice with the fees.

Those fees today would probably be 25-30k + easily. Now add in paying NY lawyers, an NY social worker for a home study, NY court stuff(whatever that entails) and travel expenses to and fro. It'll get spendy quick. On the + side adoption fees are a tax credit that can potentially be spread out over a couple years. Some employers even match/assist with adoption expenses.

I'm generally a fan of never inviting the Man into your(or anyone else's) life. Balance the loss of contact with your cousin with the chance that maybe a frank discussion with the mother may pay off.

Also(I don't mean to be harsh) but you're getting this from a 13 year old. There's another side to this as well you may very well haven't heard. Some children are capable of spinning incredible tales(and omitting details as well) to get attention, sympathy or something else. So until the truth is known take it with a grain of salt.

If there is legitimate abuse/neglect occurring CPS should be called. Period.

Good luck.
 

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You will need to talk to a lawyer. And it won't be cheap. I funded my Daughter's custody battle against the Father of my Granddaughter and it cost me $15K at $350 an hour. But I didn't mess around. I got a good lawyer.

Paul
 

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Absolutely talk to a lawyer... But I wanted to suggest a different approach.

Once you've sorted out for sure what you're being told is legit about his situation. Maybe a simple chat with the mother - "Hey, he's really enjoying it here, he's got a lot of good friends, and we don't mind if he stays... And we think it might make it easier on you too"

OR - you could just keep extending his stay - if she doesn't complain you can just slide into it. IF the situation is really as it sounds mom might just stop calling. (I've seen it happen)
 
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Absolutely talk to a lawyer... But I wanted to suggest a different approach.

Once you've sorted out for sure what you're being told is legit about his situation. Maybe a simple chat with the mother - "Hey, he's really enjoying it here, he's got a lot of good friends, and we don't mind if he stays... And we think it might make it easier on you too"

OR - you could just keep extending his stay - if she doesn't complain you can just slide into it. IF the situation is really as it sounds mom might just stop calling. (I've seen it happen)
Doesn't hurt to ask nicely.
If the OP doesn't want to use a lawyer,which is the only way to do it as far as custody, adoption etc, he can ask the parents if the kid can stay with him for awhile.
If neither parent cares about the kid except possibly because of a pay check, let her keep the pay check.
It's just the taxpayers money after all. (sigh)

Find out about enrolling him in school, tell her he can stay for a year and he can go home for holidays.
Sounds like she doesn't care to see him so he'll be okay.
In 5 years he's 18.
 

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Doesn't hurt to ask nicely.
If the OP doesn't want to use a lawyer,which is the only way to do it as far as custody, adoption etc, he can ask the parents if the kid can stay with him for awhile.
If neither parent cares about the kid except possibly because of a pay check, let her keep the pay check.
It's just the taxpayers money after all. (sigh)

Find out about enrolling him in school, tell her he can stay for a year and he can go home for holidays.
Sounds like she doesn't care to see him so he'll be okay.
In 5 years he's 18.
exactly.... I was just thinking though enrolling in school - wonder if there's an issue doing that without legal paperwork.. (like I said, absolutely talk to a lawyer) go ask the school now - "My cousin is staying with us, what do we need to do to enroll him?" and they'll tell you.
 
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Invite him up for the summer... once he sees how it is (and he's here more than 30 days) he's a resident. File a petition up here have the parents both served.
IANTAL however, check with one up here. They'll have a clue if they're used to family court and can help you. Initial consult is probably free too
 

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Two other things, the child is going to have to tell the court (without coaching) he wants to stay here. And bring as much objective evidence about conditions in FL with you to court. You will need to prove that your home is a million times better than mom or dad's to win custody (if they don't consent to signing custodial rights to you)
 
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