Legal Question in Family Law in Virginia

I have an interesting predicament. Almost a year ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on Halloween. I was 19 at the time and still in a almost 3 year long relationship with the father of the baby.

The father of the baby is my ex now. He wasn't good to me, having physically put his hands on me, neglecting me and our newborn child, and I got tired of it and left him. This was about three or four months after my baby's birth. He was very mature about it at first. We decided it was better for our child if he went with his father because I had no job (I was staying at home with my baby) and my lease at my apartment was going to end soon.

On top of that, I was struggling with some really deep depression that had flared back up from postpartum, so because I was in danger of harming myself, we decided it was better for my baby to be somewhere that was safer. I knew I'd never harm my baby, but my ex was concerned and on top of that, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to handle the stress of having my baby with me all the time with no relief (since my ex was moving out) during my mental instability.

Everything went fine for about... two months. Well, sort of fine, anyways. My ex pestered me some and about a month in, he had two of his friends show up at my apartment door, drunk and high, while he hid on the staircase, to accuse my best friend of sleeping with me while I was still with my ex.

After that was all mopped up, things were okay still. I got a job, my ex agreed to pay his portion of what was left of the bills from living in my apartment with me and then also to pay half of the hospital bills/credit card bills from our baby's birth, and we signed a joint custody agreement, with him having physical custody.

As time continued, I started working full time at my job and having no vehicle (my best friend drove me), I couldn't drive the 45 minutes out to where my ex lived to see my baby. My ex assured me he'd bring me my baby whenever I asked. I tried to see him when I could, but with my depression getting worse, my job, and trying to stay in school, I didn't see him as much as I wanted to.

This prompted my ex to come up to me, with our child, and tell me I was a terrible person and mother for not seeing my child and that he wanted full custody and that he wanted me to be more prevalent in our baby's life. And I agreed to the last part. I did not agree to give him full custody, but I went out of my way to see my baby once a week.

Things got more rocky at that point when my ex started dating this girl. He wouldn't let me see my baby on the pretense that "she needed to get used to him" and that that was more important than me seeing him. Things like this kept popping up everywhere and I was only being allowed to see my baby once every two weeks, sometimes three weeks. I have a list of all the times he's denied me seeing my child.

Around July, my ex stopping giving me the money he was suppose to give me to pay his portion of the hospital bills and I lost my job. Now (presently) he's told me that he wouldn't be giving me any money and that he was demanding full custody and that he wanted me out of the baby's life. He wants the full custody so that way he can go into the military and be deployed (that's what he told me anyways) and that the only way he can do that is if he has full custody.

I don't want to give him full custody and I love my baby to death, but I don't have the money for a lawyer to defend my joint custody and visitation rights. I'm also becoming fairly unstable at times and I'm worried about becoming overly depressed again (I've been in therapy). So I actually have two questions here:

One: Can my ex really take me to court and get full custody, despite me fighting it, just because I have no money to get a lawyer and defend myself?

And two: If I were to agree to give him full custody and to stay out of my baby's life, would I have to pay child support?

I know the last question seems pretty messed up, but if I'm trying my best to get my life in order and he keeps making it a living hell, I can't find any strength to feel like it's worth it to fight anymore. I don't want to lose my baby, but I know if I stay in his life, my ex and his family are going to make it a complete nightmare, especially if they have full custody.

If my ex believes he should have full custody and a right to keep me from my baby, then I feel like he should have the money to take care of him too. I'm not going to pay for the child I'm not allowed to see. I know they don't need the money, as my ex's father already pays for everything my ex needs and wants, including things for our child. I don't believe my ex is correct for taking advantage of his parents, but if they're going to hop on his bandwagon... well, then that's their problem.

I just can't keep fighting anymore. I'm swimming in debt and on top of trying to find a job, I can't drive (I was never taught and it's hard to learn with no vehicle) and I'm trying to become self sufficient and also do what I feel is best for my baby, even if I don't know what it is yet.

Asked on 7/27/13, 11:51 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Michael E. Hendrickson Attorney & Counsellor at Law
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I would suggest that you look into the possibility of having one of the Virginia low

cost legal services providers in your area represent you in these domestic legal

matters. If you call the local bar office, they should be able to provide you with

contact information for the local organization in your area,

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Answered on 7/28/13, 8:25 am

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