After Being in Jail for Drugs, Is there Any Hope for Visitation with My Child?

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“I live in Florida and am the father of a 21 mo. old. A few months after she was born, her mother and I were both heavy into drugs. I was caught and convicted and spent 10 months in jail but for the sake of our child did not turn in my girl friend.

During that time, the mother of my baby moved out of state without my permission. She never came to visit and only sent 2 pictures 1 time that showed (1) the baby surrounded by beer cans and (2) the mother at a bar. The mother came to visit in North Florida once while I was in jail and stayed with her family. During that time, she left the baby for 4 days straight with my sister.

I have been out of jail for almost 4 months. I am working on getting my life back together. I am clean and intend to stay so. I have seen my baby twice in the 4 months I have been out. Once the mother paid for the trip here, the other time I reimbursed her the $260 for airfare. Both times, the mother refused to allow me time alone with my baby. I am living with my sister and she insisted on staying as well. If we did not allow her to, she refused to allow the baby to stay either.

Money has been another issue between us. I have tried to help out as much as I can, but it has been a struggle to get back on my feet after spending 10 months in jail. The mother has lived this whole time with her grandmother and aunt rent free. She drives their automobiles and the only expenses she has are for gasoline, child care and misc. baby and personal expenses. Making $11 per hour 40 hrs. per week, she still has nothing to show for it. I have only been working for the last 3 months. I?ve changed employers twice (getting ready to change again) as each time I am making better money. She is wanting $100 per week from me, yet refuses to promise visitation to me. I told her I wanted to see my baby atleast one week every other month and that I wanted to spend that time alone with my baby. She absolutely refuses this!

I also have strong suspicions that the mother is still doing drugs. She is caring for the baby, but it bothers me that she is asking for so much money from me, when I know that most of it will be going to support her drug habit. She claims she?s now paying her grandmother rent, but I know she is lying just to get me to give her more money.

My question is, if I take her to court, what kind of custody or visitation can I hope for? And will there be a way for the courts to randomly test the mother to make sure she is staying clean?

Thank you for any advice you can offer me.”If you were able to work things out in a perfect world I would say try to work things out. However, your world sems far from perfect, and you are having trouble agreeing to timeshare with your ex concerning your child. The only way to get Court orders would be to file a paternity action.

Question: You’re recently out of jail, so I am not sure what the visitation schedule would be. It probably will not be as much as you want, absent an agreement between you and birth mother. Also since you were in jail on drug charges, it is likely (in California where I practice, anyway) that the Court could order supervised visits for a while if you pressed the drug issue, and birth mom showed similar amounts of concern about you. If there was sufficient evidence about birth mother or if she agreed, they may order drug tests on her. Be careful to not throw both of you under the bus, all to the detriment of your child.Without an agreement, and with your child so young, and with your record I would expect timeshare to start off slowly if it was left up to a Court. By slowly, and with you and her living so far apart (travel costs $260) overnight visits might not even be in the equation right now if it is left up to a Court. You have to start somewhere. Usually the best place to start is where you and the ex agree, and build from there. Alternate weekends from 11AM – 7PM on Saturday and Sunday, with it moving to an overnight when the kid turns 3? A midweek evening visit if you lived close enough to make it happen.
And when you do file the paternity action (and you will want to consult an attorney on all this), the Court will order support based on your earnings. $100 per week does not seem to be an amount of money so out of line with the income you mention and the timeshare you have. Where I practice, her expenses would usually not even be considered, so take care of your own house. Be patient and persistent.