How to Gain Custody when your Child is a Ward of the State

Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.

“This question is for my brother. My brother has a son that is 8 years old. My brother had been keeping the boy every weekend until the mother one day said that he couldn’t. My brother was unable to get any information out of the mother or see his son for several months. Since he found out that the mother placed the boy into the mental ward of a childrens hospital where the state took him over and placed him into a mental institute. When my brother found all of this out he tried to talk to the institute but no one will talk to him. He is still paying the mother child support even though the mother no longer has custody of the child. My brother loves his son and wants to get him out of this mess. What should he do?”If there is not an active paternity case, he should start one. If his son is in a juvenile court case (ward of the state), he should make sure that he is joined to the case as an interested party, and pursue custody. If there is a social worker involved, he should see if he can get any information about how best to get involved. If he is paying mother support through a Court order, there may be a way for him to request a change of custody in that case if that court has previously mad a custody and visitation determination.

Question: Basically, the Court that has jurisdiction over custody will continue to have jurisdiction. Based on the circumstances you describe, that is probably with the juvenile court. Your brother needs to get joined to that case so that he can begin the process of getting custody of his son. If he cannot handle that responsibility then he should figure out what level of responsibility he can handle, and petition that court to grant that timesharing arrangement (generally some sort of reunification if in juvenile court or modification of custody if in family court). Your brother may need the services of a local attorney to get him moving in the right direction. Sooner would be better than later as some states have automatic parental rights termination procedures that kick in in as short of a time as six months.