Family Law Questions? Ask a Family Lawyer Online.
Can you explain why your husband is facing contempt charges? This is not clear from your question.
I would not be too concerned about the contempt hearing. It is her responsibility to contact her ex-husband when she is to have visitation, especially if he knew she was incarcerated for violating her probation. He had no obligation to find out how long she was in jail or when she was released, etc.
At this point you need to have Child Protective Services involved. They will assign a casework who will investigate the situation, interview and investigate the mother, and make a report to the family court judge.
As experts in the area of child abuse, neglect, etc., their reports often carry a lot of weight with judges.
Depending on the mother's history, it is possible that the judge will order a stop to all visitation pending her compliance with a strong set of conditions. (For example, inpatient detox followed by rehab along with random testing and unannounced visits by the case worker from protective services.) If she is able to meet the conditions for a period of time, the judge may allow brief, supervised visits (supervised by the protective services case worker).
If she is unable to meet the conditions there is a distinct possibility that the mother will lose her parental rights. This would mean that she would permanently be forbidden from having any contact with the child whatsoever.
I do not know if you have considered this or discussed this with your husband, but one major factor that often induces judges to order termination of parental rights is if the child adopted by the custodial parents new spouse.
IF this is something you and he wanted to do, this would make the termination of her parental rights a much easier decision for the judge. It is, however, not something that needs to happen for the judge to terminate her parental rights.
Please let know if you have any other questions about this.
I am very sorry you are having go through all of this. It can be very frustrating when the family court judges seem to give every chance possible to an obviously mother without truly considering the harm it can do to the child.
Is Child Protective Services involved in this case? They need to be called and informed exactly what the child said about the mother smelling like alcohol, that she saw a bottle of alcohol in her mother's purse, and that after spending time with her mother she feels alone, depressed, uncared for, and suicidal.
You need to get Child Protective Services on your side. CPS needs to interview the child, investigate the mother, and make a formal report to the family court judge. This is likely to be the only way to get more limits or even a stop to the biological mother's visits.
If CPS is involved, you need to call the caseworker first thing in the morning and report everything that the child said. If the caseworker is not being as proactive as she should be, call her supervisor. When a child reacts this way to a visit with her mother there is something wrong and CPS is obligated to take the situation seriously.
Please let me know if you have questions about this.
I am sorry you are finding things so difficult. The system was not designed to work like this, but sometimes judges and CPS workers become caught up in the idea that mom can turn her life around.
It will certainly not hurt to submit a letter to the magistrate. Just make sure that it is polite, factual, well-written, and does not attack anyone (even the biological mother). A letter such as this can make a difference although you never know until you try it. Some magistrates and judges never seemed to be swayed by anything written while others can be moved by a powerfully written letter. So it is definitely worth doing.
I think you need to continue to work with CPS as much as you can. They may not be doing what you want or when you want, but in the end you will want them to be on your side. So continue to keep them informed of everything that is happening, and even though they don't seem to be doing anything to help, keep them on your side. Don't do anything to antagonize or distance CPS because at some point in time they may be willing to act - and at that point you will want them to still think of you as their closest ally.
While it may seem like they (the courts and CPS) are never going to stop giving her more chances, the best chance of this happening is if you keep detailed records of all of the visits, what happens, what your step-daughter says about the visits, etc. In the end, a lot of information about the biological mother's alcohol use and your step-daughter's distress over this may be enough to overcome the resistance you are finding from CPS and the courts. So don't let your guard down, give up, or stop keeping detailed notes of dates, events, statements and reactions, etc.
You can also consider taking your step-daughter to a forensic psychiatrist or forensic psychologist with specialized training in working with children. He or she can perform an evaluation of the child and make recommendations (which you can send to the magistrate or provide to the court at the next hearing) regarding the effects of further visits on the child. Sometimes a recommendation from an expert can make a big difference to the courts although CPS rarely seems to respond to anyone else's advice as some caseworkers seem to believe they can make these best decisions without hearing anyone else's opinion.
You can also mention the idea of an independent evaluation by a "child & adolescent forensic psychiatrist or psychologist" in your letter to the magistrate. Sometimes courts will agree that an independent expert evaluation will be very helpful, and the court may even arrange it and pay for it. So you can suggest that having a professional evaluation of what is best for the child by an "independent medical expert" might be helpful to the court.
Good luck and please let me know what is happening.
DISCLAIMER: Answers from Experts on JustAnswer are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. JustAnswer is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Expert above is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains.
The responses above are from individual Experts, not JustAnswer. The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credential of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service (last updated February 8, 2012).