Oh, how awful! I'm so sorry.
Since it was a NY court, you may be able to file a motion and set up a hearing to give you at least temporary custody of your daughter, and request that a guardian ad litem (court investigator) conduct an investigation about what's best for your daughter and provide recommendations to the court.
I am going to give some very, very rudimentary instructions and a very rough idea of how to do this. I suggest that in your motion you ask for an expedited hearing and a change of custody. Here are the instructions. Remember, these are EXTREMELY ROUGH and you must rewrite/revise them to meet your own needs and situation. You can also get more information in a law library
OK, first pull out your file of documents and find the most recent order or motion.
What you're going to do is write a Motion for Order Modifying Custody.
Come up with a form that looks somewhat similar to your previous documents - especially if you have one written by an attorney. You can use any of your previous court documents as a sample. The format is not that important, but do try to leave at least 4 inches on the top of the first page, and one inch margins all around. You can write it by hand if you need to, but print neatly.
Now, in your motion, you'd say something like this:
[YOUR FULL NAME] moves this court for an order of custody of [children's name(s)]. This motion is based on the following declaration [and any exhibits you may have, IF you have any evidence to present to the court].
- 1. I, [YOUR FULL NAME] am over 18 years old and otherwise competent to testify.
- 2. I have had court-ordered visitation with the child(ren) [Date of Birth and initials, or name if that's allowed in your state] since [date).
- 3. The court ordered this visitation on [date] when (the)my child was [number] years old.
- 4. I am requesting full custody because [fill in reasons].
- 6. Anything else you may want to say that would be important for the court to know.
The above statement is true and complete to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Signed Month, Date in [name of city], [state].
[YOUR PRINTED NAME]
Now, take this motion and any attached exhibits and make three or four copies (I always make extras). Mark the original as "original" (preferably in red) and mark the copies as "copy" (any color).
Go to the court with your calendar and cash, in case there is a charge and they don't take checks or charge cards. Take the original and copies, of course. (If you are far away, you'll have to call them and ask how to do this by mail) and get the clerk of the court to help you set up a hearing date and time for the court to consider your motion. Ask the court clerk if you need to provide the judge with a "bench copy," and, if so, ask for the local instructions.
Now, mail a copy of both the notice of the hearing AND the motion with any attachments to the "other side." This will be an attorney if your ex is still represented. Otherwise, just mail it to your ex. It's safest to mail this to your ex by certified/return receipt mail so that you have a paper trail that you mailed it. You can even photocopy the envelope before mailing it, just in case there's any doubt raised by the judge if your ex doesn't attend the hearing.
No later than five days prior to the hearing, drop off (or mail seven days before) a "bench copy" for the judge. This is an exact copy of what you filed with the court, but on the top page, in red, write, neatly: Bench copy and the day and time of the hearing. Do not write anything else; do not attach anything. (If you do, you'll have to send a copy to the "other side.")
Then, of course, be sure to attend the hearing and present your case.
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