Thank you so much for responding and providing me with this information - it's greatly appreciated.
Oh my, your girlfriend's situation is not an easy one. There's not a quick fix to it - it may take some time before she sees results and it will be quite emotional for her.
We need to break this down - instead of seeing everything as a whole which will leave her totally drained and depressed, putting things into proper perspective, one by one is the best way to handle this matter.
1). The first concern is keeping a roof over her head. As you state that she is living in his house, the only way he can get her out of there is by way of court intervention. Thus, if she is not paying rent, he would have to serve her with a 3 day notice to pay or quit - if she doesn't respond by paying, he would have to file an Unlawful Detainer (U.D.) action against her - she would have 5 days in which to respond to the U.D., file it with the court and serve a copy on him. Filing fees can be waived if she doesn't have any money - thus, she would need to submit a Waiver of Costs along with her answer to the U.D. The court would set a date for hearing and she would have to appear - the only thing is that once she goes to court on the U.D., judges normally rule in favor of the landlord if one hasn't paid the rent, therefore, unless she can present strong evidence that would convince the judge otherwise - she would have no choice but to get out. Normally, the court allows within 1 to 2 weeks from the time of hearing to vacate the premises, otherwise, the marshall will come and get her out...literally picking her up and setting her outside the premises - (prior to her vacating, she would be allowed approx. 2 minutes to get any of her belongings). Thus, your girlfriend must try to find another place to live as soon as possible, as she will be faced with this scenario very soon. It takes approximately 1 month from the time one is served with a U.D. to appear in court - (normal procedure in the State of California).
If there is other information I need to know about concerning her living arrangement, please let me know.
2). A. Your girlfriend's state of mind is going to come under much scrutiny. The fact that she had been depressed, that she claims she wasn't in her right state when she signed over custody, the fact that in the past she was under the influence - thus making all of this look as though she is not a fit/stable parent - all as a result of her boyfriend. Therefore, what your girlfriend must do is to obtain proof. How does she do this? She needs to contact all the people that she knows - people that know her true character - and knew her prior to her boyfriend coming into her life- They need to prepare and sign affidavits stating that she was of sound mind - that she was able to function properly just like any other "normal" person in society. Describing in detail her character which would say possibly that she is loving, caring, compassionate, etc. They would need to sign the affidavit in front of a notary public - also, if need be, they would need to be willing to appear at a court hearing to testify as a character witness on her behalf.
B. Being that your girlfriend was put in the hospital by her boyfriend and then forced into seeing a psychiatrist - she must get hold of the medical records/reports any and all notes concerning what was documented. In order for her to obtain same, she needs to send an authorization (for the release of same) to the medical facility and psychiatrist (and any and all other facilities that she has been in since she has been with her boyfriend and/or before for which she may have had emotional issues) and ask for a copy of any and all records, notes, charts, all documentation concerning her care and treatment. More than likely they will charge for copies of same - however, she needs to get these records as soon as possible (without the boyfriend knowing about it...otherwise, it could be doctored up) so that she can have an idea of what they are saying about her (their diagnosis). If the records/reports state that she is suffering from severe problems, chances are that she will not be able to get her child back as soon as she is hoping for. However, should the records/reports/notes state anything mentioned about her boyfriend and how she feels he is controlling her or putting her under duress, then this would be a big plus for her - this is considered solid evidence for which she can present in court to help in her defense.
C. Should the reports/records/notes indicate that she is unstable, suffering from deep depression, under the influence and that she should continue to seek treatment, then she will need to do so immediately for the sake of her baby, as well as herself......and if she can continue to seek treatment on a regular basis, without missing 1 session, for the next 6 months, and show signs of great improvement and even getting a job and taking care of herself financially, then she would definitely be on better footing in order to go to court and request that she have her baby returned to her, and be granted at least joint custody.
3. In the meantime, your girlfriend can contact the State Bar in order to obtain a referral list of attorneys that work pro bono cases (free of charge) - she would need to seek an attorney specializing in family law....or, she can contact Legal Aid - have her speak to a lawyer who can provide her with further legal information and confirm to her as to what her rights are in this matter. Whether it be a private attorney or from Legal Aid, perhaps they can get the court process started immediately. However, the judge most definitely looks at the stability of the parents - and in this particular case, signing away the custody rights of one's baby - is a matter very much questionable - needing solid proof that one is properly fit.
4. Most importantly - she can contact the district attorney's office and let them deal with him, accordingly - not to say your girlfriend is not telling you the truth, but, if in fact, this did happen to her, being coerced is not legal - and is considered to be a criminal matter.
5. Should your girlfriend wish to go to court immediately, the best that may be accomplished at this point - is to ask the judge for monitored vistations - and this is something that she may wish to do - in fact, I would strongly recommend this - Monitored visitations would allow her to see her baby on a regular basis - for a certain amount of time - and should this be granted by the judge, then there is nothing that the boyfriend can do or say about it.
6. If worse comes to worse, your girlfriend may need to stay with you - but this may not be the worst thing - if this is the case, it's best that she tries to work on what I have outlined above, first - so that it is well documented - thus, no one can say that she just upped and moved away without showing any concern for her baby.
7. The most important thing your girlfriend must do is to speak up to any and all professionals by letting them know how much she loves her baby - what the boyfriend did to her - how she feels - for as long as this is acknowledged/documented, your girlfriend will be viewed by others as a caring, loving mother - who just happened to be coerced by the boyfriend.
8. You initially asked if someone who signs custody papers under duress, if that's legal - the answer is "no" that's not legal - but one needs solid proof that that is the case. (see #6 above - regarding being coerced).
9. Now we get to the ex wife - well, this is a plus for your girlfriend. You mention that your girlfriend found out about her - how? Thus, if she found out by someone that told her - your girlfriend needs to get ahold of this person and have them sign an affidavit stating all facts. If anyone else has knowledge of the boyfriend and ex wife being together, have them come forth as well - this will show that her boyfriend is the one who is unfaithful, and has been messing around - the more evidence that your girlfriend can get on the boyfriend and the ex wife, the better for her. Telephone records to show that he had been calling the ex wife, long before the baby was born....any evidence that your girlfriend can gather up about him - from the time that she met him, started dating him, being with him before the pregnancy, during the pregnancy and soon after, the better. She may also wish to dig into his past - perhaps he has a record to reveal that perhaps he was arrested - or perhaps he was a drug user/alcoholic, perhaps he has a temper, and has been accused of abuse, anything at all.....for this will certainly discount his credibility .....and this will all be necessary - she needs to be prepared.
10. She may wish to contact her immediate family and let them know what is going on - try to have her seek any and all help she can.
In summary, I believe that if she takes the stand of pulling herself together as a whole, by proper treatment (with a psychologist or psychiatrist) - keeping all session appointments, showing signs of improvement (mentally and emotionally), for her to seek employment - ....note that it can even be temporary work if need be - or to enroll in college to better herself (for the sake of herself and her baby), all of this will be the right combination needed in order to gain custody of her baby.....if anything, at least joint custody in the beginning - knowingly, in time, she can always file a modification order with the court if she feels that things have changed and she is better prepared and standing firm - thus seeking full custody. Of course, should the district attorney - with proper investigation - can gather certain evidence, it may very well be that your girlfriend can obtain full custody immediately - therefore, if she truly feels that he plotted all of this - that she was of sound mind before all of this - and that through his manipulation all of this came about...then he can very well be facing some serious criminal charges against him.
I trust that I have read your question and additional information correctly and that I have addressed all of your concerns, clearly conveying same - if not, please let me know - and/or if I can help you further, please let me know.
I wish you and your girlfriend and her baby the very best.
Please keep me posted, if you wish.
Peace, Love & Happiness,
The Mystic Wave