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Jack R.
Jack R., Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  OH/TX Practicing Attorney focusing on Family Law, Foreclosure, Landlord-Tenant Issues.
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My 15 year old son is visiting on spring break. I have unlimited

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My 15 year old son is visiting on spring break. I have unlimited visitation rights. He lives in Indiana, and I'm stationed at Fort Drum, NY. Today we're suppose to meet his mom halfway, so he can go back home. Since being in my home, he has mentioned that the thought of going back home makes him think suicidal thoughts. He has had to deal with a lot of bullying this year. He has tried to pursuade his mom to let him stay, and i've mentioned that we get an Ammendant made on our divorce decree. She won't agree to it uncontested. Yesterday, I went to JAG to ask about my rights and his rights. They said that, he is old enough to make his own dicision and should he refuse to get into the car tomorrow he in within his rights and I don't have to physically force him. I left the JAG office yesterday never dreaming that he would refuse, so I didn't ask for advise about how to deal with the threats or whatever else is coming my way. We're suppose to meet his mom at noon in Erie, PA. He refuses to get out of bed this morning to go meet his mom. Should I make him call her, and inform her? I don't want to deal with a 1,000 phone calls and threats today, so am I within my rights to turn my phones off today and advise my son to do the same? How would you suggest I deal with the storm coming my way.

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The JAG officer did not give you the best advice. A 15 year old does not get to decide where his obligation to live is. A judge has already made that decision along with his parents at the time custody arrangement was made. A 15 year old is not an adult, nor from your comments is the 15 year old an emancipated child.Your refusal to abide by that agreement and court order can have serious consequences, so you need to be very sure of what you are doing.


You must get your divorce decree amended or obtain an emergency custody order. That is the only way legally you can get custody. Nothing stops you from keeping the child, however, his mother is within her rights to file a motion for contempt, or obtain an emergency order to have the child returned. Unless you can convince the judge the reason was valid for keeping the child, you will have to return the child and get stuck with your wife's attorney's fees, court costs, and penalties.


If the situation is as dire as you state and the child's well being is at stake you could have filed an emergency motion for custody yourself. You can still do this next week. If you keep the child you would need to convince a local judge that this is needed for the safety of the child. This is going to be difficult unless you have evidence of imminent harm. You could return the child and file for emergency custody in mom's local court but you will have to travel to where the child lives. Similarly you will need to convince a judge that custody needs to be changed due to the potential for imminent harm. I would highly recommend seeking a local family law attorney.


Your best course of action is to discuss the matter between the 3 of you. Ask for a short extension of time where you can take the child to a medical professional to see what is going on. If your wife does not agree to leave the child with you at least get a commitment to have the child see a professional asap. If your ex refuses then seek to have custody modified. Both you and your ex should contact the school and get attention on the bullying issue. Bullying is not acceptable anywhere and there is a heightened awareness of the bullying issue around the country.


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This communication does not establish an attorney-client relationship.Information provided here is not legal advice. Rather it is simply general information.

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