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The custody laws of Montana and Wyoming are very similar. Where the parents of a child were never married and paternity has not been established, both Montana and Wyoming Courts will give sole physical custody to the biological mother and will give the mother preference in custody proceedings. If the father wants custody, he must first establish paternity before the Courts of both Montana and Wyoming will permit the father to Petition the Court for Custody.
Once paternity is established, both Montana and Wyoming Courts use the same criteria as the other 48 States in determining custody and that is what will be in the " best interests of the child". Additional factors which both Montana and Wyoming Courts take into account in deciding custody are the following:
The Parent Child Relationship
Maintaining the continuity of the primary caregiver
The lifestyle and conduct of both parents and whether the lifestyle will be detrimental to the child
The mental and physical health of both parents
Which parent has the ability to provide for the child's needs
Which parent can provide the more wholesome, secure, and stable environment;
The child's wishes
Each parent's wishes
Does either parent have a history of abuse
Has either parent been incarcerated
If ao, did the crime involve violence
Does either parent use controlled substances
The child's adjustment to the home in which she lives, school and her community
The needs of the child
If your daughter's father has not established paternity, I would put every stumbling block in front of him. If and when he does file a Petition for Custody, I would do the following:
-Downplay the fact that your daughter was not doing well in school
-Stress the fact that you have the more stable, secure, and wholesome environment
-Stress that you have been a role model whereas the father represents a way of life which is unhealthy and leads to incarceration and more importantly, that your daughter is at a very impressionable age and being around the father would not play a positive role in her life
-Stress that you have been the primary caregiver throughout your daughter's life
-Stress the fact that the father never showed an interest in his daughter's life, nor did he care if she had what she needed and never paid child support, but now sees her as a meal ticket and lost no time in asking for child support
In light of the above which is the law of Montana, I cannot say why Montana is saying that her father has custody of her. They might mean only that she is in his physical custody and nothing more because if you and he were never married, he cannot claim custody of your daughter in the same way that he would have if you and he had been married. Not having been married to you, both the Montana and Wyoming Courts have quite a few hoops for him to jump through before he can establish that he even has a right to file a Petition for Custody, the first one being a Petition to Establish Paternity (if that has not been filed).
In Answer to your question if your partner can recoup the money he spend in supporting your daughter. Yes, he should first start out with sending him a bill. This way, you can see what his frame of mind is and what response he will give. I am sure that your partner will have to file a lawsuit against him because I do not think he will pay over the money willingly. He can sue, but you should know that it will be an uphill battle because the father's argument will be that your partner voluntarily supported your daughter and he will also argue that the support of your daughter was mostly because of his relationship to you. I am not saying that your partner cannot win; I am pointing out what his arguments will be so that you and your partner will be prepared for them.
It would be a good idea for your partner to file a lawsuit against your daughter's father because it will also be a good negotiation tool and you can use this to possibly have him drop his fight for custody. I do a lot of custody cases and they are not pretty, but I have observed that when a father has shown no interest in the child or children, has never made any attempt to pay child support, never made any real attempt to establish a real father/child relationship in the past and all of a sudden is acting enthusiastic about gaining custody, unfortunately for the child, it is usually all about the father getting paid child support and it has very little to do with the father's real affection for his child or children.
He should not be allowed to have custody of her because he will be a bad influence on her and case studies have shown that when a father has not played any roled in his children's lives in the past, he becomes so anxious to be accepted by the children now that he does not discipline the children and lets them do what they want so that they will accept him and "like him more than the mother". This has proven to be disasterous for the children if they are in their teenage years, or approaching their teenage years and want to be accepted by their peers. This leads children into unhealthy and dangerous relationships with other children also in their teens.
I hope I have covered all points because that is just about all the law on custody in both Montana and Wyoming.
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