What are my options concerning child custodyif my ex-wife has attempted suicide and has anger/violence issues?

My ex-wife has custody of my 14 year old daughter. My daughter is staying with me because of my ex-wife’s recent attempted suicide and hospitalized. I and others are aware of my ex’s undocumented (no police reports) history of violence leading up to this incident. I worry for my daughter’s safety. My daughter has been a emotional crutch for her mother so I’m afraid that attempting to get custody of her may cause another tragic event that I will be blamed for. Yet not doing could be even more wrong. Legally what alternative options do I have?

Asked on December 15, 2011 under Family Law, Oklahoma


L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Thank you for submitting your question regarding child custody and your ex-wife’s current psychological battle including multiple suicide attempts.  The law governing child custody and child support will vary from state to state, and the process for obtaining sole custody of a child will change from state to state.

There are two types of custody, which are legal custody and physical custody.  Legal custody is the parent’s right to make decisions for the child such as education, religious upbringing, residence, and medical-related decisions.  Physical custody is the actual physical possession and control over the child.  The court can award neither or both to both parents.  When the parents have both forms of custody it is referred to as joint custody. 

When determining custody the court will examine the circumstances in the best interests of the child.  The court will look at physical, moral, and psychological aptitude of the parents, the proposed residence, and the child’s choice of residence (depending on the age of the child).   Additionally, the court will want to ensure there are no signs of abuse or neglect.

It sounds like you need to get a caretaker for your ex-wife, as well as, petition for full-time custody of your daughter.  Given your circumstances, it would be best to handle this situation as calmly and peaceful as possible as to not further upset your daughter.

If you need further assistance on this matter, you can always contact a family law attorney in your area.  The attorney would not only help you with the petition for custody but would also have great resources for your ex-wife for different types of counseling. 


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