Can aparent that is given joint custody have the custody rights changed without the other parent’s knowledge or consent?

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Can aparent that is given joint custody have the custody rights changed without the other parent’s knowledge or consent?

I was granted joint custody for my son during my divorce in 2002. I recently found out that in 2006 my ex-husband and his mother had a hearing while I was working in Iraq, without me knowing about it, and the both of them were granted joint custody. My son has recently revealed that his grandmother has been abusing him both mentally and physically. He has since moved out of the house for his well being and health but his grandmother keeps harassing him and trying to make him come back. He is 17 years old and is now living with his brothers at my sister’s while I work.

Asked on April 22, 2011 under Family Law, Alabama

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A change in custody requires notice to the other party (parent).  The hearing (Order to Show Cause) requires service of process (notice of the hearing and copies of the documents filed with the court) on the other custodial parent. 

If you know the case number, you can ask the court clerk to see the file and could discover why the earlier proceeding  occurred without you being notified.  If you don't know the case number, you can obtain it by looking for your name or your ex-husband's name in the court's computer.  You can't remove the file from the court, but can ask the court clerk to photocopy the file or any part of the file you want.

Your son's abuse by his grandmother would be grounds for a change of custody.  You would need to file an Order to Show Cause (court form) requesting a hearing with any supporting documentation such as a declaration under penalty of perjury supporting the modification of custody.  Attach a proof of service with the documents you file with the court and mail a copy to your ex-husband and the grandmother.  The proof of service verifies the date of mailing.  You can either use a court form proof of service or you can write your own.  If you write your own, it would just say that you are over 18 and the attached documents were sent via first class mail unless specified otherwise to __________ (names of your ex-husband and grandmother) on _________ (date).  You sign under penalty of perjury and date the proof of service at the bottom.  The date you sign should be the same date as the date of mailing and the same date you file your documents with the court.   When you file your Order to Show Cause with the court, the court will set a date for a hearing.


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