What to do if I have a 15 year old sister who lives in another state and wish to gain custody of her from my mother?

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What to do if I have a 15 year old sister who lives in another state and wish to gain custody of her from my mother?

My mother does not have a job, nor has she worked since I was a baby. (I am almost 22 now). She does drugs and has physically and mentally abused her three children our entire lives. My brother passed away, and my sister recently was committed to a hospital for trying to over dose (partially because of my mother’s abuse)I have no issues moving back there if needed. I’m wondering if my mother losing custody as a child would help prove that she is unfit to care for her? My father’s family would be more than willing to testify against her.

Asked on January 22, 2013 under Family Law, Oregon

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The exact procedures and options will depend on the family code for the state where your sister lives. Generally, your first step is to file a motion to modify custody if there are already court orders in place.  You may or may not have standing depending on the family code of that state.  Standing means that you are a person with a legal interest in the child.  Many states would grant you some degree of standing because you are an adult sibling.  The next step would be to request a hearing on your motion.  The courts do not like taking custody away from a parent without good cause.  If you can gather more information about your sister's situation, that would help.  A children's protection agency should have received a call regarding her suicide attempt.  If CPS has been involved, get in touch with the caseworker and let them know that you are willing and able to step up and take custody of your sister.  If your mother is the druggie that you describe, you may be able to get all of this accomplished with an agreed order.  "Sales pitch" the idea to her first and let her know this will give her an "opportunity to focus on her needs," (whatever those may be). 

If you can't get full custody, then ask for regular access.  Some states do have provisions which allow adult siblings to be granted access to minor siblings.  This will give you regular access to your sister, and should something happen to your mother, you would be in the line to get custody.

For either of these, visit with a family law attorney in the state where your sister lives. 


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