My wife moved out of our home last October leaving our daughter, Emma, with me. Emma has special needs, so it has been quite challenging during the pandemic. In addition to needing extra help with learning, she has a lot of anxieties that manifest in obsessive compulsive disorder. She is particularly fearful of germs and has significant OCD rituals to stay healthy. I have been working very hard with her therapist over Zoom to keep Emma’s OCD rituals to a minimum. We are in a good place, but she has only been seeing my wife over Facetime on weekends since mid-March.
Although my wife filed for divorce in December, we have never been to court, and we have no agreements. Recently I have made a settlement proposal, hoping we would not have to spend what limited resources we have on lawyers. I think that was the first time she realized she will have to pay me child support and is now being quite forceful in her efforts to see Emma.
Meanwhile, my brother offered me his beach cottage in Rhode Island for Father’s Day weekend. No one has been there during this pandemic and we would be the first ones to use it this season. The cottage has no internet service and limited cell phone coverage. I told my wife about my plan and offered to take a drive for better reception. I received a threatening letter from her lawyer stating that I have no right to disrupt her parenting time and cannot leave Massachusetts with Emma.
Can I go or will I get in trouble for leaving the state with Emma?
You can absolutely go to Rhode Island for a weekend. What you cannot do is permanently move Emma to another state. A weekend get-away to a neighboring state is entirely permissible and there will be no consequences to your taking the trip — especially where you have given her two weeks notice of your intention to go.
Further, because she chose to move out leaving you in charge of Emma, and there is no court mandated parenting plan, she has no right to now dictate exactly when she will have Facetime chats with Emma. Offer her time to chat with Emma on Friday before you leave and Monday when you return (at a time convenient to you and Emma). You do not have to ask how high when she or her lawyer demand that you jump.
Don’t be surprised to find a motion to establish parenting time on your doorstep when you return.
You should prepare a detailed statement of everything you have done with and for Emma since your wife moved out and ask the judge to set an appropriate plan taking into account the status quo and Emma’s best interest.
Also ask for child support — Emma is entitled to it.