My Story

Up My Story Jury of One After The Kids Books Links


My Long Distance Visitation

In April of 1996, Stevenís mother moved with him from St. Louis, MO. to Houston, TX. Instead of driving to see Steven on weekends, I now had to fly 2,200 miles round trip. From that time through April 2000, I made 65 weekend flights to exercise my visitation time. We became regulars at a Residence Inn hotel, which was a convenient accommodation for us. They have an outdoor sports court, pool, and we prepared meals together in our roomís kitchen. It was also close to both his motherís apartment and his school.

Every other Friday during the school year, I left Sioux City, IA on a 5:30AM flight and arrived in Houston five hours later. I usually picked up Stevenís hot lunch at McDonalds with french fries for everyone at his table. I brought my laptop computer so we could play his favorite educational games, and things like walkie-talkies, snorkel sets, Nerf balls and a Frisbee. We visited parks, museums, and attractions, and took road trips to places like Kennedy Space Center, San Antonio, and Galveston Island.

I attended all Parent Ė Teacher meetings which were scheduled for Fridays after school, and on Saturdays I sat in on his basketball games and art lessons. His mother and I took him to the same church on Sunday mornings. I always gave Stevenís mother the name, address, and phone number of our hotel and drop off times in advance. My commitment to being with him strengthened our father-son relationship. If you are apart from your children, do whatever you can to stay connected and see them as much as possible. A continued involvement in their lives gives them a stronger sense of security and self esteem, and theyíll appreciate the time with you. It also shows a court that you are an actively involved and interested parent.

 

Staying in Touch

Between our weekends together, I called Steven every 2-3 days. His paternal grandparents and several other relatives called frequently as well. 8:00PM was our usual evening call time. We sent him emails, cards, "care packages" with snacks, photos, Scholastic magazines and comic books. I also gave him stamped and addressed envelopes to use. The office machines that I had on hand were a fax machine, copier, scanner, (to share drawings, artwork, schedules, etc.) and a computer with internet access. If you donít have one already, get a toll free phone number. Your kids can call you from most anywhere. Phonecards are inexpensive and convenient for them as well.

 

Major Winning Factors

 

In September of 1999, Steven asked me, "Hey Dad, can you call a lawyer and make it so I can live with you in Iowa?" Was I ever surprised! He had always asked about the possibility of moving back someday, but not like this. I assured him that Iíd look into the possibility. A month later I hired a very effective custody attorney in Houston, TX, and went to work.

The attorney informed me that our timing couldnít have been better. The Texas legislature had just dropped the age at which a minor could select a "Managing Conservator" from twelve to ten. Steven turned ten just one month before the law went into effect.

I was now modifying a 1993 order from our case in St. Louis. I was going to fight for custody of an only child from a mother with no drug or alcohol addictions, or mental problems. She did have deep pockets, though. The busy months that followed were filled with gathering supporting information, records, depositions, even a video tour of our hometown, and pulling it all together.

Stevenís legal declaration of his desire to live with me was the substantial change of our circumstances. This is a childís right at age 10, subject to the discretion of the court, in Texas. Stability of home life was another important part of our case. I continue to reside in the home we purchased before Steven was born. His mother made five residential moves between 1990 and 2000. Since 1990, his mother, a Brazilian national, had six different nannies living in her home to take care of our son. I work out of my home office. If Steven were to be ill and home from school, Iíd be here to take care of him around the clock. In our hometown, Stevenís grandparents live four blocks down the street, and a cousin and his family are two blocks away. The availability of blood relatives and extended family living close by for support is a definite plus.

The continuity of life I have to offer Steven is very stable and certain. My business is based here and I have had no plans to move in the future. In our hometown, Steven has friends that he has been playing with since preschool, we attend the same church where he was baptized, and heíll stay in the same school system until he graduates.