Update - Stepfather pleads to child molestation charges. Need advice.

This post is partly a FYI follow-up to two previous threads (see below), and also looking for advice or opinions on the situation.

Very brief summary version: My boyfriend “Greg” has 3 children with his ex-wife “Susan.” Susan is remarried to a man I’ll call “Stepfather.” Stepfather pleaded no contest to child molestation charges involving an unrelated 13-year-old girl, and will be sentenced in a month. This is a felony and requires lifelong sex offender registration. What should Greg do?

Long detailed version: Greg and Susan have been divorced for more than 5 years. Greg & Susan’s kids are 13, 11 and 9, and Susan has primary physical custody of them. Susan is remarried to Stepfather and they have 3 additional kids, ages 5, 2.5 and 1.

In August, Stepfather was arrested and charged with Section 288 of the California Penal Code - lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14. He posted $100,000 bail.

Greg found out about this and was concerned for his kids’ well-being, since they live with Stepfather. He consulted with his attorney and they made a motion for custody. The outcome of this was that the judge ordered Stepfather to move out of the home until the outcome of his criminal case. A few months later, Susan appealed this, claiming it was a hardship, and the judge ordered the kids to be interviewed by a licensed clinical social worker. In this interview, the kids said they loved and missed their stepfather and that he had to leave the house because “people said lies about him.” The judge then allowed Stepfather to return home, where he remains today.

Meanwhile, Susan has voraciously defended her husband’s innocence, saying he was set up and framed by the victim’s mother as revenge because the victim’s mother was in love with Stepfather, and Stepfather rejected her advances. Of course, there is no proof that Greg or I have seen supporting this, other than Susan’s story. And I think it sounds very questionable, and likely that Stepfather was lying to Susan to cover up his misdeeds, and Susan just repeating the story because she couldn’t bear to face that her husband could do such a thing.

So, Stepfather’s criminal trial was scheduled for last week, and over the days and weeks leading up to it, Susan kept saying that Stepfather was innocent, they had incriminating proof against the victim’s mother (e-mails), and that their attorney said he would get off, etc. I should also add that at various times, Susan has said vicious things about the 13-year-old victim, such as she is a slut and a whore and that she had revealing photos of herself on her MySpace page – in essence trying to blame the girl. It appears like classic denial to me.

Then just days before the trial, Stepfather pleads no contest to the charge. A no contest plea essentially has the same effect as a guilty plea and will result in a conviction. The penalty according to the California statute is 3-8 years in state prison. He will also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

However, Susan claims their attorney told them he would serve no prison time pending a positive psychological report pursuant to Section 288.1 (basically if he gets a psychologist to say that this was an isolated incident and he is not a pedophile). It’s entirely up to the judge at the sentencing hearing… it could be probation and no jail time (but with sex offender registration) or as much as 8 years in prison.

So that leads me to my questions: What should Greg do? He would like to file for full physical custody of his children because they will be living in a home with a convicted child molester. Even if Stepfather goes to jail, he will probably be home within a short period of time since this apparently is his first felony (as in, he’s not likely to get the maximum sentence). But even if he did go to prison for a long time, how would Susan be able to handle 6 children by herself? She does not work, and she depends on Stepfather for his income. He will likely lose his job, apparently because his employer will not employ felons. Of course, Greg pays a hefty amount of child support, but it isn’t nearly enough to support Susan and her 6 children without the Stepfather’s income.

On the other hand, would living with Greg be a better option, considering he is a single father? Money is not an issue for him - he has a very good income. We are not married, and don’t live together, although we have been together for almost 4.5 years, and I would be willing to become an involved and loving stepmother if we were married.

I’m basically looking for your opinions, thoughts, ideas, etc. This is weighing on me heavily. Of course, I left out a lot of details because it’s so long, so please ask any questions you need for clarification.

These are the previous threads:
If stepdad is convicted of child molestation: chances of father gaining custody?
Kids’ stepfather arrested for child molestation - what can their father do?

Would living with Greg be a better option? Hell yes it would. Children living with a non child molester > living with a child molester.

I can’t see any reason why he should not try to get full custody.

I remember your previous threads - this is a very sad story. Unfortunately, I can’t give you legal advice beyond telling you that Greg should be on the phone with his lawyer immediately, asking how he can best go about getting custody or otherwise protecting his kids. I wish there was something more than that that I could say or do.

Thank you for that affirming response. Sometimes I feel like I am too biased on this situation and maybe what seems obvious to me isn’t reality.

I’m also trying not to get my hopes up too much because from everything I have seen, heard and read, it is VERY difficult for a father to gain custody when the mother has been the primary custodial parent for so long.

Just for background, Greg would have liked to have full custody all along, but he was in the military at the time of the divorce, and had been deployed overseas and was likely to be deployed overseas again. That - and the fact that Susan isn’t (and has never been) employed outside the home, made her the default custodian of the children.

Now it will come back to bite him because (as far as I can tell) courts often keep the kids with the mother unless there is irrefutable proof of gross abuse or neglect on the mother’s part. I can’t seem to find any case law, examples or stories that match Greg’s - where a stepfather is convicted of a child sex offense. So it seems very murky.

Yes he has done this. Interestingly, Greg’s next court hearing on his custody case is the very day before Stepfather’s sentencing hearing. I don’t know how that will play out since the timing is so bad. Will Greg have to continue the matter and wait another few months to be heard by a judge? Because that is how long it takes to get a hearing scheduled… This whole thing has been a long waiting game.

Seems pretty clear-cut to me: the stepfather is shortly going to be a convicted child-molester so there is a clear and present danger to the children. Further, you’ve indicated that Greg is sufficiently solvent to hire a maid or butler to look after the house.

If stepfather does go to jail, how is the mother going to support the children?

Good lord! Possible no jail time? Can we just outlaw the use of the word child-molestation and start calling it child-rape? I don’t care if it was an isolated incident the dude raped a f’n kid.

Maybe if we start calling it child rape people will take this offence more seriously.

Nitpick: is sounds as if he already IS a convicted child molestor. Though it may be hard for a single dad to get custody against his married ex-wife, this is pretty much a classical reason reason for getting such custody. I can’t imagine the judge would have to think very hard about this one.

How many of the kids are girls? Girls seem to be the ones at highest risk. Not that it’s good to have boys being socialized by a child molester, but at least it’s unlikely they are in iminent physical danger.

Tell him to fight tooth and nail. You’re right and he’s right – these are his kids, and his primary role as a father is to be their protector. Everything else is secondary to keeping his children safe.

The fact that this creep suddenly plead ‘no contest’ after claiming it was a big mistake speaks volumes. Regardless of his penal outcome, a good lawyer should be able to make a clear case that these kids are much better off with your partner.

I wish you nothing but the best. I’m a dad myself and it kills me to think of anyone hurting my son. Your partner sounds like a good guy, and it’s good to hear you’re supporting him through all this shit.

Where do the kids want to be? I’m not saying it should be entirely up to them, but if this is an isolated incident, is it worth uprooting them across state lines, losing all their friends and schools and social networks, not to mention a stay at home mother, to come live with a dad who works full time? They’ve already indicated that they love their stepfather and want him to live with them once.

Most likely, the 13 and 11 year olds will be asked by a judge what their thoughts on the matter are, even if that’s not the determining factor. I can’t imagine the anguish it would have caused me to go through that - choosing one of my parents over the other.

OTOH, if the worst were to happen, you’d hate to have the kids growing up thinking their dad didn’t want them or was unwilling to take them instead of leaving them with a child molester.

This is an ugly situation, no doubt. And, of course, at the end of the day, nothing is up to you, which I’m sure makes it even harder. But I’d start with Dad having a loving and frank talk with at least the older kids. And it should probably be done in person, not over the phone.

I think the kids need to get out of that house now. The stepfather cannot be trusted around children, full stop.

That “no jail time” possibility was filtered through the wife of the accused, who probably isn’t being realistic. Just because the judge has the statutory ability to impose no jail time doesn’t mean that it ever happens with that particular offense.

Child molestation is taken very seriously in this country, to the point that people won’t let their children go outside and play, and there have been incidents of vigilante justice by people unrelated to the victims in any way.

I don’t think girls are at highest risk, either… at least not to the point that the boys are not in “imminent physical danger.” A lot of the common sense things we “know” about child molestation are wrong (including the idea that this type of offense carries a disproportionately high risk of re-offending, and that anyone who commits such an offense is intractable and uncurable.)

That said, I think Whynot made some good points, and subject to that analysis it’s reasonable to go for custody.

No jail time is certainly is a possibility. The term “child molestation” is a pretty big umbrella and can cover a wide range of offenses. It really depends on the specific circumstances for which he was charged and what he is actually going to plead to. It seems foolish to plead to a charge without knowing what the punishment is going to be but it does happen. But like you said this is being filtered through a biased third party to the OP so who knows what the real story is.

Regardless of the sentence I cannot see how this wouldn’t be a big factor as to the custody of the children. I would certainly fight for the kids as hard as I could.

IANAL and all that, but it seems to me that having a convicted sex offender living under the same roof constitutes abuse on its face. And Susan not getting a whole lot of gone between her and Stepdad constitutes stupidity on its face.

I agree with this, and I would add that it could be very helpful to have the kids talk to a child psychologist or other professional who is impartial and has experience identifying signs of abuse.

I’m not an attorney or a parent, so maybe my views on this won’t hold as much weight, but regardless of the fact this could be an isolated incident or that ‘Stepfather’ might not consider ‘incest’ (I do realise there’s no blood relation to Greg’s kids, but I feel the point remains), this man will still be considered a sex offender, and in most people’s eyes, a pedophile.
Regardless of whether ‘Stepfather’ presents a threat of sexual molestation towards any of the kids, I doubt a sex offender is going to be a good role model towards any children, and as such, in my opinion Greg should try for custody again based on the outcome of the case.

Hope this helps but at the end of the day, that’s just my opinion.
My thoughts are with you, Greg and the kids and I hope all ends well :slight_smile:

I think uprooting the children and moving them to an unknown environment, taking them away from their mother et al is precisely the move to make.

My mother may have failed in a million different ways when I was growing up, but as an adult, knowing that she packed her shit and got me about a thousand miles away from a man that had/might/could hurt me, goes a long fucking way in my addled head.

There is no limit to the ways a person can delude themselves. I informed my fathers second wife about the things he had done to me. I had my friends, who he had propositioned talk to her, I gave her the number to my guidance counselor and begged her to take her and my half sister away from him. Fast forward 10 years, he was molesting my sister and bringing home guys from bars to molest her.

Either you have a big, huge mental sign that pops up and says “Whoa, that is a child!” or you don’t. Your boyfriends kids stepfather does not have that sign.

Get them the fuck out. Deal with them hating their Dad for doing it. One day, he will sit back and be able to say “I am their Father, my first duty is to protect them from harm, I did that.”

I doubt he will be able to look himself in the mirror if he doesn’t.

Americans all seem to have the idea that it’s somehow going to cause deep psychological trauma if you have to move while you’re a kid.

“But they’ll have to go to new schools, and make new friends! They’ll be miserable!”

No, they’ll be fine. They’re children. They will adapt- and in the long run it’ll be easier for them*. Throw in the fact that there is a real risk that something could happen that will result in deep psychological trauma if they’re left where they are (as in this case), and seeking custody seems like the obvious course.

ns, you and Greg go get them kids. However, try to remember that you don’t have to be their stepmother. You don’t know them, and they don’t know you (as far as I know). If you want to be, that’s great, but don’t force yourself on them.

*FTR, I was uprooted a lot as a kid- not just across state lines, but across several oceans and borders. I turned out fine, and it’s made me a more well-rounded person and much better at relating to different kinds of people.

Yes, moving them can be a Very Good Thing. They can escape the stigma of being abuse victims and associated with a pedophile. I know it can be devastating, but do they, or their father, really want to be whispered about behind their backs, and do they really want to be treated differently because of their stepfather’s incarceration?

When I was in middle school, the father of a classmate molested two other girls in our class who happened to be twin girls. He was charged, tried and convicted, and spent several years in prison. (He was still incarcerated when we moved, but I got the rest of it from a friend with whom I stayed in contact.) The twins’ family moved over the summer before the girls all started high school, largely so the twins didn’t have a victim status hanging over their heads, and also so the classmate couldn’t use that against them, because she apparently blamed the twins for her father’s incarceration. (There was also some suspicion that her father had also raped her, which added to the whole problem.) It was a messed up situation that was easily dealt with by moving.