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 Dear Steve,

     Since I am unable to attend the hearing in the house on Wednesday, I thought I would give you an synopsis of my situation.  If you would like me to sign a deposition or anything of that nature you may contact me at 605-xxx-xxxx.

     I was in a relationship with a woman and we had a son.  We lived together for the first 29 months of the child's life.  I was in college and worked and she was working.  We shared the responsibilities of raising the child.  I fed, bathed, changed diapers, along with the other duties of parenting, as did she.  The relationship ended with me moving to another address, and she continued to live in the same place.  Within days of separating, I was served with papers in regards to the custody of my son, and, of course, child support.  The papers awarded exclusive custody of my son to his mother.  Being naive in such matters, I signed the papers.  I knew in South Dakota, the mother almost always had custody of the children, so I thought this was just par for the course.  It did not matter, in the beginning, because I was able to see my son whenever I wanted.  In fact, most times he was with my parents, who also lived in xxx.  So having court papers signed had little bearing on my relationship with my son.

     After completing college, I had to move to xxx to complete my schooling to become an xxx.  I felt taking my son to a big city while I was in school was not the best idea, so I did not seek any court permission to take him with me.  Over the next four years he spent a majority of his time living with my parents, so contact with him was easy, and I spoke with him regularly.  During spring break, Christmas break, summer vacations, I always made sure to return to xxx, so that I could see my son.  Again, his mother allowed me almost all the time possible for me to spend with my son when I was back, so the court papers never became an issue.  He even came to xxx during two summers and stayed with my for some time.  While in xxx, I married my current wife of xxx years.  I knew her from college.  
     In my fourth year of school I had to choose where to my externships, I, of course, chose the closest locations I could be to my son.  They happened to be with the xxx.  I commuted back to xxx almost every weekend during my externships.  My wife worked in xxx and that was where we lived.  I received my doctorate in May of xxx.  After which I obtained a job in xxx, where my son and his mother lived.

     Being back in xxx, I was excited because I thought I would be able to see my son quite often.  However, at this point his mother started restricting “visitation” with my son.  She would tell me I could see him on this day, and then cancel.  My son would ask her if he could go with me she would say “no.”  At this point she was living with her boyfriend and even when she was at work, my son could not come over and see me if he asked.  So, at this point, I decided I needed to get a lawyer in order to see my son.  He advised me that I should set up “standard” visitation, every other weekend and one night a week.  I wanted more time with my son, but my lawyer said that is all I could get at this time.  I asked if we could set up a half-and-half type scenario.  He said “no,” that is not how it works in South Dakota.  If the noncustodial parent wants more time than the custodial parent will allow, you have to go to court or mediation.  At this time, he advised me to start documenting concerns that we had about my son's mom, in case we had to file for a change of custody.  So, I did.  

     Over the next year, I documented many items that I concerned me.  For example, his mother moved into the girls dorms of xxx University with my son, I did not feel that was a healthy environment for an eight-year-old boy.  Her boyfriend she was living with before moving into the dorms was sentenced to eight years in the state pen for 2nd degree rape, and sexual contact with a minor.  My son had such a fear of bees he was no longer able to go outside during recess, and she was refusing to get him any counseling (thankfully, I have since been able to convince her to get counseling for him).  And various other items.  It is a difficult situation, because I did not want to focus on the negatives of his situation, but the courts wanted me to “prove” she is an unfit mother.  All I wanted was to spend time with my son, so that he can have a positive male role model in his life.  I do not want to demean my son's mother, in order to spend more time with my son, but this is how the current system in South Dakota operates.  All I want to do is to be able to be a part of my son's life, so that I can give guidance and teach him things that dads can teach.  I do not want to limit his time with his mother, just share time fairly.  It should not be this hard to see my son when he lives 13 blocks away.  However, this is the current state of South Dakota “parenting” guidelines.


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