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Can a mother take our child from his home to another county saying she would return in a week or so and decide to stay there permanently without my (father) consent? We are not married but bought a license to marry a week before she left with my son. She said she wanted to stay with her mother to loose weight to look good for the wedding pictures. We have lived together for almost 4 years our son will be 4 in November. I am the head of houshold and have been providing a  home and safe enviornment for our son, she has not worked since before our son was born. I live in Monterey, CA and she took our son to San Francisco. Now it has been almost 3 weeks and have seen my son once. On Mothers Day I took my son to the Zoo and spent the night with my son in a nice hotel; the whole day and night without the mother. Now she says she does not want to come back home. Can the mother take my son out of a safe enviornment and stay with my sons grandmother in a housing project (DAH) for the homeless waiting to get section 8 housing? This place is in the heart of the Tenderloin District SF where there is alot of crime and drugs and drug dealing yuck! Can I get my son back home wher he belongs, his home since he was born? I do not want to mess this up and have to go into a custody battle in court. I love my son and his Mother but I feel as if I have been taken for a ride. I want to be together as a family and raise our son together! I need help on this please. I am a heart sick father I need legal help.

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Custody law varies from state to state, but as a general proposition, when there is no custody order in effect, both parents have an equal right to custody of the child.  This is the case whether the parents are married or unmarried.  If the child's mother does not wish to return to you, you will have to either work out an informal custody arrangement with her, or seek custody or partial custody through the court system.  Your desire to remain together as a family is wonderful, but no court in the United States will order the child's mother to return to you. 

Quite often, a local bar association will offer discounted legal advice, and there might be some low-cost or no-cost legal services available in your county. 

As a general matter, no matter how unhappy you are with this woman's choices, the more you can cooperate on custody issues, the better it will be for your child.  

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