To make nitroglycerin without blowing yourself up, take a tip from Alfred Nobel (yes, that Nobel, of the Nobel Prizes). He invented dynamite but also devised the one-legged stool for workers producing nitroglycerin. Do not take our word for it; NobelPrize.org has the full story1. Think about it: you cannot fall asleep sitting on a one-legged stool. It is inherently unstable, and given how unsafe nitroglycerin is, an unstable stool saved many a life. If you worry your children are living in an unsafe or unstable house in Virginia, you need more than a one-legged stool for support.
What is an Unstable Home?
In Virginia, an unstable household is recognizable by what it is not. Authorities look to see which of these are lacking:
- Safe shelter of livable temperatures
- Moral guidance and role modeling
Are Your Children Food Insecure?
Unfortunately many Virginia families face food insecurity. Though the economy is largely improving, for many working parents paychecks have not budged over the years. Food insecurity, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), means one of two things:
- Low food security —Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet with little or no indication of reduced food intake
- Very low food security — Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake
You can test for food insecurity with your children when they are with you for parenting time. Without being too obvious, ask some simple questions:
- Is your Mom worried the food will run out when you are with her?
- Do you get enough to eat at each meal?
- How big are your portions when Mom feeds you?
Is Your Children’s Home Safe and Livable?
Everyone faces the balky air conditioner or furnace from time to time. But if during your child visitation, your children are saying they are constantly cold in winter or broiling hot in summer, your ex’s home may not be providing shelter with livable temperatures.
Another aspect of shelter to watch for: your children report frequent overnight stays at different homes, like relatives’ houses or the homes of your ex’s friends. This may indicate your ex’s house is not safe or livable.
If you return your children to your ex at her home, assess the exterior every time; try to get invited inside to give the whole place a quick once-over. Note conditions of ceilings, floors, and furniture. Avoid conflict in front of your kids, though; report any unstable shelter issues to your family lawyer.
Are Your Children Clothed Appropriately?
Children grow quickly. If your children seem to be struggling to fit into too-tight shoes or undersized shirts, that could indicate an unstable home in which their Mom either does not recognize their growth or cannot afford proper clothing.
Though you cannot question how your ex spends child support payments, you can ask her when the children last got new clothes. You can also take them shopping when they are with you, and can hold onto the old clothes once they slip into properly fitting pants and tops. The old clothes can help support your concern about an unstable home.
Do Your Children have Proper Moral Guidance?
Whether she likes being one or not, your ex is a moral role model for your children. She is expected to provide guidance and set an example. An unstable household can include morally questionable behavior the children see:
- Sexual activity
- Excessive use of alcohol
- Drug use
- Cruelty to people or animals
Is Your Children’s Home Unsafe?
Is a one-legged stool unsafe? In most cases, yes, but when hovering over a watched pot of nitroglycerin, no. The same is true with conditions in a Virginia home. A loving home with three rabbits and a cat as pets could be ideal … or could be dangerous to a child with allergies.
If you suspect your ex’s home is unsafe for your children, contact your family lawyer immediately. You can also report unsafe conditions to Child Protective Services at (800) 552-7096.
Is Your Children’s Mother Unqualified?
For Virginia family court judges, part of any home assessment includes an examination of parenting skills. If your ex seems unqualified to make rational or safe decisions about your children, that needs to come out in open court or through petitions.
It is a serious charge: you are saying your ex, who bore your children and presumably raised them with your help until your divorce or split, is no longer qualified to determine their needs. She could be:
Given the court always has the best interests of the child in mind, the judge will make a determination about your ex’s ability to assess your children’s needs.
The Commonwealth of Virginia takes children’s safety seriously. The Department of Social Services (DSS) has a 146-page manual used for family safety and investigation. Findings of an unstable or unsafe household can result in the immediate removal of your children from their mother’s home. In most cases, DSS will turn them over to you, the father.
Some aspects of divorce and separation are heart-wrenching. When you need to make the call to 757-383-9184 to speak to an attorney at The Firm For Men, or you need to connect with us online, we are ready to listen, to help, and to defend your rights.