Setting: New York City, twelve years in the future.
I have a general idea of how this kind of thing works, my parents are foster parents, but in Texas, not New York, where laws are different. All things considered, especially since the story is twelve years in the future, laws are different/will be different, and there is room for some tweaking (laws change all the time, who knows where it would be twelve years in the future?).
Googled New York Custody Laws. Found out that they strictly view it in the best interest of the child, and neither mother or father have 'dibs'. Custody is determined by who is the primary caregiver/spends the most time with the child. I also found that the child has to have lived there for a minimum of six months or it goes by the state. Mental and physical well being is taken into consideration as well. I haven't been able to find anything on NICU wards that I'm looking for. I found out that standards for NICU wards vary state to state, but some standards include, aside from the medical requirements like preventing airborne infections, adequate hand washing stations, ect, having an area for the family to be able to store their things, and even sleep nearby if they wish, as well as having adequate privacy to meet with people like church clergymen. Search terms include NICU wards and for specifics that go into what is involved with a baby born somewhere between 28 and 31 weeks (I haven't decided on which yet, but I want it to be somewhere in the range of three months premature). The March of Dimes site has good information, but it's very general and limited to statistics on what the child is at risk for, what kind of health problems, what the baby will weigh, etc, but nothing on what happens AFTER the baby is born.
I know that parental rights are revoked when the parent in question can't prove that they are capable of providing for the child(ren). I've only dealt with what happens AFTER the state/CPS suspects it, I don't really know what happens to make that happen, or what happens if there is family that can take care of the child instead of leaving it to the state to provide a home.
The mother and father are not married. The mother is mentally ill (nothing like schitzophrenia, or bi-polar, but she is mentally ill: eating disorders, and "symptoms" of her 'big' one include an inability to attach, form lasting connections, among other things like an inability to take care of herself, manage her life), has no job at the moment (but she does have one lined up), no steady living arrangements (pretty much been crashing with the father's family) or any sense of stability (and I know all of that is enough to get her rights revoked, it's just a matter of getting there).
She also has several health problems, in addition to the eating disorders, that more or less led to a premature birth at 28 weeks.She has several heart problems, including mild aortic valve stenosis. She had a rapid onset of preeclampsia, and had to be rushed to the hospital and the doctors ended up performing an emergency c section. From what I've read on preeclampsia, the more dangerous part of that is a spike in blood pressure, which she's already at serious risk for concerning her existing heart problems. She did not gain the weight her doctor recommended. Pre pregnancy she was about five foot, 95 pounds, and only gained somewhere between fifteen and twenty of the forty or so pounds she was told to put on.
So all things considered, the father, from the start, suspected that she would not be a fit mother. Her inability to take care of herself and the fact she endangered herself and the baby has, at least in his mind, proven to him that she should have no part in raising the baby. His resolve is only going to deepen when she slips into post partum depression.
Proving that he is the father won't be a big problem, and money to fight it in court or for lawyers won't be an issue. Neither will being able to foot the hefty medical bills. He does have a stable home life, steady, well paying job, and the capacity to take care of the baby. It's not so much a question of who can take care of the kid, or who obviously should. My question is, is how does the father gain complete and total custody of the kid? How does he start the process of proving that she will be an unfit mother, if only on the grounds that she is mentally unstable? Is there any way to expedite the process (I would like for him to have sole rights by the time the baby is healthy enough to leave the hospital at latest)? What kind of circumstances would have to be in place for SOLE rights to be granted without having to wait for the kid to be six months old before being able to act? Would it be enough to start the process if she tried to do something while in the grasp of post partum depression to 'win the judge over?' It's not enough for him to be able to just provide for the baby. He wants to be one hundred percent, absolutely certain that the mother will not be able to be near the child without his say so; he didn't trust her from the beginning, and he's going to trust her even less when he finds out what happened (he's been away sporadically on business, and hasn't been able to watch her nearly as closely as he would have liked).
Also, what kind of security, for lack of a better word, is on NICU wards? Who's allowed in to visit? What goes into visiting a baby in a NICU ward? Would the mother be able to get in there, without supervision and potentially harm the baby? What kind of things would they have to worry about medically for a baby born that prematurely? What will go into the care for that child? On average, how long would the child have to stay in NICU?
Any help on this would be most appreciated.