Reggie Moore 5m 1,158 #divorce
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
The real battleground in a divorce is the time after the papers are filed, but before they are settled. This can be anywhere from six months to two years. The courts will generally follow the standard rule that custody of minor children should be shared by both parents. However, there are many ways this split can take place, and much discretion judges have over how to award it. Even in cases where you take a paternity test and are not the real father, you can end up with custody of the children, or at least end up financially responsible for them.
This significant flexibility means that men need to know what mistakes to avoid when it comes to custody if they want their chances of success to be as good as possible. These include: choosing the wrong type of custody; allowing child support considerations cloud their judgment; using incorrect standards for determining permanent custody; trying to act as single parents; failing to negotiate properly with one’s spouse over custody; being over-protective of the children; not understanding that legal fees are part of child support payments; and failing to have a plan for how they will justify their spending on the children.
Choosing The Wrong Type Of Custody
The preferred form of custody is, naturally, full physical custody with no visitation rights whatsoever for the noncustodial parent. Unfortunately, unless one’s spouse is completely excluded from all involvement in raising the kids this type of arrangement won’t be easy to achieve. When it is impossible to achieve this goal outright it may be possible to come to some sort of shared or hybrid arrangement that gives one party most or all of the day-to-day responsibility for the children while allowing the other party a say in major decisions and visitation rights.
This type of arrangement is best when it allows for a very high degree of input from the noncustodial parent but still means that the custodial parent can make final calls on issues without worrying about constant oversight by the other spouse. For example, an appropriate shared custody plan might be one where dad takes care of the kids while mom goes to work each morning and he picks them up T/TH/F so she can have them Mon-W through Th-F. Assuming his parenting time during the day exceeds hers it would give him more than 50% custody and mean that any important school or extracurricular activities would get done with minimal involvement from her. It would not be acceptable, however, if he was allowed to make decisions about how they should be disciplined or whether they needed medical care.
An unsatisfactory shared custody plan will be one where dad gets 30 days holiday per year and mom gets 25 weekdays overnight each month. This would leave mom with just 37% custody, meaning she could have the kids only during school vacations and a few weeks in the summer. It also ensures that there won’t be much time when she can actually take a break from being a parent since dad would always have pretty good visitation rights. In this situation, it’s much better for mom to fight for sole physical custody despite having more limited options for weekday parenting so she has weekends free once in a while.
Allowing Child Support Considerations Cloud Judgment
This is a natural mistake to make. The bulk of men file for divorce in order to get out of paying support and there’s a reasonable chance that their ex will try the same thing, so it’s easy to understand why they might be very eager to avoid making payments. It may sound tempting, therefore, when an attorney suggests that requesting too little custody or asking not to pay anything at all more likely means being ordered into a situation where you have relatively limited rights over your kids’ lives and pay through the nose anyway.
In reality, both these situations are very unlikely, especially since the second one would make a judge feel betrayed by his or her word and cause them to dole out punishments accordingly. In most states, you can’t avoid paying child support by agreeing to give up custody entirely, for instance, so the very best likely outcome of being so stubborn is being ordered into a shared custody situation where you have essentially no rights instead.
Using Incorrect Standards For Determining Permanent Custody
Most men who are looking for sole physical or even just primary custody are thinking about the long term which means they’re trying to have as much say in what happens with their kids when they’re older as possible. The most obvious way to accomplish this is to ask for legal custody which allows one parent, usually mom since she’s more often the caregiver, to make decisions about things like choice of schools and medical care without needing permission from dad.
If mom has legal custody virtually all of dad’s parenting time will be spent as a visitor in his children’s lives, however. It won’t matter if he gets them every weekend and takes them out for ice cream after school, for instance, because mom can still decide that they’ll never see each other again. In this case, it would probably be better to request physical custody without requesting any parental rights since at least then there would be some guarantee that you’d have your kids with you instead of having to rely on the whims of their caregiver.
Focusing On The Wrong Aspects Of Incarceration
In many states being convicted twice or more for domestic violence within a short period automatically results in a loss of custody even if the incidents neither involved the kids nor happened in front of them. In other words, if you’re a man who’s been convicted of DV and you have young children it means that mom automatically has a strong case for getting full or at least primary custody, even if she herself is now being accused of assault as well.
In this situation, your best hope is to fight both the original conviction and any attempts to use it against you as a parent instead of ignoring it entirely or agreeing that there was some truth to the allegations just because they led to custody loss. Mom will probably still claim that she can be trusted with sole physical custody so going up against her directly about visitation rights isn’t really a good idea unless you have clear evidence proving otherwise. Instead focus on proving that she’s unfit as a caregiver by getting evidence of drug or alcohol abuse, doing poorly at her job, or engaging in other irresponsible behavior. This is the only way you’ll win full custody back despite your initial conviction.
In conclusion, custody issues can be very complicated and overwhelming for both men and women. While it is important to protect your parental rights as a father, the way you go about doing this could seriously backfire.