Considering Custody Options
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Considering Custody Options
I used to live in Arizona but moved to Bay area last September to
get married. Now I have 2 month-old-baby. Just before the
delivery, I discovered my husband had been living with his
girlfriend and her step-son since 2001. He did not tell me about
this until I moved in. After many fights, he wants to get back
with her. I also want to get a divorce and go back to Arizona
where I left my 10-year-old son from the previous marriage (He
was about to move to Bay area to live with us, but I no longer
want him to come here because he would be happier staying in
Arizona. Also, I have no reason I want to be here.)
The following are some reasons why I need to go back. I'm not
trying to deprive my husband of his opportunity to see our baby.
I would do anything to accomodate so he can visit Arizona as
often as possible to see our baby.
1) I cannot maintain the quality level of life if I live in this
area, while I can live easily in the best school district there.
2) I need to be close to my son because otherwise he will forget
the second language which his father doesn't speak.
3) If I go back now, there is a job position (teaching at college)
4) There are many people who can mentally/physically support me,
while I don't know anyone here.
Could anyone tell me what the likelihood that I can move back to
Arizona with this baby (whether I can get a permission from the
judge) would be.
It's best to have permission from the father and to use mediation
to work out parenting schedules and child support. If that won't
work then, you need to get a lawyer. It's really hard to move
out of state, but it can be done if you act according to your
child's best interest and put your needs secondary. Your
previous decision to leave your son in Arizona may play a role in
the courts eyes, so keep that in mind. I moved from CO to CA and
the process took a year to get approval for my daughter to come
with me. So, make sure to stick with your most solid points
about leaving, which may mean rearranging them a bit, see below:
1) If I go back now, there is a job waiting for me (teaching at
college) that will allow me to support my children. - This is #1
most important priority! If you start securing your basic needs
in Arizona then you will be able to show the court that you are
prepared to make the move and have thought of everything.
2) I cannot maintain the quality level of life if I live in this
area as a single mother, while I can live modestly in the best
school district in Arizona. - This is a very strong point for
your arguement and will help the court see that you are looking
out for your children's futures.
3) In Arizona there are many people who can mentally/physically
support me, while I don't know anyone here. - This is important
as well. It will show the court that you are isolated if you
stay here and are unlikely to make a go at life here in CA. You
need support as a single mother and the court knows that.
4) I need to be close to my son because otherwise he will forget
the second language which his father doesn't speak. - If this has
anything to do with the child you left behind, it is probably not
necessary to bring into the equation. You already chose to leave
your son in Arizona. Focus on getting home by telling them why
you need to protect the interests of your new child.
You should contact family court and/or an attorney for direction.
This is a legal matter that you should be very careful about
addressing. Make sure you carefully document dates and details
of incidents that have led to the separation and your desire to
return to Arizona.
Good luck to you and your children
My 7 year-old daughter's father and I were never married, so
when we broke up over 6 years ago, we never made a formal
custody arrangement. I worry that we could end up in hot
water without this legal agreement. Am I right? Can anyone
recommend a lawyer to advise me?
An ongoing agreement between you and you former partner is
legally binding, whether you were married or not, and whether
there is a court order or not. The courts recognize any
arrangement that parents agree to in terms of visitation. You
should, however, submit the current agreement to family court and
make it an official court order. It is not true that there needs
to be a ''battle'' in order for the courts to assist in helping you
make it official. If you and you partner are in agreement you
should be able to do it fairly painlessly. Any lawyer or
paralegal can fill out the appropriate paperwork for you. If you
are in disagreement, the courts will recognize and create a court
order which is similar to what you are already doing - Disrupting
the lives of children is something they avoid if they can. Please
make it official one way or another. Court orders provide a lot
of piece of mind and help prevent conflicts about visitation
I have a two and a half year old daughter. Her father and I
were never married and he has been in and out of my house since
she has been born. he left the house for the last time about
two months ago and is already engaged to be married to another
woman with three children. Needless to say I am extremeley
angry, hurt over the whole situation. Currently he sees my
daughter three times a week and it is usually at my house
though I have not been opposes to him taking her over to the
house he is currently living in (not the future wifes house).
Soon (within the next three months) he will be married and i
know that I will have to relinquish my daughter to him and
allow her to spend time with her father and his new wife. We
have chosen to not got to court as of yet. He pays me a
reasonable sum of child support and the visitation arrangement
has worked for both of our schedules. However, now he is taking
her out in a car and won't answer the phone when I call and my
daughter is with him. He is an alcoholic and I am extremely
uncomfortable with him driving my daughter around especially
when he will not answer his phone. I am scared to go to court
because I don't want a 50/50 split right now at this age and I
will probably get less child support.
I am hoping that someone who has had experience with a
situation like this can provide some insight. Would the court
automatically split 50/50? Would the fact that he has been in
rehab and arrested for alcohol related matters matter to the
court when deciding how much time he gets with her? If he does
get visitation with her at his new wifes house do I get to know
the address that my daughter is at? Is it better to just try to
settle it out of court? Since she has been at my residence
since she has been born does that give me a better chance to
get sole custody? I am not trying to keep my daughter's father
away from her. She loves him and he loves her. However, it is
my job to make sure she is safe. Any insight would be extremely
helpful and much appreciated.
I have never been
through a custody battle so I can't speak to that, and I'm very sorry
you're going through it. But what I can speak to is that you're right,
it is absolutely your responsibility to keep your daughter safe,
probably above all other responsibilities you have. If you seriously
think he is driving your daughter around drunk, you have to do whatever
you can to prevent her from ever getting in a car with him. Whatever it
takes. Job #1. I don't mean to be overly harsh here, but the fact that
you haven't already taken steps to get custody make me wonder if there
isn't another reason you're worried it won't be favorable towards you.
My partner's dad was an alcoholic who drove her around drunk all the
time. She remembers it well, and she was terrified each time.
To the point that she would fall asleep on the 5 minute drive home from
school. (After the stop to pick up the Jack Daniels each day, that is).
She realized as an adult that falling asleep was her only way of coping.
I don't want your daughter to end up coping like this. Or worse.
this is serious
I am so sorry for your situation, it sounds really painful. I do think
you should get legal advice and probably a court order. I understand
that you are open to sharing custody, and I'm not suggesting otherwise,
but you absolutely do need to be able to get in touch with your Ex at
any time your daughter is with him.
And absolutely you should know where she is staying when she is not
with you. I also think that if you have real concerns about your Ex
driving her around that is another thing that you might need to have a
judge put some restrictions on. I can understand not wanting to ''make
a fuss'' and keep it simple, etc. but I think the safest thing for your
daughter and yourself is having some very clear guidelines with
consequences if your Ex does not follow them. Good luck and again I'm
sorry you have to deal with this.
The most important thing is for you to maintain a healthy parenting
relationship with your ex for the health and happiness of your child.
It sounds like you are off to a good start; don't let his new
relationship interfere with that. If he has a record of alcoholism,
which it sounds like he does, a court would probably order him not to
drink within a certain period of time before and during visits. You
might ask him to agree to this informally (if you can trust him). A
court would also allow you to know the address of the home where
visitation is taking place. Keep your head level and hopefully you can
get this information without going to court.
I am currently pregnant. It seems that my partner, whom I live with,
and I will not be able to work things out. He has threaten me about
custody in the past. Can I begin to file custody now? If not, when
can I begin the process? What would I need to be able to get full
custody? He has an 8 year old son and has 1/2 custody to, but owes
tons of child support. He has a couple DUIs, hasn't had a steady job
in years, goes to school fulltime now, and is emotionally abusive to
me. So far, I've carried all the financial responsibility of this
pregnancy. What type of proof would I need to win my case?
Your ex isn't going to provide child support no matter what you do. If
he isn't already paying for his other child, you're not going to get a
dime out of him. I've been there, and the DA can't collect on what
someone doesn't have...
Here's my suggestion: DON'T put the father on the birth certificate,
just leave it blank.
If you give him an inch in the custody battle, it sounds like he'll
a mile, most likely. Don't give him the option. It sounds like he has
problems, and trying to get custody, prove paternity, etc. would be
costly and time consuming. If he can't get his S*** together enough to
drive sober, can't keep a job, and is otherwise unhelpful, what are the
chances he'll even attempt to fight you, esp. if you leave him off the
A lot of kids grow up without fathers, and frankly, it hurts worse to
have a negligent, problematic dad who can' keep it together than it
to never have known your father from the beginning. This guy doesn't
sound like great dad material anyway, but you haven't described his
relationship with his other child.
There are few judges who would grant custody to a guy with DUIs on his
record, who can't maintain a job, and is unstable. Esp.
since it sounds like you're stable and reliable.
I bet you'll do a great job with your happy baby all by yourself!
-- Fed up with deadbeat loser dads
Yes, start a case right away. You may absolutely begin a case while
pregnant. You will need to file an Order to Show Cause to Family Court
services. Have official doccumentation for the DUI and anything else.
Money issue will be dealt with in your case, but money does not play an
role in custody other than the amount you will get for child support is
related to the percent of custody you have. Also, absoluley breastfeed
your infant, and breastfeed as long as you can. Get all of the support
you need to breastfeed successfully because it can be hard to do at
first. I say this because the courts recognize breastfeeding as
beneficial and will favor you in custody and visitation matters.
Besides, it's the best thing to do for your baby.
Dear wise advice givers-
I am a single mom of a 3 year old. Her father is present in her
life, seeing her once or so a week and heavily agitating for more
time with her. Our agreement when I got pregnant was that he
would see her 1-2 days a week and that we would not get the
courts involved in our custody disputes.
However I've become increasingly concerned that he may someday
take me to court. So my question is what can i do legally now? Is
there something we can draw up with a lawyer saying he agrees not
to sue me and that he effectively terminates his custody rights?
Would this be binding in court?
Thank-you so much.
P.S. There are many extenuating circumstances as to why I want to
do this, so I would appreciate not recieving posts about how I
should allow him more visitation.
The courts tend to honor whatever agreements parents come to on their
own, and real custody battles are rare. When there is custody mediation,
the recommendations will more often than not reflect the reality that
currently exists. A very involved father will be given more visit time
than a marginally involved father.
Family Court Services, rightfully so, do not like to seriously disrupt
that which is familiar to a child, especially a young child. With that
said, terminating the parental rights of one parent never happens unless
that parent does not want anything to do with the child. You seem to
suggest that this is not the case.
You may not get exactly what you want if you ask Family Court Services
to help you mediate an agreement, but you will have an official court
order and the peace of mind that comes with it.
Child custody and visitation cases are considered always open cases.
There is no such thing as permanently settling things unless neither one
of you has any interest in doing so. Your child's father will always
have the right to request the modification of the orders, and you will
also. In my experience, living without a court order can be scary and
unpredictable. If the father agrees to things, that agreement becomes
the court order. You don't need a lawyer to turn an agreement into a
court order, in fact I advise against getting one. They are expensive
and tend to view child custody and visitation issues advisarially. You
may submit an ''Order to Show Cause'' petition directly to Family Court
Services. If you agree to everthing, this agreement will slide through
the system fairly smoothly and become a court order. If you do not agree
you will meet with a custody mediator who will recommend a specific
parenting plan which is considered in the best interest of the child.
This process is not the same as a custody battle, although depending on
your situation, it can feel like one. You will also get child support
out of this process. In California, parents most always share 50/50
legal custody unless there is a really good reason (like incarceration).
Physical custody orders vary depending upon the parenting plan.
Were your ex given advice as to what to do as he gears up to file for
custody, one thing he would be told is to establish precedent by having
the child with him more often. (Precedent can be a big factor in a court
where the decision makers know very little about you both personally.)
Maybe this is his motivation, or maybe he just feels ready to take the
child more often. Don't know. You do. If the father does pose a threat
to you or your family unit, then yes, I would 1. Be very careful about
what precedent you allow to be set. 2. Get help from a legal aid type
agency and file for custody. This is legally very important for many
reasons, in addition to whatever concerns you have about the father. 3.
File first. Courts also seem to take that into consideration -- who is
listed as the plantiff and who the defendant. 4. Because filing first is
important, do not make it a point to tell him you plan to file, because
if he is recieving advice as well, he will also be told to file first.
(The court system, by its inherent impersonal nature, unfortunately has
aspects to it that sometimes seem more like a game than serious
decisions for real families. Problematic system, but one you must work
within.)My experience with this issue is from another state, so please,
do seek legal counsel.
From what you are saying it doesn't sound like your child's father would
sign the agreement not to sue. There is a Nolo Press book about Custody
that has custody agreements in it. It might be worth checking out, and
consulting a lawyer is probably a smart move. Parental rights are
heavily guarded by the courts. (I think too much.) People can always
sue each other.
If you are deciding not to take him to court for full physical and legal
custody (which is hard to get)take lots of notes.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to control his access, document as
much as possible. There are definately situations when limiting access
to a parent is the best move.
sole custodial parent
My partner and I, who were never married and have children
together, are separating soon. The separation will be more
or less amicable and we have the best interests of the
children at heart, but I would like ''legally-recognized'' child
support and custody arrangements to avoid future
problems. If we can work out the arrangements between
ourselves, do we still need to go through the court system?
Does that mean we have to file papers to the court? Or are
signed agreements legal documents without being
submitted to the court? How does one make written
agreements ''legal''? I did get the child custody book from
Nolo, but it doesn't say what to do with the parenting
agreements and it has very little information on child
support. I'm really at a loss as to how to progress.
Also I desperately need advice on how to emotionally
support and prepare very young children (under 3 years old)
for separation. Can you recommend any children's (or
adults') books? What are some things to pay special
attention to for children of this age? Any words of
experience would be very much appreciated.
I happen to be going through the exact same process as you
except I never had a true relationship with the father of my 9
month old. I'm in Contra Costa County and I've been doing a lot
of research on the topics of custody and visitation and child
support and the effects of separation/divorce on children. Here
are some good resources...
Unmarried Parents Rights by Jacqueline Stanley
I found this at the law library as well as online on eBooks
The Visitation Handbook by Brette Sember
and Clinician's Guide to Child Custody by Marc Ackerman
The process of making everything formal, the way I understand
it, is in order for the courts to recognize and enforce the
parenting agreement and the child support, paternity needs to
established and recorded in the courts then a case number is
assigned. If you and your ex have been able to work together to
make a parenting plan, the child custody and visitation part can
all be included in the forms you turn in and the case never
needs to go to a hearing if everyone is in agreement already. If
you're not in agreement, then the papers still need to be filed
to open the case and mediation must occur to come to an
agreement before going before a judge for the hearing. As far
as child support, California has guidelines and a formula that
calculates the exact amount recommended for the support payments
based on your income and expense information that both of you
You can do all this paperwork on your own without a laywer if
you want (and if I could afford it, I would rather have the
lawyer, but I can't so I'm not)and I found the Law Facilitators
Office at the Court House is extremely helpful for paternity and
child support actions...and it's free!!
Laws are no different regarding child support if you are married
or unmarried. YOu should check out some of the books on step
parenting and co parenting and work out a schedule that works
for you, and determine which things are issues that need to be
resolved in writing. And it would be worth the few hundred
dollars it will cost you to consult with an attorney and ask
what they think of it and whether it will hold up in court.
Simple is probably better, and if you are communicating well,
and remain amicable (and that means nobody trying to take
advantage of the other!!), you will probably be able to work out
the details and will be able to revisit it after you realize
what's working or not, or in relation to changes you'll have in
your lives. As for the amounts of child support, there is a
formula, which is probably in the Nolo book, or you can ask an
attorney (who may not want to share the info with you, since
they usually plug numbers into a program. Factors are how much
time (particularly overnight) in each household, and salaries
and whether there are other kids to support. The distribution
is hugely disproportionate if, say, one person has the child 60%
time and the other 40% time.
Just wondering how people and kids are faring with a 50/50
custody split with children. I really need to get a divorce,
but I am terrified of not being with my kid (7yrs old) every
day. The divorce is not likely to be amicable. Things at home
now are not hostile, but I am very unhappy. Thanks.
My heart goes out to you -- I'm in the middle of a custody
battle. My husband has many issues and just can't be a husband
and provider and father. Anyway, he blames all on me and I
ended up taking lots of abuse because I feared what you feared -
- not seeing the kids every day.
All I can say is that your fears are real and many women live
day to day with abusive or unstable men because the fathers at
least in California routinely get 50/50 custody. I know
I went to a state mandated mediator who didn't read my
statement and spent a half an hour ''interviewing'' us. She
recommended 50/50 and nesting.
Nesting means the kids stay in the house and parents go back
What a wake up call! I'm penalized for working -- supporting
the family when husband wouldn't work and my lawyer said to
me ''You wanted liberation''.
So even though women earn less -- and should get a higher
percentage of the assets -- we don't. We only get 50% -- we
should get 60% to compensate for lower earning potential.
Women are told 50/50 is better for the kids -- but the verdict
is still out -- and women feel really awful when they don't
have access to the kids.
So my thought is to find a creative way to see the kids every
day. The one week on and one week off and nesting is bad
Stay away from court -- and the State mediators -- they are
hopeless -- overworked and undereducated and frankly, they
Giving birth, breast-feeding, emotional support, planning all
the things mothers do should count. But they get short
shrift. My husband is suddenly scheduling dental and medical
appointments and signing up for field trips in order to get
Know what you want -- to see your kids every day. and try to
No one wants to be without their children everyday but that's
one of the give and takes of divorce and the hardest thing for
me to deal with. I justified it to myself by reminding me that I
wasn't the kids only parent. And they need to build a
relationship with him as well as me. After 6 years, we have it
down. In the times that your child is away, take a fun class,
get together with friends, or do something that you absolutely
can not do with kids. You will soon start cherishing that
time. I do! I still see them almost everyday and/or we talk
because I take them to school but I need to have some time for
me to be a good mom to them.
Joint Custody Mom
My husband has shared 50/50 custody of a now-teenager! , for seven
years now. While not ideal (what could be?), we have not been
able to imagine an arrangement that would better balance
everyone's interests. Based on our experience, important factors
to making 50/50 ''work'' are:
* Rotate approximately every week (with flexibility for parents'
travel schedules or special events), from Monday-after-school to
* Child is encouraged to maintain daily phone contact with the
other parent (evening phone calls to discuss the day, say
goodnight, etc.). If you can afford it, get a separate phone line
for the child so that you don't have to answer the other parent's
calls to the child;
* Both households are within a few miles of each other (so no
huge discrepancies in proximity to school or friends);
* Child has comparable physical settings (own room with
appropriate furnishings) and roughly equal personal belongings
(books, toys, clothes, etc.) at each household;
* Each household sets its own routines, rules, etc., that are
conveyed to the child consistently and non-judgmentally (without
reference to the other household), with some sensible
consistencies between household (e.g., expectations for getting
homework done; what time for lights out/bedtime);
* Each household takes responsibility for taking the child to
whatever appointments (medical, dental, activities, lessons) that
happen to fall on the calendar;
* Each household (and the child) avoids making appointments that
fall on the other parent's watch without first consulting and
getting agreement from the other parent;
* The usual wisdom about minimizing overt conflict between the
parents within the child's view/hearing and NEVER overtly
criticizing the other parent to the child.
Hope you find this helpful. Taking these steps can never be easy
but it can work out over time. Good luck.
''The divorce is not likely to be amicable....but I'm very
unhappy..'' I could have written your e-mail nine years ago. I
now share 50/50 custody of my children with their father. First,
I want to send you support at a time that I remember as one of
the most difficult in my life, and to let you know that, even
though things were very hard on many levels, for several years
afterwards, it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I
have ever made, both for myself, and for my children. It is
still hard to say goodbye to them, each time they go to their
father, but, after time a rhythm develops that everyone begins
to feel normal about. The kids by the way, are doing
The best advice I can offer you about arranging for 50/50
custody, is: First, make sure that you have your own lawyer.
This would be true I think even if things were more amicable.
It's not about being combative, its about having someone more
neutralized than you are, looking out for your interests, and,
if he or she is good, letting you know what your limits are.
Some people suggest mediators, and there are good ones out
there, but in my experience a mediator will work only when there
is basic good will on the part of both parties to work together.
If the separation is difficult, or combative, all the anger can
easily spill into and muddle a mediative process. HOwever, it
was only my experience that mediation absolutely did not work -
others might have very different experiences to relate. Second,
work hard to write up as detailed a parenting agreement as you
can. I made the mistake of leaving too much open, and paying for
it later. THe few things we did specify in our marriage
settlement agreement get worked out fairly straightforwardly,
because the terms are clearly laid out. The things wedidn't
write up, we have to deal with, and we often end up resorting to
the patterns we used when married - not good for us, the kids,
or the issues. There are some good books on co-parenting: The
classic is Isolina Ricchi's ''Mom's HOuse/Dad's HOuse. Another
one that I found accessible and helpful, was ''The Co-Parenting
Survival Guide'', by Jefferey Zimmerman and Elizabeth Thayer.
Many good wishes to you.
Please sit down and think carefully about why you want a divorce,
whether you have any alternatives, and what you want your life to
be like. Be prepared to share custody with your ex 50/50; this
means you will have your child only half the time. Many people
can tolerate this, and getting out of a bad marriage can be worth
the pain of separation from your child , but it can be a
heartbreaking experience for all involved. I reccoment a NOLO
Press book on child custody to get an idea of what is involved.
I shared 50-50 custody with my ex throughout elementary school and
high school. Their dad and I did not have a friendly relationship
with each other, and we still don't, but we were able to work things
out between us so that tensions for the kids were minimized. We did
not use a lawyer or the courts system, we worked it out ourselves.
In retrospect I think that in some ways our 50-50 arrangement was not
as beneficial for the kids as it would have been had I had a bigger
share. I had a more flexible schedule, and I'm more organized.
Doctor appointments were forgotten, homework didn't get done, and
as they got older, our wonderful but very unambitious little slackers
learned how to work the system -- their dad and I were both told
that the big project was being worked on at the other parent's house
when actually it was nonexistent, that sort of thing. But still,
we really had to have a 50-50 deal because he missed the kids
just as much as I did. We both wanted to see them all the time, not
just half the time, so in a way, neither of us could ever be satisfied
with any custody plan. A 50-50 split was as close as we could get.
My kids were pretty miserable being stuck full time with 2 parents
who fought all the time, so half time with happier parents was much
better, even if not perfect. Don't worry - you and the children will
get through this and it will be fine. Just keep the big picture
in mind and don't get too caught up in the details.
I didn't respond to the first request for advice on this issue;
however, I see that only parents in a custody situation offered
advice, and I think you should hear a childs perspective as well.
My parents divorced when I was four years old (more than twenty
years ago). In order to avoid court, my parents arranged a 50/50
custody arrangement where I spent alternating weeks at each
parents home until I was 12 years old. It was absolutely
miserable. I have vivid memories to this day of screaming and
crying because I didn't want to leave my mom. My father was a
good father, but it was incredibly traumitizing for me to have to
leave my mother for a week at a time as a little girl. In
retrospect, I wish that I had lived with my mother, and that they
would have arranged some sort of visitation agreement. Even
though I had my own room at each house, niether house really felt
like home. Heed your instincts, and fight for what you feel is
the best situation for your children. I wish my mom had.
This is the painful reality of many parents - how to divide the
time each parents spends with a child. In my opinion (and that's
all that it is) small children should never be shuffled back and
forth between two houses. Small children should spend the
majority of their time in a stable place (one of the partents)
with regular visits (some overnights)with the other parent. I
know that in many cases, this is not possible because of
mediator recomendations or court outcomes. When you absolutely
know that your child is better off staying with you most of the
week, fight for it. I would try to find a very hard-core lawyer
that will try to go for full physical custody and joint legal
custody. I divorced when my son was almost two. His father
wanted joint custody when he left most of the childrearing to
me - I postponed my career and took care of him full-time. He
also traveled extensively so I knew it would be in the best
interest of my son to have just one stable home. Our mediator
suggested 50/50 but I got full physical custody in the end. I
have a very good relationship with my son's father. My son
continues to spend more time with his dad as he matures (he
spends most of the summer vacation with his father as well as
every school vacation). Now that he is 9, he would benefit from
a 50/50 time with his dad, but his dad moved away so it is no
longer a possibility. Would I have done what I did if I had a
chance to do it over, absolutely. I have many friends with
children in a 50/50 situation that wished they would have fought
I responded to the original Advice-Seeker and discussed our 'best
practices' experiences for making 50/50 custody arrangements work
as well as possible. In response to several concerns expressed
this week, I want to make two underlying considerations -- the
age of the child, and the parenting history of each parent to the
child -- explicit, rather than implicit.
I agree that sharing physical custody on a frequent schedule
(such as every other week) is often not best for very young
children -- younger than age 7 or 8 -- whose sense of security
may be better served by a stable primary-home environment
(especially if it is the same home as pre-divorce). As kids get
older, they're more resilient and more apt to willingly meet the
challenges of going between two homes.
Secondly, 50/50 custody (or close to it) works best when both
parents have already well-established patterns of active
involvement in all (or most) aspects of caretaking: feeding,
dressing, bedtime routines, chauffeuring, homework supervision,
reading and playing together, chatting, cuddling, etc. If one
parent has not been actively involved in caretaking activities,
he or she needs to accelerate the learning curve -- and track
record -- very quickly if the child is not to suffer even
unintentional neglect. Not to say that parenting is ever strictly
''equal'' in all senses, but the basics should be fairly consistent
between both homes. For some parents, that might be very
difficult to do; for many parents, not so hard.
Again, good luck to all in this boat.
I am concerned to see how many people recommend ''fighting'' for
full custody of children in a shared custody situation. I agree
that shared custody is incredibly painful, for parents and
children (and yes most parents try to put the needs of their
children first), but the fact is in this day and age, the courts
will seldom give significantly more custody to one parent without
a strong reason--in my opinion, a long, expensive, drawn-out
bitter custody battle is more harmful to a child than an
arrangement that lets children have significant relationships
with both parents. When custody is mediated, you at least retain
some control--when you give the power to a court, you may find
that you get less than you had to begin with. All the divorce
research I have read emphasizes that reducing conflict between
parents is themost important thing divorcing parents can do to
limit the damage to the children.
I miss my son terribly when he is not with me,and would have
preferred to not divorce in the first place, but I am convinced
that a long court battle would have been much more painful, and
at a greater emotional and financial cost to us all.
Good luck to all of us.
I have a question for those of you who divorced in California.
Both my book on divorce, and an expensive lawyer I consulted,
say that California law strongly favour splitting property, and
children, in half (yes, this is how I feel about 'joint custody'
of a small child).
My divorce is amicable. My husband and I want our toddler to
live with me, and want me to keep the money I saved while
working during our marriage, to use for emergencies when I am in
between jobs (he does not have much savings of his own, he has
been working only recently)...
The house is mine since my husband signed a grant deed to me
when I bought it, because he did not want to get stuck with
paying the mortgage.
My husband is much younger than me, and is very involved with
his new girlfriend. He is going back to school full time and I
don't know how much child support he will be able to pay. He
wants to visit his child but does not want the responsibility
to raise him.
My questions are:
Based on your experience, is the judge likely to disregard our
Marital Settlement Agreement and force us to divide house or
Will the judge push for joint custody, and refuse to accept a
vague visitation schedule that says 'father will visit child one
day a week, and more often upon request', without specifying
Thank you for your help.
I'm not sure if things have changed, but when I was divorced 10
years ago there was no problem whatsoever having the judge sign
the agreement we had come up with (we both used lawyers) which
allowed me full physical custody with a set amount of time the
children would spend with their father (which we modified
according to the children's wishes as they got older). In
addition, I kept the house while he kept other assets. We were
able to make a settlement that we felt worked best for our
children (i.e. them in our home with me) with no problems. It
seems to me that an expensive lawyer should certainly be able to
let you know whether a mutually agreeable settlement would be
acceptable to the court.
It is highly unlikely that a judge will force joint custody down
the throats of parents who have amicably reached a different
arrangement. A judge cannot force someone to visit his child,
although he or she can compel a person to support the child
financially. It is likewise unlikely that a judge would insist
upon giving property to someone who has said he doesn't want
it. Judges are called upon to resolve disputes, not to unravel
amicable agreements. Your message seems quite fearful of the
family law system, and given your description of your
circumstances, such fear seems unjustified.
My mother is a mediator for a community service in another
county. They do a fair number of low or no cost mediations for
custody/visitation/child support issues. From what I gather,
doing your own agreement without either both sides having
attorneys or having a neutral knowledgable mediator present is a
bad idea --mostly because you need some professional oversight.
After all, you're crafting a document that a judge (a
lawyer) needs to be happy with AND that needs to include
provisions to ensure flexibility down the road. I have to think
the judge is most likely to accept your plan if you can show
that it was mutually arrived at and contains all the basic
elements he/she expects.
Berkeley has a mediation center, and I am sure that they can
recommend someone if they don't provide this service themselves.
It will probably cost something --but not as much as two lawyers.
I'm surprised your expensive lawyer didn't tell you the court
will enforce what you agree on (if it's reasonable, and the
arrangement you mention certainly sounds like it is). If you
both wanted exclusive custody for yourselves, the court would
probably favor an even split. But if you both agree you should
have primary custody and your husband is entitled to visitation
one day a week, it's my non-expert opinion the court will
approve that. Maybe what your lawyer wanted you to do was to
come up with a more concrete plan, other than saying ''more if he
wants it?'' people do change their minds, and if your husband
breaks up with his girlfriend he could decide something
completely different. Anyway, generally the courts do not force
on parents arrangements that neither of them want.
To the father look for an attorney. If you haven't done so, try
contacting the California Bar Association. They have a lawyer
referral service and can refer you to someone experienced in your area
of needs/concerns. I do believe that things are changing with regards
to child support, etc. In fact I know of two physicians whose custody
arrangement calls for the female to pay child support to the male who
has custody of the child. Good luck.
To the father asking about a custody/child support attorney. The courts use
a formula to decide child support, factoring in the time spent with both
parents and the income of both parents. It doesn't matter which parent has
the higher salary (or spends more time with the kids) - the formula is not
based on gender and does not "use" gender as a factor. If you end up with
the kids more, and make less money, your ex-wife will have to pay you child
support. (she may even have to pay child support if she has them more; it
totally depends on how the formula comes out). It's a standardized formula.
I would highly recommend getting the Nolo Press book "How to Raise and Lower
Child Support in Calif." - it goes over the basics of the whole
support/custody issues. You can crank the formula yourself by hand, or you
can use software (IIRC this is from the "other" Nolo?? - I believe the info.
for the software is in the book I mentioned above). The courts are
concerned with the best interests of the children. They are just as hard on
a "deadbeat mom" as deadbeat dad.
These of course are my *opinions* I am not an attorney, just a single
parent. Good luck!
this page was last updated: Sep 7, 2009
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