Home > divorce modification, family law general, paternity/child custody > Child Custody: Epilogue–Part IV

Child Custody: Epilogue–Part IV

*Note:  While this particular post is referencing the Utah Code, the general idea is going to apply in every state, in every case, with every family.  Consider this Damn Good Legal Information, regardless of the state you live in.

I quite recently read a counterclaim in a divorce action I’m working on wherein opposing counsel included the following:  He requested an “equitable distribution of child custody and visitation.”

Divorce is hard enough for kids. . .

I’m going to say this really, really slowly, and very very clearly, so all the kids, even the ones waaay in the back can hear me:  CHILDREN. ARE. NOT. PROPERTY.  YOU. DO. NOT. EQUITABLY. OR. OTHERWISE. DISTRIBUTE. THEM.

There is a myth in divorce-land that there is a Winner in a divorce action. (“Oh, you work in family law?  How often do you win?”)  No one is a “winner” in a divorce.  The goal is to prevent too much Loss.  Stop the bleeding, so to speak.  Do damage control.  And most importantly, prevent the children of the parties from being the Big Losers.

Most divorces involve one parent being the primary, or sole, physical custodian of the child(ren), and the other being “awarded” parent-time (these are Fuzzy, Happy, Feel-Good words courts like to see in divorce documents–“awarded” and “parent-time.”)  Child custody determinations, in cases that go to trial, are based on the best interest of the children involved.  There is a whole list of factors for the court to consider in determining best interest.  In Utah, this is located at a couple of different statutes, U.C.A. § 30-3-10, and § 30-3-10.2.  I’ll let you read through the full list on your own. What it really boils down to is this:  Which parent is going to be able to provide the child(ren) with the most stability and continuity?  Which parent is going to be able to foster a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent, and keep the child physically and emotionally healthy?

. . .don’t make it harder for them by putting them in THIS No-Win situtation.

Often child custody is awarded to the parent who was the primary caregiver–the one who was most commonly taking care of the day to day needs of the child(ren).

So here’s the part where you need to do a Reality Check, and figure out why it is you want custody of your kid(s).  In no particular order, Really Bad Reasons to Petition For Custody in Your Divorce:

1) You don’t want to pay child support.  Seriously?  These are your kids.  You’re seriously going to be that petty?  Next.

2) You want your spouse to have to pay you child support. This is related to both #1 and #3, below.  If you don’t really want custody, but want it on paper that your ex has to pay your money every month, you need to wake up and recognize the misery and havoc you’ll be wreaking on your child’s life.

3) You want to control your ex.  Don’t pretend that’s not what you’re trying to do when you’ve only really seen the kids an hour a day for their entire lives because you’re a “workaholic” and can’t be bothered.  See #1.

4) The one who gets custody of the kids wins. See above.  There will be no winners, only varying degrees of losing.  And again, YOUR. KIDS. ARE. NOT. PROPERTY.

5) Your lawyer thinks you should. If you don’t think you should, and a lawyer is pressuring you to, fire the damn lawyer.  These are your kids, not the lawyer’s, and these are your consequences, not his.  Do what is right for YOUR family, not for your lawyer’s increased fee earnings that result from going to trial on this issue. (NOTE:  If you’re pansy-ing out on going for custody because your spouse is making you miserable, but you have been the primary caregiver and the spouse is a controlling jackass, listen to the lawyer.  Be Brave.  See Part III of the Child Custody discussion on this blog.)

Child custody is not Tug-o-War. Be a grown up.

If you’re wanting custody for any of these reasons, or for any other equally poor reasons that have more to do with you being a selfish, short-sighted prick, and less about the best interest of your child, put on your Big Girl Panties and Grow Up.  You will not do yourself or your kids any favors by being a jerk in relation to child custody.  You know who has done the kid-tending in your household, and you know who hasn’t.  Acknowledge it.  Get some counseling if you need to.  Do the right thing for your kids.  Child custody is not about you–It’s about trying to keep your kids from being the Big Losers in your divorce.

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