Tag: abandon

If a parent disappears for five years, what are his/her chances of winning child custody?

If a parent disappears for five years, what are his/her chances of winning child custody? 

As long as 1) Dad’s story/situation isn’t worse than Mom’s, and 2) Dad’s not responsible for Mom being out of the picture for 5 years, then Mom’s chances (due to her child abandonment) are likely pretty slim, regardless of what state the child custody case is being contested.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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How do courts view mothers who abandon their family during a divorce?

How does the court view mothers that abandon their family during a divorce?

Generally, with disbelief, at first. Why? A few reasons.

One, to its credit, our culture still holds the concept and institution of motherhood in high esteem, so most people (and judges are people) believe that mothers are good, devoted caregivers. Most mothers are just that. So it is not easy to accept what our senses are conveying when a mother behaves contrary to our cultural expectations. We tend to see mothers as we want to see them, not as they always are.

Two, few bad mothers are honest with the court about being bad mothers. So the false face that most bad mothers present to the court is (primarily, but not solely, because of point number one) not only hard to detect as false, but easily accepted or acceptable as genuine.

  • One way bad mothers divert attention from their faults and misconduct is by blaming the fathers for those faults and misdeeds. Just as we tend to put mothers on a pedestal in our culture, we unfairly tend to see and treat many fathers as second-class parents. The feeling is like, “Yeah, they are important to a child’s upbringing, I guess, but they aren’t as vital and important to a child’s development as a mother, so we give dads less of the benefit of the doubt.” This is so wrong for so many reasons, but nevertheless it happens so often.
    • If kids are abused or neglected, bad mothers blame the guiltless fathers with a high rate of success in court. For example: violence perpetrated by men can be more severe than violence perpetrated by women, so if a child is a victim of domestic violence, it’s easy to assume Dad is the perpetrator (interestingly, FBI statistics show women commit just as much, if not more, domestic violence than men). If Dad has a full-time job, it’s easy to presume that Mom is the full-time caregiver, not a lazy slob who drinks herself numb every day and lets the kids run amok until Dad gets home to restore order and attend to the children’s need.

Three, even when a bad mother’s defects are unavoidably and undeniably exposed, many courts possess surprisingly great supplies of sympathy and forgiveness that they would rarely or not so readily extend to a father. It so often gets framed like this, for example: a mother who abuses drugs or alcohol is a victim whose substance abuse is a cry for help. A father who abuses drugs is a narcissist who lacks self-discipline. A mother with crippling mental health issues is deserving of our concern and rehabilitation. A father with crippling mental health issues is a danger against which the children need protection. I’ve personally witnessed many cases where mom was abusive and/or neglectful and dad was not, yet mom was awarded primary physical custody of the children because the court felt so strongly that the kids “need their mother,” that somehow mom had earned the right to be the custodial parent by virtue of being a woman, and that mom could and would overcome her shortcomings (not because there was credible evidence that she can and wanted to overcome those shortcomings, but because the court had to make such a finding to justify the award of custody to the worse of the two parents).

To be clear, I am not telling you that courts cannot identify bad mothers or that they cannot or will not shield children from bad mothers. Many people—moms and dads alike—when discovered for the mediocre, even dangerous, parents they are, are not awarded child custody and/or are subject to supervision around their children. It can and does happen. But that is not what discussed here. In response to the question of which parent among mothers and fathers gets undeserved breaks more in divorce cases, it is mothers hands down. Now you know some of the main reasons why.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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What is a motion to bifurcate a divorce in Utah? Why should I care to know?

What is a motion to bifurcate a divorce in Utah, and why should I care to know?

By Brian N. Godfrey, Legal Assistant

A motion to bifurcate to dissolve your marriage means that the court declares your marriage ended, but all the other remaining issues of your divorce action, such as child custody and division of marital assets and responsibility for marital debt remain to be resolved either by settlement or trial, if it comes to that.

Why would anyone want to dissolve the marriage first and leave the other issues to be resolved later? I’ll tell you why based upon my personal experience and the experience of others we’ve helped obtain a bifurcation.

I got a bifurcation in my divorce. My ex filed for divorce against me and I countersued her for divorce, so we both wanted to be divorced from each other, and the court knew that. In my motion to bifurcate I informed that court that my wife and I were separated a while and that I was ready to move on with my life as a single person again, without having any legal burdens and responsibilities of being married to a woman who didn’t want to be married to me either. People in that situation may want to start dating or maybe even have met someone new and want to get re-married. Luckily, my bifurcation was granted because my ex agreed with it. It’s hard to imagine how a bifurcation could harm anyone. Even if my ex-wife hadn’t wanted a bifurcation or didn’t care one way or the other, it was a relief to me. I’ve seen the same thing in the lives of our clients in the law office where I work.

A surprising number of people argue that a bifurcated divorce would “slow down the divorce case” although this is a patently ridiculous argument to make. “Why on earth would someone want to have a bifurcation and not just finish the entire thing all at once?” they say. I can think of many situations. In my own experience, getting out of my marriage was a real accomplishment that helped me know my divorce was moving forward, not stalling! It was a big and meaningful first step that encouraged me to continue efforts to finalize the rest of my divorce.

There is one good reason for opposing a bifurcation, but even that can be worked around. If you or your spouse receive medical or health insurance benefits due to your status as a spouse. Dissolving the marriage by bifurcation would strip you of your status as a spouse which would cause you to lose your insurance coverage. But unless you are someone who is hard to cover or cannot get affordable insurance on your own, bifurcation doesn’t mean you can never get replacement insurance. We’ve even worked around the insurance issue by having the party who requested the bifurcation offer to pay for his or her spouse’s new insurance coverage for a few months until new coverage is in place.

Claiming that a bifurcation will inevitably slow a divorce case down or unavoidably puts it at serious risk of slowing down or never being completed is bunk. And it’s obvious why: because if either spouse were to try to abandon the divorce case after bifurcation then the other spouse could pipe up to the court and complain and get the case moving. And if both you and your spouse were to try to abandon your divorce case after bifurcation the court can get the case moving.

So unless you know of a truly good reason against bifurcation that I don’t, it is impossible to convince me that a bifurcation that dissolves your marriage up front is “harmful” to anyone or “slows down the process” because for me, it did just the opposite.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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