Tag: divorced parents

Who do you pick between a present father and an absentee mother?

Who do you pick, your father who has been there your whole life or your mother who was never there until now and wants custody of you? 

Assuming that 1) custody of you must be awarded to one parent or the other; and 2) your father didn’t obtain/exercise custody over you by withholding shared custody from your mother (because your mother was an absentee parent by choice), the answer is obvious: your father. 

Why? At the very least, he’s proven to be the consistent, dependable parent. 

As much as you may ache for your mother’s love, her track record shows that odds are she’s a bad bet as a custodial parent. Odds are she’ll break your heart again, if you let her. 

But this does not appear to be a zero-sum kind of problem. Why not have the court award custody to your father and then award your mother visitation with you on as liberal a basis as is safe and beneficial for you? 

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

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If each parent is fully capable, will the court still give full custody to mom?

If both parents are wonderful, will the court still lean towards full custody to the mother?

[Note: I am a divorce lawyer of 25 years. I am not bitter about “what happened to me in my divorce” as I am not divorced. I have no axe to grind with women or mothers (I love my mother, sisters, wife, and daughters dearly and without reservation). With these facts in mind, I answer your question as follows below.] 

Not exactly. But close. 

While the courts are finally starting to confront and slowly abolish discrimination against fathers when it comes to making the child custody and parent-time awards, the odds are still ludicrously in the mother’s favor when both parents are fit and loving parents. 

No question about it. The exceptions prove the rule. 

“All things being equal,” the mother is favored (yes, I know that’s illogical, but the courts find ways to justify or to appear to justify illogical thinking, especially in making child custody and parent-time awards). 

It’s grossly unfair to children and to fit, loving fathers alike, but it’s what courts frequently (more often than not) do. 

Now clearly there are times when, even though Dad’s a wonderful parent, circumstances (such as the parents living too far apart or having an unorthodox/inflexible work schedule) may render impractical or impracticable the exercise of joint equal physical custody and/or result in joint equal custody arrangements doing the children more harm than good. But far, far too often fit, loving fathers are denied joint equal custody by virtue of plain old sexual discrimination. 

What does “favoring the mother” (prejudicing the father) look like nowadays? Here are few of the most common situations: 

  • Rather than awarding joint equal physical custody to both parents, awarding “just a little more time” to Mom than to Dad. Case in point: I worked a case where both Mom and Dad had full-time jobs, but the court awarded Mom more time with the children than with Dad anyway (8 out of every 14 days on a 14-day repeating schedule—the trial court even stated that denying the kids and dad that one day every two weeks would enable dad to have more time to get his work done). This was the case where I reached my breaking point (about three years ago). To his credit, my client agreed to appeal (and pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege), and he won, with the appellate court ordering the trial court to award equal child custody and parent time. If you believe that happens in every case like his, you would be mistaken. 
  • Finding that, even in situations where the children are preteens or older, the mother was (past tense) the children’s primary caregiver when they were infants and toddlers, and therefore she always has that “advantage” over the father in the here and now. I have this case where mom had been working full-time for the past four years. The youngest of the couple’s children could take care of himself and did not need a full-time caregiver. Worse, mom worked outside the home full-time, while dad’s full-time job permitted him to work from home. At the temporary orders phase of the case, the court awarded mom primary physical custody of the kids because (and the court made no secret of the basis for its decision) she hadbeen (past tense) the per children’s primary caregiver. Dad Wasn’t even seeking sole or primary custody; he was seeking joint equal physical custody, but he lost. Such an outcome is ridiculous and tragic, but not surprising. 
  • Rejecting Dad’s claims that the mother is so lazy and that Dad not only works full-time each day outside the home, but then spends the rest of his time at home taking care the housekeeping and taking care of the kids as well. Why? Because (in my experience) in the minds of most judges it is unthinkable for a stay-at-home mother to be a lazy and inattentive parent (while at the same time it is easy for judges to believe—just believe—that a father doesn’t pull his weight when it comes to fulfilling child caregiving). 
  • Penalizing the father for being the only full-time employed (in many cases the only employed) parent and awarding sole or primary physical custody of the children to the mother because she doesn’t work outside the home. Never mind (apparently) the fact that if the parties share joint equal custody, that would enable both parents to provide as much personal care to the children as possible and also allow them to work full-time jobs for their children’s financial support. Nope. Now clever courts will “acknowledge” and “praise” Dad for being a responsible and devoted breadwinner, but won’t award joint equal custody, justifying the unequal award of child custody with assertions such as: 
    • Spending equal time in both parents’ Respective residences creates an “unstable” residential circumstance for the children. 
    • The fact that unemployed Mom spends more of the waking hours with the children than does Dad (until the children start school, in which case the amount of time mom spends with the kids during waking hours is negligible compared to the time the children are with Dad while he’s at work) means that dad should spend even less of the children’s waking hours with them when he gets home from work. Otherwise stated, because Dad can’t be with the kids during the eight or nine hours that he is at work each day, that means that he should not spend the hours that he does have available to be with the children when the children could be spending that time or “consistently” in the custody and care of their mother. If you don’t understand this reasoning the first time you read through it, you’re not alone. 
  • Courts will still indulge in blatantly discriminating against fathers: 
    • by citing to the “fact” that women/mothers are “born nurturers”; 
    • by citing to the “fact” that children are more closely bonded with, and thus need more time with, their mothers than with their fathers; 
    • by claiming “it’s not the quantity of time but the quality of time” that children spend with their fathers that matters most, failing to concede that the quality of the time is a function of the quantity of time when it comes to parent-child interactions. How did the term “Disneyland Dad” evolve? Not by assuming the responsibilities and “heavy lifting” parental duties of day to day living. No, but by spoiling the child when they have such disproportionately little time on alternating weekends and one weeknight. It creates a warped sense of the father-child relationship and of reality for the kids in general, leading to the kids becoming self-absorbed, worldly, and feeling entitled around their fathers. 

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

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How exactly does shared custody work? Does the child end up being like that kid from Jacqueline Wilson’s “The Suitcase Kid”?

How exactly does shared custody work? Does the child end up being like that kid from Jacqueline Wilson’s “The Suitcase Kid”?

The child certainly can be like the child (Andrea) from Jacqueline Wilson’s “The Suitcase Kid,” if under a shared parenting arrangement 1) the child divides his/her time living with both the father and mother and 2) each parent wants the child to live only with him/her and tries to persuade the child to do so.

But shared custody (also known as joint custody or—when the child spends equal time with both parents—joint equal or 50/50 custody) does not inexorably condemn the child to have a “Suitcase Kid” experience, as long as the parents place the happiness and mental and emotional health of the child above the parents’ respective self-interest. Treat your child the way you would want to be treated, were you in the child’s shoes!

It’s not popular these days to state what we all know: the best thing a fit parent can do for a child is to rear that child in a family in which that parent is married happily to the child’s other parent. Short of that, the next best thing a fit parent can do for a child is to ensure the child is reared as much as possible by both parents. Children of fit parents love both parents and want to be loved and cared for by both parents as much as possible (duh). Do it for them! They deserve it. It’s the least that divorced or separated parents can do for their children.

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

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Why is it so common for parents to become outright enemies after divorce?

Why is it so common for parents to become outright enemies after a divorce?

I have represented people in divorce who were pure as the driven snow, innocent as lambs, and treated miserably by their spouses, by law enforcement, by Child and Family Services, and by the courts. They were accused falsely. Their characters as parents were assassinated. Their children were withheld from them. Their own children grew to fear and hate them.

They didn’t deserve it. It was horribly unfair. It shattered their faith in the legal system. Yet even though the legal system didn’t just let them down, but victimized them, these people did not allow bitterness and resentment to ruin their lives. They realized it wouldn’t make anything any better but would, in fact, make things even worse. They didn’t act as though they weren’t hurt, even grievously wounded, but they acknowledged that letting the wound fester was pointless, even counterproductive. They resolved not only to move onward, but upward. It was (still is) difficult, but the right thing for them and for their children. They are happier. Their consciences are clear.

I have also represented people in divorce who were good, but they had flaws (some serious). Some of these people did foolish and reckless things. They caused significant, sometimes irreparable, damage to the relationships with their spouses and/or with their children. Sometimes they didn’t want to cause harm, but they let their selfishness and weaknesses get the better of them. They too were treated miserably by their spouses, law enforcement, child and family services, and the courts. They didn’t deserve the level of miserable treatment they got. But rather than acknowledge that they were part of the problem, they sought to shift the blame to anyone but themselves.

Rather than 1) taking responsibility for their part in the mess; 2) acknowledging that the past cannot be undone; and 3) resolving to repent and make the best of the future to ease and eventually heal the pain, they blame everyone and everything but themselves. And they vow to make everyone and everything pay. The easiest target of their anger is their ex, then their kids. That’s one of the main reasons why it is so common for parents to become outright enemies after a divorce.

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

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Who can claim the kids on income taxes when parents are separated?

Is it legal for a parent to claim kids on income taxes if the kids don’t see him or live with him and he doesn’t support them financially (parents are still married but separated for 6 years)?

The IRS has rules regarding who qualifies to claim children of a divorced couple or of unmarried separated parents.

See here:

Tax Information for Non-Custodial Parents

Divorced and Separated parents

About Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals

Publication 504 (2018), Divorced or Separated Individuals

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

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My ex told me I can’t post videos of our children on my social media. What can I do?

I’m a mother of 3. The father has custody and I have visits and overnights. The father told me not to post videos of our children on my social media, such as Facebook and YouTube. What can I do?

You want, of course, to ensure that you co-parent with the children’s father as best you can. And you want, of course, to protect your children.

As in a marriage, as well as in a divorce or where the parents were never married, the parents still have to work together to reach agreements on how their children are reared.

Whether you post photographs of your children on social media is an issue that arises between parents, both married and divorced. Some parents fear that showing photographs of their children on social media may expose them to risk of harm. Others feel that sharing mirror photographs and not intimate details of the children’s activities and schedules will likely do no harm.

At this point in time, I tend to side with parents who feel there’s nothing wrong with posting a few photographs of children on social media. Telling people exactly where and when and how the children go about their daily schedule it seemed prudent, but simply showing a few photographs on social media can’t harm anybody.

So I would make sure that I’m not posting too many details about my kids on social media, I’d make sure the photographs are the such that they aren’t placing the children at risk of being abducted or harmed in some way. I would also speak with the other parent to find out what he feels are appropriate limits and restrictions. another thing I would do is share photographs privately as opposed to publicly whenever appropriate.

If the children’s father tries to tell you that he can control whether you post a few innocent photographs of your children on social media, he is wrong. Well, I should say that he is wrong unless the court has ordered you previously not to post photographs of your children on social media. But unless you’re ordered not to post photos or videos, I wouldn’t let anyone try to dictate how when and where I post photographs on my social media account, as long as I do so responsibly.

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

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