Tag: men

Can I gain full custody if I’m bipolar?

I don’t want anything to do with my child’s father. Can I gain full custody if I’m bipolar? 

First, thank you for being so candid and blunt. This is a question that everyone on both sides of this issue have but that few have the guts to ask or have the guts to accept an equally blunt response. That stated, I will try to give you an answer in the same vein as your question: 

(Note: I cannot tell you whether there are any jurisdictions that treat bipolar disorder or other emotional or mental health conditions as absolute bars to consideration for legal or physical custody of children, but I can tell you what I know based upon the law of Utah, which is the jurisdiction where I’ve been practicing for the past 26 years) 

Now let’s talk about suffering from bipolar disorder. I’m amazed at the number of people who will say things to me like, “My child is autistic,” when the child has never been diagnosed by a competent mental health professional with autism. There are a lot of people will claim as fact that which they believe. This is often the case with personality disorders. I can’t tell you how many times people come to my office and say, “My wife has borderline personality disorder (BPD)” and “My husband is a narcissist and/or suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)” and “My spouse has bipolar disorder” without there ever being a diagnosis by a competent mental health professional. 

So, the first question we need to answer is whether you truly are bipolar or whether you and/or your spouse just believe you are.  

Next, if you are in fact bi-polar you need to determine whether your condition renders you dangerous to yourself and/or to others. By the way, this would be true of any serious mental health or serious personality disorder. If you are bipolar and or suffer other serious mental health problems, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are a danger to yourself or others. Many mental health and emotional disorders can be successfully treated with medication and/or counseling or therapy, so that someone with such a condition is no less fit as a parent than someone with a serious physical condition that is being successfully treated. 

Bottom line: merely suffering from bipolar disorder is not an absolute bar to being awarded sole or joint custody of a child. Without a showing that the bipolar disorder causes you to be a danger to yourself or to others (including your children, of course), evidence that you suffer from bipolar disorder (or other mental health or emotional disorders) is not enough to knock you out of the box. 

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

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True or false: Better to divorce than have a miserable life.

This blog post is in response to this question: 

I don’t think it’s bad to get a divorce. I think it’s more unhealthy to have miserable lives.

— Ginger Wynn.

What are your thoughts on this statement? 

This statement tries to express a valid point, but it does so in a logically confused way. 

The statement “I don’t think it’s bad to get a divorce. I think it’s more unhealthy to have miserable lives” falsely presumes that divorce will cure or prevent what makes a dysfunctional (or worse) marriage dysfunctional.  

Sometimes a marriage is so toxic and harmful as to require termination. In such cases divorce is not only justified, but necessary.  

Sometimes the trouble one or both spouses is suffering in a marriage can be remedied by divorce.  

Sometimes the trouble a marriage is causing one or both spouses can be remedied by divorce.  

But not always.  

Sometimes the solution is “mend it, don’t end it”; more often than you’d think the cure for dysfunction and discord in a marriage is staying married and working on improving the marriage, not destroying it.  

Far too often I see people divorce in the false belief that their spouses/their marriages are making them miserable only to learn, after the damage is done, that their spouses/their marriages are not the cause(s) of their troubles. They realize that divorcing only compounds their suffering. They consequently become even more miserable.  

So here is what I submit is a more accurate statement: It is not bad to get a divorce when you truly have no better alternative.  

Don’t divorce unless divorce you need to. Know that “mend it, don’t end it” is not the answer before you seek a divorce.  

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

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Why does paternity leave benefit everyone?

I’m not sure it does (and this comes from the father of four children himself). A little paternity leave would do no harm in most cases, but I’m not sure it confers any substantial or significant personal or societal benefits. 

Certainly I’m not against a father sharing the burdens and obligations and responsibilities of parenthood with the mother of the newborn child, particularly when the child is a newborn. 

But we’ve gone generations without paternity leave and no one ever wrung their hands over it as being a chronic or serious difficulty for families or for society at large. I see no evidence that a “lack” of paternity leave is or ever was a difficulty at all. 

With my children, I was not at home with them all day for 6 to 12 weeks after they were born, but I was with them every day, after I got home from work. There was a time when I would get home from my day job, and take care of the baby while my wife went to her job at night. My wife and I created such an arrangement so that our baby would not have to be in daycare. I don’t complain about being “denied” paternity leave, nor does my wife, nor do any of my children. Indeed, I have nothing to complain about. 

Fathers clearly do not need as much time off from work after their baby is born as many mothers may. I cannot identify any personal or societal need for paternity leave. Frankly, the concept of paternity leave equal to that of a mother’s maternity leave appears to me to be an effort: 

  • to make it appear that men are no different from women in the workplace;  


  • to find an excuse for getting time off. 

Some argue that by granting fathers paternity leave it helps to put fathers and mothers in the workplace on a more level playing field when it comes too staying employed and//or being promoted (the idea being that if a man takes off as much time off of work as a woman does when a baby is born, then men who have children are seen as no more of an asset to the employer woman and/or just as much of a “liability” to the employer as women who have children). That’s not true. If paternity leave is designed to prevent men from having an advantage over women in the workplace, all that paternity leave would do is encourage employers to hire people who never have children. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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What would happen if there were no alimony or splitting assets in divorce without kids?

That is an interesting question. Before I answer it, know this: anyone who is motivated to marry on a “what’s in it for me?” basis and who stays married motivated by a “what’s in it for me?” basis is likely to be unhappy in his/her marriage and likely will end up divorced. Marriage success and happiness depends upon the couple’s mutual devotion to each other, to the family they make together, and placing the interests of their marriage and family ahead of their own, individual self-interest.

Here is what I believe would happen if there were no more alimony or splitting of assets in divorce proceedings when a married couple has no children:

  • the desire for certain women to marry would plummet. Why? It’s politically incorrect to state the following, but it is no less true: many women (not all) marry so that their husbands (and now, in the case of lesbian couples, their wives) will provide for them (and only for them, not for children the couple may have) financially. If this kind of woman (i.e., a woman who relied on her spouse financially) knew that she would get no alimony upon divorce and wouldn’t get half of the funds the spouse saved and half of the retirement funds the spouse accrued during the marriage, there is a certain kind of woman who would not marry.
    • Do not misunderstand me: a woman (or man) who foregoes pursuing a career so that the couple can have children and rear a family together in the best possible conditions, with one parent staying home to care for the children instead of working outside the home, is a spouse who, if she/he has lived up to that commitment, deserves alimony if the marriage ends in divorce. The traditional family, i.e., where the children have a stay at home parent, is the optimal way to rear children who will be themselves physically and mental healthy, decent, productive adults. Some families cannot afford to have a parent stay at home. There is no shame in that. But when both spouses work even though they both don’t need to work, and where such spouses have children and warehouse those kids in daycare, they are doing themselves and their children a disservice that cannot be compensated for.
  • the desire for a percentage of heterosexual men to marry would increase. Many such men have seen their fellow male friends and family members financially ruined by alimony and by losing so much of what they worked so hard for in divorce. This causes many men to fear and avoid marriage to a woman out of concern that divorce will ruin them. Many husbands of childless couples who knew that their wives would not profit from divorce would not fear divorce nearly as much as they do now.
    • Do not misunderstand me: there are many men who are devoted to their wives and children. Their wives and family are a labor of love for whom them willingly and gladly sacrifice their time, effort, and income. There are many decent men, however, whose wives are not themselves decent people who are equally devoted to their husbands and families. Men who marry gold diggers are justifiably upset when the gold diggers try to profit from divorce.

Now if, after you read this answer in its entirety, you conclude that “marriage is for suckers,” you have missed the point completely.

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

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Does marital law really allow change of surnames?

Does marital law really allow change of surnames? Can a couple be legally married without change of last names?

While in the U.S.A. traditionally women would (and many still do) change their surnames (last names) to that of their husbands, no state requires a woman to change her surname to her husband’s.

Fun facts: 1) a husband can change his surname to his wife’s surname if he so chooses. 2) when you marry (whether you are a man or woman) you can change your surname to any surname you want; you can change your surname to your spouse’s surname or even change your surname to a new surname that is neither the spouse’s surname nor the surname you were born with.

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

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Unique challenges for men and women face in divorce and child custody

The unique challenges men and women face in divorce and child custody cases

What follows is my opinion, but my honest and sincere opinion born of experience over the past 23 years in the practice of divorce and family law. It is an educated opinion that nevertheless may, and likely will,  lead to my being disparaged and to me making some enemies, but if we don’t exercise the precious right of free speech by letting the heckler’s veto silence any of us, we have no one to blame but ourselves. And we all lose.

Men and Women, women and men can encounter—and more often than not do encounter—unique challenges in divorce and child custody cases. Some lawyers and judges and others in the legal system deny that there are cultural biases or prejudices ever affecting treatment of men and women, but that is just not true.

Mothers are awarded sole or primary custody of children in the overwhelming majority of cases, no matter how hard a father has worked and striven to prove he can make joint custody work.

Mothers are awarded sole or primary custody of children in the overwhelming majority of cases, even when the mother is less fit (I am not saying unfit, just less fit) than the father.

This is an undeniable bias against men, seeing and treating them, falsely and unfairly, as second-class parents.

Interestingly, it does not matter whether your judge is a man or a woman, the bias is cultural and institutional.

I will note that this bias is weaker now that it was in the past, and it is getting weaker, yet it is still surprisingly strong against men.

Another bias: modern women have a lot to say about being just as qualified as men are to do the same work and thus be paid the same amount of money, so the cognitive dissonance is unavoidable in a divorce case when the subject of alimony arises. These same strong independent women are the most helpless creatures in the world when it comes to claiming a desperate need for alimony, and quite often the courts buy it. Do not misunderstand me. There are clearly many women and even some men who are, through no fault of their own, financially dependent upon their spouses and who are clearly deserving of alimony and spousal support post-divorce. But men get the short end of the stick when it comes to alimony far more often than do women. While this bias is waning, it is still present and still undeniable.

Interestingly, it does not matter whether your judge is a man or a woman, the bias is cultural and institutional.

I will note that this bias is weaker now that it was in the past, and it is getting weaker, yet it is still surprisingly strong against men.

Another bias against men is revealed in the realm of domestic violence and the way the law treats it. If a man seeks police help or protection from a violent wife or girlfriend, he is often laughed at or humiliated for failing to man up and defend himself. If such a man is fool enough to take that kind of advice, he will find himself the one arrested for committing domestic violence. I have witnessed personally situations where the man is bloodied and bruised, and the wife complains that he pushed her down while she was beating him, and the police will arrest the man for “assaulting” the woman.

Courts are far more willing to believe claims of domestic violence made by wives and mothers against the men in their lives. This is not a matter of opinion; this is a matter of fact. Anyone can confirm this to be true by simply attending the protective order and restraining order and civil stalking injunction court hearings that are open to the public. While I will be the first to acknowledge that there are clearly genuine incidents of domestic violence that are reported and for which protective orders are issued, you can witness for yourself protective and restraining orders issued on literally nothing but one’s word over another’s. No objectively verifiable evidence to support the claims at all. And yet the protective orders and restraining orders get issued, nonetheless. And who gets these orders at least 9 out of 10 times? It is women. That does not square with that the statistics kept by law enforcement, which shows that wives and girlfriends are more violent towards men than 10% of the time.

I will note that this bias is weaker now that it was in the past, and it is getting weaker, yet it is still surprisingly strong against men.

What does this mean? It means that men often have to win the child custody, alimony, and domestic violence disputes six ways from Sunday. They generally need far, far more and far better evidence than the women to get the same things women get with less and lower-quality evidence.

So, guys, if your marriage is crumbling, and you happen to be married to a woman who is vindictive and or crazy, keep the foregoing in mind. And take the necessary steps to protect yourself. One of the ways that crazy vindictive women take advantage of men in divorce and child custody cases is accusing them of domestic violence as a cheap and incredibly rapid way to remove the man from the house and to keep him out. As I alluded to earlier, one of the most common ways this is done is by the woman calling the police claiming that the man has assaulted her, attempted to assault her, or threatened to assault her. Sometimes all they have to do is make no claims of assault, attempted assault, or threatened assault and merely claim that they “don’t feel safe around” the man they live with, without even providing any plausible basis for such an ostensible “fear”. To protect yourself from being arrested and forcibly removed from your house, from false allegations of domestic violence, and fraudulently sought protective orders, and character assassination, you may find the following the difference between defeat and victory:

First, unless your safety or life is truly in jeopardy by remaining in the same house with your vindictive and/or crazy wife or girlfriend, do not move out of the house. If you do, your vindictive and/or crazy wife or girlfriend will claim that you abandoned her and the children, as well as the house itself, meaning that you should be forever barred from living there, even though it’s your house, even if you can show the court that you have nowhere else you can go. After all, so the thinking goes, you abandoned the family and you abandoned the house, so you should be forever barred. Do not move out if you don’t have to.

Second, if your house is the kind that has a distinct upstairs and downstairs, move downstairs. Then put it in writing to your spouse and get it on audio and video too, if you can, showing that your vindictive and/or crazy wife or girlfriend is clearly on notice that you are trying to stay away from her for the purpose of maintaining the peace and protecting yourself. That way if she tries to claim that she does not understand why you have done what you have done, you have clear proof as to why and proof that she knew why.

Notify your crazy and/or vindictive wife or girlfriend that you will be placing locks on closets in the downstairs to protect your property from theft or vandalism by her. Do not lock her out of the basement itself, but do point out that you will have the downstairs wired for sound and video, so that if she ever goes down there with the purpose of robbing you or vandalizing your living quarters or property, she will be undeniably caught.

In your written and video recorded notices to your crazy and/or vindictive wife or girlfriend also inform her that you are placing cameras and microphones everywhere throughout the basement in every room and every space to ensure that your movements and hers in the basement are tracked. Tell her she has no expectation of privacy anywhere in the basement. Post it in writing on the basement door and on the wall on the stairs leading downstairs. Post it on the bathroom door. Inform her that you have taken both photographic and video footage of the cameras and microphones and the written notices, so that if she tries to claim you violated her privacy downstairs, or if she tries to remove or damage them, there will be no way she can remove them at least one camera and microphone capturing her misconduct and making a record of it. You may even want to go so far as to buy one of those wearable cameras and microphone combinations on your person at all times when you are in the house with your crazy and/or vindictive wife or girlfriend, so that they don’t get any ideas about trying to pick fights and frame you for a fraudulent claim of domestic violence.

Again, this may seem extreme and over-the-top, but I have seen what happens to men who fail to protect themselves adequately. I’ve also seen men avoid being so much as charged with a crime, let alone convicted, because they — as soon as they got an inkling that their wives or girlfriends might be up to no good — took steps to document and secure and protect themselves.

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

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What are the dirty tricks your spouse can do to attack you during a divorce?

What are the dirty tricks your spouse and his/her lawyer can do to attack you during a divorce?

Understand that while the tone of this answer to your question is a little—a little—tongue in cheek, it’s still true.

Dirty tricks that often work whether you are a man or woman:

  • falsely accuse your spouse of substance abuse (drugs, alcohol)
  • falsely accuse your spouse of being mentally ill
  • falsely accuse your spouse of having an extramarital affair
  • falsely accuse your spouse of child abuse (both physical and sexual)
    • this works best for women, but it’s starting to gain ground with men too

Dirty tricks that work mostly for women:

  • falsely accuse your spouse of spouse abuse, both physical and sexual (virtually nobody will ever believe a wife abuses a husband unless a busload of nuns with time and date-stamping video cameras witness it too and testify to it)
  • falsely accuse your husband of “pornography addiction”
  • falsely accuse your spouse of never being home, being an absentee parent, never caring for wife and children, you get the idea
  • falsely accuse your spouse of being “controlling” (whatever that means, but it works, so who cares what it means, eh?)
  • falsely accuse your spouse of 1) failing to provide you and your children of adequate financial support and 2) never giving you access to spending money and 3) wasting, dissipating, and diminishing marital assets

Dirty tricks that work mostly for men:

  • falsely accuse your spouse of parental alienation (this rarely works, but when it does, it works better for men than for women; falsely accusing a father of parental alienation doesn’t get much traction)

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

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Who files for divorce more? Men or Women? Why?

Who files for divorce more? Men or Women? Why?

Women file more

In the United State of America, although the percentages vary depending on the study, the research is unanimous in finding that wives initiate divorce more often than husbands. Between 65% and 70% more, generally. This study published in 2017 set the percentage of wife-initiated divorces at 69%.

You’ll see a lot of articles that claim women file 80% of divorces, but I could not find any studies or statistics to back that claim.

Why is that?

As to why wives file for divorce more often than men, this MSN article (the accuracy for which I cannot vouch) summarized this study from American Psychological Association (ASA) as follows:

  1. Women are more likely to feel like marriage is holding them back.
  2. Women tend to do more emotional labor in a marriage.
  3. Women are less likely to tolerate “bad behavior” today.

According to this article in PMC*

  • when men unemployed, both husbands or wives are more likely to leave the marriage.
  • when wives report better than average marital satisfaction, their employment affects neither their nor their husbands’ exits.
  • when wives report below average marital satisfaction, their employment makes it more likely that they will leave.

*PubMed Central (PMC) is a free archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM). It is a repository for journal literature among participating publishers, as well as for author manuscripts submitted in compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy and similar policies of other research funding agencies.

My take

I can tell you from experience as a divorce lawyer that one reason husbands are reluctant to file for divorce is because they are afraid of being labeled pariahs; culturally, it’s easier to sympathize with a woman seeking a divorce because there is this belief that a woman seeking a divorce is a victim seeking escape or relief, while men who seek divorce are often presumed to be self-absorbed cads.

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

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Do women get sole or primary custody of children by default?

How do you feel about the fact that in divorce, the mother seems to get custody of the child almost by default? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have 50/50 custody by default, or an actual assessment on which parent is more suited?

This is an excellent question, and an insightful one.

First, it is a fact that the mothers get custody of the children more often than do the fathers. Even if you factor out those fathers who could be awarded custody due to parental fitness issues or work schedules that are incompatible with sole or shared custody, mothers get custody more often than fathers.

Second, it would not just make “more sense” to have 50/50 custody as the rebuttable default presumption because that would be an impartial, equitable basis on which to start building the child custody analysis, it’s the only impartial, equitable way to start the child custody analysis. Assuming one sex is better than the other is inherently discriminatory and sexist.

Third, once we eliminate any presumptions that one sex is better than the other, we are clear to make the child custody determination based upon an actual assessment of whether the children are better off in the sole or primary physical custody of one parent, instead of in the joint custody of both parents.

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

Nebeker v. Orton – 2019 UT App 23 – child custody and parent-time

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Child custody: What is it? Do women get custody of a baby?

What is child custody? In America, do women get custody of a baby?

“Child custody” is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014) as follows:

2. Family law. The care, control, and maintenance of a child awarded by a court to a responsible adult. • Custody involves legal custody (decision-making authority) and physical custody (caregiving authority), and an award of custody usu. grants both rights. In a divorce or separation proceeding between the parents, the court usu. awards custody to one of them, unless both are found to be unfit, in which case the court may award custody to a third party, typically a relative. In a case involving parental dereliction, such as abuse or neglect, the court may award custody to the state for placing the child in foster care if no responsible relative or family friend is willing and able to care for the child. — Also termed child custody; legal custody; managing conservatorship; parental functions.

In Utah (where I practice family law), you can kind of “reverse engineer” the definition of “child custody” as something like:

  • physical custody and legal custody, all powers and duties relating to caretaking authority and decision-making authority for a child. § 30-3-10.1(1)(a and b)
  • the rights, privileges, duties, and powers of a parent § 30-3-10.1(2)(a)
  • authority to make specific decisions § 30-3-10.1(2)(b)
  • with whom the child stays overnight § 30-3-10.1(3)(a)

Do women always get custody of children in divorce?

Always? No.

In fact, while in the past there was a preference for mothers being awarded custody of children (see the tender years doctrine) incidents of mother’s getting custody are falling in favor of either joint custody or even fathers being awarded custody, when the court finds that joint custody or custody to the father is what is truly best for the child (or as it is often phrased “in the best interest of the child”).

Frequently? Yes, especially when the child is a baby or a girl. Or if Mom is a stay at home parent, and Dad works a 40-hour or higher work week. The presumption that women get custody of kids is, however, falling out of favor as more and more legislatures and courts are starting to favor joint custody of children, where feasible.

Sometimes the decision to award custody to Mom really makes sense. Even though it may break Dad’s heart, even Dad would have to agree that sometimes Mom is simply better positioned or better qualified to exercise custody than he is.

In some instances, though, the decision to award custody to Mom simply reflects ignorant sexual discrimination. To ensure that the child custody award is as fair to parents and child alike, make sure that the court understands just how qualified you are to exercise sole or joint custody. Conclusively and overwhelmingly—if you can—disprove any false allegations of parental unfitness that your spouse may assert against you. Call out bad logic and prejudicial discriminatory court policies and practices for what they are early and often.

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

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Do you think current divorce laws are biased against men?

Do you think the current divorce laws are biased against men?

In my experienced opinion, yes (and I speak as one who represents both women and men in divorce where in Utah, where I practice law).

Here’s why and how:

Before I launch into the reasons why divorce laws (and courts) are generally biased against men on the subjects of domestic violence charges and child custody, I would be remiss if I did not tell you I see the bias as decreasing. If you were a man divorcing 20 or 30 years ago, the idea of getting joint physical custody of your kids would have been considered a fantasy. Women were assumed to get alimony more or less simply by virtue of getting divorced. Not so much anymore.

But bias is still there, and for the same reasons they have been for more than the last hundred or so years.

Candidly, men and women are different. Mothers are generally different from fathers. They both have strengths and weaknesses as parents. But this is a reason for awarding joint custody of children, not a reason to marginalize the men and fathers. When both parents are fit parents, then “the best parent” is both parents.

Here are a few of the illegal discriminatory practices against men in divorce court, and the effects they have:

• women are “naturally” better parents than men (so they get a greater percentage of child custody);

• men who work outside the home are not as capable of and willing to make sacrifices in their careers for the sake of child rearing (so the women get a greater percentage of child custody);

• men who work from home are not as attentive to children’s needs as are women (and so the women get a greater percentage of child custody);

• women generally still don’t make as much money as men (and so women get alimony awarded to them far more easily and in higher amounts than do men).

Fortunately, if you are just as fit a parent as your wife, the biases against men can be almost entirely rebutted and disproven, if you have mountains of the right evidence to show the court.

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

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