When you get married and begin a family, you never dream that your family will fall into the 40-50% of marriages in the United States that will end in divorce. (In some places, the divorce rate is even higher) If you fall into these statistics, you may have to face some difficult facts.
- You probably will get little if any child support if you have sole custody
- 3 percent of custodial parents get some child support payments
- 5 percent of custodial parents get full payments
Why did you get sole custody?
We all know how important it is to raise our children in a balanced environment. In a perfect world, they would have the best from a father and a mother. But we don’t live in a perfect world. You may have been awarded sole custody because your ex becomes violent when he is angry. Maybe he (or she) brings home people who are drunk or on drugs, putting the family in danger. Whatever it is, the court decided the danger is significant enough that it outweighed the need that children have for having both parents in the home,
It is rare when a judge does not order visitation. It may be supervised visitation, but usually, the ex gets time with their children. This is where having a good attorney is vitally important. Do not settle for generic visitation terms. Insist on having the terms spelled out. Here are a few things to consider.
- The spouse is an addict and often has other addicts with him or her
- The judge may suspend visitation until the parent completes rehab. He may further order random testing to ensure the parent stays clean and drug-free.
- The spouse is homeless
- This is important. Make sure your attorney has written in your divorce papers that you must have the address and phone number where the children are going to be in case of emergencies. If they do not provide that information, they cannot take the children. They may end up taking them to a friend or relatives house to have their visit, that is allowed. As long as they are not roaming the streets all day.
- The spouse is incarcerated
- Of course, if the spouse is in jail; They do not have to go see them. This includes going to jail to visit with a friend or family member of the spouse.
- The spouse has physically or emotionally abused the child
- Be sure your attorney provides all reports and proof of child abuse to the judge. Victims are not returned to abusers.
- If the child is old enough, and the child requests no visitation
- By the time a child reaches their teenage years, a judge considers them old enough to know if they want to visit a parent or not and they will honor that request.
- The spouse is a flight risk
- If the spouse is from a different country or if he has threatened repeatedly to take the kids and leave, you probably have a good enough reason to be concerned. Have your attorney address this in court.
Don’t Pump The Children
It is hard to let go of anger, curiosity, and betrayal. When we get a divorce, those emotions linger. Because of those emotions, we may question the children just a little too much when they return home from a visit. Who went with you? Did she stay the night? Did daddy drink? These questions only serve to feed your curiosity. They not only play your child against their dad they make them feel bad. Instead, let them feel empowered. Here are examples:
- I need you to tell me right away if anyone:
- Hits you or hurts you
- Touches you in a way that makes you uncomfortable
- Calls you ugly names
- Makes you sleep on the floor or outside
- Will not feed you
- Feed you pet food
Divorce is never easy. This is especially true when you have children. Your attorney needs to be very detailed in drawing up your divorce papers. If you have legitimate fears for the safety of your children, have proof to present to the judge. However, unless there is substantial proof that the children will be harmed, the judge will usually assume the benefits outweigh the disagreements of the parents.
Have your papers prepared as though you expect to allow visitation. Have stipulations asking for the address and phone numbers of where your children are.
Remember this, getting a divorce changes life. Your primary focus should be on your kids. Make the best of a difficult situation. This is your first step to a happy future. Be happy.