How does that insurance commercial go? If you read it on the Internet, it must be true! Unfortunately, that is not always the case. This is not to say the information you are reading is intentionally misleading, but it may be outdated and based on past bias or laws on child custody. Today, both mothers and fathers are extremely misinformed both about what goes on during a custody hearing as well as what will ultimately affect the judge’s decision on placement.
Debunking Common Child Custody Myths
- The children get to dictate where they will live…this is just not true. In some cases, depending upon the age of the child, the judge will interview the child. He or she will inquire as to where the child wants to live, but that is not the only factor the judge will take into consideration. Furthermore, this will usually only occur for older children (13 years of age and older).
- Mothers always win custody in divorce cases…in years past, the stats may have been overwhelmingly in favor of mothers, but this is not always the case today. You must realize more and more fathers are staying home to take care of the children. In addition, today, fathers are more informed of their rights as they pertain to custody and what they are entitled to during the divorce. The fault in many custody cases actually lies with the father, in that he is not completely aware of his rights and simply accepts his wife’s decision to leave with the children or to cut him out of their life. As the father, you have rights, and you need to exercise them to ensure that you are taken seriously as a father that wants, at the very least, joint custody of the children.
- Fathers forfeit visitation rights when they don’t pay child support…while you may end up in jail for not paying support, the mother of the children cannot stop you from your regularly scheduled visitation if you fall behind on child support. As long as you are not abusing the children or they are in danger, your visitation rights should remain intact. If she is preventing you from seeing the children, inform your attorney and allow him or her to deal with the problem legally.
- The parent that files for divorce gets custody of the children…think about this for a second. Do you really think the judge will simply award custody because one parent was the initiator of the divorce? The answer, of course, is absolutely not! There are numerous factors that will influence the judge’s decision, but which person files first is not one of them.
- If I have custody, I can move wherever I want to and take the children…whether the parent has full custody and the other parent has visitation rights or they share custody, one parent cannot simply up and move and take the children. The parent that is moving must notify the non-custodial parent (each state will have its own guidelines for time limitations on this) and there will be a hearing to determine if the move is actually in the best interest of the children.
- I do not have to share my living arrangements with my ex…if you share custody of the children or have visitation rights, you actually do need to let your ex know with whom you are living. The purpose behind this is solely to protect the children. For instance, if your new “live in” partner has a criminal record, your ex has the right to know about this. Remember, the welfare of the children always comes first as far as the court is concerned.
- You must stay within state borders with the children at all times…as long as there is no court order preventing you from taking the children out of state for a vacation or to visit friends or family, there is no restriction on this. You are not leaving to relocate the children; it is simply a trip. However, in good faith, you should make your ex aware of your intentions and provide a way for the children to be able to stay in touch with the parent, such as a cell phone, during the trip. The last thing you want to “appear” to be doing is running away with the children.
- I can keep the grandparents away from the children…this sometimes happens when a father or mother makes the decision that he or she no longer wants to be involved with their child. However, just because he or she does not want to see the children (or has been legally ordered to not be around the children), this does not mean you can prevent the grandparents from seeing the children. In many states, the grandparents can actually file for the same visitation and/or custody rights of the biological parent.
- I can call the cops if my custody order is being followed…while you can do this, you may not be happy with the response. If there is a violent situation or the children are in danger, obviously, the police will respond. But, if you are calling them to enforce an order, you will more than likely be told to call your attorney and handle the situation in court.
- I refuse to talk/communicate with my ex…not a good idea. You may think that because you are divorced you no longer have to talk to your ex, but this is only going to cause you problems down the road. Some parents will try to relay messages through the children, but we all know how “whisper down the lane” works. Both of you may need to swallow your pride, even if it is for minimal interaction. In fact, there are now actually online services that serve as communication outlets for divorced parents. You may not have to speak with him or her, but you do need to properly communicate, even if it is only electronically.
- Giving up custody means you don’t have to pay child support…even if you decide you never want to see your children or be involved in their life in any way, it does not mean you do not have to pay child support. In fact, you may find that your payments increase. Child support is computed using the custody agreement. Point being, you are given credit for the time the children are with you. If you no longer spend time, you will now have to pay your ex more money to support the children full time.
- I can pay less child support if I pay for extra things for my children…some parents paying child support will make the mistake of thinking that if they buy certain things on their own, such as school uniforms or clothing, they do not have to make their regular child support payments. The only way this would be acceptable is if you and your ex have a written agreement supplanting the payment in lieu of buying specific items (you would also need to keep the receipts to prove purchase). As you can assume, this can get very tricky, so you are best served to make normal child support payments and allow your ex to buy the extras with that money.
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