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By Jacqueline Harounian, Esq
Law Partner at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, PC
As a family law attorney who regularly represents mothers and fathers in contested divorce trials, Jacqueline Harounian has very some straightforward advice for parents going through divorce, and who are contemplating a custody action.
From the outset, it is important for mothers and fathers to recognize that married parents of minor children start out with joint custody rights. This means that both parents have equal rights to their children, and the same right to pursue custody of their children in their divorce case. In a world where many households contain two working parents, and many fathers play an active role in raising their children, the presumption that mothers will automatically get custody no longer exists. In fact statistics show that fathers, who seek custody of their children, are awarded custody 50% of the time. Custody laws are gender neutral, and this means that when the facts of a given case are applied to the governing law, a court may determine that it is in the best interests of the child to live primarily with the father, not the mother.
Here is a list of the seven most common pitfalls of parties going through custody actions. If you want to lose your custody case, here is the way to do it. If you want to win custody, steer clear of the following:
- Not being the primary caretaker: In most households, one parent is most responsible for caring for the children’s basic needs — the so called primary caretaker. The parent who is the most involved in the children’s daily lives usually has the edge in a custody case. Therefore, if you are not putting in the time to do homework with your child, feeding, bathing, reading, taking him or her to the bus stop, you are at a disadvantage in a custody case. There is no better way to lose custody than to demonstrate to a judge that you are simply not engaged in raising your child.
- Not being involved in your child’s schedule and activities: Do you know the names of your child’s teachers? Have you ever supervised your child on a play date or taken your child to the doctor? Do you regularly attend school conferences and school events? If the answer to these is “no”, then it is an indication that someone else (i.e. the other parent) is the primary caretaker, not you.
- Alcohol, drugs, or other “parental fitness” issues: A parent who even casually partakes in abuse of alcohol and/or drugs will have a problem in winning custody. Most judges will take allegations of substance abuse seriously, and these allegations will be investigated thoroughly via random testing, psychological evaluations, and interviews. If you have an issue with substance abuse, then seek treatment for it immediately. If you are the perpetrator of domestic violence or abuse (which often goes hand in hand with alcohol use), this also pretty much guarantees that you will lose custody.
- Leaving a paper trail that will hang you in Court: Thanks to new technology, virtually every custody trial features the submission of evidence that can be used to portray the other parent in a very damaging light. Sometimes the continue reading