Hello my name is Jessica Woll and I have been practicing divorce and family law for close to two decades. The job has taught me a great deal about human beings going through what is often one of the worst experiences in their lives. In my Blog I will share my client’s stories, while maintaining their right to privacy. I will offer advice, tips and insights based upon these stories. I hope that you find the information beneficial.
For my first posting I will share a story related to a father regarding the issue of physical custody:
I had a case this week involving a young married couple who probably had no business getting married in the first place. I know we have all seen it before – boy meets girl – they fall in love – girl gets pregnant a few months into the relationship – boy does the noble thing and marries the girl and oops – the girl ends up being a bit crazy. Who knew during the first few months of wedded bliss?
For the sake of this story let’s call the wife Daisy, the husband Steve and their two (2) year old daughter Lucy. After Daisy makes it clear that she wants to party like its 1999 on a daily basis, Steve realizes he needs to file for divorce. Daisy retaliates by filing a Personal Protection Order against her husband in order to gain an unfair advantage regarding the custody of young Lucy. However, for the sake of the child, the parties attempt to reconcile and the divorce action and the Personal Protection Order get dismissed.
Fast forward another six months and not even the couples’ beautiful two year old can keep the marriage in tact. Daisy becomes more and more violent and regularly demands cash from her husband and threatens to call the police if she does not get her way. Steve is forced to call the police after Daisy wakes him out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night by repeatedly slapping his face. The police ask Steve to leave his home – go figure. Steve goes to live with his nice, stable parents for his own protection. The problem is what about Lucy?
Do men have a chance when it comes to obtaining physical custody? A lot of people still believe that women have an advantage in custody disputes. However, in my opinion, based upon what I see in my practice this is no longer true. Many courts are moving towards the belief that if two people had a child together and are now splitting up, they should share parenting time equally once they no longer reside together. In order to veer from this general premise, a parent seeking more than one half of the time with their child appears to have the burden of proving that a different parenting time arrangement is in the child’s best interest.
In my opinion, children are not like a candy bar that can be divided down the middle. Seriously, would you like to pack your bags every so many days to flip flop like a ping pong ball between two separate households? I should think not!
So what to do? Obviously, kids deserve quality time with the two loving parents that had them in the first place. But I do think it is still true that moms are still more often the stay at home parent and primary care givers. However, if a parent of either sex can be more available for the child, then that parent should have more parenting time. I do not think that gender should have much to do with what parenting schedule is best for a child. I think the courts should look at the parenting arrangement that existed prior to the filing and then look at what will change with regard to each parent’s schedule as a result of the divorce. Will a non working spouse have to go back to work for instance. Once the parents’ schedules are known the court can decide what will work best for the children because at the end of the day, it is what works best for the child that matters most. Remember, they are innocent in all this mess. It is quality not quantity that counts so please do not stick your child with a sitter if the other parent is available just to prove a point.
Now back to our story…
The final straw? – As I stated earlier, Steve left his home for fear that his wife would call the police and again file a false claim of domestic violence. But Steve still had to be a father and protect his daughter. Shortly after vacating his home, Steve went to pick his daughter up on a Sunday afternoon at 12:30 in the afternoon. Steve was unable to get inside his house because Daisy had changed the locks. After banging loudly on the front door for over five minutes Steve was forced to break in through a window. When he finally gets inside his house he finds Daisy passed out cold on the couch and his baby girl wailing inconsolably in her crib. Her pajamas are soaked in urine and her bottle is no where in site. Daisy was so out of it that she didn’t wake up from the banging and the crying even after Steve cleans up the mess.
After the events of Sunday afternoon, Steve finally re-files for divorce because he is terrified for the safety of his daughter.
Do you think mom retaliated and filed for another Personal Protection Order? Of course she did! Thankfully, this time the judge had the good sense to deny her request.
Who do you think was awarded temporary custody of Lucy? Dad prevailed in court but it took serious police intervention to force mom to turn Lucy over to her dad.
In round one of our story, the best interest of young Lucy prevailed. I will keep you posted. Until next time…