Child Custody Issues

[ Next Excerpt ]

December 17, 1996 EvaS : Our guests this evening are Earthmom19, a coordinator for the Committee for Mother and Child's Rights, and Asherah, a writer and activist currently working with NOW's Women's Clearinghouse Against the Fathers' Rights Movement. Welcome, both of you!:)

Asherah : Thanks, Eva.

EarthMom19 : Thanks, Eva.

EvaS : Before we talk about custody issues, we should talk about what to do when preparing for a split. What should a woman do? What procedures should a woman follow?

EarthMom19 : Avoiding problems should be first priority. Consider factors...whether you work or not, kids, property owned, financial state. I would suggest getting at the minimum a part time job before leaving if at all possible. This gives you the ability to sock away $, because you need to have a "stash" to use for things like lawyer deposits, possible security deposits, etc.

Asherah : Keep a cool head about everything. Don't make rash decisions without thinking things through.

EarthMom19 : Then you should probably make some kind of plan as to how you would work the living situation. Like who is staying in the house, who's leaving, who is responsible for what bills.

Asherah : Remember that decisions made will affect your life and your children's lives over the next 20 years or more. Too many women don't take financial responsibility for their lives.

EarthMom19 : Work it out on paper for yourself so you can see reality. You don't always realize how much there is to splitting up the household until you see it in your face. If you are the one planning to leave, make sure you have somewhere to leave TO. Make copies of all your joint financial records, tax forms, insurance forms, assets, stocks, property, etc. so that you have them. Also get his social security no., license no., car registration no. - people don't think about this stuff until it's too late and then it's a hassle to get them.

EvaS : And how long does all this usually take, this kind of thorough preparation?

EarthMom19 : It took me 6 months. Can take longer than that if you don't have an income.

Asherah : These things should have been worked on throughout the marriage. Records, and such.

EarthMom19 : I opened my own checking account for starters. Got a PO box.

Asherah : There are too many women who don't even know how much money is in the checking/savings account when a divorce is on the horizon. It's called keeping your head in the sand like an ostrich.

EarthMom19 : What I am talking about is just enough for basic survival, too, not more.

SissyCC : In what situations would you tell your spouse and when

wouldn't you? EarthMom19 : Tell him what?

SissyCC : Of your plans...thinking about divorce. Many women feel sneaky.

EarthMom19 : Sneaky? Maybe. I call it self-sufficient. I didn't say a word until the week I left.

Asherah : Each couple is different. What works for one couple may not work for another.

SissyCC : I understand.

EarthMom19 : I would have been afraid to just leave the house with me, baby and no money, no plan.

Asherah : There's never a "good" time to say you want out of a marriage. Sometimes it takes a last straw to help you make the decision. And divorce isn't always the best option.

EarthMom19 : It's much worse to put yourself in a position where you can end up homeless or totally devastated, which is why I advise making a plan for yourself.

EvaS : How do you go about getting child support and/or alimony?

EarthMom19 : In my state, I went to the local family court (called Domestic Relations) and the clerk helped me fill out a form. I requested child support only, but could have requested alimony on the same form. No lawyer necessary. Some states are different, but you shouldn't need a lawyer to file for child support.

EvaS : How do you prevent a custody battle?

EarthMom19 : That's a tough one. Because each ex is different, each situation is different. In my own example, my ex is very vengeful. He found out about fathers' rights groups, but I found out about his being involved with them before he did any damage. So, I did research into them. I found out what they try and turn around to use against you, and made sure I didn't do any of those things.

Asherah : Custody battles are usually a means of attempting to maintain control over an ex (usually a wife). They may appear to be about a father wanting equal time with the kids, but that isn't always the case.

EarthMom19 : By the way, my ex's Fathers Rights lawyer was just blasted out of court. He was told that he was one of those lawyers and that they formed a disciplinary group, to get rid of these guys! My lawyer was ROFL! So, some judges and masters see through them. But many don't.

Asherah : Some advocates recommend that mothers forgo child support in order to prevent a retaliatory custody battle.

EarthMom19 : I think you have to be realistic and expect a certain amount of cooperation with the ex as far as visitation goes. Try and keep status quo and keep the relationship going, if both parents are fit, and there were no child abuse problems. You can't punish the ex for leaving you, or for having a honey, by using the child and visitation as weapons.

Asherah : The initial years into a divorce are rough because of the inherent changes. Once both parties and the children adapt, everything may calm down. A lot of problems are based on fear of the unknown.

EarthMom19 : But fear of the unknown is what keeps the eyes in the back of your head open. ;) You need the antennae up just in case.

Asherah : Very true, Earthmom!

MirandaOOO : What are some things you must not do to avoid invoking the wrath of the dads rights groups? Or things to do?

Asherah : Advertise AOL chats that they find out about, eh, Eva?? :D

EvaS : Ash, ;)

EarthMom19 : Don't deny visitation. Try and set a schedule, and stick to it. Don't use the visitation to get more support (or any, if he's not paying) - the two are not connected (support and visitation) and the court will penalize you if you try and connect the two. The parent who allows the bond between the other parent and the child to grow is generally the parent who is given custody. That's the biggest thing. The first mistake. Usually the deadliest. Denial of "access."

KSMJD : What were some of the specific tactics of the fathers rights groups?

EarthMom19 : Some kidnap kids from day cares.

Asherah : Pushing for joint physical custody as a means of lowering child support. They push for the physical time sharing without the inherent responsibilities. Also, charges of Parental Alienation Syndrome, Malicious Mother Syndrome, and False Memory Syndrome. None of which are recognized by the AMA or APA. They are labels used to demonize mothers who aren't exhibiting *proper* behavior.

EarthMom19 : Right, Ash, joint custody. Joint custody is only good when both parents want it. It doesn't work if one is thwarting it.

KSMJD : Are there charges they commonly make against mothers?

EarthMom19 : Oh, many charges. She's nuts. That's a goody. PAS, too.

Asherah : Another tactic is financially devastating the mother so that she cannot adequately represent herself. She becomes so poor that she can't appeal an unfair ruling. That, by the way, was just dealt with by the Supreme Court.

EarthMom19 : Right Ash, and they can continue to take you back and back and back again.

Momsinneed : How can you know if your ex or ex's attorney is involved with FR groups?

EarthMom19 : Ask around. I asked a lawyer friend of mine that I went to school with. He told me about him. Then I found out because I got involved with CMCR, people were calling me and mentioning that he was their ex's attorney (one woman had over $75K in lawyer bills alone!), and I also saw his advertisements in FR newsletters. You can also search the web, using your own state and the words, fathers rights, in any given search engine. Also go to your local law library and check out the Martindale Hubbell, a book which lawyers use to rate each other. It also says what groups they are involved with. You can also call various fathers rights groups in your area and ask them for referrals, pretend you're looking for an attorney for your husband. LOL!

Asherah : Moms, that's hard to tell. An attorney may not necessarily be associated with a FR group, but may have a FR vision. Fathers' Rights groups are also big on mediation.

MirandaOOO : Can either parent with shared physical custody be court-restrained from re-locating? (out of town or out of state)

This is an excerpt. If you're interested in reading the whole text, follow these directions:

From there, log in with your women2women userID. If you don't have one, use the Register New Member button on the left.)

[ Top of Page | Next Excerpt ]

[ Home Page | Photography | Writing | Online Work | Favorite Places ]

Web page design © 1998 - 2006 by
WWCoCo New Media Communities

Graphic © Eva Shaderowfsky 1998