Steps to protect your rights in a child custody battleRecently on our legal forum a user asked, "My wife cheated on me, filed for divorce and now is threatening to take the kids away from me. I am devastated and need help. What steps do I need to take to protect myself and my children during the divorce proceedings? I might not have always been the best husband, but I love my kids and want to be a part of their lives."
If you believe your rights or the best interest of your children are being threatened during divorce, it's important to ask the right questions and take the right steps to protect yourself.
Steps to protect your child custody rights:
- Talk to a divorce lawyer
One of the most common mistakes men make in a divorce proceeding is to try to do the divorce without good legal help. Unfortunately, if your wife has already proven that she is untrustworthy and is not willing to mediate or work with you to create a fair parenting and custody plan, it's time to talk to a lawyer.
- Get evidence of paternity
Although this does not apply to your particular child custody case, if you were not married to the mother of your children or the question of your child's parentage was not certain it is important to get a paternity test and make sure you have copies of your child's birth certificate.
- Do not leave the marital home
Too often men forfeit some of their rights willingly. For example, many men simply leave the house when their wife tells them to. It might be difficult or tense, but it's important to remain in the marital home.
- Understand the laws in your state
Divorce laws and child custody laws may vary by state. This includes laws regarding child custody, spousal support, and division of property. A great deal of information can be obtained by researching online or by reviewing laws and divorce issues with your attorney.
- Do not take your children from your wife and hide
You generally do not have the right to take your children from the marital home and hide or intentionally conceal them from your spouse. Taking short trips may be okay, but any attempt to hide your children could eventually be considered parental kidnapping, especially if it is in violation of a court-ordered custodial agreement.
- Demand joint physical and legal custody
Assuming you and your wife cannot agree on child custody, the courts will determine what type of custodial arrangement is in the best interest of your children. Regardless of this, however, you need to provide evidence that you are capable of supporting your children and you have been involved in your child's life up to this point.
It's also important not to agree to less than joint physical custody and legal custody prior to the divorce. It's easy for the courts to take a current child custody agreement and make it permanent, especially if all parties are content with the child custody arrangement.
Bottom Line for child custody:
You do have rights. Now more than ever courts generally agree that it is in the best interest of children to have two active parents participating in their lives. Good luck!