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Custody for SAHM (Dad asking)

(84 Posts)
justbeingadad Mon 19-Aug-19 12:02:05

Wife and I are getting divorced - she ended it a few months ago, but at the moment it still makes financial sense to live together - we lead very separate lives though. Not sure it's significant, but she is already seeing someone else.

As she is currently a stay at home mum with a small side income of a couple of hundred £/month, she has indicated that she expects to get custody of the children following divorce and I see them only 1 or 2 days a week. She won't be staying in the family home, we'll most likely sell it as there isn't enough money to run this + another house without some serious compromises which otherwise wouldn't be required.

My job has historically meant I had to work away a lot - 4/5 days a week, sometimes 3 weeks a month, however this shouldn't be the case in the future and I would change jobs and take a significant pay cut if it comes down to it so that I have an equal relationship with my children.

Am I being naive to believe that we should be going for 50/50 custody?

I'm very concerned that over time my children will see me as someone they "visit".

Anyone have any experience of this - does a SAHM have an elevated claim to custody based on the fact they've stayed at home with the children more? Kids will probably be 4 & 7 by the time this is all sorted.

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PicsInRed Mon 19-Aug-19 12:27:12

The courts have seen many a father suddenly want to cut back/quit their job as soon as divorce looms and also many fathers who suddenly show interest in being a hands on Dad.

Speaking of naive, the courts aren't naive and your idea is far from new.

I presume that your 50/50 plan will naturally not involve much of a settlement to your wife. How do you expect your SAHM wife to immediately financially support herself and the children? Do you intend to pay any spousal maintenance or child support? Have you considered what is truly best for the stability of the children at such a time?

Flower64 Mon 19-Aug-19 12:51:49

I can totally understand that you don't want to feel like your kids "visit" you. But please see this from their perspective - mum has been their main carer and you've been working hard, but clearly away from home a lot. Now suddenly these small people will face not only their parents separating, but also Dad suddenly deciding to change the family dynamic as well by staying home to look after them. This will I assume also change the financial position because you'll be earning less and paying less CM to their mum.

It may well be a positive change for them, and for you to have more of a relationship - but where people suddenly move the goalposts like this and decide to be full hands on parents where they haven't before you need to be prepared for the accusation that its being done for financial reasons and not in the best interests of the children and this particular change, depending on your financial situation could put them into a worse financial position during their time with mum.

justbeingadad Mon 19-Aug-19 12:54:06

I'd never "quit" my job - how would I provide for my children then. Please tell me that fathers don't actually do that?

I've always been a hands-on dad, which is exactly why I am so desperate not to lose that.

I am more than aware (and happy) that I should consider a very unequal asset split in her favour. She can have more or less everything if it came down to it. She needs the capital far more than I do to be able to provide an equal life for our children. If I need to, I can save up a deposit relatively easily whereas that is an impossibility for her.

The only reason I'd cut back my job would be to be at home more if it became a significant block to me having reasonable custody/access to my children. I don't believe that's in anyone's overall interest and there are much more logical ways to approach this issue than me being forced to change jobs.

I presume reading between the lines though, you think that SAHM is more likely to get custody than 50/50?

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M0RVEN Mon 19-Aug-19 13:02:06

The courts like stability for the children. Clearly your wife has been the sole carer for the children for 3 weeks out of 4 and the main carer for the other week.

The court would wonder why it’s in the children’s best interest to change this.

justbeingadad Mon 19-Aug-19 13:02:19

@Flower64

Yes, they are all very important points. I don't believe it would fundamentally change the dynamics as such, my eldest especially would be overjoyed if I told him I was going to be home more, and currently it's rare the children spend time with their mother on a weekend, and when I am, at home, I do 95% of all childcare related things. I'm certainly not an absent father, even if I may not physically be here every day.

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justbeingadad Mon 19-Aug-19 13:06:29

@M0RVEN

That's disappointing to hear, but I understand what you're saying. I suppose I've always viewed it that we as parents as a whole care for our children, I earned the money, she looked after the day to day things for the children, neither would work without the other thus it was always equal...

I guess I am being naive then sad

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pikapikachu Mon 19-Aug-19 13:06:49

The travelling thing- how far in the future can you change the travel obligation? You can't have 50:50 if you're away for 3 weeks at a time? Nobody would say that the kids live 3 weeks in one go at each house. Currently you can't even commit to every other weekend which is the minimum that most dads get? I believe that Dads who work away for long periods (say military) get the kids for some of the school holidays but that's far from 50/50.

RuffleCrow Mon 19-Aug-19 13:07:47

It's not in your children's best interests to have no stable home. 50/50 only tends to work if you and their primary carer are best friends to begin with and the constant to-ing and fro-ing will have minimal impact.

justbeingadad Mon 19-Aug-19 13:13:16

Just to add, on the months where I am away "3" weeks, that would be at most 12-16 days - so less than half a month. If I know I'll be travelling a lot, I do everything I can to avoid 5 day weeks so that I have full weekends and at least Monday mornings at home.

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justbeingadad Mon 19-Aug-19 13:16:07

@pikapikachu

I never travel away in one go for more than 4 days, maybe very very rarely 5 days.

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millymollymoomoo Mon 19-Aug-19 13:17:34

What are the plans with regard your wife returning to paid employment? Will this be part time or full time?

You need to think about 2 main things
Firstly what is in the children’s interest? If you think it is genuinely 50:50 then you’ll need to demonstrate you considered how this will work with regard school drop offs/pick ups/ holidays/ childcare etc ( which your ex also will if their is sone return to work )

Btw a few of my friends do 50:50 ( some from v young age) and it works pretty well

justbeingadad Mon 19-Aug-19 13:21:12

@RuffleCrow

Friendship is hopefully not an issue we'll have. A positive relationship with my kid's mother is far more important than any negative feelings I have toward her.

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justbeingadad Mon 19-Aug-19 13:27:59

@millymollymoomoo

Thanks, My wife is planning on trying to expand her small business to the point of it being sustainable for her as a regular income. I believe this is a viable option and would give her great flexibility which is obviously important.

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pikapikachu Mon 19-Aug-19 13:40:40

* I never travel away in one go for more than 4 days, maybe very very rarely 5 days.*

You are unreasonable to assume that you can have the kids on the 2-4 days that you are in the country especially when those days are weekends. Your ex is perfectly entitled to say that you can't see them every weekend. If the kids are at school, this is the only proper quality time to have with the kids.

If you want more than every other weekend (and it wouldn't be unreasonable for you to go for that) then I would look into other jobs. If you work away for 4 days and have the kids for 3 days, you wouldn't have time to date or do adult things like see your friends. I'm a single parent who has my child 100% of the time but it's not something that I'd choose.

justbeingadad Mon 19-Aug-19 13:47:55

@pikapikachu

I totally agree, and this is why I said in my initial comment about changing jobs, however that seems to be seen as a very negative thing.

I honestly don't know what the answer is, but she's essentially using the fact I had a job I had to do for financial reasons so she could be a stay at home mother against me by claiming that by her being a SAHM gives her more entitlement to a parent than me. It's a vicious circle which only existed because she did not have a desire to work (which was of no concern to me), but given that she has now changed the dynamics, it seems unreasonable to think that everything else can remain the same.....in my eyes, everything is up for change...

I don't know. It's so impossible to know how to be a good father without being a shit ex without being accused of being manipulative with money. Our married life did not lend itself to two people working and/or split childcare. So something needs to give, right now, I feel like that's my job (I have no emotional attachment to it - I'd happily get a new job tomorrow), but then that makes me look like both a crap father and ex by reducing my income.

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HaileySherman Mon 19-Aug-19 14:13:24

Sounds like it would be better for you guys to work your custody schedule around when you're home. If you are amicable, as you say, and a hands-on father, I'd think she'd be happy to work with you and happy to have you care for the kids. It would give her a break and she'll know they are in good hands. The idea of taking a significant pay cut and forcing a strict 50/50 split may turn things more adversarial then they need to be. Maybe just discuss it all with her. It is a good way to kick off a cooperative co-parenting relationship.

pikapikachu Mon 19-Aug-19 14:13:56

Even if you had a job with no travelling, it would be cruel to go from having mum around 100% of the time to mum being about 50% of the time so I would say that you and her should work towards 50/50 but not suddenly jump to it.

Have you looked into how much of a pay cut you have with a non-travel job? Even if you were together, pay cuts and redundancies happen so she can't insist that you earn at least what you do today. She would be justified in being annoyed of you went from a six figure salary to minimum wage because maintenance would be very ridiculously little but with you having the kids more, she'd have more leisure time and time to devote to work. Many women reduce their work hours to accommodate kids- I'm not suggesting that you work 20 hours a week or something but there are jobs that allow working from home (so you can collect kids from school, work while they sleep etc) and other family friendly policies.

My ex has our younger 2 for 1 night every fortnight and I think it's too little and their relationship has suffered. In your shoes I would settle for once a week right now but I'd be rearranging things so that it could increase in future. Children like routine and consistency and it sounds like your job doesn't allow that.

justbeingadad Mon 19-Aug-19 14:32:33

Right now, if you ignore the school holidays - she is spending less than 50% with them. I had them all weekend for example and she was out multiple nights last week etc etc. It's certainly not going to be a situation where the kids think it's particularly strange. I've been fortunate that I've been home a lot in the school holidays too (although I do have to work - but from home).

She's indicated that she "needs" the CM (of nearly 100% custody) as I believe this is what she's based all her calculations. I feel this is what is driving the lack of desire to split custody more than any emotional / best interests concerns. I also believe that essentially what is removed by CM being reduced will simply be made up by spousal maintenance so it's maybe an irrelevant point anyway.

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justbeingadad Mon 19-Aug-19 14:35:30

>Have you looked into how much of a pay cut you have with a non-travel job

It would be from low to mid 6 figures to mid 5 figures so pretty significant drop. Still a respectable income, but incomparable to what we've enjoyed for the last 5 years.

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PicsInRed Mon 19-Aug-19 14:54:24

You really aren't going to catch any fish with the argument that your SAHM primary caregiver isn't the primary caregiver because discounting school hours brings her time with the kids below 50% and she went out with her friends last weekend. 🤔

That's an argument that's actually casting you badly.

GummyGoddess Mon 19-Aug-19 15:00:07

It isn't really beneficial for the children to have 50/50. Studies have show children can't cope with that until at least 5, and even if they cope, it exhausts them.

It's not fair on parents, but parenting isn't about what's fair for the adults.

I would suggest you pick them up a few evenings a week and stick to the eow and maybe one weekday overnight until they are older and more emotionally mature. You would see them often but they wouldn't feel dragged around everywhere and be shattered.

justbeingadad Mon 19-Aug-19 15:09:06

@PicsInRed

You're absolutely right and this wasn't at all what I meant to imply!

I was trying to highlight that I am a significant part of their lives already. They already spend significant time with me alone, and that if we did - somehow magically - work out 50/50 custody, it would not be a particularly different split from what the children currently experience.

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justbeingadad Mon 19-Aug-19 15:10:58

@GummyGoddess

Yip, that sounds like a sane view. I guess in an ideal world if you could do 1 week with each parent that would be much less stressful, especially if you lived in the same area. Sadly I don't see that working for us.

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Tactfulish Mon 19-Aug-19 15:12:47

from someone who does 50:50 shared care here is my view for what it's worth:
1. you have to stick to a weekly plan/rota, it's unfair on your ex that one week it's this, then next week that and so on -this would make it impossbile for her to secure work which she may well need to do. e.g: my ex wanted to do week on week off but when DS was soo young and needed school collection I could not say to my boss ' that week i need to leave at 3pm but the next week i can work my usual hours' so we did the 5.2 for years unitl he went to senior school and made his own way there and then he was the one who asked to switch to week on week off.
2. You have to be able to communicate well/reguarly and positively for it to work. you need to both be near the school and friends etc
3. I truly believe it can vary from child to child, my DS is very out going and confident and moved about between homes easily. Some children do not find that so easy, having 2 homes can be tough - we do not always think about it that way as an adult. You perhaps can empathise where you travel away alot - that feeling of getting home to your own bed...
Im not going to delve into the financials as your view seems quite pragmatic but what I will say is 50:50 can be very postive because if no finances exchange (is the case for me) has removed a massive bulk of what other divorced couples argue about and so our DS has grown up with conflict free parents.

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