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custody matter - I know nothing about this and no idea where to start

(16 Posts)
emeraldgirl1 Mon 02-Nov-09 12:18:04

I am desperately trying to help a friend who is hovering on the edge of leaving her husband. He has recently used the possibiliity of joint custody of their one child (aged 3) as a threat to frighten her with. She says she cannot face the prospect of not seeing her child for half the week. I am trying to say that I think this would be a highly unlikely arrangement, even if they were to split custody 50-50. Am I right/wrong? How does a 50-50 split usually work? And is 50-50 even a typical arrangement? Surely it is not practical to literally have children moving between parents half the time. I would have thought a more likely arrangement (and a fairly generous one with regards to the father) would be some weekends, holidays etc?
Should I keep encouraging her to speak to a lawyer, even if only to get a picture of what the likely plan would be IF she goes ahead? I just feel she needs all the facts she can possibly have at her disposal so she can make an informed decision and not be so frightened.

cestlavielife Mon 02-Nov-09 12:24:34

is it about her or the child?

if the child will be well looked after and cared for then it could work 50/50. wholly depends on circumstances...

she needs to step out of what is best for her and her emotional needs and see what would be best for the child. if dad is good with the child and child is happy, then mum must smile for the child.... of course mum will survive.

i think it can work if parents amicable, live close etcetc.

but if there is any kind of abuse going on then much more complicated...

if this is a "threat" from him to her then it implies there is more to it.

itsmeolord Mon 02-Nov-09 12:30:28

So your friend cannot handle not seeing her child for half the week but clearly the father won't mind??
She is choosing to leave him, why should his relationship with his child suffer because of that?

And how is raising it as a possibility a threat? Why should the father not want to see as much of his child as possible?

We live an hour and a half away from dsd but have her with us a little over 50% of the time. Practically it is absolutely fine, emotionally it is far better for our dsd.

Shared care is becoming far more common now.

NoNameNameyChangey Mon 02-Nov-09 12:34:21

Why would you say some weekends would be generous with regard to the father, is htat your usual opinion or one particular to this father? Is there more going on here?

Usually a young child would not be expected to spend half and half, it is likely to be a bit much for her really however courts, increasngly and rightly, look at parents equally and endevour to ensure that the child has good access to two caring parents if at all possible.

Your friend should get advice she is clearly unhappy so someone needs to give her a real idea of what to expect.

wheresmypaddle Mon 02-Nov-09 12:42:26

Providing there are no issues regarding abuse then a 50/50 arrangement is possible and not unreasonable. The way that this would work would depend on the mothers and fathers individual circumstances- how far apart they live, proximity to school, working arrangements etc..

I don't think its a typical arrangement but its certainally not unusual in my experience (this worked for me when my parents divorced and I know several people who make it work).

I am sorry your friend is having a difficult time and it is of course really tough to face not seeing your children for a period of time on a regular basis. But (sorry if this sounds harsh) the children 'belong' to both parents so providing it is practical and the children are happy they both have a right to see their children equally. They are not purely a mother's 'property' with which to feel she is being generous by allowing some weekend and holiday access.

Having said all that your friends husband may not have fully thought about the practicalities of 50/50 access when he made his comment and when it comes to making arrangements may change his mind.

Aeschylus Mon 02-Nov-09 12:49:27

I agree with all above, you need to get that mindset that weekends is generous out of your head, Courts wont allow unless there is a real reason the father to be restricted like that, I would imagine if all is normal, it will be alternate weekends and as long as school is not compromised 2 night in the week to the father...

NicknameTaken Mon 02-Nov-09 12:51:18

Yes, encourage her to speak to a lawyer.

The arrangement will depend on what the current situation is. There is a presumption in favour of the status quo. If he does a lot of the care, it is likely (and good) for this to continue.

It is common for controlling men to use threats around custody to stop a wife from leaving. Threats are not a good reason to stay.

emeraldgirl1 Mon 02-Nov-09 12:54:48

Thanks everyone - great comments and advice.

I think my reservations about the father having the child 50% of the time are coming from my worries about him. He's not a bad father but is depressive and the reason for the possible split is consistent emotional abuse (never anything physical, but my friend is a nervous wreck at the mo which is probably why I am instinctively concerned about shared custody at the moment).

Cestlavielife, I am 100% with you on this one. Of course it is about the child; the difficulty is getting my friend (who is in a bad way) to look beyond all the current drama and focus on what will be best for her child in the long run. I am totally convinced that the best way for happy kids is happy mum (happy parents, of course, but I am thinking only of my friend here) and that coming to a civilised agreement will make her happy. I think she thinks divorce is just The Worst Thing Imiginable for her child and I am trying to put the counter argument to this. It is very difficult at the moment, I cannot give her the 'answers' she wants and do not want to 'encourage' anything other than trying to find a way to end the misery.

cestlavielife Mon 02-Nov-09 13:08:13

ok - more info given which clarifies....

well it is very hard to come to a civilised agreement with someone who exercises emotional abuse. if they hell bent on mkaing your life a misery they will continue to do so...

depends on how they dealing with their depression too - there are people who get depressed, recognize it and deal with it - seek teh right help - then there are people like my exP who blame their depresion on someone else (ie me) and believe that if only xxx happened (i had him back in my life/my home) he would be cured... is complex. depression alone is not reason to not be around a child - depression does not cause emotional abuse. tho an emotional abuser might use it as an(other) excuse...

she needs documented evidence of the emotional abuse and evidence of any times when this impacts on the child and the child's well being around the father.

in my case i do have evidence and concerns - hence exP at present has only supervised access. we are going thru court hearings. it is a very long and drawn out process.

she needs to be strong.

she needs to speak to a lawyer.

she needs to think about the harm the abuse is doing to her child (seeing/witnessing emotional abuse is not good) and see the bigger picture.

could the dad be able to rise above it and put the child first during contact? that is the question here.

it is not an easy one to answer. and these people can put a good side on, if it comes to court. even when they are doing it only to "get back" at the other parent...."not a bad father" is hard to quantify.

emeraldgirl1 Mon 02-Nov-09 13:40:10

I am so sorry to hear of your troubles cestlavie. If it is any good to you (I hope it is) can I just say how impressed I am that you have made this decision. I had to endure my parents' unhappy marriage all my life and was meant to be grateful that they stayed together 'for us'...

Yes, it is very important how the depression thing is handled. In her case, like yours, he is turning it around and making it all her fault. I am very worried about the impact that all this accusation and fighting is having on their child, and think by far the best option right now is to have at least a trial separation, just to get some space and stop all the late-night rows that are so debilitating.

I probably sound over-involved but this has been a very long-running situation and it is my oldest friend. I want to support her and her little boy, who I care about very much indeed.

agingoth Mon 02-Nov-09 13:49:34

I have been living with a 50:50 care arrangement this year which seems to have worked OK for the kids, although I have my own feelings about it e.g. that especially for my school age child it is dislocating and awkward having to live in two different places and constantly move school stuff around etc.

I have heard from a family law lecturer (nb not a solicitor!) that courts are moving away from 50:50 arrangements as they're thought to be too stressful for children and I can see why tbh.

I missed them terribly at first but then got used to the odd free evening ;)

Also, if he's not a bad father I can't see depression being a reason for him not to have contact with the child?

Is your friend a working or stay at home mother? The law is very much 'biased' toward stay at home mothers in this sort of situation as they are always judged to be the primary carers while working mothers if f/t may not be. If she is working she may need to consider her position if it comes to a battle (sounds harsh to her, but I have one coming up and am giving up work for a year as otherwise it looks like my H will have entire status quo on his side).

emeraldgirl1 Mon 02-Nov-09 14:02:29

She is a SAHM, agingoth. I had not been sure whether this would count in her favour or not but from what you say it sounds as though the courts do take this into consideration.

It is a tricky one, this issue of him not being a bad father though being depressed. I think I would echo what cestlavie said above - that it is not because he is depressed per se that there is a problem, but that because he is depressed he can exhibit some seriously unreasonable behaviour and I think this is what concerns her and others about a joint custody arrangement. Though tbh it is not for me to say - obviously I am HER friend and not required to make a balanced decision. I don't know what would be best for the child either tbh - I am sure that shared custody can work very well indeed but I can see that in this particular case it could cause a lot of stress for the child. Depends I am sure on the personalities of all involved.

Apart from anything else I do think that these things are best done one step at a time. I don't actually think it is all that helpful for my friend to be agonising over the finer details of any separation or divorce because I think that means there is an awful lot to take on board when right now I think the only right decision is to end the current misery and stress.

cestlavielife Mon 02-Nov-09 14:35:21

keep on saying to her - his depression is his responsibility. up to him to get help or not. others can assess if the depression makes him a risk to child or not...

his behaviours are his responsiblity. depression or not.

she cannot change him - she can only change what she does. if that means leaving him, so be it. tho she will then have to deal with the fallout - as he is already making threats around residency.

(my exP said in 2008 before i moved out "what do you want? kramer vs kramer? you cannot separate from me! i wont allow it!" etc etc. so what motivates him - who knows... but it is NOT depression alone.

macdoodle Mon 02-Nov-09 14:47:00

IME (and I am not saying all) - but THREATS around custody!! nearly always imply some sort of emotional abuse!
Why on earth would you "threaten" such a thing to stop a partner leaving!!
My XH and I are bitterly divorced and I have never "threatened" for him not to see/have the DD's, in fact I would accept pretty much anything he asked for if he could stick to it, he on the other hand regularly "threatens" to "take custody"

Also IME, it is usually just a threat, such men often actually have little real interest in the responsibility of looking after children

agingoth Mon 02-Nov-09 15:01:41

as an SAHM she's in a very strong position to get sole residence if that is what she wants, as she's clearly the primary carer.

She can also be fairly sure of getting a good order for child support from him regardless of what contact he ends up with.

LisaD1 Mon 02-Nov-09 15:45:39

My brother recently got divorced and has 50/50 residency of his twin sons (they were under 6months old at the time).

I divorced my exh 6 years ago and have full residency, but I think it "helped" that my daughter was starting school and found the whole sharing aspect very unsettling (poor little thing didn't even refer to either house as her home).

Guess I'm trying to say it can go either way but must eb what's best for the children.

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