custody pain and fathers' rights - please read - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 06-25-2013, 01:37 PM - Thread Starter
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We just lost a long and painful custody case and I need a shoulder to cry on...thank you for taking the time to read this.  Background info - my husband has 2 daughters from a previous relationship (ages 8 and 9).  He is the adopted father to our 6 year old son and we have a 19 month old son as well.  My husband is one of those dad's that everyone would want their kids to have...I know this because I live with him day in and day out - he is kind and compassionate, loving and fun.  He challenges the kids and provides them with opportunities to grow.  He is there for them whenever they need him in so many ways.  He has been involved and active in his daughters life since their birth.  

 

Since he and their mother split (about 6 years ago) he has always had the girls at least 35% of the time.  From the beginning, he paid 50% of the kids daycare and other expenses, but she filed for child support anyway and he was ordered to pay $1300 a month.  He then lost his job and was on unemployment...he continued to pay as much as he could while looking for work...he was unemployed for about 8 months, then went back to work making less than 1/2 what he did before.  His child support was lowered to $750/month, but he only makes $12 an hour so he had extreme difficulty meeting basic expenses and could not afford to hire an attorney.    After we married in Feb. 2011 he had greater financial stability since I am willing to support our family on my salary (I am a teacher, so we're not rich but I am frugal with money and we can make ends meet while incurring no debts) Using his inheritance for a down payment, we bought a nice home on 3.5 acres and started our mini-farm where we grow what we can while working full time and raising our kids.

 

 In July of 2011, my DH really wanted to have more time with his kids, more say in decisions about there life, as well as more say in where the money went for his children. (She has serious spending problems - although she makes almost 50,000 a year plus his child support and claims both of the kids on her taxes, she has $0 in savings for herself or the kids and she pays rent on a duplex.)  The 3 of us (myself, my husband and his ex) sat down, hammered out details and she said she would sign the papers with her lawyer the next day for him to have 50-50 custody.  However, when she met with her lawyer, she refused to sign.

 

So, we hired an attorney who specializes in these things and fast forward awhile...our case got postponed twice and was finally in front of the judge...we were happy that we had the only liberal judge in town ( we live in GA which is not exactly too hip on fathers' rights)...until he recused himself from our case after hearing opening statements because we are both Unitarian Universalists and he he was concerned that he could have the girls in his Sunday School class.  That meant our case was reassigned to one of the traditional judges...

 

So, 2 years (and $12,000) after the original case was filed, my DH had his day in court earlier this month.  Although our attorney had told us that the judges in this town pretty much always side with mommies, we just couldn't believe that anyone who heard our case wouldn't want these girls to be with their daddy half the time.  There was no drama in the case - we were not interested in fighting dirty.  There were no accusations of bad parenting on either side, just witnesses to attest to my DH's involvement with his children.  Our case was simply that the mom is a good mom, the dad is a good dad; the girls have something to learn from both parents and bonds to build with their 2 younger brothers at our home.

 

In the end, the judge basically stopped the hearing before it was done, said that since the children are well adjusted and happy that things should just stay as they are with the mother making all the decisions and the father having 'visitation' for his 35% of the time.  The judge accepted the mothers' child support worksheets with no evidence (she brought no tax statements and no receipts from daycare expenses and extracurriculars that she claimed on the sheets - all of it is padded) and the father was ordered to continue paying the child support.  The other thing he randomly ruled, although it was requested by no one, was that the mother is not allowed to have boyfriends stay at her house (she had a history of knowing men for a short time and having them stay over at the house...this happened several times, but she has now had the same boyfriend for over a year)  She lied in court (when we walked out our attorney actually said "I don't know how ya'll put up with that lying bit**)...

 

So, I'm sad, and angry.   I expect my husband to be a 50-50 partner and that when my sons grow up I will expect them to do the same.  I expect men to cook, clean, change diapers and participate equally in child rearing.  My DH does this, but the court essentially said "raising kids is still women's work - Women should have the say about how to do it"  I want my step daughters to know how long we have been fighting for them (they have been completely shielded from the whole thing - as I said, both of their parents are good parents)...I want our sons and his daughters to be able to build a strong relationship together and have lots of time to do it.  I want fathers to be seen in the same light as mothers.  

 

How do I move on?  How do I stop being angry and accept this? Thank you so much for reading...

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#2 of 13 Old 06-25-2013, 02:04 PM
 
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My heart aches for your DH, yourself and the children involved. That is extremely unfair that the judge would rule in favor of the mom without fully listening to your DH's side. I would have a hard time getting over it, too, considering so much of it is based on thr judge's bias and state you live in. The thought of if there had been a different judge or you lived in a more liberal state the outcome would be different would piss me off if i were in your shoes. So much arbitrary bias goes into cases by the judges themselves which is really f'ed up when it comes to kids. They should be neutral all the time, but, at the very least, be neutral when it comes to children and their involvement with their parents. One biased judge makes or breaks a parent's involvement in their kids' lives, how just is that?? Its not and its sickening. I'm sorry that you all are having to deal with this. Hopefully in time you all will be accepting of this and making the best of it, i know it wouldnt be easy it it were me.
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#3 of 13 Old 06-25-2013, 02:38 PM
 
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Here's what I see happened... Dad filed for a modification, but there was no change in circumstances. In other words, the kids were doing well with the current situation, and there was no reason to change that. I'm sorry. 

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#4 of 13 Old 06-25-2013, 02:44 PM
 
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There were plenty of reasons that the dad's side gave, but the judge didnt take them seriously. This is a case of discrimination against fathers, not something sweet and simple.
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#5 of 13 Old 06-25-2013, 03:29 PM
 
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Originally Posted by PrimordialMind View Post

There were plenty of reasons that the dad's side gave, but the judge didnt take them seriously. This is a case of discrimination against fathers, not something sweet and simple.

 

No, it really isn't. LEGALLY, there needs to be a substantial change in circumstance in the children's lives. I really AM sorry that it didn't work out, but I suspect Dad's lawyer gave him way more confidence than the case deserved. 

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#6 of 13 Old 06-25-2013, 05:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Primordial Minds - thank you for your kind words.  I did post looking for some encouragement :)

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No, it really isn't. LEGALLY, there needs to be a substantial change in circumstance in the children's lives. I really AM sorry that it didn't work out, but I suspect Dad's lawyer gave him way more confidence than the case deserved. 

 

Actually, this was an original petition, not a modification.  Prior to this point, they have had a verbal agreement.  There was no divorce as they were never married, so there was never a legal custody agreement.  DH could not afford an attorney before. It's a catch 22 isn't it - if you are paying $1200/month and left with less than $1000 to pay rent on a place that is good enough for you and your kids, pay your bills and have enough gas to get to work, how are you supposed to get an attorney to fight for what you want if your kids' mother simply wants to control all aspects of your children's lives and doesn't want you to get what you want?

 

IMO, this was a case of discrimination because the judge was presented with evidence that both of the parents have equally close relationships with the children, both of them have good homes (actually our home is the more stable of the two homes), the father was never accused of any wrong doing but the mother was given all the rights and the father receives 'visitation'.  The lawyer actually did a pretty good job of NOT giving us confidence.  I am saddened that the system is set up this way and feel that when a parenting situation is such that both parents are good parents, the father should receive EQUAL rights!!! Is that crazy to think?

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#7 of 13 Old 06-25-2013, 06:26 PM
 
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Primordial Minds - thank you for your kind words.  I did post looking for some encouragement :)

 

Actually, this was an original petition, not a modification.  Prior to this point, they have had a verbal agreement.  There was no divorce as they were never married, so there was never a legal custody agreement.  DH could not afford an attorney before. It's a catch 22 isn't it - if you are paying $1200/month and left with less than $1000 to pay rent on a place that is good enough for you and your kids, pay your bills and have enough gas to get to work, how are you supposed to get an attorney to fight for what you want if your kids' mother simply wants to control all aspects of your children's lives and doesn't want you to get what you want?

 

IMO, this was a case of discrimination because the judge was presented with evidence that both of the parents have equally close relationships with the children, both of them have good homes (actually our home is the more stable of the two homes), the father was never accused of any wrong doing but the mother was given all the rights and the father receives 'visitation'.  The lawyer actually did a pretty good job of NOT giving us confidence.  I am saddened that the system is set up this way and feel that when a parenting situation is such that both parents are good parents, the father should receive EQUAL rights!!! Is that crazy to think?

 

I'm not trying to give you a hard time. Honestly. But - Dad had 35% on the kids' time as status quo. So what made a change to 50% necessary? Why did Dad not look for a 50/50 arrangement at the time of the CS determination?He COULD have filed on his own - a lot of parents do handle these things pro se. Not knowing he could, or how to do it does not make the system skewed. I'm a Mom, and I busted my butt educating myself so I could handle these legal issues on my own. Just like any parent could. 

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#8 of 13 Old 06-25-2013, 07:38 PM
 
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mtiger--I understand you've done your research and you have your experience, but you're neglecting the fact that its known in that community that most judges there are biased towards mothers. Even if the dad had a stellar basis for why he wanted 50% custody (which it sounds like he did), the judge was already leaning towards favoring the mother. If it had been the mother who was wanting more time with the kids and more involvement she probably wouldnt have had to say much. The judge didnt even ask for proof for what she uses the child support money for! Its horribly unfair. To say that why didnt he petition sooner is neglecting the fact that he was trying for 2 years to fight for his rights. Its common knowledge that if the parents arent married the dad has an even harder battle to face and that it is really sickening. The default shouldnt be the mom and this father truly wants to be there for his kids, its very sad that biases and political leanings dictate his relationship with them.
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#9 of 13 Old 06-25-2013, 08:10 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm not trying to give you a hard time. Honestly. But - Dad had 35% on the kids' time as status quo. So what made a change to 50% necessary? Why did Dad not look for a 50/50 arrangement at the time of the CS determination?He COULD have filed on his own - a lot of parents do handle these things pro se. Not knowing he could, or how to do it does not make the system skewed. I'm a Mom, and I busted my butt educating myself so I could handle these legal issues on my own. Just like any parent could. 

The point of my original post is that IMHO, dads and moms should be treated  equally when they are both good parents.  I am frustrated that the courts in GA default to the mother unless it is proven that she is not a good mother.  Why is that?  Are dads less of parents than moms?  I was a single mom for the first 3 1/2 years of my son's life...his biological father has never played any part in his life.  I know what that is like.  I do not think all fathers should automatically be given equal rights, but I do think that in a case where the parents are both equally parenting the children, and doing it well, they should be given equal rights because I think it is what is best for the children. Children who are fortunate to have 2 good parents should be able to spend equal time with both of them.  

And I'm not sure why you're trying to give me a hard time - maybe you had a similar situation in your own life?  If so, please don't read into this that it is just like yours.   Each case is different and we can only know all the facts of our own.  My complaint had nothing to do with anyone busting their butt to educate themselves...or handling legal issues on their own.  My complaint was about a traditionalist judge who chose to award time, money and power to one parent when it was proven in court that both parents are good parents.

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#10 of 13 Old 06-25-2013, 10:55 PM
 
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OP, I know you made this post because you are hurting and you need support. I don't think you should have to defend yourself, especially now when everything is so fresh and painful. You don't need to be kicked when you're already down.

Hugs to you and to your DH. I'm not sure how the system works because I have not been through it. I just had to post because I saw it in "New Posts" and then I saw you were getting a hard time. Sending you a hug and some good vibes!!!

Wife to one amazing husband superhero.gif, SAHM to DS bouncy.gif 10/09, DS babyboy.gif 10/19,  one furbaby dog2.gif, and lots of chicken3.gif!

 
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#11 of 13 Old 06-27-2013, 12:58 AM
 
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I don't think anyone is giving you a hard time, rather, they are just pointing out that while it sucks, the courts in general do not like to change custody percentages unless there is a very compelling reason. I live both sides of this, as my ex and I do 50/50 with our child, and my husband who has totally gotten the short end of the stick with his son only gets his son about 25% of the time. We (dh and I) petitioned for more custody, with good reason, and it went similar to yours. I've seen this happen in court regardless of who is asking for more time; unless there is a dramatic change, they keep things the same. It isn't necessarily personal, or even against fathers, since I see the same thing happen to mothers. I'm in CA, so things may be different here.

 

Now, child support is a whole other issue, lol! Here, you can petition for a change in child support at any time, but there should be a change of circumstance. I don't understand how his support is so high when her income is so much better than his, is that normal? 


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#12 of 13 Old 06-27-2013, 05:15 AM - Thread Starter
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I don't think anyone is giving you a hard time, rather, they are just pointing out that while it sucks, the courts in general do not like to change custody percentages unless there is a very compelling reason. I live both sides of this, as my ex and I do 50/50 with our child, and my husband who has totally gotten the short end of the stick with his son only gets his son about 25% of the time. We (dh and I) petitioned for more custody, with good reason, and it went similar to yours. I've seen this happen in court regardless of who is asking for more time; unless there is a dramatic change, they keep things the same. It isn't necessarily personal, or even against fathers, since I see the same thing happen to mothers. I'm in CA, so things may be different here.

 

Now, child support is a whole other issue, lol! Here, you can petition for a change in child support at any time, but there should be a change of circumstance. I don't understand how his support is so high when her income is so much better than his, is that normal? 

It must be interesting to have seen both sides of the issue!  My complaint is that if there IS good reason for a 50-50 split, then the courts should grant it!  For either side.  I understand that this is not the case, but IMO, it should be. No, GA is not like CA at all in this.  Our attorney told us from the outset that 3 of the 4 judges in our county ALWAYS rule on the mother's side unless there is abuse/drugs...so, my complaint is specifically that I don't think that father's here get a fair shake when the judge's ruling can be known before the case is even heard.

 

Maybe the other poster was not trying to give me a hard time - I just felt like the tone of her posts summed up the situation without knowing all of the facts. She stated that "Dad filed for a modification" when this was not the case and she stated that the lawyer gave us false hope when this was not the case. I found the statement "He COULD have filed on his own - a lot of parents do handle these things pro se. Not knowing he could, or how to do it does not make the system skewed. I'm a Mom, and I busted my butt educating myself so I could handle these legal issues on my own. Just like any parent could." belittling and arrogant.  I never complained that the system was skewed because he didn't file on his own.  our judge's decision would not have been any different.  Maybe it is only my perception since they are just words on a screen and I can't properly read the 'tone' but I did not find the posts encouraging, helpful or even neutral.  They felt dismissive and judgmental to me.

 

The child support issue is very frustrating - to give exact numbers based on tax returns - he makes 1567 a month(gross) and she makes 3977 (gross)...his 'normal' child support comes to around 330/month, but she made up numbers for deviations for summer care (I take the kids during summer days when she has to work - she is also a teacher and does not work the whole summer, but does do some occasional work).  She padded the numbers for the activities the children are in and says that she spends 3200/year in extracurriculars so she needed a special deviation so that the girls can "continue the activities they are accustomed to"  THE JUDGE AGREED TO THESE DEVIATIONS WITH NO EVIDENCE!!! The deviations are what raise the child support.  The judge granted DH NO deviations except for hte fact that he has 2 other kids which took $32 off of his child support! She brought no tax returns to court, no proof of day care expenses, no receipts from extracurriculars...he stopped the hearing in the middle of her testimony, before our attorney had a chance to finish cross-examination or give closing arguments, stated that it would be up to the parents to work out visitation but that he would not give 50-50, took her child support worksheets and granted all of the deviations she had requested with no evidence.  To me, this seemed both illegal and unfair (Our attorney also said that it is illegal and the judge now has to provide a written statement of what part of the GA Code he followed to make these judgements)  The judge did lower the child support from $750 to $563, but I do not think it is fair that DH should pay $230/month extra based on her padded numbers with no evidence...In this particular situation, this father has always paid his child support - he is not looking for any sort of escape from supporting his kids, just doesn't think it is fair to have to pay money for deviations that are based on money that is not spent.

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#13 of 13 Old 06-27-2013, 08:58 AM
 
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Wow, that is crazy about the child support! And yes, being biased to the mother as a default, like the "old days" must be frustrating, it is different here.

 

I have seen that done a LOT, in terms of not asking for proof of numbers for child support (for either party). I don't understand it, either. Actually, now that I think about it, even in my case the judges never asked for proof, and at our actual trial (yes, it went to a short cause trial) I had paperwork regarding my exes income and the judge didn't even want to see it. 

 

I have seen judges do some things that make no sense to me, I really feel that a lot of decisions are made simply based on their mood. It's very frustrating all the way around.

 

When my dh and I filed for more custody of his son, the judge made it clear quickly that it wouldn't happen. We had extremely good reasons, too. I was pretty astounded that when my dh detalied the dates that his ex witheld visitation (we had police reports and everything), the judge didn't care. I am getting increasingly disheartened with our legal system. 


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