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Helping Fathers Protect and Enforce Their Custody and Visitation Rights

Helping Fathers Protect and Enforce Their Custody and Visitation Rights

Are you a father or husband faced with a pending divorce? Are you dealing with property division or child custody/support issues? Do you feel that the court is biased against you because you were the primary wage earner and your wife stayed home with the children? Perhaps you’re facing a situation where you’re being alienated as a parent or the mother of your child has given you notice of intent to relocate with him/her. These are serious issues that can permeate every area of your life creating emotional and financial distress at the deepest level. Unfortunately our legal system adds to all the stresses of divorce by leaning in favor of the mother, especially those mothers who invoke the most pity, or who were the primary care-giver at home, while you worked hard all day.  Without a careful strategic approach to your case you could be at a disadvantage right from the start.

Every father in California fighting for their custodial rights should first know what the law says regarding the order of preference for granting custodial rights. California Family Code Section 3040 states that custody should first be granted, “according to the best interests of the child..to both parents jointly..or to either parent.” When making a custodial order favoring one parent, however, the court must consider, “which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent, and shall not prefer a parent as custodian because of that parent’s sex.” This latter part means that parent’s should be treated equally, regardless of their sex.

Helping Fathers Protect and Enforce Their Custody and Visitation Rights

The Court’s attempt to discern the custodial arrangement that is in the "best interests" of the child(ren) typically includes a presumption that the parent who served as the primary caregiver during a marriage should be the primary custodian following divorce. This is often referred to as the “approximation rule.”  The approximation rule holds that parental time post-divorce should approximate parental time pre-divorce.  So whoever did the most hands-on parenting is the parent to get the most time after the parents split. Though the “approximate rule” is not formal law in California, determinations of who was the primary parent is part of the list of considerations for a California family law judge in deciding custody.

Though society is changing and women are more and more becoming the primary breadwinner and working outside the home, the traditional model still dominates. Thus it’s no surprise that what the “approximation rule” values as parenting has little to do with the actual value of what that parent provides the child or the family, and everything to do with a mother's typical parenting behavior.  In truth, it prefers diapering to earning the money to buy the diapers; it values feeding the child over buying the food; it places 'putting the child to bed’ over making it possible for the child to have a bed, a roof over its head, etc.; you get the point. In other words, “mommies” get a lot of play from the fact that they wiped runny noses and changed poopie diapers. While the effort and contributions of “daddies” aren't equally valued in the context of the parent/child relationship. If you think this is entirely biased, you would be entirely right.

Helping Fathers Protect and Enforce Their Custody and Visitation Rights

The Truth About A Mom-Biased Value System

In other words, the parent who earns the money that relieves the other parent of that same obligation and frees that parent to do the hands-on parenting is often treated as the “bad guy.”  And yes, that parent usually is the guy.  Whatever else may have changed, when it comes to kids, fathers still do the majority of the paid work and mothers still do most of the day-to-day care.  If you are a primary breadwinner father, it’s understandable if are disenfrancized by such a value-system.

Obviously, the “approximation rule” often results in fathers not being given equal treatment in child custody litigation; or if they do get it, it’s only after fighting tooth-and-nailt. In short, the “approximation rule” puts any parent, who acted as the primary bread winner at a disadvantage throughout the entire custody litigation process.

Equal Parental Responsibility and Time Equals High Quality Parent-Child Relationships & Healthy Kids Post-Divorce

At the Law Office of Channe G. Coles, we adamantly believe that a "traditional" division of parental roles during a marriage should not prevent the “Dad” from being an equal-parent post divorce. Attorney Coles argues strongly and zealously for the position that both parents, regardless of sex, should be treated fairly and equally when deciding on custody and time-share issues, and pushes back against any perceived judicial bias which favors the mother. Attorney Coles believes that healthy parent-child relationships stem from equality of time and access to both parents, and that this cannot occur within the constraints of intermittent access or "visitation."

At the Law Office of Channe G. Coles, we are experienced in battling the biases that fathers can face in the family courts, and do whatever we can to protect and enforce our client’s father’s rights. Attorney Channe G. Coles will personally review the particulars of your case and develop a comprehensive strategy to strengthen your position in court and be the equal parent you have every right to be.

Pointers for Dads Facing a Divorce and Imminent Custody Battle

Consistent with my thoughts on ‘divorcing strategically’, a Dad facing an imminent divorce and custody battle, or who is already embroiled in one, should head these following points and consider himself warned in the process.

  • If you have children, do NOT move out of the house.
  • If you have children, and your spouse is threatening to leave the state with them - get a Temporary Restraining Order (or TRO).
  • Do NOT allow your spouse to take the children and leave.
  • Get an attorney immediately.
  • Insist on 50% custody and parenting time.
  • [Before you file for divorce] move your personal papers and records to a safe location, AWAY from the family home.
  • [Before you file for divorce] cancel all jointly-owned credit cards.
  • Safeguard all jointly-owned bank accounts.
  • Make a record of all marital property.
  • Secure your more valuable personal (separate) property.
  • Inventory and safeguard any stored property.
  • [Before you file for divorce] reduce unnecessary expenses immediately.
  • Start keeping a daily journal of all your time spent with your children and any interactions with your spouse.
  • Don't sign ANYTHING unless your attorney tells you to.
  • Prepare yourself for false allegations and take steps to protect against them.
  • Stop contributing to any IRA's, 401(K) accounts or pension plans.
  • If ANY domestic violence occurs, call the police. If you think domestic violence is about to occur, then grab your video camera and start taping.

Obviously, I must include the caveat here that the above is not legal advice. They are recommendations and guidelines only in the absence of an attorney-client relationship. There may be many other recommendations or advise I would offer my client in light of his unique situation and challenges. There are also technicalities which come into play once a spouse files for divorce which limits what can and can’t be done with community finances, such as bank accounts and credit cards. The advice of a family law attorney is highly recommended prior to filing to ensure certain steps are done right and in accordance with the law.

For questions about protecting your rights as a father call the Law Office of Channe G. Coles today for a free confidential consultation today.

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