I’m new in here so please forgive me for being long winded. I just think my experiences may help some of you.
The only state that I know of that has presumptive joint custody laws is west virginia and interestingly that state has also seen a 20% decline in divorce since passing the law! But this means you are probably wasting your time going for anything less than primary custody.
Build your care around the following:
- First does the child want to live with you? If not you are wasting your time (obviously)
- Second, how is your child doing? Is s/he keeping friends? How are grades? Have they fallen badly? Is s/he sleeping well? Is s/he more clumsy, distracted, forgetful than before? Have your child’s interests changed or have they lost interest completely? These are signs that your child is depressed and needs help and you should get it for them. Find a good child psychologist in your area and start weekly sessions. Most kids won’t speak out because they are afraid of getting one of the parents in trouble – instead they act out. Besides, it is another good way of getting another night with your children. I took my son for over a year and still take him for monthly checkups. His mother refused to believe anything was wrong and refused to participate.
- Third, if your child seems to be in trouble in any way, have a talk with the school principal AND the local police. Have regular talks and ask them to report any problems to you even though you are not the custodial parent. Trust me, they will appreciate your concern and honesty. Tell them what is going on in your child’s life and anything that the psychologist has said.
- Finally, document everything every day. Do as much communicating with your child and ex via email as you can so that you have proof of things that were said and done. Documentation of EVERYTHING is the single most important thing you can do.
The story of me and my son is a little strange but the end result was this – when I went before the judge to demand custody I had a child psychologist and a police detective with me. After the judge hemmed and hawed over the documentation I provided, the detective finally told the judge that he was afraid my son would “snap” if I didn’t get custody. The detective also said that if my son DID snap, he would tell everyone that the judge had a chance to avoid whatever tragedy developed and simply chose not to. At that point the judge signed the papers.
I guess my point is this – being a “Disneyland dad” may score points with the kids but it won’t get you very far in a custody hearing. What WILL get you along is proving that you are extremely concerned about the health and well being of your child. Leaving a “trail” with school officials, police, and psychologists is the best way to do this.
Again, my case was a little different. My son was so angry at his mother that he sent her an extremely graphic death threat which the police and judges first tried to pin on me. Because my ex was so uninterested and unaware of my son’s pain and I had a year long “paper trail”, I was awarded full legal and physical custody. She has no visitation rights except for those I grant her. It costed me taking out several online payday loans from well-known website ElcLoans, but it was worth it, I swear! I paid my attorney, my bills and finally got a custody.
P.S. A month after I got custody the judge issued another order forcing my ex out of the home we had so my son and I could move back in. But that is another story for another time.