Divorce Joint Custody And Child Support

by Denise
(Germantown, MD)

My ex and I were divorced in 2003 and he now resides in PA and I reside in MD (about an hour away from each other.) At the time of our divorce, I was given sole legal and physical custody of our now 11 year old daughter and he had the same for our now 20 year old daughter. I am to provide "reasonable visitation" to her father, which I have done for the last 7 years. Our daughters spent every other weekend with him or me, and we worked out all holidays and vacations with no trouble at all.

We had no specific child support amount established because each of us had one child. This arrangement was agreeable to us both and worked fine. Shortly after our divorce, he purchased a home with his girlfriend and they lived together with her two children for the last several years. They married in June, 07. We all had an extremely amicable, cooperative and loving co-parenting arrangement. In fact, it was so amicable that back in Dec, 2005, I became seriously ill and had to give my daughter to her father to care for.

She lived with him, her stepmother, stepbrother, stepsister and natural sister for 3 and 1/2 years. While she lived with him, I paid him monthly child support since he was providing and caring for both of our daughters. Her stepmother took wonderful care of them both and I have never had a complaint or problem with her. My youngest daughter returned to live with me in June, 2009 and has been with me for the last school year and will remain with me from now on. The oldest has since graduated and enlisted in the National Guard.

In October, 2009, our family dynamic completely changed when I received a call from my daughter's stepmother telling me that their marriage was over because she had caught her husband having an affair. The affair had been going on for most or much of their 2 year marriage and when he was caught, he informed her their marriage was over and that he was leaving her for the other woman. The house was in both their names, and neither one of them could afford to live in it alone, so she had to find other living arrangements for her and her two children as soon as she could - which was not until March 2009.

Between October 2009 and March 2009, my daughter's father continued his love affair openly in front of his wife, and step children, and even involved his own daughters. He took our youngest daughter to meet his mistress on Halloween - 2 weeks after he had been caught by his wife. He took our oldest daughter to her home for Thanksgiving - skipping his own family celebration entirely to be with his mistress. He continued to go back and forth between his home and his mistress's home for 5 months, completely disregarding his wife and stepchildren in front of his daughters and having them build a relationship with his mistress while still married to and living with his wife.

During the Feb 2009 blizzard that hit our region, he packed up both his daughters and took them to the home of his mistress (who was also married with a 12 year old son from a previous marriage) and spent the weekend in her home while her husband was "stranded at work because of the snow". His own wife and stepchildren were left to fend for themselves home alone. He has asked our daughters to lie for him and cover up his/their whereabouts in the presence of his wife.

I spoke to him about this several times and asked him, told him and pleaded with him not to include our daughters in the middle of the troubles between him and his wife. I explained the emotional/psychological damage that leaving his brand new wife for another woman could have on both daughters. I told him that our youngest needed to time to adjust to the loss of her step family that she had lived so closely with for the last 3 and 1/2 years; he disregarded my input and did as he wished. As soon as his wife was able to move out at the end of March, he moved in his mistress and her son 2 weeks later.

I did not interfere with his visitation at first and our daughter continued her weekend visits with her father during all this turmoil in his home. Unfortunately, his wife was not able to find any residence she could afford except for the HOUSE NEXT DOOR. So, he lives in a residence (purchased for and with his wife, stepchildren and our daughters for the last several years) that he now shares with his mistress and her son while his wife and step children live right next door....literally within 25 feet of each other. Add to that that his mistress immediately began trying to befriend both of my daughters and replace their relationship with their stepmother.

I did not interfere with her relationship with my oldest daughter, however my youngest daughter has a much stronger bond with her stepmother because of the fact she was her primary care giver from the age of 6 - 10.

I tried to get them both to understand and respect the fact that our youngest needed to time to adjust to all these changes and that it was not appropriate to try to get rid of the old and bring in the new immediately. Again, my concerns were ignored. His mistress went so far as to start writing emails to my daughter that included "i love you!, i miss you!, i'm counting the days until you come home!!!...". the straw that broke my back was when i discovered that when our daughter visited her father, he actually left her for over 7 hours in the sole care of his mistress while he attended a motorcycle driving class.

When I discovered this, I lost my temper and I told his mistress to stay away from daughter (and not in a very nice way.) Up to that point, I had not spoken with her at all other than a brief introduction. A few days later, I received a voicemail from a man identifying himself as a Waynesboro police officer and he said he wanted to talk about the "incident" that occurred in their home. I did not believe that a police officer from another state had any jurisdiction to call me about a family argument, so I did not return his call.

The next day, I received a certified, notarized letter informing me that I was now banned from entering their home. My response was a similar letter telling him that his mistress was no longer able to provide custodial care or be in the presence of our daughter.

Things were very tense and hostile so I did write to him to try to settle things down. I told him that she needed time to adjust and that the situation at his home was just too emotionally awkward with with his wife/stepchildren living next door and our daughter suddenly having to ignore her step family in order to show loyalty to her "new" stepmother/step brother.
His response was a letter that threw accusations at me and my fiance for being poor parents and that he would be seeking joint custody. I tried to speak with him on the phone about the situation and he hung up on me. Within the last few weeks, he has gotten a divorce from his 2nd wife and apparently plans to marry his mistress as quickly as possible.

In fact she has already been using his last name on her facebook page and did so even before either of them divorced their current spouses. I learned this from my oldest daughter who uses facebook quite regularly.

I told him that he could see his daughter anytime he wanted, but that she could no longer go to his home until some time had passed or some counseling had occurred. He has come to visit her twice. A few days after his visit with her on fathers day, he put in a complaint with the family court and had me served with a summons to provide a written answer. He accuses me of denying reasonable visitation, of doing so spitefully and says he is seeking joint legal custody with liberal visitation and well as compensation for his legal fees.

So........my question is.....what can he really do? Do I have to give him joint legal custody just because he asks for it? Will the courts be supportive of my attempts at keeping our daughter out of the middle of an emotionally difficult situation or will they tell me that as long as he isnt abusing her it doesnt matter what he does? Does his behavior in front of his daughter have any bearing on how the court will view the situation?

Does his behavior with respect to his financial obligation have any bearing on the joint custody decision? He did not pay a dime of child support for the last year, in spite of my repeated requests for him to come up with some sort of contribution. I did nothing about the fact that he didnt pay because I was trying to get him to do it on his own and establish and amount he was comfortable with. He has suddenly begun paying me small amounts - presumably because his lawyer told him he cannot ignore his child support obligation, although there is nothing currently in writing to say that either of us has to pay or how much.

I did go to the courthouse on June 10 to get an order established, however they told me it would take about 4 months because he lives in a different state. I make more than he does I make about 90, he makes about 60 - so I have no idea how much he is actually supposed to pay. Am I entitled to any back child support for the last year that he did not pay?

I am allowing her to visit this weekend, however it is not what I feel is best. I still have a "no trespassing order" against me that, as I understand it, means they can have me arrested if I step foot on their property - and yet I am supposed to allow our daughter to visit for the weekend. Is this legal? allowable? advisable?
Do I need a lawyer to deal with this or will it make that much difference in the final outcome to get one? Is it possible that I will have to pay his legal fees?

Comments for Divorce Joint Custody And Child Support

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Custody Issues: VIP Member
by: Child Support America Team Member

Hi Denise,

Thank you for the enrolling in our fast response service concerning your custody situation. First of all, we are sorry for all that you and your daughters have been through dealing with this situation.

It appears that things were going great for awhile and then suddenly took a turn for the worst. So here are some answers to your questions. Please keep in mind that we are not attorneys, and our opinions and advice come from our experience with dealing with the system.

Ok, First of all you absolutely do NOT have to give your ex-husband joint custody without a fight. Just because he asks does NOT mean it will be granted by a judge.

And yes, hopefully the courts will be supportive of the mental and emotional well being of your daughter. Your job or the job of your attorney will be to prove this in court. We advise you to make a journal, similar to what you wrote here explaining everything that has happened. We can imagine that there is more to the story, but you definitely have a great start with what you submitted to us.

Some people don’t fully explain the full story in the court room which can hurt your case. The judge will need to know how bad things really are.
Next issue: His neglect in Not paying child support for the last year, may or may not have an influence concerning the joint custody case. The actual child support order wasn’t started until June, so technically he may not be responsible. Although, some judges may see this as a sign of irresponsibility so this could possibly work in your favor. And he will be responsible for the child back dated to June 2010.

As far as you needing an attorney, that depends on several factors. It first depends on how strongly you disagree with your ex-husband having joint custody. It also depends on your ability to prepare and handle your own case. It also depends on how serious your ex is about pursuing this. Please know that some people file motions to intimate or scare the other party. They do this not knowing what’s all involved, and eventually back out.

If you decide that you want to represent yourself temporary or through the whole case, allow us to give you a good recommendation. You can buy or check out from the library a book called "Represent Yourself In Court" How to Prepare & Try a Winning case: by Nolo Press. It’s a great read to educate you on the system, and you only need to read the sections dealing with family courts, custody and divorce ect.

Some additional advice would be to find a good counselor and have your daughter in counseling as soon as possible. This situation is causing some emotional strife and she needs a “neutral” party to express her feelings too. Also if it were to go to court, this will look great in your favor.

We hope this helps and feel free to contact us anytime via this post. Try to remember to put VIP Member in the Comment Title, so that you get an expedited response.


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