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Father has pretrial conference soon, has 68% custodial timeshare, wonders where he stands

Your Question:
My wife and I separated 18 months ago. Initially she moved across town. But for the past year she has moved 80 miles away. She has also moved 4 times in the past 18 months. Twice in the past year she has had to move home with her parents for financial reasons. I have maintained primary care 68% of the time. When she left town 1 year ago, she refused to pay her portion of childcare, medical expenses, etc. and literally left me with all the childrens financial support. Her parents smoke 3 packs a day and my children are there 2 days a week under their care. Her mother has had lung cancer with lobectomy. Continues to smoke in the house and is on constant oxygen. My wife has had a suicide attempt and refused medication and outpatient therapy. I have been making her car paryments, medical bills, all childcare expenses and have maintained primary care but she is fighting for custody. Where do I stand with all of this? I'm in Iowa. She also has major financial problems. It seems to me since I hve been doing literally everything to support the children and helping her substantially, along with the fact I have documented every day I've had the kids.Again, 68% of the time. I filed for divorce 8 months ago and are scheduled for pre-trial conference in 2 weeks. I assume she will not agree to me maintaining primary care. I have never refused the opportunity to see the kids. In fact, we discussed 50-50 but she has given up the kids a substantial portion. I also have a more flexible work schedule and have more time off to spend with the kids.

Where do I stand?

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My Answer:

I think -- if you build your case effectively, and if you retain a decent attorney -- you stand to be the primary caretaker of these kids, provided you don't have skeletons you haven't mentioned.

What is good about your post is that you're not hung up on terms like "sole custody" or "full custody", etc. Don't worry about those terms until later.

Your primary concern right now should be (and seems to be) getting a parenting schedule that is best for the children.

Here's what you have going for you:

  • The status quo, if you can prove it in court, has you taking care of the kids most of the time. Generally, judges won't upset a parenting schedule without good reason. So, the mother has greater burden than you at showing why her home should be the primary one.

  • According to you, you've been the only responsible parent in terms of supporting the kids since the separation. Prove it in court, and it's relevant.

  • According to you, she's moved 4 times in 18 months. Prove it in court, and it's relevant. The judge wants stability for the kids.

  • According to you, the kids are exposed to unhealthy levels of second-hand smoke in the mother's home. Prove it in court, and it's relevant. You'll need to hire an expert witness (i.e., a doctor) to testify as to the harm it causes the children; and you'll need to prove that the levels inside the home are accurately described. The mother may merely respond, "Huh, how is this relevant?! Grandma always smokes on the outside porch and never inside." And then you lose credibility.

  • According to you, the mother has psychoemotional problems. The suicide attempt is relevant if it's recent, if it put the kids at risk, and if you can prove it. The mental health problems are relevant only in terms of how it impacts her abilities as a parent. Prove it in court (see a common theme emerging here?).

  • 80 miles is too far to do a 50/50 schedule. One parent is going to get primary custodial time. The parent who lives where the children have their roots (e.g., school, activities, friends, etc) is the parent with a big advantage here.

If you've read my posts, it's not too often that I think someone has a good shot at prevailing with what they think is best for the kids.

You have a good shot. But, as I initially mentioned-- you need to effectively build your case with RELEVANT evidence AND you need a competent attorney. Without both those factors, your chances go down.

If you haven't already looked at my Recommended Books, look into "Child Custody A to Z", which would really help you understand how to best put your case together in a way that would influence a judge. It's a $20 book... and I think you'll find it valuable in building your position.

Good luck.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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