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Newly separated father has restricted access to kids; faces numerous accusations by mother

Your Question:
After 5yrs of marriage,wife filed for divorce. Have 2 daughters together, ages 4 and 1. after she filed for divorce, asked to see children, but wife wanted to supervise visitation. supervised visitation lasted for 7 months, because soon after she filed for an ex-parte domestic violence restraining order. she filed for that ex-parte 2 weeks before custody court trial and 2 week prior mediation. My attorney is very aggressive, he dismissed ex-parte. Wife and I went to mediation 2 weeks before she filed for ex-parte. In mediation, wife only wanted to give me Saturdays with no over nights. I disagreed with her terms. My attorney and hers negotiated temporary visitation orders until next hearing. I don't know if I should agree, but my attorney indicated that I need to build my case and show the judge that I can have the children by myself and am able to care for them alone with her being there or any supervision. The temporary orders are monday, wednesday eveningings, and Saturday mornings until late evening every week until the hearing comming up next month. My attorney suggested to sign up for parenting classes ( i.e., Positive Parenting through Divorce...) and enroll children in a daddy-daughter activites. My attorney also mentioned to log every activity the children and I do, such as: when they ate, when the took a nap...etc. By the way, her allegations are that I am a domestic abuser and will take children out of state. What do you think and suggest?

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My Answer:

You and I exchanged several emails.

Here's the lowdown on your situation:

  • You've been separated 9 months.
  • You've only seen the kids a few times a week for around 3 hours (average) each.
  • You've been accused of violence but never charged nor had a restraining order issues.

Based upon what you've outlined, unless you've left out some significant and relevant matters, I think you're not being guided well by your attorney to agree to temporary orders that are substantially less than what you want to see in the outcome for these kids. Temporary orders often become final orders, so you should never agree to anything that is very far from what you want.

I suggest the following approach (in strategy, and in what you request in your parenting plan):

  • Sure, you can take a parenting class. It can't hurt and can only help. But it's likely not going to be a deal breaker on anything. Even better, propose that both parents must complete class XYZ within 6 months. Find out what class is often recommended by the court.

  • Request a neutral exchange location where there would be witnesses (e.g., a coffee shop that is halfway between the two homes).

  • Request orders that either parent may audio record conversations made with the other parent at any time, to ensure any altercations can accurately be recorded.

  • Propose that neither parent may move more than 20 miles away from the other parent, which should satisfy her concern about you moving.

  • Propose that both parents undergo polygraph examinations about any alleged incidents of violence, and that the parties agree the results shall be admissible. If you're telling the truth, the results will only help you. She won't likely agree, which also speaks about the situation.

  • Propose that the parties undergo custody and psychological evaluations. YOU can't make conclusions about her motivations. A custody evaluator CAN.

  • Don't agree to any parenting plan that does not include overnights. I don't agree that you need to first "prove" yourself. That's what you've been doing for nine months. If all you get is a step-up plan (e.g., do one plan for X months, then step-up to a new plan with overnights), that may be acceptable. Read about Parenting Plans on my website.

  • Learn about schedules appropriate for the age of the children, and propose a parenting schedule fit for them. Again, look at the parenting plan section on my website.

  • Get witnesses who can write affadavits about the type of father you are. Family members don't count, unless the person is from the mother's family. Look to priests, rabbis, doctors, dentists, teachers, day care providers, neighbors, etc. These will all help your case.

  • Make sure your home is equipped to handle sleepovers. Get all the furniture, clothes, toys, etc necessary to raise the kids. Pretend like you had to raise them 100%, and get your home ready for that. You'll then argue in court that the home is appropriate.

  • Ask your attorney if it's appropriate to depose your ex at this time. Do a search for "deposition" on my website to see how I've advised people on it. In your case, deposing your ex will force her to outline specific concerns and examples as to why your time with the children should be so restrictive. If she has a ton of concerns, but can cite no examples, your attorney will use that in court to easily show a judge that she's off her rocker, hates you, can't come up with any single bad thing that you've done. Your attorney can also ask her, "Has he ever hit the children? Molested them? Otherwise physically abused them?" If she says yes, she'll be asked to cite the time/place and explain why she didn't report it. If she says no, she's agreeing that you don't pose a threat to your kids.

You can see that I'm suggesting you propose several things that force accountability and truth on the situation.... witnesses at exchanges, audio recording, evaluations, and polygraphs. You defeat evil with truth as your weapon, so you propose truth-seeking tactics as much as possible. When she fights against every single one of them (via her attorney), your attorney can show the court that your ex refuses to agree to ANY path that would give objective information to the court. That says alot.

In short, I think it's time for you to stop playing defensively on this case. It has been NINE months, and you're facing someone who constantly accuses. There will be no good settlement for you.

Take the lead by working out a good offensive strategy. Also, look at my Things You Must Have page. Both those things can really help someone in your situation.

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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