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Newly separated married father has many questions, wonders about access to infant

Your Question:
I am a married man and my wife has taken our daughter and moved to her sisters home. She told me that she wanted to stay with her sister for a couple days because her sister's husband was out of town. I agreed; however, when the 2 days were up she failed to return with our daughter. It has been 6 days and in that 6 days she has only aloud me to see our daughter for about 4 hrs.

I have never hit our even yelled at her or our daughter. I am the sole support for our family, but I feel that our famliy is spliting up. I need some advice on what I could do to atleast gain 50/50 joint custody. I live in CA.

My wife is a great mom and cares deeply for our daughter. She has no real bad qualities that I can or would use against her. I wish that I said that just because I was being nice but it is the truth.

On the other hand, I feel that I am a great father that just wants what is best for our daughter. This last week has been so hard not having her bouncing on my knee, playing hide and seek with her, and all the games we would play. She breaks my heart everytime she says "dadda" because I have to leave. I need to be able to see her more.

I do not feel that our marrage is going to work. I just was wondering if there is anything that I should do before filling for divorce to help level the playing field in court. Should I let her file or should I? Is thier anyway that I can be with my daughter untill the divorce is resolved?

Sorry if I was verbous and thank you for your time.

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My Answer:

I asked you for some further information. You said that your daughter is 1 year old, that the mother is currently several miles away from you, that you mostly work from home, and that the mother currently doesn't work.

If you read my What You Must Know page, you know that whomever has physical custody when entering litigation will likely end up with physical custody (barring some extreme situations).

Many fathers write to me, saying that the mother is a good mother; all while the mother is trying to bar a child's contact with the father. A mother who attempts to damage a child's relationship with the father is NOT a good mother.

Now, since the time you originally wrote to me and then when you provided more information a little later, you said that the mother has informally agreed to split the parenting schedule 50/50 until there's further resolution.

The good news, now, is that you have a 50/50 schedule. Remember the rule about status quo being very important in a judge's mind. So, if you go for a while with this schedule, by the time you get to court, it's the status quo.

With an agreement (even if informal) in place for 50/50, neither parent can realistically argue that the other parent is a threat to the child. A parent would never agree to allow a a dangerous person to spend 50% of the time unsupervised with a child. So, the longer you go with this current schedule, the better your odds will be at securing joint physical custody with roughly a 50/50 schedule.

I strongly recommend you try to mediate these issues, rather than litigate. Litigation only benefits attorneys. If you and the mother can set aside anger and come to agreement in mediation, you'll save thousands (if not tens of thousands) in attorney fees.

Calculate that savings when you make an offer of financial support. If you can be guaranteed a 50/50 outcome while paying her some support for a while, that may be a better wager than planning on spending many thousands of dollars on an attorney with no guarantee of outcome in a court.

Go to my Recommended Books page. Look those over and see if any interest you.

In your case, I also recommend you purchase two books not on that page. The first is "Mom's House, Dad's House." The second is "The Child Custody Book" by James Stewart (retired California judge). Both these should give you an excellent orientation as to what you're facing and the ideal way to resolve conflicts.

Bottom line... read a ton. The more you educate yourself, the better decisions you'll make in coming months.

Keep a journal too, documenting exactly when you spend time with your child. I strongly recommend that you get the OPTIMALTM software I describe on my What You Must Have page. It will help you keep your documentation organized and thorough, which lends to credibility if you ever need to show a judge or custody evaluator.

Also keep in mind that you have the exact same legal rights to the child as the mother (until a court says otherwise). You could likewise hold onto the child and prevent the child from seeing the mother. That would be a wrong thing to do, but it would be legal. So.. don't act like you have no rights.

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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