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Custodial mother thinks father only wants joint custody now to reduce child support

Your Question:
When my son was first born in January 2004 the father and I agreed he would pay $800 a month for child support. In May 2004 he decided he didn't want to pay that amount and TOOK me to court. The final determination was he was to pay 727.14, he got every other weekend for visitation and we alternate holidays.

At the time we went to court my mother was watching our son fulltime. In September 2005 my mother started a part time job, she works 2 days a week. So I enrolled our son in daycare for 2 days only and he stays with my mother for 3 days. I took my son's father to court to get the daycare amount included. In March 2006 the court ordered him to pay $1195 a month in child support.

Now my son's father is taking me back to court requesting joint physical custody. He claims that he can watch our son while he works or he can work 4 days on 3 days off. I totally disagree with him watching our son while he works. That is not possible. I feel our son will be sat in front of the TV or given toys while he pounds away on the keyboard (he's an engineer). In addition watching a 2 year old is a fulltime job itself. My mother is a retired school teacher. She has a set schedule for our son in which she teaches him letters, numbers, takes him to the library, checks out books, takes him to the park & zoo etc. She is committed to being with our son all day and giving him her full attention.

We have discussed him wathcing our son Mon. Tue & Wed the days (he says he has off) but wants to get him every other weekend in addition. I have stated if you have Mon, Tue, Wed off that means you work Thur, Fri, Sat & Sun. You can't watch our son. My son's father is married and it is my suspicion that his wife (she does not work) will be watching our son instead of him. Then he changes his mind and says he can watch him while he works (total mind games).

A year ago when we were in court I proposed midweek visits. My son's father told the judge he could not do midweek visits because his job was too demanding. He is on call a lot, travels and sometimes has to work evenings. For the past year he has not done midweek visits, has forgotten to pick our son up for Father's Day, New Year's Eve & New Year's Day and has never gone to any doctor visits.

He also has not followed the court order to pay the correct amount for child support. He paid $500 every month when the order stated for him to pay $727.14. He also fraudulently claimed our son on his taxes (he is in arrears therefore he is not to claim our son) and refuses to reimbruse me for part of our son's medical expenses. He also claims that I am alientating our son from him, which is a lie. I had to move back home because of finances and him not fully following the court order so I have my parents as witnesses to prove that either he didn't show up or our son has gone with him for every visit when he came to get him.

I feel our son is in a stable environment, is very attached to his grandparents (especially his grandmother & me)and is receiving the attention he deserves and needs. In addition we live 45 minutes to an hour apart (in traffic it can be an hour and a half drive). I do not think a 2 year old going back and forth is emotionally healthy.

How do I prove to the judge that my son's father is only trying to obtain more days in order to lower is support? How do I prove that in NO way have I attempted or have alienated him from our son? I have followed the court order to the letter. I believe it's quite obvious to me but I want to make sure I present my case the proper way. I have an attorney but I don't think he is diligently working on my case & I can't afford another attorney. I want to make sure I'm properly prepared. Thank you.

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My Answer:

I don't think you've got much to worry about.

First, I'd encourage your attorney to attempt to negotiate (once) with father to arrange a payment schedule on the child support arrears. Then file contempt, if father refuses to negotiate. That alone may get father to say, "Why don't we both just drop our motions?" and then you're done for now. Father can get in serious trouble for being in contempt of child support orders, so don't use this "weapon" arbitrarily. You can screw up his life for a little while; and that's not good for anyone.

As to how to prepare for your response, argue it from a "best interest" perspective.

Remove all the suspicions you have as to father's motive or as to what he'll do with the child during his time.

Instead just lay out the facts that you included... 1 hour distance each way is not good for child to endure daily, child has routine and stability already, you've followed court orders to a tee on the parenting schedule (but father has neglected to exercise his custodial time frequently, on THIS plan, let alone a more extensive one).

You can't disprove any false accusations. All you can do - for each false allegation - is say, "That is absolutely untrue, and there is no evidence to support the father's accusation."

An ineffective attorney is a dangerous attorney. It sounds like this person has done well for you, so make sure you're not judging the attorney on your feelings of how hard he's working. Instead, take an objective look at the results he's produced to date-- if you've gotten nearly everything you wanted, you have a GOOD attorney. Bedside manner or diligence is irrelevant. Results is what counts.


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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