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Divorcing father wants to know if it's worth it to try for shared custody

Your Question:
My wife is divorcing me after 19 yrs. I have a 5 yr old and 14 yr old. I have been very active in their lives and have been taking care of them alot while my wife attends college for the past 3 yrs. She is all done and now wants a divorce. I live in new hampshire and can't decide if I should go for joint physical custody. My wife will give me most of the visitation i want so she says, but my lawyer says i have a 99% chance of getting shared physical custody. My wife is very much against shared physical and says she will do everything to prevent it. Even though my lawyer says i have a good chance i read that in nh 80% of contested cased end up favoring the mother. This does not sound like good odds to me. Is it worth it? Im thinking if i have shared custody i would have more guaranties as far as seeing my kids. Again is it worth the money and time to fight. I have already agreed to some things but my lawyer says not to worry what we have said so far is just negotiations and she can't use that in court. I agreed to a visitatation schedule and child support. I can give you more details if needed. Thanks

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My Answer:

More details would have been helpful, but you didn't include an email address. I tried to dial you up through telepathy, but that didn't work either.

In terms of your chances, and if "it's worth it", no one can give you a correct answer.

I can tell you that if you settle to a visitation schedule that isn't 50/50, your chances of getting 50/50 is exactly zero percent. Your odds increase if you take it to court. That's not rocket science. If your lawyer is giving you 99% odds that you'll prevail if you ask the court for shared custody, and if you believe your lawyer is well-experienced in your state and very familiar with your judge, that's pretty good.

In my opinion, 50/50 probably isn't too critical for your 14 year old. In less than two years, this kid will be mobile and may largely decide to set his/her own schedule with the parents depending upon proximity to friends, involvement in activities, etc. Plus, both parents have had 14 years to develop a deep bond with this child, and even a 70/30 schedule (on paper) won't change that.

If that was the end of it, I wouldn't have a strong opinion on what you do. But you also have a 5 year old.

If both parents have been very involved in this young one's life, and if both parents are healthy parents, I think it would best serve this child to continue a high frequency and quality of contact.

What does that look like? There are many different parenting plans. In my opinion, and based on what I've studied in textbooks on child development and journal articles on separate parenting outcomes, I don't think a young child should go more than 5 days without spending time with either parent. A 14 year old can handle switching every week, but I don't think the same would help a 5 year old thrive. There's a strong argument for some stability during school days, unless there is very high cooperation between parents to equally support homework and communicate on such.

A shared parenting plan doesn't have to be 50/50 every single week. If one parent has typically been better at helping with homework, then perhaps that parent is the weekday parent during the school year. The other parent can spend weekends with the kids. During summer vacation, winter break, and spring break, the schedule can reverse. This approaches a shared parenting plan that isn't a clear-cut 50/50 on a weekly basis. But you just have to look at your situation and figure out what makes most sense.

Your attorney is correct that settlement discussions aren't admissible in court. Don't worry about that. You are correct that this could be costly to take to trial.

It's time for some soul-searching for you to really examine what parenting arrangement you think is best for your children. Once you have that answer, I think you're obligated to do your best to make it happen because it IS worth it. It may not actually happen, but you'll never regret not having tried to achieve it, and you'll never have to answer to a higher power that you failed to follow-through on what you thought was best for the kids.


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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