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Newly separated husband wonders about getting 50/50 custody with infant whose mother moved 350 miles away

Your Question:
My wife left 10 days ago to stay with her parents which is about 350 miles away. We were married for 3 years and we both currently live in Texas and I am currently a student. I will graduate with my Bachelors in 6 months. We have a one year old daughter. 2 days ago I went to pick up my daughter for a week and she barely recognized me and was scared. I am very concerned about this especially in such a short time and would like to persue primary custody of her. My wife was in a lesbian relationship for 1 year prior to our meeting. She also has a history of poor financial responsibility. Are these type issues something that I should use in court? I feel when it comes to the child that we are both equal parents. I however don't feel like my wife will agree to a 50/50 split. I haven't spoken to a lawyer yet, but have an appointment scheduled

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing, and sorry for what you're going through.

Okay, so I think you have SO MUCH learning to do about what's important in child custody decisions and also perhaps about child development so you don't make unfair assumptions.

A one-year old child who is taken away from her primary home, from her normal routine, and from one of her parents for 10 days is likely to experience some insecurity. What you took personally is probably just her reaction to the BIG UNSETTLING changes happening in her life. I'm not certain who suggested that this child should go 7 to 10 days at a time without seeing either parent, but I think it's a bad plan. A one-year old should see both parents at least every couple days, if not daily. The child is dealing with transitions, object-security issues, bonding stuff, and so on. So, I don't have advice on what you should do with that information, but there it is.

As to a child custody decision, I feel that you have zero percent chance of a court ruling a 50/50 split with a one-year old across 350 miles between homes. You'll have better odds if you and the mother are in the same town. If you can document that the mother is leaving the child in your care for a week at a time, it bodes well for you in the future... since it shows that the mother finds you to be an adequate parent (and vice versa, if you let the mother have the child for 10 days).

Unless your wife was in a lesbian relationship with a heroin-dealing, prostitute elephant and has resurrected that relationship recently, her sexual past is irrelevant.

Unless your wife has such a gambling problem that she spends money on casinos instead of diapers and formula, her financial expertise is irrelevant. Have you checked out the average American consumer's financial situation recently? There are more bankruptcies than ever, but you don't see their kids being stripped from them, do you?

The issues you need to focus on are a) What parenting schedule has been the status quo for the past 6 to 12 months?; b) Does either parent pose a major threat to the welfare of the child (and you already said "no")?

If the status quo is a 50/50 schedule across 350 miles, and if you and your wife settle on a 50/50 parenting plan, then you're done.

But if you take it to court, whichever parent has had the vast majority of time in the preceding 6 to 12 months will likely keep majority custodial timeshare.

If you graduate in six months, and if you can keep a custodial timeshare near 50/50 before going to court, and if after graduation you immediately move to wife's current town prior to going to court... you may have an okay shot at 50/50.

In the meantime, I think you could really benefit from getting the book Win Your Child Custody War by Hardwick. There's a link to it on my Resources page. This book will help educate you on what's important, and what's not important, in the process leading up to a child custody ruling.

Good luck.


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