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Noncustodial dad gets good custody evaluation, but not good enough


Your Question:
So I am in a custody dispute. I am the NCP, and I am on the every-other-weekend schedule, which obviously is not enough.

We both went and had a court ordered evaluation which came back very favorably for me. It wasn't terrible for either of us, but it said that she was controlling, manipulative and damaging the child-parent relationship.

The recommendation however was that I would get more time, and access, but that it would only be extended by one day. Not good, but it get's worse. The REASON for only adding one day, was that the benefit of me having her for more time was outweighed by the negative of her having to give her up for more time !!

How the hell is that fair?? Just because my ex would not handle it well, I have to suffer? I am not sure how to approach this in the courts without looking like a monster ("I don't care what happens to her" kind of defence). Please help... P.S. Great idea for a site...

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My Answer:
Hi,

I imagine that one of the toughest concepts to accept about the family law system is that it's not about what's "fair" or about justice in any manner. I'm of the mindset that if two parents are both good parents, the timeshare should be roughly a 50/50 split if the logistics allow it. Unfortunately, this isn't necessarily the court's position, nor necessarily a custody evaluator's.

Now that you have the custody evaluator's report, that's the starting place for both parents when in court. Chances are high that you'll end up with something close to what the evaluator's report says.

Come at it from that perspective. Like it or not, that is your starting place. Your "glass half full" perspective is that it sounds like the evaluator thinks you're a good parent. An alternative finding would have been devastating to your position.

If the evaluator's only explanation for why you should not get more time is because the mother wouldn't do well with it, you have a reasonable argument before the court. However, if there's more of an explanation (e.g., concerns that the CHILD may have a tough time), then you've got a more difficult argument.

The status quo of current arrangements carries much weight to evaluators and judges. As you've been the noncustodial parent for a bit (or longer), you're in the "fighting uphill" position, regardless of anything else. I understand that position, for that has been mine too.

So... down to your question... how to approach it in court without looking like a monster.

You'll want to frame your argument around the child's interest. Start out-- for yourself-- by listing all the benefits your child gets exclusively in your home and from your parenting. Likewise, list the negative impact of time spent in the mother's home (especially if corroborated by the evaluator's report). You need to thoroughly understand all that for yourself. Then, your argument will need to convince the judge that it's imperative for the child to spend much more time in your care. "Fairness" or relying on the presumption that 50/50 is best-- unfortunately won't win.

You've got a tough road ahead to try to do better than what the evaluator recommends, but I think you're worrying too much about how you'll be perceived in court. Start practicing by framing your arguments about your child's welfare. If you can do that in court, you may not win, but the court won't ever see you as a "monster" either.

Finally, keep in mind that this is a process. I don't know the age of your child, but future opportunities to return to court will also present themselves.

Best,
Eric





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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