GUIDE TO DIVORCE FOR DADS
Many dads don’t know their legal rights and make huge mistakes as a result. Knowing the law can set you up to gain custody of your children, and to protect yourself financially.
Need immediate advice? Call 256-770-7232 to set up a consultation with one of our family law attorneys.
You and your wife start on equal footing as parents.
What does this mean? Practically, it means that your wife has no greater right to parent your children than you do. The court system of Alabama hasn’t preferred mothers to fathers in decades. The official legal standard reads like this:
“Upon granting a divorce, the court may give the custody and education of the children of the marriage to either father or mother, as may seem right and proper.” Ala. Code § 30-3-1
So what should you do?
- Don’t leave your home!
Unless the Court orders you to do so, don’t leave the marital residence. You and your wife have an equal right to be in the home and spending time with your children, don’t give this up voluntarily!
- Stay active in your children’s lives.
Don’t let your spouse drive you out of caring for the children and being involved in their day to day activities. When the judge looks at what will be best for your children, he/she will consider everything, including:
-Who takes the children to the doctor or dentist
-Who attends parent/teacher conferences and field trips
-Who helps the children with their homework
-Who picks the children up from school and/or takes them to their extracurricular activities
- Don’t let your wife tell you she is keeping the children with her.
Without a court order, your wife has no greater right to spend time with your children than you do. Although you should avoid conflict if at all possible, you have every right to take the children with you if you leave the marital home.
BUT . . . DO NOT leave the state!
There are special laws that protect against “parental kidnapping”, which is when one parent flees the jurisdiction of the court with the kids. Go ahead and file for divorce and obtain a court order that specifically allows you to leave the state before making travel plans.
- Keep providing for your children financially.
Even though you aren’t court ordered to make payments, you should try to keep providing for your children as you always have during the marriage. Where possible, make direct payments to the school, the daycare, etc., rather than giving the money to your spouse. You want to establish a pattern of taking care of your children, not your soon-to-be-ex.
Child support goes both ways.
If you are granted primary placement of your children (they are with you more than fifty percent of the time), then by law your wife will be obligated to pay support to you to help you provide for the children. This can include covering medical copays, extracurricular activities, and providing life insurance for the children’s benefit.
- Keep the children stable.
Get the court involved immediately if your wife tries to move the children to a new home or school, or disrupt their regular activities in any way. Also keep an eye on the people she is bringing around them. If she’s dating again, it is not appropriate to have this person around the children, even if you are separated.
- Hire a qualified attorney to help you navigate these issues.
Going it alone may seem like the best way to save money in the short term, but in the long run it can have huge costs to you and your children. Do the work up front to protect your legal rights and your financial future.
If you have questions about your particular situation, don't hesitate to call us at 256-770-7232.