How do I protect myself and my children during the divorce?

Question:

My wife and I have been married for 20+ years and have four children. We have worked on our marriage with our pastor for the last couple of months and now I fear it is coming to the inevitable dissolution of our marriage. I “melted down” and rather than go home and have another argument in front of the kids, I went to my parents’ home to think for a night. When I returned home she and the children were gone.

She had instructed the children not to return my texts or calls to their cell phones. I finally found out they were safe, but it appears divorce is inevitable. I do not understand why her feelings towards me have changed, but I do realize that my life is in our children.

How and what can I do to protect myself and my children in this process?  What do I need to do in preparation for this to ensure their happiness and safety?

 
Answer:

First, I have to preface that I do not practice in Colorado.  Each state has different laws governing the custody and placement of children. Therefore, you should contact an attorney licensed in your state.  Cordell & Cordell has many attorneys licensed and located in Colorado who would be happy to assist you.

I can certainly understand your concerns regarding custody and placement of your children; these are concerns we address everyday.  First, since you are married, you and your wife have equal rights to your children.  This means you can decide to pick your kids up from school and keep them overnight; however, she could do the same thing the next day.  In the end, the children are stuck in the middle causing irreparable emotional damage. Most states have laws however that prohibit a party from interfering with the other parent’s parental rights.  Refusing to allow you to see or speak to the children could be a violation of such a law.  The best advice is to contact an attorney to assist you prior to making any decisions affecting the placement of your children.

In the meantime, you should make sure you are preparing for a custody case.  You should keep a journal which details your interactions with your children and your attempts to contact them.  The journal should be handwritten and you should make notes each day.  You should also consider what third party evidence you have that exhibits it is in your children’s best interest that you have primary placement or shared equal placement of your children with your wife.  Keep in mind others who observe your interactions with your children including teachers, coaches, etc.  Also be mindful that your wife may be doing the exact same thing.

After the divorce is filed, you or your wife can ask the court to set temporary custody, placement and support orders while the divorce is pending.  Some states even allow the parties to file for temporary orders prior to filing for divorce—you may even be able to file for emergency orders considering she fled with the children and refuses to allow you any contact with your children.

Because custody and placement laws are state specific, you should contact a domestic litigation attorney in Colorado right away to discuss your situation and how you can ensure you are protecting yourself and your children.

 

 

 

Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.

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