Ask A Lawyer: How Do Get A Divorce And Keep My Kids?


I had to quit my job as an over-the-road truck driver when my wife called and told me to come home to take care of the kids. She said that she didn’t want to be married any longer, and that she didn’t want to be a mother either. I had to quit my job and survive three months without work by selling almost everything I owned in order to provide for my children.

After nine months away, she still wants a divorce but now she also wants the kids although she was the one who abandoned us and has had drug and psychological problems.  She has also repeatedly called DCFS on me, and they are watching me like a hawk.  I have passed every inspection and walk through they have demanded.

I am working now and able to provide for my kids again, but I can’t afford a lawyer. Do you have any advice as on how to divorce this woman, but keep my kids?



Unfortunately, you can not afford to proceed without an experienced domestic litigation attorney, as assuring the initial custody arrangements are properly set forth is critical to fending off any future custody challenges.  Assuming you have nothing but debt at this time, a divorce under which your wife walks away with no financial responsibility and you assume all the debts would presumably be easily agreed upon by her.  Your wife may even agree for you to keep the kids “for now” until she gets “settled” as long as she doesn’t have to pay you child support.  However, if you agree to a divorce that does not give you sole custody or otherwise establishes your wife’s parenting shortcomings, you risk her returning as soon as the law permits to assert that she is fit to assume responsibility for the children and for you to pay her child support.  As you advise that you have been the sole caregiver for the children for nine months and there is a record of unsubstantiated complaints against you by her, you should be in a strong position to pursue custody of your children.  You may be able to obtain legal representation through a legal assistance program in your area depending upon your income, but regardless you should obtain qualified legal representation to protect your children and yourself.     



Richard Coffee is a Litigation Manager in the Belleville Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell. He is an experienced divorce attorney whose practice is devoted to domestic litigation. He is licensed in the State of Illinois and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Courts for Northern, Central and Southern Illinois.


Mr. Coffee has extensive domestic litigation trial experience representing clients in courts throughout Illinois on all aspects of domestic litigation, including the representation of clients who are current or retired military personnel with issues under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, clients involved in state court jurisdictional disputes due to the relocation of one or both parties from or to Illinois, and clients with government or private pension benefit valuation and division issues. 

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