By Dad “X”
Divorce is inherently combative. Unfortunately having attorneys writing letters back and forth is expensive and should be part of a consideration you show your ex should the question of you being combative comes up in court.
With every outrageous breaking of a divorce decree or parenting plan, you’ll have to decide which battles to fight and which to avoid.
“I Have My Rights!”
Yes, you have your rights but challenging even the tiniest trespass on those rights gets very, very expensive. The average letter, counting the attorney time of them reading your initial contact, writing a letter and having to answer the opposing attorney will cost you several hundred dollars. Is not getting your kids on time worth it?
Typically, if the problem is only that your ex is not dropping the kids off or picking them up on time, the issue can be worked out. If communication is cut off between you, then little adjustments can be made without your seeming to be unwilling to work with your ex “for the good of the children.”
An attorney will tell you to either learn to wait and hope your ex will eventually “get with it” (which does happen). As difficult as it might be, you should continue following the parenting plan even if your ex is willfully breaking it. Not doing so could make trouble for you.
Your attorney will instruct you to keep a log of when the children are picked up and delivered on custody days. Build the strength of your argument before any legal action. After a period of time, if the problem persists, one letter may clear up the problem as your ex’s attorney will no doubt instruct your ex to be more diligent. Following that all depends on your ex.
For over a year, I documented several vexing contempt issues with my ex. I’d set up a video camera in my car, showing the front door of my ex’s house and recorded pickups and dropoffs.
I would hold my cell phone to the camera once I was on the front walk, showing the time and date. I would take video of the clothes she would pack for the kids. If the kids had a strange bruise or scrape, I would take video of it. After 14 years of divorce it never had to be used or mentioned, but I’m glad I have it.
In the end, you have to decide how much you can take and stay sane, but most of all, do breaches of your divorce decree pose any danger to the children?
Things do work out… in time.
When my ex was late releasing the kids, I would wait on her front stoop and dance for the camera. I just got used to waiting and eventually called to say I was around the corner so she could demand another hour to get the kids up and dressed.
Eventually it worked out and not one official letter had to pass through attorneys.
Getting a mish mash of clothes (i.e., pajama tops with no bottoms, only one spare sock, a shirt the child wore three years ago, etc.) was easily solved by buying a wardrobe for the kids to keep with me for their visits. An added expense on my part, but still a bargain compared to multiple letters back and forth to attorneys.
When my ex kept taking the kids out of state without informing me, I gently reminded her how I provide route maps, itineraries and contact numbers for the safety of the children and asked her to please extend the same courtesy to me.
Eventually, she started informing me of out-of-state trips, not really providing any details except location and, “I’ll have my cell phone.” As the kids grew and got their own cell phones, the problem went away.
Other small battles worked themselves out, in time, which saved money on attorneys as well as psychotherapy had I really wanted to fight an ex who relished having the power in the relationship.
When the thirst for power and the desire to carry out a waning anger start to diminish, the battles lessen. You might even be able to be in the same room as your ex when the kids get married. Maybe even on the same side of the wedding hall!
Over the years, when discussing my problems with groups of divorced fathers, I have heard dozens of reasons you MUST get an attorney involved.
There are situations where your attorney will instruct you to start gathering evidence, as mentioned previously, or start informal discussions with your ex’s attorney. There will be situations that demand restraining orders, orders of contempt and other serious, life-threatening things that must be addressed legally.
Some of these real problems include:
- Your ex is cohabitating with someone who openly uses drugs, alcohol does other harmful things to the children.
- Physical and/or emotional abuse is taking place.
- Your ex’s new boyfriend/girlfriend threatens to kill you if you contact your ex or come to see your children.
- Visitation is denied by your ex.
- Support payment problems.
- Denied phone access on non-custody days.
- The children are missing too much school.
- Stopping your ex from suddenly moving with the children.
- Parental alienation.
- Serious medical issues.
And the list goes on and on. You will certainly know when something must be dealt with quickly and legally. When that’s the case, an attorney’s fees are well-spent on the safety and welfare of your children.
There are many great free pieces of literature for the layperson about divorce laws. Some are available from your state family court website. You can also find numerous resources here at DadsDivorce.com.
Check back on the first of every month for the next column (or the first Monday after the first), outlining the mistakes I’ve made and how to best work with your attorney for success and, most of all, a better life for you and your children.
To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men, contact Cordell & Cordell.