In many cases, when parties start the divorce proceeding and decide to live in different households, the separation plays a major role on the eventual outcome on the custody of any minor children.
Too many times, the father moves out and does not take the children with him and leaves the mother in charge of the children. Months later, the parties start the divorce process, and the father seeks full or joint custody of the minor children. What happens? The judge gives primary custody to the mother.
Although some states give preference to the mother if the child is still very young, the majority of states award custody based on what the court determines as the best interest of the minor children. One of the most common things a judge considers when deciding the best interest of children is where they are currently living and how long they have been in that situation.
For example, if the parties are living separate for six months and the minor children are living primarily with the mother, it will prove much more difficult to show to a judge that the best interests of the minor children are better served by moving the children out of the home of the mother and into the home of the father.
There are certain circumstances where it is in the best interest of the minor children to have the children move out, such as unstable housing by the mother, but those circumstances are few and far between.
Therefore, the best advice to give a father going through a divorce or custody proceeding is to never leave or separate from the mother without bringing the children with you.
If the circumstances make it impossible to bring the children with you, then make sure you exercise as much visitation with your children as possible and document the visits throughout the separation and divorce. Always keep a journal that details each visitation you have, and always communicate in writing with the mother so you can use that communication and journal in the final divorce or custody proceeding.
Perfectly capable and loving fathers are far too often denied their deserving share of custody because they spent the time leading up to the divorce separated from their children.
Men need to realize that family court judges do not like to uproot or unsettle young kids any more than is absolutely necessary after the divorce is finalized, and creating a situation where the mother has primary custody during the proceedings sets you up for a more permanent non-custodial arrangement.