Copyright © 2011 O.W. Press
All rights reserved.
* * *
This is a survival and sanity guide for the most painful part of a contested divorce—child custody. I am an attorney who has represented many husbands and wives in divorce proceedings, but, while I will discuss some general legal concepts, the major focus is on the practical aspects of custody before, during and after the divorce. Ultimately, child custody cases involve both legal principles and human nature at its most intense.
Let’s get one thing straight upfront: I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. Nothing in this book is intended as legal advice. Legal advice can only come from your lawyer.
I will be speaking about child custody issues and custody litigation in general terms. Divorce law is primarily governed by the laws of your state, so there are fifty different versions of divorce law. Within a state, local court rules govern some aspects of divorce litigation, so the way divorces are handled in one city will differ from the way they’re handled in another. To make things even more interesting, each judge who tries divorce cases has his or her own particular way of making custody decisions and every judge has pet peeves that smart lawyers are careful to avoid.
So, if I say one thing and your lawyer says another, do what your lawyer says, not what I say. I’ll talk a little later about how to find a lawyer you’re comfortable with and suggest some ways to avoid hiring a loony lawyer. Fortunately, there are not many loony lawyers, but a few always exist, just like loony husbands and loony wives exist, which is probably the reason you bought this book.
In most places, it isn’t even called divorce any more—dissolution of marriage is one of the more fashionable terms. Divorce lawyers also like to call themselves Matrimonial Lawyers or Family Law Specialists. I’ll use the more traditional terms because those are the ones real people—clients—use. I’ll also use general terms to describe what goes on in divorce court to enhance your understanding, but the specific legal lingo—whether the court papers that start a divorce are called a petition or a complaint or something else—will vary from state to state.