In my over 16 years as a child custody attorney, I’ve heard many myths. Below are some of the most common myths – in italics – followed by the truth.
- Moms always get custody: I’ve represented many dads who won physical custody of their children. It’s based on what is in the best interest of the child. Judges will consider factors such as who: got up with the infant during the night, changed diapers, fed them, takes them to the doctor, involved in parent-teacher conferences, helps with homework, gets them to/from school and other activities, and who is overall involved in their day-to-day lives. This is not an exhaustive list.
- I don’t have a job so I won’t get custody: No, many parents are unemployed, that doesn’t equate to being a bad parent. In cases of extreme poverty such that basic needs are not being met, you may lose custody. However, unemployment doesn’t disqualify you as a parent.
- No child support means no visitation: Child support and visitation are separate issues. You cannot refuse visitation between a parent and child because he or she is behind on child support. Failure to pay child support is remedied by contempt or other measures in court, not vigilante justice by withholding the child.
- I don’t have to tell my ex where I live: A parent has a right to know where his or her children are residing. Except for cases of domestic violence and a judge has afforded such protections, you will have to tell the other parent where you live.
AND THE NUMBER 1 MYTH . . .
- A child can decide at 14 where she wants to live: Alabama does not have an age for which a child can determine who she wants to live with. It’s not 14. It’s not 16. It’s not 12. Just NO! No child should be put in the position to choose between mom or dad. Children should be shielded from adult decisions such as this.