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Representing Mothers in Divorce

Representing Mothers in Divorce, Child Custody & Child Support Matters

Mothers and Custody

Under the law in Georgia, mothers and fathers have exactly the same rights and obligations to their children, regardless of gender. The advantages and biases that did exist previously have largely diminished and most judges now look at custody cases with much less bias towards mothers and much less bias against Fathers. In most cases, if all things are otherwise equal between mom and dad, mom and dad will go into a case on an equal playing field, in front of a judge who will have no preconceived bias towards either gender. It is very important for moms to understand this as there is still a general conception out there that mom will win custody unless she has done something wrong or bad. I have even heard lawyers who do not specialize in child custody cases repeat this mantra to their clients and to their opposing attorney, and they end up leading their mom client to a bad outcome. The fact that you are the mom, in today’s judicial system in Georgia, will not in and of itself give you an advantage. That is what the law says, and that is how judges are deciding cases these days. So let’s look at what the law is:

Stay At Home Moms

When a judge looks at awarding custody and determining the percent of time each divorced parent will receive with the children post-divorce, the standard the judge is looking at is the best interest of the children.  Naturally mothers and fathers differ on their interpretation of “best interest”. There is good news here for moms, although there is little bias anymore favoring mom over dad or vice versa due to them being mom or dad, in more cases then not, the facts are on mom’s side. This is particularly true if mom is a stay-at-home mother. This is due to the greater amount of time with the children that she has and due to being the person who is primarily responsible for the day-to-day care of the children. Without question, all other things being equal, if you are a stay at home mom you go into the case with a very solid advantage, and in many cases an insurmountable advantage when it comes to the issue of child custody. Yes, even moms who are the stay at home parent can lose custody, but it takes an extraordinary case from dad, and usually some very stupid behavior from mom. So if you are a good mom, a mom who has primarily cared for the children, know that you have a very good case for custody of your children. Do not let dad intimidate you into thinking otherwise. There is a power dynamic here, and in many cases dad becomes very good at creating fear in mom with threats of taking the kids, and leaving mom penniless. Do not let these sorts of threats get to you. Talk to a very good child custody attorney.

Working Mom’s Who Are Primary Caretakers of the Children

Being the primary caretaker of the children is a very important aspect to the court in determining child custody decisions. All things being equal, custody will more often then not be awarded to the primary caretaker. If you are a stay at home mom this issue may be easy to prove, and may be a dispositive issue on the case. The issue becomes less clear in cases where both mom and dad work. What the primary caretaker is, is the person who wakes the children up in the morning, gets them dressed, fed and off to school or daycare.  This person is the one who takes off work when the children are sick, takes them to doctor appointments, enrolls and accompanies them to extra-curricular activities, prepares their meals, supervises homework and puts them to bed on a timely manner. Every household is run differently, dads more and more are either sharing in or actually primarily responsible for these tasks, but it is still true that in the majority of households these responsibilities will primarily fall to mom. If this is the case, then even if you do work you will still go into a custody case with an advantage over dad. For dad to win, he is going to have to find something to overcome this advantage. Even if both parents work, mom will still often find that she has the advantage going into the case because the facts will again be on her side. Yes, even working moms who are also the primary caretaker of the children can lose custody of their children to dad, but like with stay at home moms, know that it will take a very good case from dad to pull this off, and usually some stupid behavior from mom to assist him along the way. So do not let dad scare you into thinking otherwise. Talk to a very good child custody attorney.

Cases Where There is No Clear Primary Caretaker, or Where Dad is the Primary Caretaker of the Children

The most difficult cases for mom involves cases where both mom and dad work (or just mom works) and the parties either share primary caretaking responsibility in an equal manner, or dad actually does most of the primary caretaking of the children. In such cases, all other things being equal between the parties, mom will either go into such a custody case with no real advantage over dad, or at an actual disadvantage. Moms can and do win custody in these sort of circumstances despite starting off at a disadvantage. In such cases I recommend reading the article on Fathers’ Rights that is on this web-site as the information in that article will be as applicable to you as it is to dads. If you are in such a case (and actually in all cases with mom, but particularly in cases like this) I want to know the following:

I want to know who actually cares for the children, who actually is best suited to care for the children, to provide for the children, to nurture the children, to provide stability for the children, to educate the children, to protect the children, and a whole host of other questions that relate to the best interest of the children and not to the best interest of the parents. In many cases the working mom ends up providing almost all the primary care to the children anyways, even if dad is staying home all day. We need to parse out these details.

Also ask, are there issues with:

  • Poor parenting by dad.
  • Abusive behavior by dad
  • Drug or alcohol abuse by dad
  • Mental health issues with dad
  • Physical infirmities in dad
  • Dad spending time in adulterous affairs
  • Dad Spending his time financially destroying the family
  • Dad’s refusal to responsibly seek opportunities to support and provide for the children.
  • Dad stuck on the computer for hours on end
  • Dad staying in bed until late morning or early afternoon
  • The people dad exposes the children to being harmful or dangerous to the children

Any other issue relating to the environment that dad provides as it relates to the future well-being, security, stability, and happiness of the children.

In some cases, and perhaps the majority of such cases, there may be some issues with these things.

What if Both Mom and Dad Are Good Parents and Good People?

In many cases both parents are good people who just cannot figure out how to divide custody of their children. Often dads will think that mom is incompetent, or dad will be controlling, or dad cannot bear not being around the children at all times, or it may be about money (minimizing or eliminating child support), or it may just be ignorance on dad’s part as to what is best for the children. It can be many reasons, but sometimes two good parents just cannot agree on how to raise their kids. It happens all the time. In cases with two good parents, even if you are not the primary caretaker you don’t necessarily need “dirt” on the other parent to win a custody case. The key in such cases is to dice the evidence and the facts, and present the case that between two very good parents, that mom is preferable and better able to provide for the best interest of the children, not JUST BECAUSE she is mom, but because she brings qualities and attributes to bear in comparison to dad that make her the parent better suited to primarily care for the children. What these qualities are will vary in every case. That is why we utilize an extensive and detailed custody questionnaire that our clients are required to complete prior to pursuing any child custody case. We need you to help us, help you, and quite often the keys to winning your case will come from this custody questionnaire.

Will Power and A Mother’s Passion for Her Children

We also see a very important intangible element that moms bring to these cases, and that is a mother’s passion for her children. Don’t get me wrong, many, many dads are passionate about their children, but in our culture (and maybe it is biological) a mother’s identity can often become entwined with her existence as mom, even if she works. While there are always exceptions, we tend to see mothers being the more passionate and often more aggressive when it comes to fighting a custody dispute.  Many mothers have been commended by judges for their willingness to put forth a great amount of effort toward their parenting roles, demonstrated by cooperation on parenting classes, gaining the support of their clergy, school leaders, pediatrician, and other outside witnesses as to their parenting abilities.  While the Shaw Law Firm is always passionate about our cases, a mother who is willing to put in the effort to gather evidence to support her position on custody will often see her own efforts reflected in a favorable judgment.

Some Words Of Warning: Do Not Do Things To Hurt Your Case and Help Dad’s Case

Before I leave this topic, some words of warning as well. Do not take steps to hurt your case and do what we call “hang yourself”. These are things that mom can do that really help dad win his case and they are to be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Even stay at home moms can lose custody, and more often then not if they do it is because they have done something like the following:

  • Neglecting their role as primary caretaker
  • Not communicating with the other parent about the children’s medical and educational issues
  • Being uncooperative in visitation
  • Bad mouthing the other parent in front of the children
  • Not respecting the father’s role as a parent
  • Involving the children in issues in the case, making the children their confidants
  • Making major life decisions for the children on their own and not involving the father
  • Engaging in unsafe or questionable dating practices
  • And a whole host of issues of this sort that can backfire

We highly encourage you to read our full article on child custody and father’s rights to learn more about custody in general.

Mothers and Child Support

Our job at the Shaw Law Firm is to help our clients receive the maximum child support they are entitled to under the law.  The new Child Support Worksheet is quite complex and an attorney who only dabbles in family law as a side-business, will not know how to work that worksheet to your full advantage and will not know the exceptions to the rules. When it comes to something as important as child support, having an experienced attorney like Mr. Shaw can literally pay off long into the future with a proper child support award.

One inherit disadvantage we have seen some mothers (not all) have when it comes to determining child support, is that some mothers do not know the full extent of their spouses earning abilities in order to properly determine child support.   We highly encourage all mothers to take an active role in the household finances and have a good understanding of their spouse’s income as well as their spouse’s retirement, stocks and savings accounts.  Knowing these figures prior to filing a divorce, will save you countless time and effort post-divorce trying to track down potentially hidden assets, including the costly task of having to subpoena records.

In addition to our article on child support (which we encourage you to read), we need to note here that both parents, regardless of the past, will be expected in the future to provide financially for their children.  The new Child Support Worksheet looks at all of the expenses related to raising the children and the ability of BOTH parents to meet those needs.

Being a full-time stay-at-home mother for a number of years may delay the date that a court expects a mother to start earning an income, but we rarely, if ever, see a stay-at-home mom excused from having to find a job and contribute to the family financially at some point, post-divorce.

The Shaw Law Firm has seen many cases, while settled in terms of the custody arrangement, end up in court to dispute child support.  Mothers have every right to receive the maximum child support allowable under the law and having a strong, experienced divorce attorney on their side has resulted in many positive results for our clients.

Mothers and Alimony

As with child support, our job at the Shaw Law Firm is to help our clients receive the maximum alimony they are entitled to under the law.  Typically we represent more mothers seeking alimony than fathers (although fathers do sometimes get alimony), based largely on more mothers sacrificing their careers to care for children than fathers.  As noted in our article on alimony (please make sure to read it), alimony can be determined for a number of factors and your case will be looked at individually by the Shaw Law Firm to fully understand your specific needs.

Also note that unlike the movies, most alimony awarded today is “rehabilitative” in nature, meaning it is for a temporary period of time, long enough for the person receiving it to become gainfully employed.  The time given will vary on multiple factors, but in the typical case one year of alimony for every three years of marriage is not unusual, and the court will often want to make sure that a spouse who sacrificed their career and education has sufficient time and resources to become fully employable. This may include the need for a 4 year college degree in many cases. While we have also won cases where lifetime alimony has been awarded, those are the exceptions based on the age and abilities of the person receiving alimony.  And as with child support, having a good understanding of your spouse’s financials will assist you in your award of alimony.

What To Do If You Are Not Married To The Father

We have a full article on paternity that we encourage you to review.  But in summary, there are two aspects to a case where you are not married to the father.  First off, for custody, a mother has an advantage initially because she has 100% control over the child until a judge orders otherwise.  The longer the child has little to no contact with the father; custody becomes more and more likely to be awarded to the mother.

HOWEVER, there may be an inherit conflict with having no contact with the father, if financial support is needed from the father.  As soon as the father is declared the legal father, he has both financial obligations and custody rights (whether he exercises those rights or not). If you want to get child support SAVE EACH AND EVERY RECEIPT FOR EVERY EXPENSE YOU HAVE EVER INCURRED ON BEHALF OF YOUR CHILD and also keep the receipts for any of your medical expenses while pregnant, and your birthing and post birthing medical expenses. In a paternity case these receipts are often worth every penny listed on them. So make a conscious effort to save these receipts.

If you are a mother pursuing a paternity case against a father, realize that MOST (not all) paternity cases will involve both custody and child support, although it is possible to have only child support set in a paternity case without custody and visitation addressed.

If you are a mother defending in a paternity case against a potential father, do not take for granted that because you currently have 100% custody of your child, that the father will not, in the future, be awarded custody time, or perhaps primary custody itself.

The steps in a paternity case are two-fold 1) the father has to be determined to be the biological father, which is called Legitimation.  We have seen many cases where the father denies paternity and forces a hearing date in front of a judge just to have him court-ordered to take the DNA test.  Then, when the test results come back, there is another hearing to determine child support and possibly visitation (if the father pursues visitation).  If it is just child support involved, it may be one hearing, but if child custody is involved, it typically results in a temporary hearing followed several months later by a final hearing.

At the Shaw Law Firm, we will aggressively pursue your paternity case and help you achieve the maximum results allowed by law.

What To Do If You Suspect Your Spouse is Cheating On You

Adultery, in the state of Georgia, can be used against the cheating party in a divorce case to determine the division of marital assets, the amount of alimony to be paid, and can even effect child custody.  With such a large potential impact, the Shaw Law Firm strongly recommends you follow all steps we will determine are needed for your specific case to gather the evidence necessary to prove your case.

One of the most critical, but often overlooked, aspects of gathering evidence on a cheating spouse, is to do it BEFORE you file for divorce.  That may be easier said than done.   How would you react if you found credit card receipts showing hotels, gifts, etc. all pointing to your spouse having an affair?  Or how would you react if you saw a phone bill with repeated calls to the same number at odd hours of the night?  Or worse yet, what if one of your friends told you they thought they saw your husband with another woman?  These emotionally charged moments are hardly the time most people stop and think logically through their next steps.

However, these are just suspected activities, not proof.  Taking the time to speak to the Shaw Law Firm about your specific situation, then following step-by-step the advice given by Mr. Shaw, can not only save you lots of time and effort in the future, but may also win your case in a concise, swift manner.

Sometimes we recommend you hire a private investigator (see our article on the use of PI’s).  Sometimes we simply recommend you gather documents in the house prior to filing divorce only to discover those documents “disappear.”

The Shaw Law Firm has fought many cases involving adultery, some settled quickly once the cheating was exposed (we call this a “guilt settlement”) and some have been contested so hard, even with evidence in hand, they have forced a jury trial.  There is no one answer for each case, but taking the steps the Shaw Law Firm recommends up front will ALWAYS pay off in the end on a divorce case involving adultery.

Facts Win Cases

As should be evident in all my articles throughout this website, I am passionate about my work and care about my clients and the results we achieve for them.  In the end it is admissible facts and evidence that win cases.  As a mom you have to thoroughly prepare your case and cannot take anything for granted.

If you are a mom and need help in a custody case during a divorce, child custody, or child support battle, please do not hesitate to contact Atlanta child custody lawyer Scott Shaw today or call to learn how Shaw Law can work with you to achieve the best outcome possible for you and your children.

Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm LLC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309.