IANAL Divorcefilter (please hope me)
August 6, 2007 7:17 PM   Subscribe

My marriage of ~10yrs is on the ropes. My wife is suing for divorce, and (among other less important things) wants full custody of our beautiful youngsters (ages >4 and <10). There's more inside, but here are my specific questions: 1) I have reason to believe she is having an affair. Does her alleged adultery, if proven, give me any leverage with regards to custody? 2) What other ethical ways are there to ensure I at least get joint physical and legal custodianship?

Just so you understand: I still love her, and although we've had issues I'm willing to admit my shortcomings, share blame, and do anything/everything to keep our family together. I've told her this, repeatedly begging and pleading. The shock of this has taken all of the fight out of me. She refuses counseling, leaves for extended weekends, and is breaking my heart and our family to pieces. We live in the great state of Oklahoma (the original no fault divorce state).

There is no reason to deny custody to me as I am a devoted, loving Dad. She changed the locks to our home on the day I was served, and claims she will file a protective order if I go anywhere near it. Even though there are no grounds for the protective order, and she would have to lie to get one, my lawyer says it would look bad to press the access issue.

My wife has our children, but she lets them call often. She lets me have them sparingly, but dangles them in front of me and lets me take them only when it is convenient for her. She then leaves for days at a time without calling them, returning their calls, or telling us where she is going (I assume to rendezvous with her new flame). She was disappearing and shirking our shared financial obligations for some time prior to serving me. This is the main reason for our arguments. The arguments and "incompatability" are her reasons for wanting the divorce. We make about the same amount of money, but I have historically covered 60-70% of our expenses along with the lion's share of cooking, grocery shopping and home care.

Thank gods, the young ones seem to be handling this alright. We sat down with them to discuss why/what is happening. After being served, we are always civil in their presence. She and they seem as vibrant and happy as ever, but this is tearing me apart at the core. Even though over the last year we had started arguing lately regarding finances (to my shame, in front of the children occasionally) I_still_love_my_wife. Even more, I_LOVE_MY_CHILDREN, and I can't imagine living without them, in my life full -time.

I'm a regular MeFite (mostly lurk) and I need/value your input and/or commiseration. However, since I'm using anonymous I cant reply to this thread. If you want more info you can reach me at lostinokc07@gmail.com. I might not answer unless you give me your MeFi handle and you have been on MeFi for awhile (because I know she hasn't and I don't want to errantly give up any ammo). Any and all comments, suggestions, or even (sigh) sympathy is greatly appreciated. This is my own personal WTC-I had no idea this was coming.

Thanks for your time guys. Though I have never seen you, I love you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Contact, in order, a lawyer specializing in divorces, a therapist specializing in same, and your best friend for a shoulder to lean on.

Don't post or share details with people on the internet--you have no way of knowing who anyone actually is.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:25 PM on August 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Having recently gone through a divorce, fortunately with no minor children involved, all I can say is get.an.attorney.asap

I wish you, and your kids the best.

e/mail me if you wish. address is in my profile
posted by HuronBob at 7:26 PM on August 6, 2007


We cannot give you any useful advice. You need legal counsel immediately to ensure that your interests and the interests of your children are protected. Pay whatever it costs, mortgage your house if you have to, but make sure you have the best representation you can possibly afford as soon as humanly possible.
posted by decathecting at 7:26 PM on August 6, 2007

My heart goes out to you.

Hire a PI if you can afford it.

She has choosen to make this nasty. You need to keep it clean until things are behind the closed door of the court room. Keep smiling to her face and being polite but gain the ammo you need to remain in your childs life.

Good luck.
posted by crewshell at 7:27 PM on August 6, 2007

spell check. DUFF!!!
posted by crewshell at 7:27 PM on August 6, 2007

Sorry, it seems from your question that you may already have an attorney. Your lawyer should be able to tell you what s/he is doing to ensure that you get access to your kids and get custody and should be able to tell you what role your wife's current behavior will play in your custody suit. If s/he is not answering your questions in a timely and satisfactory manner, I'd get a new one. Do not skimp on this.
posted by decathecting at 7:30 PM on August 6, 2007

I have never gotten a divorce. And I'm not a lawyer.

However. This is my suspicion:

People going through a divorce seem to find it, generally speaking, really, really difficult to be human to each other. They think everything is a zero-sum game, and that they are the only decent parent, the only decent person, and if they don't talk about this loudly and at length, the other person will get the house, the car, the kids, all their friends.

(I am not saying you are doing the above. It's just what I've observed.)

I've also observed that when people choose to feed the beast of animosity, that holds them in a pattern for a lot longer than if they go "You are a good parent. We are both good parents. I have no intention of trying to take the kids away from you, and I know, because I know that you're a good mother, that you want what is best for the kids, which is shared custody, thanks." and hold fast to that, even if the other person is being a jerk.

That's kind of scary when your instinct is to fling mud and fight tooth and nail. But the other person doesn't seem to stay a jerk very long when the individual who's deescalating the conflict, while certainly remaining firm in his or her commitment to shared parenting, refuses to engage in the he-said, she-said, you're-a-bad-person, give-me-the-kids stuff.

Again. Just my observation. But I figure you'll get plenty of advice along the lines of "Fight her with everything you've got or you'll never see your kids again!", so I thought, you know, maybe an alternate viewpoint.

Best of luck to you. You sound like a really decent person.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 7:44 PM on August 6, 2007

From what I've seen of divorce, if your relationship with your wife is poor now, it is likely to worse before it gets better. You need to keep your focus on what is best for the children - even if you have to bite your tongue and put up with some unfairness. At the same time, you need to do your best to make sure that you get divorce decreee that keeps you involved in your children's lives - for your benefit and theirs. A book that was highly recommended to me was Mom's House, Dad's House.
Finally, if you don't fully trust your lawyer's advice, get a new one. this is one time and place where is worth spending what it costs to make sure that divorce is fairly structured and that you understand any tradeoffs that you might be making.
posted by metahawk at 7:59 PM on August 6, 2007

Prepare for and expect the worst. Men routinely get screwed in this sort of situation. Unless you can prove drug use, abuse, or infidelity, you are pretty much fucked, as the word of the woman is taken over the word of the man in almost every case I've seen where it's happened to friends and family.

One friend of mine, his wife, after divorcing him and taking half his shit, got involved with a hotshot attorney who suggested she could get more, so they went after the rest of his shit. He had a lot of money at the time. So his solution was to simply quit working, go off the grid, not pay the outrageous child support fees, and just disappear, so that they would not get another fucking penny. He had already lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but he vowed to give not a penny more. It was a battle every step of the way.

I'm sorry, but the odds are totally stacked against you.
posted by chlorus at 8:13 PM on August 6, 2007

You need to hire a Private Investigator ASAP, preferably one that your lawyer can recommend and whom he/she has worked with before. It may not be enough to ensure joint custody, but having hard proof on videotape before she wises up and lays low could be helpful as to alimony and asset allocation.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:19 PM on August 6, 2007

I was just going to make the recommendation that you hire a detective. Ordinarily this is the last thing I would say to anyone, but if she's disappearing for weekends and ready to completely boot you out of her life, it could very well be because she's got someone new she's hoping to be with. You have a lawyer, you're prepared to do everything possible to stay in your kids' lives, so it sounds like you're doing all the other stuff you can.

And I really would try to let go of the marriage. This woman doesn't sound like a good person to be with.
posted by orange swan at 8:27 PM on August 6, 2007

This one is for a lawyer in OK. Get one stat. No if's ands or buts.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:30 PM on August 6, 2007

Get a second opinion, is what I mean. If you aren't 100 percent sure of what your current attorney is saying.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:32 PM on August 6, 2007

Since you already have a lawyer, s/he will be your best guide to how to approach things, what is possible, and so on. Other people's anecdotal advice, no doubt offered with the best of intentions, is no match for an experienced lawyer who's tried divorce and custody cases before the judge(s) in your area.

Your lawyer is the first and, for now, the best source on what tack to take with regard to getting the best result you can from this. Does that involve going after your wife hammer and tongs to prove adultery? I don't have an Oklahoma law license, so I don't know how big a factor that is in determining custody. What I've seen done is to use the threat of an adultery accusation as leverage for a better deal when it settles...and most divorces settle. You may be ordered into mediation, which may or may not work. What is often contested are temporary orders. Most of us in the bar believe that custody cases are won or lost at the temporary orders hearing. Adultery can be used as a ground for an uneven property distribution in the states I've seen.

Unless your lawyer is evidencing incompetence or there's just a really bad fit between you, stick with him/her. Almost all lawyers will do their best, and even if they aren't the sharpest lawyer in town, they've usually got the tools to do a good job for you. In that regard, be a good client. Tell him/her everything relevant. Be clear about what you want. I recommend educating yourself on the process. Here's a good start, from the Oklahoma Bar Association. Nolo Press also does (generally) good books and such on legal topics.

More generally, what you should be shooting for is the best arrangement possible for the children, one that includes regular, mandated access between them and you.

A good judge will try to make his or her best judgment for the children's sake if the two of you can't work it out. Will s/he have a bias in favor of the mother for custody? Much less so than 10-30 years ago. In most states, custody is determined on the best interests of the children. Your lawyer should be able to advise you on the options available.

I understand that you're grieving the breakup of your family, but it sounds terribly obvious that she's not coming back under any circumstances. Non-legally, I recommend finding a divorce recovery group near you. They're often affiliated with churches, but the ones I've seen don't proselytize.
posted by missouri_lawyer at 8:54 PM on August 6, 2007

I forgot to mention the best reason not to go lawyer-shopping now if you can help it. Every smart lawyer you talk to when looking for a new lawyer will ask if you're already represented by counsel, and will be extremely leery of taking your case, because experience has taught us that someone who has a lawyer but is shopping for a new lawyer is probably going to be trouble as a client. S/He will doubtlessly call your current lawyer as soon as you hang up to get his/her side of the story, which will poison the well for your current lawyer. And the new lawyer will probably demand lots more for a retainer, assuming s/he will take your case.

Sometimes you gotta divorce your lawyer, but it is a drastic step. It's water under the bridge, but it's why it pays to choose wisely the first time.
posted by missouri_lawyer at 8:58 PM on August 6, 2007

Hire a PI to follow her. If you can, get access to her voice mail, her email, and possible paper notes or gifts given to her. Start collecting proof of anything and everything that might establish her as a bad or negligent mother. Yes adultery will give you leverage and if what you're saying is true it's in the best interest of your kids to get to the bottom of this.
posted by nixerman at 9:11 PM on August 6, 2007

Buddy... Get. a. lawyer. NOW.

nthed on the advice for the PI. it's painful, but you owe it to your kids.
posted by huskerdont at 9:16 PM on August 6, 2007

Nthing what everyone else here says about lawyers and counselors and detectives.

And, take care of yourself. It's a difficult process under the best of circumstances.

If it starts getting overwhelming and the anger takes hold (I've been through divorce and custody hearings; it can be so very emotional and maddening), a thing I tell my own kids and myself when anger starts taking over and the word "hate" comes out: Hate is something that makes people sad in the long run.

Hang in there. Be a decent human being and a great dad to your kids. Your future exwife only deserves what every other human being does, politeness.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:11 AM on August 7, 2007

Buddy... Get. a. lawyer. NOW.

posted by kmennie at 12:43 AM on August 7, 2007

It sounds like she really hates your guts and is willing to be extremely unethical about things. This is a pretty big problem.

Using a protective order against someone as a weapon is a huge problem. I have a friend who's ex-boyfriend got one against her after they got into a fight, and he basically used it to harass her. He would got to places that she went too and then would call the police if she showed up. He would make up incidents, etc.

Actually if I were in your shoes I would consider moving back into the house when she goes on one of her 'trips' and changing the locks back. Why not? Also, while she's gone file for a protective order against her. Once you get one against her it will be difficult to get one against you. Talk to your lawyer about this, though.

It seems like threatening to make up false allegations about you ought to be a valid reason to get an order, but I have no idea.
posted by delmoi at 12:55 AM on August 7, 2007

You need Oklahoma advice here. Adultery that is not taking place in front of the kids seems unlikely to be a big deal in custody arrangements in a state with no-fault divorce.

It is very tempting to think that fighting dirty is justified if you will win custody of the kids. Unfortunately the courts have seen an awful lot of dirty fighting, and there is no guarantee it would work. A sensible campaign for joint custody sounds a much more reliable bet, as well as being much better for the kids.

What does it take to get joint custody? Ask your OK lawyer. A suitable place to have them to stay is going to be one aspect, but again the courts have seen it all -- their idea of suitable is not going to be fancy. A record of being able to cooperate over the kids is likely to be another factor, so make the current arrangements work.

Congratulations on keeping the arguing out of earshot of the kids. Keep up the good work -- criticizing the other parent is not good for their making the kids' lives run smoothly. Teaching them to accept the odd bump in the road is.

Don't get panicked by the scare stories. Talk instead to people you know who have achieved happy post-divorce lives. I was going to say "Good luck", but as in so many other things, luck is likely to come to those who work hard at the problem.
posted by Idcoytco at 1:37 AM on August 7, 2007

Think about the outcome of the divorce and custody ruling as falling somewhere between "totally unfair ruling, you lose completely" and "completely fair ruling, you win on every count."

Now think about how you're going to feel about "winning" in this situation. If you're anything like me, a "win" is still a significant loss. In other words, there is no optimal solution to this problem that gives you back the things you're losing.

If you can't truly "win" your family back in whole, then you've already "lost" this game. If you can acknowledge and rationalize this in your head and heart, it's going to make managing the aftermath come from a place of reason and logic, as opposed to a desire to either "win" or exact revenge.

That being said, as everyone has said above, you need a lawyer to help you manage the situation, and you need to handle this as a business transaction. No matter what you do in this situation, you are not going to achieve an optimal outcome, so you need to trust your attorney to help get you closer to "fair" than "unfair" on the spectrum of possibilities.

But it's not just the lawyer's responsibility to get you closer to "fair" here. It's yours, and that means adjusting your attitude to focus on the end game, as opposed to the relatively minor incivilities you're forced to endure on the way. If the system is indeed set up to favor the mother, then it his her incentive to get you to participate in your own demise. The things she's doing now are going to be framed as "self-preservation" in court, and anything you do that pushes against those boundaries are going to be framed as "aggressive," "belligerent," and possibly "violent."

Obviously, follow your lawyer's advice. But more than that, the less you're allowing the soon-to-be-ex to take your behavior and use it against you, the closer to "fair" you're going to be able to get in court. Hopefully.

This is business. Handle yourself professionally. Best of luck to you.
posted by peacecorn at 3:40 AM on August 7, 2007

Obviously it is important to listen to your lawyer. If you do not trust or understand your lawyer, you need a new one.

In addition to that, I would say to document everything. Write down the dates and times that she disappears. Write down every time you try to contact her about something. Communicate in writing if necessary. Whatever happens, it is good to have a record.
posted by dpx.mfx at 4:54 AM on August 7, 2007

IANAL but i am in Oklahoma. You can get a temp custody order through the courts that will be in writing and she will be required to follow at risk of contempt. I would get my lawyer on that immediately. you don't have to wait until the divorce proceedings. the court can also appoint an advocate for your kids to assess the situation and mediate on behalf of them and them only. Her infidelity will likely have no bearing on custody unless she is leaving them home alone overnight to commit these indescretions.

My personal advice - you don't have to mean, but for god's sakes don't be a doormat, hoping to get back together with her later. Don't do things in the name of not rocking the boat that will make your life harder later. Ask for sufficent time with your kids and show your intentions with them right off the bat. You will be doing right by them and by yourself and no matter what happens down the road, you will always know that.
posted by domino at 6:54 AM on August 7, 2007

She changed the locks to our home on the day I was served, and claims she will file a protective order if I go anywhere near it. Even though there are no grounds for the protective order, and she would have to lie to get one, my lawyer says it would look bad to press the access issue.

I hate to second-guess your lawyer but I have a hard time reconciling this with reality. Pushing for a visitation schedule with your kids would "look bad?" I am hoping you instead are referring to access to the house because the idea that a polite and firm press to get to spend time with your kids isn't something that I see showing up on the radar of what's unreasonable.

Missouri suggests against jumping ship but you can certainly contract for legal advice elsewhere. I personally find it very worrisome your current attorney doesn't sound to be looking out for your visitation desires. If you can't get him/her to step up on this now what's going to be the disposition of more convoluted and difficult matters down the road? If nothing else you can educate yourself or pay someone else to educate you on the possibilities so you can be an informed consumer and suggest options.

I don't see anyone above saying it so I will: document, document, document. Start keeping a diary of when you attempt to schedule time with the kids, when you call, when she returns your call, what time you get to spend with them, what times she cancels those arrangements and with what kind of notice. If you use a cellphone to speak to her keep your itemized bills handy so you have proof of when calls were made.

Last thing that I also don't see anyone else addressing:

Just so you understand: I still love her, and although we've had issues I'm willing to admit my shortcomings, share blame, and do anything/everything to keep our family together. I've told her this, repeatedly begging and pleading. The shock of this has taken all of the fight out of me. She refuses counseling, leaves for extended weekends, and is breaking my heart and our family to pieces.

Tough. You're done. Relationships require the participation and efforts of both individuals and if she's decided she's through this completely then you'd be best off if you quit dwelling on this.

My best wishes - this sounds like a long and unpleasant road.
posted by phearlez at 7:41 AM on August 7, 2007

Everything that has been done to you has been designed by your wife's lawyer to make you look like the bad guy and hopefully cause an outburst on your part that can be used against you.

It is also tactical on another level - if they can fuck up your day to day life badly enough, you will not have the resources or wherewithal to properly protect your interests in court. Changing the locks and getting a restraining order are the first step in the playbook. Don't be surprised if your wife up submitting statements in court seriously impugning your character and alleging all sorts of misdeeds that never happened.

She doesn't love you any more buddy, that much is probably clear.
posted by chlorus at 7:56 AM on August 7, 2007

follow up from the OP:

I'm still digesting the generous input you've all offered. In the meantime thanks so much for your thoughts and kind emails. I really appreciate them. I also truly value (as we all do I believe) the MeFi "hive mind". I've truly received immense comfort in the both your answers here and the sympathetic emails from you, my brothers/sisters at MetaFilter. You have no_idea how much this means to me. Someday, when my personal tragedy is over I may let you all know my true MeFi identity. Then, one great day, when we all attend that "great meetup in the sky", I'll finally get to see, thank and hug everyone (yes, even brothers quonsar and dios!).
posted by jessamyn at 10:53 PM on August 7, 2007

Hey guy, family law veteran here.

Just chiming in to say, make sure that whatever you do (hiring a P.I., etc.) is coordinated through your lawyer. You don't want to make a move like that without counsel's advice.

Also, as things progress, and as things get harder (they will), you need to focus on your co-parenting. Manifesting good co-parenting skills for the parenting evaluator (who will be along shortly, if my guess is correct) is absolutely key.

Also, remember that all divorce proceedings end. This will most likely get worse before it gets better, but no divorce case lasts forever. You will make through this. Your kids will make it through this. And on the other side is a stable, decent life for all of you. Best of luck.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:31 AM on August 9, 2007

>4 and <10 years are tender ages, so continue to keep your children's best interests at heart. They may be wearing smiles on their faces, but they suffer as you do. Your love for them, and their love for you, will help you all pull out of this mess.
posted by JaySunSee at 8:16 PM on August 10, 2007

« Older DC Parking - any zone maps?   |   Damn thing won't acquire network address Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.