Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What to do When Served with Divorce Papers

If you've been served with divorce papers, it may have been a shock or it may have been expected.  In either case, it's a frightening situation, especially if there are children involved.  You might worry that you're about to lose custody of the children to your wife, since the majority of the time, mothers obtain custody of the children.  However, there are some things you can do to protect yourself and ensure that you get fair child custody as well.
Who is the Sole Caretaker of the Children?
The first thing you'll want to think about is who the sole caretaker of the children is.  Your wife may do the majority of the caretaking, you might, or it might be fairly even.  Who takes the children to school and picks them up?  Who meets with the teachers and attends PTA meetings?  Who takes the children to their doctor's appointments and has a good relationship with their physician?  Who takes the children to their extracurricular activities?  Does either parent coach or participate in these activities?  These are all things the judge will be looking at, and the majority of the time the person who does more of this will get primary child custody.  However, if it's fairly even, the judge may decide to grant joint child custody to the parents.  Keep any documentation that might prove the caretaking that you do; such as notes from the teacher to you specifically, proof of meetings, doctor's appointments, etc.  Make sure all statements from others are certified by your or their attorney.
Behavior Toward the Children/Wife
Another thing you'll want to do when served with divorce papers is keep calm and stay where you're at.  Don't lose your head and let your anger get the best of you, because it could ruin your child custody case.  Explain to the children what is happening - with your wife present if possible - and reassure them that you're still a family and you still love them.  While most men may feel as though they need to leave the house, you should not.  If your wife is in possession of the house at the time of the case, there's a good possibility that the judge will simply grant her possession of the house legally.  If you're both there, there's a chance that you may get possession of the house.  Keep calm and keep your head so that you have the best possibility of having a favorable outcome.
Financial Situation
Finally, you need to think about your finances.  Do you and your wife have joint checking or savings accounts?  If so, it's perfectly legal for her to take the money that's there without informing you, since the money is hers too.  You should be aware of this, and if you have direct deposits from work, you might want to switch over to your own savings or checking account.  Also, if you can document how the money got into the joint accounts and take what you've put there, it will look much better than if you drain it and leave your wife with nothing.
These are some things to think about when you've been served with divorce papers, so that you can be sure your best interests are being taken care of.

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