“Surprisingly, meth addicts have helped some courts see beyond the mother=automatic custody paradigm.”

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  1. Jonathan G says:

    I worked in a family law office for a few years and saw many custody cases over the years, so I can say with reasonable confidence that most of the Wisconsin circuit courts that we worked with are very fair. If the father shows up and shows sincere interest in his children, they start with a default assumption of joint custody and 50/50 placement. We had quite a few cases in which the father got primary placement of the child when the mother didn’t have her life together enough. Yes, there was a fight in court, but that’s how our adversarial court system works. On the whole, the courts decided cases on what’s best for the child, and often what’s best for the child is to live with dad.

    In fact, I think the notion that courts are always unfair to fathers causes a lot of damage, at least here in Wisconsin, because we got some calls from men who had given up trying to see their children when the mother wouldn’t let them, on the assumption (allegedly) that they wouldn’t get a fair hearing in court. I had reasons to doubt some of these stories, but others I’m sure were true, and that’s sad. These guys would’ve fared much better in court than they had been led to believe, but since they’d given up trying to see their kids, they’d lost credibility.

  2. John Schtoll says:

    @Jonathan: Is 50/50 codified in your laws that the starting point is 50/50, if it isn’t the I am sorry but I highly doubt they start with an assumption of 50/50.

    This is what shared parenting advocates are trying to get done. Start at 50/50 and adjust from there as necessary.

    This is also what anti shared parenting advocates are trying to prevent. A presumption of shared parenting. They are doing this by claiming (and it has been done on this site a couple of times) that men who want 50/50 are abusive and are using the courts to exact revenge.

    • Jonathan G says:

      John, I understand your skepticism, but consider the scope of what I said. There are 49 other states besides Wisconsin, and 72 counties, with almost as many county circuit courts, within the state. I can only speak with any credible authority about cases I worked saw in select subset of those courts. (However, these were in many of the state’s urban areas.)

      I’m not an attorney, and I haven’t kept up with the caselaw. That said, Wisconsin does have a very progressive legal tradition in these matters, and its statutes do essentially codify those assumptions. In Chapter 767, Actions Affecting the Family, you can find s. 767.41, Custody and physical placement. Regarding custody, s. 767.41(2)(am) states: “Except as provided in par. (d), the court shall presume that joint legal custody is in the best interest of the child.” This is tremendously significant: The court must presume that joint custody is in the best interest of the child, and it is up to one of the parties to show otherwise. (Paragraph d covers the exceptions relating to abusive relationships, written in scrupulously gender-neutral language.) Regarding the allocation of physical placement time, s. 767.41(4)(b) says: “A child is entitled to periods of physical placement with both parents unless, after a hearing, the court finds that physical placement with a parent would endanger the child’s physical, mental or emotional health.”

      And then in the introduction to the list of factors for the court to consider when making custody and placement determinations, s. 767.41(5)(am) states: “The court may not prefer one parent or potential custodian over the other on the basis of the sex or race of the parent or potential custodian.” (Placement arrangements, however, are often not 50/50 because of other factors, and indeed the statute goes on to list 16 different factors that affect it.)

      So, to re-state my point more clearly: The family court may not be as bad as you’ve heard. Men who want to stay involved in their children’s lives despite the mother’s efforts to force them out should keep trying to stay involved: It proves to the court that you want to be involved, and even if the court does screw you over, your efforts look good to your kids in a few years when they get older and start figuring out what their mother is really all about. I heard too many stories from men who threw in the towel right away because they just knew they’d lose, thereby sealing their own fate with “proof” that they were absentee dads, and that’s sad.


      • It proves to the court that you want to be involved, and even if the court does screw you over, your efforts look good to your kids in a few years when they get older and start figuring out what their mother is really all about. I heard too many stories from men who threw in the towel right away because they just knew they’d lose, thereby sealing their own fate with “proof” that they were absentee dads, and that’s sad.

        I’ll agree that it is important for dads to keep fighting but let’s look at what they are up against. I’ve read stories of men that were fighting for custody were actively told by their attornies to not fight too hard or they risk getting nothing. Stories of men in the middle of divorce being advised not to fight for custody.

        These aren’t just dads idely throwing in the towel. These are dads that see the odds stack against them (and money, these legal fights are free you know) and then giving up. Just to have arm chair critics sweep in and say “all you had to do was fight” (oddly these same critics magically understand why women see the odds stacked against them and give up).

        But ultimately I agree that the battle must be fought. I just want to avoid the pitfall of trying to pass off “there is no injustice” as “you must fight the injustice” (not that you are doing that here).

  3. Steve Steveson says:

    Whilst it’s good to see a Dad getting somewhere it dose not fill me with joy that a court needs a string of meth addicts to show that maybe the Mother is, in this case, less compitant than the Father. This is not showing that the court realised the Father is a good choice but that they felt that a clean, loving Father is less bad than a Mother with a string of meth addict parthers (and presumably a drug problem herself).

  4. John Schtoll says:

    I also look at the department of social services and have read a number of articles on what happens when a single mom ‘loses custody of the kids’. Rarely do they place them with the father, in fact, rarely do they even consider placing them with the father. they will utilize foster parents etc.

    Also look at adoption and how the adoption industry uses the law to “get around’ having the father involved, with the state of Utah being the worst example.

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