Protect Your Rights as a Father in Divorce!

As a Westlake Village family law attorney, I’m frequently approached by dads who are worried about their pending divorce. Many believe that mothers automatically have the upper hand in their case for everything from child custody to spousal support. These are highly-contested issues in many divorce cases and both parents want what’s best for themselves, but also for their children. What’s amazing is that many fathers aren’t even aware that they have rights in California family court. If you are a father who is worried about losing everything in their divorce; read on to learn more about your rights.

Child Custody Rights

Contrary to popular belief, the law actually favors joint custody during divorce cases, even if the mother is a stay-at-home mom who spends far more time with children. In many cases, judges do everything in their power to keep both parents involved in the lives of their child equally, provided both parents have the child’s best interests at heart. While visitation time may not necessarily be equal (it rarely is feasible to do so with both parents having their own schedules and work obligations), most often both parents are given an equal say regarding major parenting decisions, such as education, activities, health, religion, travel, and more. Mothers may try to use their relationship with their children as leverage to obtain sole custody, but you have the right as a father to remain involved in parenting decisions.

If the mother makes one of these decisions against your will or without consulting you and it goes against your wishes, you may be able to file for a California contempt of court action against them. You have the right to be a part of legal custody decisions, and parents who go behind the other’s back to make these decisions should be penalized by the court.

Child Support Rights

In many cases, fathers who are the higher income earner in a family are asked by the mother to pay child support in order to help bear the costs of raising a child. However, this can be true for the opposite as well if the mother is the higher-earning spouse (something that is becoming more common in recent years). This means that lesser-earning fathers can also request support. It is the responsibility of both parents to financially provide for a child, not just the father.

I have also seen numerous cases where a stay-at-home mother has adamantly refused to work, and as a result demanded an extremely high amount in both spousal support and child support. When this is the case, you have the right to get a court order which requires your ex to make a good-faith effort to become employed, including sending resumes and going on job interviews. You can also possibly use an imputation of income to show a mother has the ability to work and instead refuses to do so. It may be difficult for a spouse who has been out of the workforce for some time to find employment again, but being a stay-at-home parent is not a legal right.

If you are required to pay child support and fall on hard times financially (i.e. through job loss or a sudden, unexpected expense such as serious illness or major injury), you may find that you are unable to make your child support payments in full. When this is the case, do not simply make a verbal agreement with your ex, as these hold no weight in court. In most cases, those paying child support can simply ask the court for a payment plan to help you pay back any owed child support, and the court will usually oblige if you have a good reason. You can also petition the court for a child support modification in the event of a long-term change in your financial standing, such as losing your job. However, whatever you do, do not stop paying your child support without first taking your claim to court and getting approval.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you are a father looking to defend your rights in a California family law court, it’s important that you hire a lawyer. Not having representation on your side usually only ends up with mistakes in paperwork, missed deadlines, extra court expenses, and a regrettable outcome that’s far from what you wanted your case to be. While you don’t need a lawyer to file for divorce, it’s strongly advised that you retain the counsel of a Westlake Village divorce attorney.

My name is Jeffrey S. Graff, and I have more than 30 years of experience standing up for fathers and protecting their rights to child custody as well as the fruits of their labor from spouses who would wish them harm. I can help with nearly any family law matter, including all child custody and child support issues, no matter how large and complex or small and simple. Family law matters are complex, and I make it my personal mission to stand by your side and provide you with individually-tailored guidance and counsel through every step of the process to help you obtain the best possible outcome for you and your family.

Call my firm, the Law Office of Jeffrey S. Graff today at 805-633-4999 to request a free consultation!
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