Within a relatively short period of time, the structure of the average family household has changed. Society no longer expects mothers to stay home, raise the children and keep house. Fathers are not necessarily the sole breadwinners of the family. Your own family may reflect these welcome changes if you and your spouse both work fulltime out of the home and equally share the household chores.
Of course, not all changes in family dynamics are positive, and you may find your own family unable to stand up to the pressures from within or without that assail it. If you are facing a divorce, you certainly will not want to fall under the delusion that child custody will be determined based on standards and assumptions of past generations.
Custody is yours to lose
It is no longer true that the court automatically awards full custody to the mother and some visitation rights to the father when a couple divorces. In fact, as research demonstrates the benefits of shared parenting, more family courts approach custody matters under the assumption that -- barring evidence to the contrary -- both parents are fit and capable to raise the children. This is a good thing, and your children are likely to fare better by spending equal time with you and their other parent.
However, there are things you can do to quickly change that assumption in the eyes of a West Virginia family court. If your co-parent decides to challenge the idea of equal parenting, the court may need to weigh your parental fitness against that of your partner, taking into consideration the following, for example:
- Which of you is more involved in the children's everyday lives, such as meals, bedtime and homework?
- Which of you participates more fully in the children's activities, such as meeting with teachers, attending school conferences and taking them to the doctor?
- Which of you is more positive and in control of your emotions, such as refraining from sending negative emails or ranting about the other parent?
- Do either of you insult or disparage the other in front of the children?
- Do either of you exhibit a penchant for drugs or alcohol?
- Is there any evidence of physical or verbal abuse, directed at the other spouse or toward the children?
Often, accusations of any of these factors may result in a he-said/she-said battle, but sometimes witnesses may attest to a verbal altercation, an incident of excessive drinking or an inappropriate social media post. To avoid tipping the scale against you, counselors advise you to remain vigilant and attentive about your behavior and to follow any advice you attorney may offer for improving your chances of a fair custody ruling.