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Should I go for full custody of my child?

My ex-wife, though we are not divorced yet even though she moved out and long story short tried to take me to the cleaners and steal our daughter away from me, is using our daughter as a tool against me. Though this is nothing new, she has always used our daughter as threat, as a weapon, and method of control.
But when she left she got a really shitty lawyer that even she didn't like, lucky for me. I was about to convince her to put our daughter first, I bought her a house and amongst everything else my lawyer advised me against, I give her money every month.
I did this because lawyers are insanely expensive and figured it was better to give money to her than a lawyer.

But in the two years since she left I have continually tried to work out a schedule that gives us equal time with the child and she constantly complains that I am trying to take more time while she insists on a schedule that gives her more time.
When ever I bring up the issue she gets cold and says "You need to get a judge to decide" rather than just working it out like rational people. Did I mention that one of the reasons she left me was because god gave her a hug and held her hand and indicated she should not stay with me? That's the rational I am dealing with.

So as much as I hate the idea of getting a lawyer again and paying thousands of dollars to do the rational thing, I am thinking to just take it a step further.
As much as I want my daughter to have equal time with both parents, while I take her to the park and zoos and museums and the pool and amusement parks and girl scouts and school activities and library events and pretty much anything to broaden her horizons, Her mother takes her to church and leaves her to watch YouTube as she either sleeps or prays. I'm not saying that is all she does but that is the bulk of it. I am constantly forcing my will as an advocate to my daughter while her mother seems to use denying these activities to our daughter as a way to get control.
I want what's best for my daughter and I don't want to take her away or have her spend less time with her mother but I want control over my daughters activities that will never fall within a tidy schedule.
Simple things like sighing her up for girl scouts or gymnastics or events at the school or library that I want her to attend are clarified as my time even though I encourage her mother to take her.

Am I wrong to want control so that my daughter doesn't miss out? Would being given full custody even give me that control? Is it worth the fight or should I just hope the time she is with me is enough to make her well rounded.

It is maddening to me watching the summer days go by knowing that on the days she is with her mother she is most likely sitting inside watching tv or youtube or being taken to chuch since her mother goes 5-6 times a week for hours at a time leaving our daughter watch her ipad there unless she finds a friend to play with. I take her to the pool or the park or leave her to play with friends when she is with me, that is when I am not taking her to some event or program or other activity.

I know others have been through this so I am asking for your 2 cents.

By ThomasLevi
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You should do what's best for your daughter. And based on your description, it's not even a close contest.

chilehead9 Level 5 July 4, 2018

Getting full custody is really, really difficult these days. I didn't believe it but I certainly experienced it. Unless the other parent is basically shooting heroin in front of your kid, judges these days want both parents to have custody. That is true around here anyway. And it was a humbling and painful process to go through, especially to not succeed.

You can have a separation agreement put in place and if both parties are cooperative, it won't cost a fortune. Mediators are good for this kind of thing too.

Even with full custody, it does not necessarily take time away from the other parent. My goal was to have decision making authority without having to agree on anything with my ex, because he basically will fight anything I think is best for our kid (he is autistic so there are a lot of decisions we have to make for his care). My ex also wants to turn my son against me and my parents, just out of anger that I left and just to hurt me. He doesn't understand he's hurting his son.

This kind of stuff is tough.

Hihi Level 5 July 4, 2018

I agree, and I don't want full custody so much as majority custody. I just wish there was a way to do it without a hundred thousand dollar legal battle. I'm just tired of her constantly saying "You need to have the court decide" when I am already pretty sure what the court will decide. I don't want to take time away from her I'm just tired of her using me wanting what's best for our daughter as leverage against me.

@ThomasLevi You should also learn the difference between legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is about important decision making and physical custody is about where the child lives.


Kids need both parents. This also depends on your state laws. Florida defaults at 50/50. I have 78/22 mostly because my ex took a job 130 miles away before the divorce. I do everything I can to make sure the kids see their mom. It’s not their fault she moved away.

GeekDad13 Level 4 July 5, 2018

As long as she is not abused, shared custody is what is fair. Get an attorney to preserve your rights. Kids grow up fast; don't miss out.

JustLynnie Level 6 July 4, 2018

I would talk to an attorney about full custody and what your chances may be. If they say you probably won’t get it, I would still hire someone to at least get legal and physical 50/50 so she can’t keep getting more time with your daughter.

Your ex is obviously not rational. You did your best to work with her and compromise. She’s not reciprocating the courtesy....time to make it legal.

Best of luck to you and your daughter!

Marcie1974 Level 7 July 4, 2018

You are in a sad spot. Your daughter will have two homes now, that looks pretty certain from your info. I am wondering if it does make good sense for you to get an attorney since you are not divorced. Nothing is settled and moving toward an adjustment out of the marriage. If you get an attorney, you can request a certain amount of time with your daughter. On worrying about what is taking place at your ex’s house, concerning your daughter, I would try and stay away from that worry! I would take in information that your child might report, but I would not interrogat her. If your child has an attentive, loving father that is interested in her...that will be enough on your part! When possible you could try to communicate with your ex, on things about your daughter, but don’t stake your hopes on too much at the moment! Focus on being the best dad that you be for your daughter! Your ex, may have some growing up of her own to do! Try and shift any fear, to a belief that ‘life’ works out everywhere...just not always in a straight line and at the very least don’t undermine your ex in any way. But having some clear boundaries is better for parents and child.

Freedompath Level 8 July 4, 2018

It's a difficult story. Especially since there are always two perspectives. Does your daughter want to live with Dad? That would probably work in your favor if she does. My understanding is that you not paying child support through a court system puts you at a huge disadvantage. So much so that if you take your wife to court and sue for custody, you may be required to pay "back pay" because whatever this-and-thats in financial support you've provided, potentially don't amount to anything unless documented, stamped, accepted, and approved by a judge. Many non custodial parents believe its cheaper and less hassle to simply have an agreement with the custodial parent, until a situation like the one you've described here happens. Also this: When your daughter is with her mother, she is the parent for that time period. And her values and beliefs will be part of the household she keeps. You don't have control. It's the same when your child is with you. Wanting control isn't a very healthy reason to want custody. But if you truly believe yourself just as competent and loving, and if you think it's a benefit and enhancement to the well being of your daughter because you care, I'd fight for custody. I hope for the best outcome for the three of you.

LilAtheistLady Level 7 July 4, 2018

Is you daughter complaining about how things are when she's with her mother? I ask this because, while I'm sure your heart is in the right place, she may enjoy being left with time to herself. Before my retirement, I was a career nanny. Often times, children would confide to me that they'd rather spend time with me than with their parents because their parents were so eager to schedule all their waking hours. They never had time to just lie in the grass and watch clouds (like we sometimes did) or be alone in their rooms with books (as I always encouraged for at least 30 minutes a day). On weekends, they were shuttled from dance lessons to art classes to sports practice to science museums to Sunday School...... you name it. In one particularly poignant conversation, I explained to a four year old that her parents were doing what they thought was best for her because they loved her so much. She said, "I know they love me. But they don't know me." You might try subtle ways of feeling out how your daughter honestly feels about her situation with either parent. In any event, I salute you for caring so much about your child. I wish either of my former husbands were half so invested in the welfare of our kids.

Spudnut Level 6 July 4, 2018

The unfortunate thing is that if you go full custody you will need a lawyer anyway. There are tricks and loopholes that the average person isn't aware of and that a person representing himself might be too close to in order to see even if they do know there are loopholes. The courts tend to still favor the mother, especially in younger children so unless she's doing something abusive or honestly neglectful, they might not give you full custody. However if you are just looking for equal time because she's being controlling and erratic with your time, you might have a case... especially if you have already agreed on joint parenting. You will have to record all your time and keep it as precise as you can. Have witnesses, friends and family members who can confirm things should also be worked out. The more clear you are the more likely you will be able to settle this with a judge on board.

For the record, no, I don't think you are wrong.

AmyLF Level 6 July 4, 2018

Having just wrapped up my own divorce, my advice is get an attorney. Get one yesterday. Then outline what it is you want, and get their professional opinion.

maturin1919 Level 6 July 4, 2018

In Illinoise I have been advised to be prepared to loose half and not get custody unless I get aggressive, which I hate to do.

@ThomasLevi If getting aggressive for a few months will insure quality family time for the rest of your daughter’s childhood then it will be worth it.


I learned that you can’t win without the lawyer and the legal system. Do your best to swallow your pride and continue to take the high ground and put the child first. Document everything including texts, phone calls, and everything else. Noting every detail on daily calendar like outlook or google is a great tool.
As long as there is no evidence against you, trust that the court will give you a minimum of 50/50 legal & physical custody. Also, make sure your lawyer is a straight family law practitioner with years of positive results. My ex hired an ambulance chaser to represent her. It cost her any advantage because my lawyer(coach) lead me through the process so much better. I technically won more control and got out paying only half the amount of child support the state formula said I should.
Ask me any questions you have about the process if you want. It was scary and nerve wracking, but I trusted my lawyer and got through. I can see now that the other side is way better than what I feared.

eyespop Level 5 July 4, 2018

And fight to have religious and educational control in the settlement. It might mean more of a fight in the long run, but it’s for the sake of your child’s best future. I got lucky in that my ex is also an atheist.

Can we talk for a moment about how gross it is that you are PROUD to be shortchanging your kids by having weaseled out of paying fair child support? Even if you don't like the other parent, that money is meant to be used to improve your kids lives. Profit uber alles, I guess.

@Blindbird if he has 50/50 custody he shouldn't have to pay anything. He handles the finances when he has the child and she can handle her half. By no means should actual cash have to be handed over in a 50/50 split. If either parent can't provide what the needs of the child are they should lose the respective amount of say in the child's life. Men are routinely taken to the cleaners by the very women who claim they don't need a man for anything. Even tho their whole life is dependent on that man. The double standards now are why u see men checking out and not marrying with many avoiding women at all cost. The final outcome will be devastating for society if things don't get balanced out soon.

@jorj One thing I didn't mention in my case, was that my ex was getting her entire salary paid under the table. She literally only reported about $3K in income for taxes that year. She told the court she made about 30-40% less than she actually did when questioned.

@eyespop Workin every angle possible I see. I don't get it sometimes.


In my case we went through mediation -much cheaper and quicker, and then had lawyers for settling the financial stuff. A skilled mediator can outline the realities you face -laws, child's rights, etc. May blow a hole or two in your ego, but better than holes in both your ego and wallet.

RonWilliam53 Level 6 July 6, 2018

I have had dealings with someone in the "system" in Illinois, and from what I understand, the courts are fairly stringent there; my advice would be to seek counsel from an attorney again. Since you are not divorced legally yet, you still need to protect yourself, and prove to the court that your main concern is your daughter, and her welfare and her future. It seems that your wife, as you have said, is using your daughter as a pawn, and you need to take that out of the equation, and make it strictly about your daughter's well being.

ThinkKate Level 6 July 6, 2018

How old is your daughter and what does she want? I started as a weekend only dad and the kids eventually (quickly actually) extended that to Thursday night to Monday morning. Both moved in with me full time as soon as they were old enough for after school jobs (I lived in a town with work within walking distancess, she lived in the boonies)Which they wanted.Ifyou daughter is over 12, I'd wager any Court decision would depend on what she wanted, safety etc., being equal. Twothings to remember -neither of you can win by forcing her to do what she doesn't want to andas nice as parks/zoos etc. are you'regoing to end up doing a lot fo at home parenting. Finally, never bad mouth her mother in front of her. Ever.

RonWilliam53 Level 6 July 4, 2018

Single father here. I had joint custody for most of the time my kids were growing up. My ex-wife had primary custody of both kids at first, but my daughter came to live with me shortly after the divorce.

I made a big mistake accepting the custody arrangement as their mother's only interest was in collecting child support, and she played the system really well to make sure that her reported income was far lower than mine.

At any rate, what I'm getting at is that that initial investment in a lawyer would have saved me on $4,000 - 10,000 per year over 12 years. Obviously, the benefit to my kids would have been more important, but the money you spend on a lawyer is more of an investment in your child than an expenditure.

JimG Level 7 July 4, 2018

Don't really have anything to add that hasn't been said. Just want to emphasize getting a lawyer!

OlderMusicGeek Level 7 July 4, 2018

Write everything down get evidence of what she is doing . Take the rose tinted glasses off . She is not abusing the child but it can be argued she is neglecting her basic needs . Get a lawyer that knows marriage law or find a charity that gives advice . It's gonna get nasty try and be polite and respectful and keep your cool it will not be easy .

Simon1 Level 7 July 4, 2018

You sound way too optimistic. Courts always side with the women.

Beach_slim Level 7 July 4, 2018

In the past, they preferred the mother. That is no longer the case.

@Donotbelieve I seriously doubt that, but I'm not saying it's not true, I just really doubt your assertion because of the number of men in prison, etc.

@Beach_slim I went through a divorce 10 years ago and have 4 children. I was advised to go for 50/50 even though I was the primary care giver. I was even homeschooling my children.


@Donotbelieve They are no longer supposed to subscribe to the “tender doctrine” yet statistics suggest they still do. There are other factors though. Mainly a decent amount of men don’t respond to court proceedings thinking that their relationship will recover despite the fact that over 90% of women that file for divorce go through with it.


Decide w h at is best for the child and fight like he'll for it.

Tompain1 Level 5 July 4, 2018

Your ex-wife is an emotionally abusive bitch. Take your daughter and run. Legally, of course. 😉

trblemaker Level 5 July 4, 2018

Not so much a bitch as a huge pain in the ass. She refuses to be an involved parent and blocks my efforts to pick up the slack being more involved. It's just bizarre to me to be penalized for wanting my daughter to take advantage of every opportunity.


You sound like the better parent, however not knowing the laws of your state it is difficult to know what the biases are. You should consult a lawyer again. But if the lawyer said it is doable, I'd want to do it.

HippieChick58 Level 8 July 3, 2018

Better parent is relative. I'm just the parent that doesn't use the child as tool to gain leverage and is more concerned with what the child wants rather than what I want.
So it that makes me the better parent... smile009.gif

@ThomasLevi Yes it certainly does. Well said and all the best.

I’m going through a battle at this moment too, it’s bloody torment, however the solicitor in family law is using her expertise, and although expensive, it seems worth every penny for the problem to be resolved legally.
I’ll weather the storm that’s on the horizon with my name on it , by just staying focused on the reasons I’m doing it.

@Storybook Fortunately my situation isn't bad, just a pain in the ass. And seeing how much my daughter is missing out on because her mother is not only not involved but also blocks me from being more involved is making me nuts.

@ThomasLevi Good to hear. Mine isn’t either, it’s just something that needs doing! but doing it, has opened up wounds, so it’s sensitive.
We’ll get there. Sometimes it takes great strength to move forward.


I did win full custody and one of the reasons was that my son's mother converted to Islam. My wonderful lawyer was able to demonstrate what we all know - religion is child abuse and "Presents a culture, educational system and dietary restrictions which is not Status Quo for the child".

That may be your challenge though. Most judges will not change the Status Quo of young children unless you can prove substantial danger or risk of abuse.

Our visitation agreement specifically state neither parent will influence a religion. Of course she chose her religion over him and thankfully lives 600 miles away.

Gyanez Level 5 July 12, 2018

Dude. Get a grip. No court is going to grant full custody based on what you have written here. The kid needs both parents. She is feeling attacked hence the "get a judge" comments. The kid needs downtime. My son comes home from his time with his dad completely knackered. I want to do something fun with him, but see his need to relax and don

Minta79 Level 6 July 5, 2018

Men should ask for custody more often. These days you are actually likely to get it if you ask. The problem is a lot of men don’t ask. (I qualify this statement that this is variable depending on where you live).

I say go for it. Kids need both their parents. The default should be 50/50 not whole custody to mom.

Myah Level 6 July 4, 2018

I have had sole custody almost 15 years. Some parents are just a bad influence.


My girls were adults when their dad and I divorced, so I can’t address the custody issue. I am, however, a cheerleader for the collaborative divorce process. It’s far cheaper than litigation and the focus is on preserving respectful relationships among the divorcing partners. It will only be an option for you if your state allows it and if she is willing to agree not to go to court.

UUNJ Level 7 July 4, 2018

While I would normally agree, in trying to read between the lines here, it sounds like Mom left Dad in the first place, and is using /daughter to take out some of her residual anger on him, so I wouldn't expect too much true collaboration here. Of course, I could be wrong.)


@ThinkKate Agreed, which is why that last phrase is there.

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