Fathers’ Rights and Time with the Kids

“In 85% of divorces, fathers get just two weekends a month and a couple of hours during the week.” — Mike McCormick of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.

With the divorce and custody trial of Christie Brinkley vs. Peter Cook in the news, the Intelligence Report at Parade Magazine is asking if divorce courts are anti-dad or protect fathers’ rights. They are taking a survey on this question:

“Should divorced dads get equal time with their kids?”

Parade notes that up to half of fathers lose contact with their kids after a divorce even with a trend toward shared custody over the past twenty years.

Proportional time is a new legal trend according to Jennifer Rosato of Philadelphia’s Drexel University School of Law, where “the custody decision is based on the time dads spent with their children before the divorce, rather than presuming that dads have, and want, limited involvement with their kids.”

But, says McCormick, “Courts want a check first and a relationship second.”

Martin and Margaret Nolan got married in 1962 and adopted three children.

When they divorced in 1974 in the District of Columbia, Martin agreed to pay $750 a month for child support.

Things got confusing when Martin made some payments to the schools and sent some money directly to the children. Margaret filed suit for $28,085 in back child support.

Martin claimed the parties had modified their agreement orally and by conduct (even though the agreement said it could only be modified in writing) and that he didn’t owe any back child support. Margaret denied she had agreed to waive child support.

The trial court decided that, while the agreement could have been modified orally or by conduct, the burden was on Martin to prove it, and he had failed to convince the judge of this. The Court of Appeals agreed. Nolan v. Nolan, 568 A.2d 479 (1990).

The lesson to learn from the Nolan case is this. If your ex-spouse agrees that you may pay child support directly to the school or the children instead of her, get it in writing. And if there is a court order for child support, ask the court to amend the order as well.

The IRS said audits for last year rose 7 percent for individuals, 14 percent for taxpayers earning more than $100,000, and 30 percent for those making $200,000 or more. Millionaires had a 1 in 11 chance of losing at audit roulette.

A test to see if divorced couples were correctly reporting alimony in California concluded that 40 percent of the taxpayers flubbed it, usually over several years. On average, they owed the state an additional $5,800 — and that was just tab before the IRS was notified.

Auditors commonly found recipients of alimony and family support failed to report it as income. Meanwhile, the spouses cutting checks often wrote off alimony that the divorce decree stipulated was neither taxable nor deductible, or erroneously deducted child-support payments.