Lee Rosen, retired divorce attorney and founder of the Rosen Law Firm, shares his thoughts on custody and business travel.
How Will Business Travel Impact My Chance of Getting Custody? I’m Lee Rosen.
We recently represented a woman who owns an import/export business and she’s traveling to China every month. These are long trips. She might be gone two weeks out of the month in a regular month. This had gone on for years. When the marital relationship broke down, she wanted to be sure that she had plenty of time with her children. She was at least interested in a 50-50 custody arrangement. But, she was panicked about how things would go because her husband had been doing most of the child care, most of the dealing with doctors, schools, and extracurricular activities. She had been doing what she had been doing from China. That was all part of their understanding. That was the way their family worked. Everybody got it. Everybody was okay with it, but, that level of travel really did, I think, ultimately lead to the breakdown of the marital relationship.
So, what are her chances of ending up with these children?
First of all, her prior travel is a factor. There’s no way to ignore it, there’s no way to pretend it didn’t happen. Her spouse became the primary caretaker in this situation and, realistically, a judge who is charged with doing what is best for children has got to factor in the reality of what has been happening. So, her travel schedule is going to have had a negative impact on the situation, that’s just reality. That was very difficult for her to hear when we talked about it. But, you’ve got to realistically assess your situation as you move through this process, and that kind of travel schedule does put you at a disadvantage.
But, can she get 50-50 custody, now? Moving forward?
Well, yes, I think that generally speaking, she can, assuming both parents are doing a good job when they are spending time with the children. However, she’s going to have to show the court, if she ends up in court, that the schedule that she wants is realistic. If she’s going to be traveling huge amounts of time, even going forward, even after the separation, and after the divorce and can’t demonstrate that she’s able to spend this time with the children, then that’s going to crush her chances of ending up with a 50-50 custody arrangement. But, if she can demonstrate that she is working around the business issues and the child-rearing issues so that she will have the ability to maintain the schedule, then, yes. All things being equal, she’s going to end up with a 50-50 custody schedule even though the other spouse is the primary caretaker and even though she has this long-term history with travel.
The important thing to remember as you go through this is that custody is modifiable. It is ever-changing. If you are not happy with the arrangement today, there can be a new arrangement down the road. I’ve met a lot of entrepreneurs who have re-evaluated their lives after finding that their marriage didn’t work out. They’ve gone from this go-go-go, intense work schedule, to saying, “Hey, you know what? I want to work and I want to build this business, but I also want to have a family life that works.” So, they may not have the spouse anymore, but they still have the children, so, they’ve dramatically changed their schedules, changed their lives, changed their businesses.
So, if you end up with an arrangement that you’re not happy about, that you’re not spending enough time with your children, don’t assume that you’re stuck in that situation indefinitely. Custody can be changed. If you decide that new circumstances warrant asking for a change, then go for it, because the court is certainly amenable to that. What judges want to see happen, is they want to see kids raised by people that are going to do a great job of raising their children. So, they are very cognizant of the evolution that change happens and that what is best for children today may not be exactly what is best for children tomorrow.