Never trade away custody or visitation rights for property

Posted July 7th, 2016.

Categories: Custody Tips, Family Law.

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It may seem strange to some parents, but occasionally when parents reach an impasse in dealing with their custody or visitation arrangements, one parent agrees to concede his rights in exchange for a financial benefit or an award of property. Assume for example that a custodial parent is fighting with her ex-husband over how often he gets to see the kids. She agrees to alternating weekend visits with sleepovers on Saturday nights. He wants two sleepovers on each such weekend — Friday nights and Saturday nights. Then, when she offers to let him keep the boat, he concedes the point and agrees to one sleepover.

For the non-custodial parent, this is a bad move. Not only is it contrary to public policy to bargain away children for property, the court is likely to take a dim view of the father when he comes back a year later asking for more visitation time. In fact, the very custodial parent who bargained away the boat may argue that the father is not entitled to more visitation time because he obviously thinks so little of his children as to have sold his time with them in exchange for a boat.

Of course, it is important in a divorce case for the parties to address all of their issues: custody, support, alimony, division of property, etc. And they should look for creative and mutually beneficial ways to settle their affairs. For example, a dependent spouse might reduce her demand for alimony in exchange for a greater award of property. But bargaining the right to money or property against the rights to custody and visitation is a blueprint for trouble down the road, and should be avoided.

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