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Brandon M.
Brandon M., Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
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Experience:  Attorney experienced in all aspects of family law
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My wife and I have been married 9 years. We have a 5 y.o.

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My wife and I have been married 9 years. We have a 5 y.o. daughter. I have been supporting us of 95% of the finances since the day we were married AND doing 95% of the housework. I have records to back all of this up. My wife is, for all purposes, jaw-droppingly lazy and has long disengaged from ANY responsibility toward our family or household. Since I lost my job 4 years ago, I have been unemployed/self-employed and we struggle. We have become penniless because she refuses to either get a decent job or take up the housework while I job-hunt. I have almost died of a heart attack because of the stress. I have sold every stock I own to support us, and borrowed thousands from my family. She has done nothing except work a part-time job which only pays $600/month. I own our home and pay our bills. Now that I am threatening to shut off her iPhone as an extreme measure (she is a texting addict), she is threatening to leave with our daughter. She has already begun withholding her scant paycheck from our account-- even though we can barely buy groceries. Since I am making more money, she has no defense and is now starting to accuse me of "abusing her." I have never laid a hand on her, EVER. (But to her, asking her to do laundry is "abuse.") She is also now involving our little girl, playing cruel headgames with her.

My question-- she claims if she walks out, the court will automatically give her our daughter and our home. Is this true? Do males ever have a chance at custody and getting rid of the Mom?
Hello there:

Thank you for your question. It is not true that if a wife walks out of the home, the court will automatically give the daughter and home to the wife. Far from it.

New York State is an "Equitable Distribution" state. This means that, based on the particular facts of the case, the assets and debts will be divided in a manner that fairly represents the parties contributions to the marriage.

The conduct of the parties, such as "walking out" is not considered by the courts unless the misconduct affects the marital property itself. For example, if one spouse gambles away half the marital assets, the court will usually not divide the remaining assets 50/50.

Child custody is determined based upon the best interests of the child. Walking out does not give a parent any additional rights.

A lot of people think that the courts are friendly toward the mothers in custody cases, but in actuality they are friendly toward the child's primary caregiver, and usually happens to be the mother. It makes logical sense--if one parent has taken on the role of primary caregiver, it usually benefits the child to not dramatically disrupt that arrangement at the time of a divorce.

I should be clear that because the nuances of every situation are different, this information should not be relied upon as complete or advice without consulting in person with counsel, but as a general rule, property division and custody rights are not impacted whatsoever by a spouse walking out on the other.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

As a follow up to my prior question: my wife is falsely claiming I "abuse" her verbally, when we have nothing more than heated arguments. There is no physicality to it whatsoever. She also claims that my intention to shut off her cell phone would legally be "financial abuse." (It's really a budgeting measure since I handle all our finances and we are broke.) She is just stuck on trying to pin me as some "abuser" because I get on her case about doing her share in the household. Does she have any argument if we were to be in family court one day?

Hi again.

The question is whether shutting of a spouse's cell phone to save money constitutes financial abuse. The answer is ordinarily "no".

I should clarify that "financial abuse" is the financial exploitation of someone, and it is only a crime in New York in certain cases where the victim is vulnerable, such as if the victim is elderly. You have not indicated that the spouse is being financially exploited or that there is any special vulnerability.
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