My name is XXXXX XXXXX I am one of JustAnswer's attorneys. I'll be helping you resolve your matter today.
The Court decides on custody based on the rule of thumb of "best interest of the child." This includes, but is not limited to, general stability of the parent, financial stability, indoctrination of the child in the current school and environment, household condition and living condition of the child, other persons living in the house, etc.
The courts generally do not like to split the custody 50/50 since this is hard on the child – imagine having to move every half a year.
One parent usually becomes the main caretaker (in many states this is called the managing custodian) and the other parent becomes the "weekend" parent (often called the posessory custodian) which is every Thursday, every other weekend, and alternating holidays. The minute points of the custody can either be decided by the parties or the Court, if the parties cannot come to an agreement.
Even if a parent does not get managing custody, they are almost guaranteed the posessory custody unless they have a drug problem, alcohol dependency, or an unsafe home environment. Abuse and or neglect of the child or previous children are an almost automatic bar for even posessory custody, although supervised visitation may be granted by the Court.
The posessory parent pays child support to the managing parent, unless the managing parent declines it. All states have a preset salary percentage calculation for child support, but this can be altered if both parties agree to a lesser or higher amount or do not put child support in the orders all-together - the Court will not care.
Before there are orders, you CAN'T take the children without telling her - that's parental kidnapping
. Now you can tell her "I'm taking the children" and go, but she can file for temporary orders to try to stop you and make you come back to determine custody. So, best to either file divorce now and file for temporary custody and convince the Judge that you'd be a better custodian due to the factors I raised above, OR at least file for temporary custody without even getting a divorce (you can do this). I can help you find an affordable attorney in your area if you'd like.
Best of luck in your matter. I'm here if you need any more clarification or follow up info.
I hope you found my answer helpful, and if so please click on the GREEN ACCEPT button for my answer. This is the only way for me to get credit for my work. Understand that when you put in your payment info, you still have not paid until you press ACCEPT.
Your question will not close, and you will still have the opportunity to follow-up if and I would be happy to answer any and all of the follow up questions.
Remember, sometimes the law under which your situation falls does not give you the outcome or the choices you wanted - please understand that this is not the attorney's fault, but the way of circumstance.
There might be a delay between your follow up questions and my answers because I may be helping other clients or taking a break.
Leaving a bonus and positive feedback is not required, but doing so is certainly appreciated!
You can always request me for a future legal consultation through my profile at http://www.justanswer.com/profile.aspx?PF=7286322&FID=7 If you do this, make sure to being the question with “This Question is for Eli…”