My number one cardinal rule (there are 24 more) for women going through divorce is that you must look out for yourself first. That's right, Not the children first but YOU first. Most attorneys will tell you and many judges will pontificate about always putting the children first. They live in the ideal, not the real world. I simply do not believe that your children's needs come first ! Your needs must be met first so that you can really be there for your kids.
The best analogy is the steward on an airplane telling you that if the oxygen masks drop , put yours on first so you can help your children. Likewise, in Divorce, if you don't take care of your health and maintain an emotional equilibrium , it will be hard for you to be there for you children.
Years ago I took on a client, post divorce, who had given up almost everything so she could have custody of her children. The children were then 2 and 4. Her husband was making about $30,000. and she was making $15,000. Her husband threatened her about seeking custody if she did not capitulate to his demands. She capitulated and basically gave up her share of his pension and took a smaller share of the marital home when it sold. She also agreed to no spousal support and modest child support. Over the next 10 years she never once went back to court for increased child support even though she knew her husband was now making a six figure income. My client continued working as a waitress.
When their son turned 14, he wanted to live with his dad who had promised him a 4 wheeler. His dad had remarried and his new wife had two children the same ages as my client's. And Dad's home had a swimming pool. Because Mom wanted her son to know his dad better, she reluctantly consented to his moving in with his father. This meant mom's child support would change.(In her unusual case it would actually have increased) Rather than receive more child support, mom agreed to continue receiving the same amount of support as she had been receiving.
During all this time, their daughter was going to work everyday with the mother and sitting in one of the booths for the duration of each afternoon completing her homework. Dad seized on this fact to then go after custody of the daughter claiming the restaurant was not an appropriate after school program for the daughter. The Guardian Ad Litem (child's attorney) agreed.
But for an insightful judge who questioned why the father, who knew about the after school situation for years, waited so long to press his "concern", Mother would have lost custody of her youngest child.
The moral of the story is that to keep custody, you can give up too much at the beginning of your divorce case and that can cause you to lose custody later. You must look out for yourself first now so that you can provide for your children in the future.