Custody battles often form the most contentious and painful part of a divorce. Advice and advocacy from an experienced attorney can help you achieve your goals for custody, but you need to take certain steps to protect yourself and preserve your best opportunities.
Specifically, you need to avoid certain conduct that could make you look bad to the judge and work against your interests. As experienced divorce attorneys, here are some of the most common and problematic mistakes we’ve seen parents make that hurt their chances in a custody battle.
Violating Court Orders
Of all the things someone can do to damage their reputation with a judge, refusing to follow court orders would need to be near the top of the list. No one wants their authority undermined and their instructions ignored, so violating a court order could be personally irritating to the judge. It demonstrates a lack of respect for the law that can harm a child in numerous ways. So it is important to follow orders regarding payment of child support and alimony, temporary custody arrangements, restraining orders, or anything else.
Physical and Verbal Abuse
It probably goes without saying that if you hit or otherwise physically abuse someone in your family, evidence of that conduct will be used against you in your effort to seek custody. What many parents fail to realize, however, is that evidence of verbal abuse can be just as harmful. This includes ranting on social media. Excessive displays of temper can damage a child’s psyche, and judges are aware of this. While it may be very difficult to keep your temper under control, try to vent frustrations away from your children and the other parent, and away from other witnesses if possible.
Failing to Cooperate with the Other Parent
The law presumes it is in a child’s best interests to have meaningful contact with both parents, and that requires cooperation. If you refuse to communicate with the other parent, show up late when it’s time to drop off the child, and deny the other parent reasonable opportunities to communicate with the child, you are demonstrating to the court that you are not willing to cooperate in the task of parenting. While you might feel that you shouldn’t have to cooperate and that the child should be in your sole custody, the court may be likely to feel that the child would be better off in the sole custody of the other parent.
Moving in with a New Partner
It is hard for a child to accept that their parents are no longer together, and it can take considerable time for a child to adjust to this new reality. When a parent starts living with a new partner, that can make the situation much more difficult for the child to grasp. In addition, there can be concerns about whether the new partner poses a risk to the child’s health or safety. Courts are often reluctant to expose a child to an unsettling, risky situation, so it is better to keep any new relationships quiet until the divorce is finalized.
Parental Alienation Tactics
Sometimes intentionally and sometimes without realizing it, one parent will engage in behavior that turns a child against the other parent. This could involve making disparaging remarks about the other parent, refusing to share information about school or other activities so that the other parent is not able to participate in the child’s life, denying contact, taking away gifts from the other parent, and saying things to hint that that other parent is putting the child in danger. If you do or say anything that could be viewed as an attempt to alienate a child’s affections or damage their relationship with the other parent, that can be considered engaging in parental alienation, and used against you
Other Issues That Can Be Used Against You
A skilled attorney can argue that many situations and actions create a situation that is not in a child’s best interests. Additional issues that could be used against you in a custody battle include:
- Substance abuse
- Removing a child from school or daycare without good reason
- Placing the child with a caregiver for an extended period
- Mental health issues that are not controlled adequately with medication
- Criminal conduct
If the other parent raises a difficult issue, your attorney should be prepared to provide an explanation showing why the factor should not be used against you. In order to do that, your attorney must have accurate information, so it is important to be honest and thorough when reviewing issues with your attorney.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help You Take the Right Steps to Gain Custody
Getting—and following—good legal advice is often the key to gaining your objectives for custody and other matters in your divorce. The team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC is ready to apply over 300+ years of collective experience to help you gain the best advantages for your future, including your preferred custody arrangements. Call us at 855-426-9111 or contact us online to schedule a free, confidential consultation with our team to learn more about how we can help.