Child custody is a highly contentious matter in many divorce cases, given the sensitive nature of it. You both want what is best for your children, but you might encounter some difficulty agreeing on what that means and how to reach a resolution. This can be a time-consuming and expensive process if spouses are unwilling to negotiate or compromise, and mistakes are often made. This does not have to happen to you, however. Below are some of the most common child custody mistakes and tips on how to avoid them.
1.Pay Attention to Your Behavior: You might be angry at your ex-spouse for a number of reasons and find it challenging to keep your cool around him or her, but you must avoid any misbehavior, such as threats or physical contact. This will only lead to more problems for you. Try to maintain a calm environment and avoid confrontations at all costs. A domestic violence allegation, if proven, can prevent you from obtaining custody of your children or result in limited visitation.
2.Always Make Your Child Support Payments: If you have been ordered to pay child support, remember to always pay it. It is possible that, if you are experiencing financial difficulties, the court might order a reduced support amount until you are able to get back on your feet. Simply failing to pay without court approval can result in serious consequences, so either request the court to reduce it or pay it.
3.Never Take the Kids Away for a Vacation Without the Other Parent’s Consent: It might seem perfectly innocuous to want to take your children away for a little fun trip, but doing so without the other parent’s consent can result in accusations of kidnapping, for which you can be arrested. A court might also order you to have either limited or no custody if they believe you might take them away again. This show of disrespect for the other parent is something the court takes very seriously, so if you really want to take your children away for a few days, just ask your spouse and make sure you get his or her consent. Do not risk your parental rights.
4.Show Respect for the Court: While this sounds obvious, many people still complete disregard for the court and its actions. This is an excellent way for your case to go south. Comply with the court’s orders even if you disagree with it. For example, if you are asked to take a parenting class, look for one, sign up for it, and successfully complete it. Disobeying the court’s orders might land you in contempt. Most importantly, never lie to the court or omit the truth.
It is also wise to come to court dressed appropriately, preferably in a business casual or conservative outfit.
5.Never Put Your Needs Above the Needs of Your Children: Your children are likely having a difficult time coping with the stress of the divorce, so do not make it harder on them. If you are unsure how to help them, do some research and buy some books to help you understand their needs and what they might be going through, or take them to counseling. It is also crucial for you to help and not hinder their relationship with the other parent. Your marriage might be over, but you are still in this together as parents. Never forget that.
6.Be a Good Parent: In the same vein as the aforementioned point, your kids are really going to need your support at this time and, if you are looking to obtain child custody, the court is going to closely examine your ability to effectively care for them. As such, you need to make sure you do everything you can to ensure your kids are safe and happy. This includes:
a.Keeping a gun locked and inaccessible, if you own one
b.If your children are not old enough to ride without a car seat, make sure the car seats you have are safe and used properly
c.When watching movies with your children, make sure they are appropriate for their age
d.Carefully select babysitters
e.Never enforce corporal punishment
f.Familiarize yourself with important figures in your children’s lives, such as teachers, friends, coaches, or doctors
7.Never Flake Out When it Comes to Spending Time with Your Kids: If it is your time to be with your kids, make sure you are there for them. Pick them up and drop them off at the agreed upon time. Your spouse is observing you and, if this is a particularly nasty battle, he or she might be looking for any mistakes to prove to the court that you are a neglectful parent.
8.Be Wary of the Status Quo: The court is going to look at the current status quo of a family’s dynamic and situation when deciding child custody, so always be aware of what you are allowing to happen. If your ex-spouse is spending the majority of time with your children, the court is likely to favor him or her.
9.Do Not Leave the Marital Home: This one might be tough, but it is imperative for you to do your best not to leave the marital home. Leaving gives your ex-spouse the upper hand when it comes to gaining custody. The court is likely to perceive your decision to leave as a sign that your ex is the true custodial parent, or that you are unstable and unreliable. If your spouse is abusive, file a motion to force them out of the home or, if you have no choice, take the kids with you when you leave. The court typically views the marital home as the epicenter of family life, so leaving it and your children behind immediately puts you at a disadvantage.
10.Hire a Lawyer: If you are in the midst of a child custody battle, this is not something you should handle on your own. Seek the representation of an experienced child custody attorney and always tell him or her all the facts of your case. Lying will only hurt your own case. Remember, your lawyer is here to help you, so provide as much information as possible.
Clarksville Child Custody & Visitation
At Patton | Pittman, our mission is to help you secure a fair custody and visitation settlement through mediation or another amicable process to avoid the frustrations and hardships of a more adversarial setting. If this is not possible for you and your ex, we are also prepared to litigate your case at trial.
Contact us today at (931) 361-4477 for a free consultation.