Child custody may be one of the most contentious areas of any divorce, and it may be re-litigated time and time again after the divorce. Emotions run high when it comes to your kids, and both parents think they know what’s best for the children. Nobody doubts you want what’s best for your kids, but you could be sabotaging your own custody hopes with one of these 5 mistakes:
1. Alienating the other parent
It might be hard for you to see it right now, but it is in the child’s best interest to have a relationship with both parents. Each parent should be as fully engaged in the child’s life as possible. This is the stance the court will take, and when determining custody, they will consider attempts by one parent to hinder or destroy the child’s relationship with the other parent as detrimental to the child’s best interest. Parental alienation may come in many forms:
- Overt attempts to destroy the relationship
- Manipulating the child into losing interest in building a relationship with the other parent
- Keeping the child away from the other parent
- Making passive-aggressive comments about the other parent to the child to disturb the relationship with the other parent.
It’s natural to need to vent about your ex sometimes, but make sure you are talking to a trusted friend or close family member, and stay out of earshot of the kids! Remember, you’re not encouraging the relationship for the other adult’s sake, you’re doing it for your children’s sake.
Is it your week for custody, so you think you can just take the child on a little vacation, maybe out of state or even out of the U.S., without telling the other parent? You might be able to get away with it legally, but the stress you cause your own child, as well as the other parent, will not be looked at favorably by the court. Standard parenting orders often outline when a parent is able to take a child on vacation, for how long, and if the other parent needs notified. Disappearing with the kids and not telling their other parent is going to have a negative impact on your custody battle.
3. Oversharing on social media
It seems everyone lives life out loud these days. Some people post everything, from the most minor, day-to-day minutia of what they had for lunch, all the way to the gut-wrenching emotions over the loss of a loved one. When it comes to your divorce, however, remember this: everything you say may be used against you in a court of law. If you put it out there, it’s fair game. Think about all of the people on your friend list, how well you really know them, and if they were friends with your ex. Don’t put it past people to take screenshots of your posts or texts and send them to your ex….who will be more than happy to share it with the lawyers and the court. Would you say it to a judge? Then don’t put it on social media.
4. A New Spouse or Significant Other
No one is saying you can’t date during this time. But whether you have found a new love interest, or you’ve been seeing the same person for months or years, try to keep them out of the legal picture for a while. Your kids may think you’re trying to replace their other parent. They may say things about him or her to the other parent. It can create confusion and drama, and that’s the last thing children need during a divorce or custody battle. The court – which is tasked with considering the best interests of the children – is going to look at who your child is interacting with on a daily basis, as well as your priorities and how much time you’re spending with this new person instead of your kids.
5. Not hiring an attorney
The future of your children hangs in the balance here. The custody agreement could have far-reaching impacts on their – and your – lives. Child custody cases can feel like you’re on an obstacle course… hurdling paperwork, organizing schedules, and sprinting to court. Missing a detail, or heaven forbid a court date, could negatively impact the outcome. An experienced family law attorney can keep track of filings, the dates, and the requirements. They know the courts and the magistrates, what they look upon favorably, and what might be detrimental to your case. And while your emotions might be running amok, an experienced attorney can fight for you with a clear and compelling argument, communicating effectively when you may not be able to.
If you have questions or concerns about your custody case or agreement, call one of the experienced family law attorneys and Kirkland & Sommers. We will fight to protect your relationship with your children, and work to ensure their proper placement. Each case is unique, so call us today to discuss yours!