Divorce is a challenging time under the best of circumstances. However, when a child custody battle appears to be looming, the prospects of divorce can seem even more difficult. While a child custody battle cannot always be avoided, there are certain mistakes we see time and again during child custody battles that only make things worse. Consequently, we offer the following information about mistakes you can easily avoid, once you know what they are.
Don’t Speak Ill of your Child’s Other Parent
No matter how frustrated you are, or how right you are, under no circumstances should you badmouth your child’s other parent to or in front of your child. Even if you are right about your assertions, doing so in front of your child can cause permanent damage between your child and their other parent, as well as potentially permanent damage between your child and you. Additionally, if the child custody battle cannot be resolved, a court will decide custody. Reports that you have been speaking ill of your child’s other parent could make their way back to the judge, who may use this information when deciding who will best provide the children with an emotionally happy and stable home.
These types of comments serve no productive purpose. If you feel you must say something bad about the other parent or burst, say it to a friend or family member, outside the presence of your children.
Don’t Give in to Anger
During such an emotional time, it might be tempting to give in to the anger and frustration you feel and lash out. While this may feel good in the moment, it does not advance your cause. Speaking ill of the judge or the conditions of the temporary custody order may feel good in the moment, but it doesn’t serve you or your children in the long run.
Additionally, insisting on keeping a custody fight going, just because you are mad at your spouse, is not a good approach. Your children are not pawns to be used in anger against your spouse. Failing to come to a reasonable settlement, when one is available, could backfire. The court may decide to grant you less parenting time than the agreement contemplated. Any time there is an offer to settle a child custody dispute, parents must make sure they are making the decision to accept or reject the offer with the best interests of the children in mind. Even if this means letting go of anger and resentment towards the other parent.
Don’t Forget to Communicate
Make sure you communicate with your children’s other parent about all relevant information. From school conferences to the timing and dosing of new medications, make sure to include your child’s other parent. Like it or not, you will be dealing with this person at least until your child is 18, and most likely beyond. Set the town early, being respectful and forthcoming with information your child’s other parent needs to parent properly.
Don’t Divorce on Social Media
Regardless of what is going on at home, and regardless of how much you typically share on social media, when it comes to your divorce, keep it mum. There is no need to post about how your child’s other parent was five minutes late returning the child, or that the kids came home with a week’s worth of unwashed clothes, or any disparaging comments about your child’s other parent’s new love interest. Internet comments can be recorded and may be admissible in court, depending on the circumstances of the communication. Even if your page is set to private, presume anything you post will be seen by others. These others could include your spouse, your spouse’s attorney, and quite possibly the judge making the determination about parenting time. Post accordingly.
Don’t Disregard Court Orders
Ignoring the terms of a temporary custody agreement is also a really bad idea. This is true even if you think you should have more time with your children. Disregarding drop off times, or considering them “advisory” is disrespectful of the court. Additionally, your children may be confused or even scared if your approach to parenting time is more fluid than what they expect. Remember, it is likely their other parent told them what to expect. Failure to comply with court orders could result in contempt of court charges.
Don’t Let Your Spouse’s Behavior Tempt You
Often, one parent fails to behave as their best selves during part or all of the divorce proceedings. This is not an excuse to drop to their level, and engage in similar behavior. Rather, regardless of what your spouse is doing, rise to the occasion and present your best possible self. The inconsistencies between how you approach co-parenting and how your child’s other parent approaches co-parenting will not be lost on the judge. You are responsible for your behavior and your choices, regardless of how the other parent is behaving. Make sure your behavior is beyond reproach.
If you are considering divorce, contact the attorneys at Fait & DiLima. With over 50 years of combined family law experience, we have seen our share of child custody battles. These battles are sometimes unavoidable. However, often there are steps which, if taken, reduce the possibility of a child custody battle. Most parents really and truly want what is best for their children. Rarely is a child custody battle in the children’s best interests. At Fait & DiLima, we work to resolve cases without the time and costs associated with protracted litigation. However, where litigation is the only option, we are ready to go to court and advocate. We fight for you, your children, and the best interests of your family. Contact us today for a consultation.