For couples that are going through a divorce, one of the most challenging aspects of the process is agreeing on the custody arrangement for the kids. Often, custody determinations are based on the best interest of the children.
A child custody case can often involve strong convictions and emotions, so the guidance and expertise of a child custody attorney can come in handy. It is also essential to be aware that actions during and outside the legal proceedings can impact your case.
Case in point: if you allow any negative feelings to lead to poor judgment or destructive behavior, you can end up painting yourself in a negative light and putting yourself at a disadvantage.
To ensure you get the outcome you are hoping for, you need to avoid making unnecessary mistakes. Below are some of the mistakes that can hurt your child custody case:
Mistake #01: Refusing to compromise or cooperate with the other party.
Even if you have strong feelings about your significant other, you need to remember that letting those feelings get to you can work against you. If you refuse to communicate, cooperate, or compromise with the other party, the judge might get the impression you care more about hurting the other party than the best interest of the children.
Ideally, you should allow an open and constructive dialogue with your significant other. If your emotions make communicating difficult, a seasoned family law attorney can handle communications on your behalf. Your lawyer can also provide guidance and advice on when you should take a stand and when you should compromise.
Mistake #02: Getting reckless on social media.
It is recommended that you avoid posting anything about your case on social media while the custody case is still ongoing. Better yet, you can play it safe by avoiding social media altogether, at least for the time being. Things you should not post on social media include:
- Rants about the ongoing case
- Violent content
- Nasty pictures of your ex
- Derogatory remarks
- Pictures of you doing anything tasteless and questionable
You need to always keep in mind that one screenshot can cause your chances of getting a favorable result to go south. Limit your posts to positive, inspirational, and family-friendly images if you find it hard to stay away from social media.
Mistake #03: Withholding visitation from the other parent without any valid or urgent reason.
Generally, the court will not take kindly to any attempts you will make to cut off your significant other’s right to see the children without any court order. Understandably, there will be instances when a court order is not required—if you suspect unsanitary living conditions, physical abuse, and real and immediate threats, among others.
As a general rule of thumb, you need to consult your lawyer each time you violate a visitation schedule laid out by the court.
Mistake #04: Disobeying a court order.
If you disobey any court orders or temporary schedule, the judge might take it as a sign of disrespect for their authority. Undoubtedly, such behavior won’t help your case in any way. Of course, this does not mean you have to agree to visitation schedules that won’t work for you.
The bottom line is, before signing any agreements, you should check with your lawyer first. Lawyers can easily spot any potential issues and concerns and convince the judge to address them before further problems arise.
At the start of your custody case, a temporary visitation schedule may be ordered by the judge. You may also sign a consent order, which is an agreement about temporary custody. Once said agreement has been signed, you should keep in mind that your options to change it might be limited.
Mistake #05: Not taking down notes.
If the other party engages in undesirable behaviors, you should bring it to the judge’s attention. However, not having a detailed record of the events won’t get you anywhere. Terms like “this one time” or “a while ago” won’t carry much weight in court.
If you want to bring a specific event to the court’s attention, you should be prepared to provide an exact time and date along with as much documentation and detail as possible.
To make things easy for you, get in the habit of keeping a journal. Take note of every vital interaction with the other party. Ensure you note all the details if you suspect they are doing anything detrimental or inappropriate for the child.
It would also be good to use your journal to document any positive or constructive activities you did with your child. It will also help if you take note of ways you cooperated with the other party.
When possible, take note of anyone who can stand as a witness on your behalf during relevant events. It would also be best to take photos if you can to corroborate your claims.
Mistake #06: Representing yourself.
No matter how tempting, it’s not always a good idea to represent yourself in court. Ideally, you need a skilled attorney to represent you in court. You can easily get overwhelmed navigating visitation schedules, legal paperwork, and court dates on your own.
More than anything, however, having a lawyer can help ensure you won’t say or do something that can work against you or hurt your custody case. If anything, whatever money you may have saved representing yourself, you will lose eventually trying to figure things out on your own.
Mistake #07: Making the children feel sorry for you.
This issue is referred to in the family law courts as parental alienation. This behavior is considered harmful as it highlights your inability to co-parent and act in the children’s best interest.
Parental alienation also reverses the roles between you and your children, with your children taking on your role. Keep in mind that your children need your guidance and not the other way around.
This behavior is also considered malicious as it is deliberately intended to hurt the other party. Parental alienation is not only limited to direct acts of seeking sympathy. Instances of the following subconscious behavior are also considered parental alienation:
- Telling the children the other party is taking you to court
- Crying in front of the children
- Verbalizing distress over the family breakdown
The impact of your behavior can have a significant impact on the children. What’s even unfortunate is it is something you cannot undo. That said, always be mindful of your behavior and actions.
Mistake #08: Lying about alcohol or drug use.
Alcohol and substance abuse is not rare in family law. What is expected is the frequency parents deny or hide their alcohol or drug use. Understandably, any parent with a drug or alcohol addiction believes their addiction can affect their chances of gaining custody.
It is crucial to remember that the family law courts are more concerned about how your alcohol or drug use can impact your children and your ability to parent accordingly. Taking steps to minimize your addiction like rehabilitation and counseling can show the court you can maintain self-control.
Laid out above are just a few of the mistakes that can hurt your custody case significantly. Invest in the services of a seasoned and well-versed lawyer who can provide guidance and advice that’s tailored to your case.
About the Author:
Andrea Williams is the Community Manager at The Law Offices of Alcock & Associates P.C., a premier law group in Arizona that provides legal services to clients involved in Personal Injury, DUI, Immigration and Criminal cases. She enjoys cooking, reading books and playing minigolf with her friends and family in her spare time.