Every child custody case has the potential to be complicated and emotional. And while many result in amicable, agreeable solutions, others can become lengthy, bitter courtroom battles.
If you are hoping to avoid the latter in your own custody case, it would be wise to avoid the following four missteps.
- Violating temporary orders – Until you have a formal custody order in place, the courts may approve a temporary arrangement. Often, these arrangements become permanent. Even if they don’t, the courts and parents can glean a lot from behaviors during this phase. If you cannot comply with temporary orders or if you refuse to cooperate with the other parent during this stage, you could wind up harming your case and creating more problems than you had to begin with.
- Engaging in abusive behaviors – Any type of violent, abusive, threatening or manipulative behavior can adversely affect a parent’s claims. To avoid this, minimize physical interactions and refrain from pushing the other person’s buttons. Keep communication brief and as emotionless as possible. If the other party engages in such acts, retain evidence of the communication and discuss the possibility of an order for protection with your attorney.
- Being too casual – Even when you mediate custody matters, it is important to take the process and the resolution seriously. Being overly casual about it or assuming everything will work itself out can be a recipe for disaster. Instead, be an active participant in creating a comprehensive parenting plan, understanding your rights and complying with court orders.
- Using (instead of protecting) your child – Parents who put their children in the middle or try to manipulate them don’t just make a custody case contentious; they can also do serious harm to the child. Instead, keep the focus on doing what is right for your child and his or her best interests. And only discuss legal matters and preferences with a child when it is appropriate to do so.
Determining child custody after divorce is an emotionally, logistically and legally complex area of family law. However, parents can make the process a little easier by avoiding these mistakes that can drag out and further complicate the situation.