Going through a child custody battle can bring out the worst in people, but you do not want to make stupid mistakes during this short-lived time that will hurt your long-term custody time with your child. To help you avoid this regrettable situation, here are the top 5 ways you can screw up your child custody case.
- Not being involved with your child. When one parent has done the lion's share of the work with the child before the relationship broke apart, that parent has a leg up for custody of the child. If the judge sees a lopsided picture of parental involvement in such things as attending parent-teacher conferences, going to the child's school and sporting events, doing homework with the child, taking him to the doctor, and the hundreds of other daily tasks involved in raising a child, the judge will know which parent has prioritized the child in his or her life.
When a previously absent parent first starts demanding equal time with the child during a custody battle, the court might assume the parent is actually just trying to manipulate the amount of child support. In fairness, some parents finally see the error of their ways when going through the court process, and want to be better parents from that point forward. Also, when the parents were together, they may have agreed that one parent would focus on earning income for the family and the other parent would be primarily involved in taking care of the children.
- Drugs and alcohol. Few things will cause the judge to find you an unfit candidate for custody of your own child more readily than substance abuse. Although many families limp along for years with a parent who has substance issues, the safety nets slip away when the parents go their separate ways. If you have issues with alcohol or other drugs, do not ignore it. When the custody battle gets nasty, your soon-to-be-ex-spouse will make sure the judge knows about it. At that time, your best option is to be able to show the judge that you have faced your demons head-on and you are going through substance abuse treatment for the sake of your children and yourself.
- Anger or lack of control. Court is the combination of chess and theatre. If the other lawyer can push your buttons when you are in court and get you to make an angry outburst, he will have scored on both strategy (chess) and presenting a story to the judge (theatre). Judges do not like the idea of sending a child off to be at the mercy of an angry person who is not in control of his or her emotions. Anger or emotional control issues can result in supervised visitation.
- Creating evidence against yourself on social media, text messages, emails, voice mail, videos. The other side can and will use against you anything that you put out there digitally or in any other format, if it portrays you in a less than flattering light. Do not leave nasty, angry, or threatening messages for your former spouse. This admonition applies to emails, text messages, voice mails, hand-written notes, or any other form of communication. And the best advice is to delete all inappropriate content from your social media and never comment on the custody battle or your ex on social media.
- Refusing to be civil and co-parent. Judges consider temporary custody orders to be a test drive for the final custody orders. If you have emotional blow-ups during custody exchanges, bad-mouth the other parent to the child, refuse to cooperate with the other parent or to follow the temporary orders, the judge will likely give more custody time to the other parent, if that parent behaved better during the process.
The bottom line is that you must behave like the kind of person a judge would want to entrust a vulnerable child to, without the need for supervision. You should not attempt your custody case on your own. To protect your rights, talk to family lawyer Cameron C. Goulding for a confidential consultation.