10 Biggest Mistakes that you Can Make During a Child Custody Case
09/19/14 Filed in: child custody mistakes
Many people involved in a dispute involving their children want to know, “How do I win a child custody case?” or “How do I get visitation rights?” But, sometimes, knowing what not to do can be even more important than knowing what to do. Fighting for custody or visitation of your child can be one of the most contentious and emotionally taxing times in a person’s life. Because of this, it is easy to get caught up in the emotional turmoil and make mistakes that you would not normally make. Even worse, these mistakes can cost you the most precious thing in your life – time with your child or children. Here is our list of mistakes to avoid during a child custody case.
1. Breaking the law
One major mistake that the other parent can use against you in court is an arrest or worse, a conviction. Avoid situations that put you in danger of breaking the law. For example, limit your drinks at the party, or better yet, don’t drink at all. An arrest for DUI, assault, or any other of the bad decisions that sometimes accompany alcohol will absolutely hurt your chances of getting custody.
2. Maintaining a presence on social media
Social media – such as Facebook – is a big part of many people’s lives, and it may have its benefits. However, there is virtually no benefit to posting anything on the Internet about your life while you are in a custody battle. More often than not, most of the dirt that an ex-spouse finds on the other parent is on his or her own Facebook page. The best thing to do is delete all social media, especially any type of dating application, from your life during this period.
3. Moving in with someone
Your child’s life is being disrupted a great deal already, and any extra change can be very upsetting for the child (as well as for the other spouse). The judge will be looking at the living situation at your home and how it affects the child. A new significant other or even a roommate is often seen as an unnecessary and possibly threatening addition to the child’s life.
4. Not paying child support
It is imperative that you pay all child support payments, and promptly. Judges see this as a reflection of your concern for your child as well as your respect for the court. Always pay the child support through the Attorney General’s office as required by law. And if you do pay your spouse any money directly, always do so by check and keep the receipts from your bank. Never withhold child support in retaliation for your ex-spouses refusal to allow visitation. In the eyes of the law, such refusal is never a valid reason for failing to pay court-ordered child support.
5. Not showing up to court
It may sound like common sense, but one of the most important things that you can do to show the judge that you are invested in your children is to show up. A parent who doesn’t bother to show up to court when there is a hearing can come across as not caring about the outcome of the case. The judge also views this as disrespect for the court, which will not make a positive impression. Let your supervisor at work know what you are going through in advance and that you will need to take off for court appearances. Let your attorney know if there is ever a conflict that may keep you from attending so that he or she can do what is best.
6. Focusing on the other parent’s faults too much
Divorce or separation is often accompanied by assigning blame and finger-pointing. Because of this, it is easy to fall into the trap of doing the same thing when it comes to custody of your child. Although it can be important to prove the deficiencies of the other parent, it is even more important to illustrate your strengths as a parent. The judge’s primary focus is the best interest of the child, and he needs to know that the child is safe, comfortable, and happy when he or she is with you. The best way to demonstrate the child’s best interest is to show the judge that you spend quality time with your child, have plans for the child’s well-being, and can support the child.
7. Alienating the child from the other parent
Oftentimes, sadly, one parent will tell the child disparaging things about the other parent in order to persuade the child to “pick their side” or, even worse, to sway the child’s desired placement. This is called parental alienation, and the judge will not look favorably on this behavior. As long as neither parent is a danger to the child, it is almost always in the best interest of the child for him or her to have a good relationship with both parents. If you are the parent that is hindering that good relationship, the judge will be more inclined to limit your time with the child.
8. Not hiring an attorney
Many people attempt to go through divorce cases by acting as their own attorney, or going “pro se.” When fighting for custody of your child, this can be a huge mistake, especially when the other parent has an attorney. The judge is not allowed to treat you any differently than he would treat an attorney; so, you will not be granted any leeway when you neglect to file a required court document or miss a deadline of which you were unaware.
9. Not taking the children for scheduled visitation
A parent who has a set visitation schedule in place should take advantage of absolutely every opportunity to spend time with his or her child. If the other parent can show times, especially a pattern of times, of you not being with your child when you were scheduled to be with him, the judge will not be inclined to give you more time with your child.
10. Not abiding by a court order
Judges are very aware of what they or other judges have ordered you to do in the past. One of the worst things that you can do is to not abide by those court orders. These orders can consist of, among other things, child support orders, visitation schedules, and health insurance coverage. If you have not complied with any of these orders, the judge will likely take that into consideration when determining any new orders.