Top 10 Most Important Do's and Don'ts during a Child Custody Battle

Going through a child custody battle is one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. Most people want to know, “How do I win custody of my child?” When fighting for custody or visitation of your child, there are many things that a judge is going to take into consideration when determining the custody that is in your child’s best interest. Therefore, everything you do must reflect your concern for your child’s welfare. Here is a list of the most important things to do while fighting for custody of your child.

1. Stay up to date on all child support payments.
Regardless of which parent is ordered to pay child support, the judge is going to look at the payments – or lack thereof – as an indication of his or her concern for the child. Set reminders for yourself before the payment is due, or set it up to be taken out of your paycheck. Most important, make certain that there is a record of every payment. If you don’t pay through the Attorney General’s office, always pay by check and get the receipts from the bank.

2. Stay out of trouble with the law.
You absolutely do not want to give the other parent anything to use against you in court. One of the worst things that you can do is to break the law. Charges such as driving under the influence, drug use, and assault can be deal-breakers in the judge’s eyes. Because this is so important, it is best to avoid all situations that could put you in danger of slipping up. For example, limit your alcohol when at a party and always take a taxi or have a designated driver.

3. Be careful when using social media.
Oftentimes, the most damaging information that the other side will have against you comes directly from you – through your Facebook page. Posting pictures or comments that can be taken out of context or used in a negative light can be very damaging. Even an innocuous posting can create a storm of other comments that can be used by the other parent to prove impropriety. The best thing to do is to delete (or hide or drastically reduce usage of) all social media accounts, with the exception of any that are specifically for business or work.

4. Control your emotions.
Divorce and custody battles are inevitably the most contentious and emotionally turbulent times of a person’s life. Unfortunately, this can lead to heated exchanges between you and your ex. Of course, you should never lose control of your emotions in front of your child, but ideally, you should not lose control at all. Try to find ways to stay calm while with your ex. This will go a long way to show the judge that you are concerned only with the best interest of your child and not your own problems.

5. Hire an attorney.
Many people try to save money during a custody dispute by not hiring an attorney and representing themselves. This can be a huge mistake, especially when the other parent has an attorney. If you try to represent yourself, the judge is not allowed to treat you any differently than an attorney. Therefore, you will have to be aware of all required court procedures and deadlines, as well as the underlying law. This can be a very difficult task, and there are many ways that it can end up hurting you.

6. Show up to all court proceedings.
Showing up to court is a very simple thing, but it is very important. Even if you have an attorney to represent you in court, it is imperative that the judge sees you in court also. Not showing up to a court hearing that directly affects the outcome of your custody case will look very bad to the judge. Let your supervisor at work know what you are going through and that you may need to take time off for court appearances.

7. Abide by all court orders, especially scheduled visitation.
Judges decide orders, such as scheduled visitation and child support. When you do not abide by these orders, the judge takes that as a sign of your disrespect for the court. Follow the court’s orders exactly as they are written. If for some reason you are unable to have your scheduled visitation, be sure and communicate with the other parent early and try to work out something that works for both of you. The judge wants to see that you are committed to working together to parent your child.

8. Take advantage of any opportunity to spend time with your child.
There will be times that arise, that are not scheduled, in which you will be able to spend time with your child. Take advantage of each and every time that these opportunities come up. The judge wants to know that you are invested in your child’s life. Offer to help your ex with taking your child to school and activities, and go to all of your child’s extracurricular activities. Also, keep track of all the extra time that you spend with your child – you may need to prove it to the judge at one time.

9. Talk to your child, but never negatively about the other parent.
Because emotions are so high during this time, some parents vent their frustrations to the children. This is never okay. Judges are very critical of parental alienation, or trying to turn your child against the other parent. This time is even more emotional for your child, so talk to him all the time: about his day, about his feelings, about his friends, about his homework. But, do not talk to him about his other parent and your problems with him or her. Knowing about your child’s everyday life will look very good during questioning in court.

10. Don’t start dating other people right in front of your child.
This may not be a possibility because custody battles can happen years down the road when you are already remarried or dating. But if the custody case is during a divorce or shortly thereafter, do not bring new people into the child’s life while it is already in upheaval. A new love interest can also provoke anger and hurt feelings in your ex, which can lead to problems, such as fighting, threats, and the judge questioning your concern for your child.

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