If you’ve found yourself headed to court for custody of your child or children, keep these tips below in mind and give us a call at Smith Ammons Law if you have any questions or need a legal representative to help you during your case.
Try to settle outside of court first. Consider mediation; if you and your (ex)spouse are on somewhat decent terms, try to talk to them about setting up arrangements.
Meet with legal representatives. Don’t go into battle alone; talk to us about your chances of winning the case, the steps you need to take, and what you should expect.
Keep the drama to a minimum. Children know when their parents are fighting and often tend to feel guilty if they know the fight is over them. Leave them out of it; don’t try to put them in the middle or involve them in any way. Don’t fight with your (ex)spouse in front of them and don’t talk badly about them to your children.
Try to remain objective. Put your children’s best interest first; don’t focus on getting revenge on your (ex) spouse. Ask yourself why you’re fighting – Is the other parent dangerous? Are the children truly better off in your care? Is it just because you disagree with their parenting style or because you want to hurt them?
Fight for the right reasons. This goes back to the previous tip. If the other parent is dangerous and/or abusive, then sure, it’s best to do all you can to gain custody of your children. But don’t fight to “take away” the children because you want to hurt the other parent or because you want to gain leverage over them in the financial issues of your divorce.
Remain calm. Don’t send threatening messages or make angry phone calls or send hateful emails. All of this can be used as proof against you in the battle. Keep your personal business off of social media as well.
Continue to love and support your children unconditionally. Especially during this time. Custody battles can be difficult on children, as they often feel torn over their parents. Be the best parent you can possibly be during this time; not to simply win the case, but because that’s what your children need.
Don’t keep your children from the other parent. Try to find a balance between the two of you until the case has been settled. You don’t want your children angry at you for not letting them see the other parent. They’ve certainly done nothing wrong, so why punish them by preventing them from spending time with their other parent?
When it comes to making decisions, remember your children. The court is going to want to see that you know how to do whatever is best for your children and that you won’t hesitate to do so – whether that’s getting a second job, moving closer to their school, etc.
Don’t spread lies or make false accusations about the other parent. Remember how we said to keep the drama at a minimum? We cannot stress this enough. If what you’re saying about your ex isn’t true and is proven to not be true, this will only make you look like the bad parent in court.
Hold off on living with your new spouse. The judge may not agree with your decision to move in with a new boyfriend or girlfriend during a custody battle. This is placing a stranger into the lives of your children and makes you seem like you’re more interested in what makes you happy rather than what is best for the kids.
Be the best version of yourself you can be to all involved in the case. Be open, honest, respectful, and professional to all those involved in the case, from the attorney to the mediator, to the child evaluator and so on. These individuals ultimately determine when and how often you will see your kids.
Stay involved in your children’s lives. Continue to go to their sports games or school plays/events. Continue to communicate with their teachers and take them to doctor appointments. Remain an active part of their lives as much as possible. No one needs the best version of you quite like your children do.
Keep a record of everything. If you have allegations, you’re going to have to prove them in court. If you receive negative texts, voicemails, or emails from the other parent, hold onto them to prove your case. If you and the ex have made arrangements prior to the case, write down when and why you switch parenting time, as well as who has the kids on each holiday. Keep track of how much time you spend with the kids and how much you spend on them.
Even if you lose the case, don’t give up on your children. Cherish each moment you have with them; they won’t be children forever, and you want them to look back on this time and smile, instead of in sadness or anger. Winning the case isn’t the biggest goal – it’s being the best parent possible and having the greatest relationship you can have with your children.