When custody is decided by a court, the over-arching factor guiding the judge is the best interest of the child or children. This seems obvious but is also a broad and nebulous concept that often makes for a tough decision for a judge. While there are cases where there is drug abuse or abuse of the spouse or child, and it is pretty clear and easy for a judge to decide what would be in the child’s best interest, most are not so easy. In a case where both parents are loving, caring and providing for the child, it becomes more difficult for a judge to assess just in the courtroom. The following five tips in this blog will help you understand and see actions and behaviors that may help your chances in prevailing in a custody dispute.
First, keep in mind that you are divorcing your spouse. You are not trying to have your children divorce their other parent. You must give the other parent grace and leeway just as you would like them to do for you as you parent. This means, do not make a big deal out of a schedule change that has a good cause. Do not deny a request for an hour early or later than normal for a transfer. Life happens, you know this, you will have a day come along that you will need such consideration. Granting the parent and the children leeway is not losing. In fact, many judges will ultimately hear such evidence and the rigid parent who does not consider the other parent or the children may lose ground in the custody litigation.
Second when you present your argument for your desired custody, have reasons, details, and facts to show why this is in the children’s best interest. Don’t want what you want for the sheer reason of wanting to hurt the other parent, or “winning” over them. This will be clear and apparent to the judge and hurt your case. There are no winners in a custody case, but there are parties who keep the children’s best interest and provide the means to facilitate that interest. Come in with financial information, scheduling solutions, medical coverage and proof of your ability to offer the most stable environment. If you do, you are helping your custody case.
Third beyond being gracious and understanding with the other parent, if necessary, go above and beyond. That means if you know they do not have as much experience with the school, give them information, tips on teachers, names, passwords, school schedule, and important dates. It again is not losing, to equip the other parent with the necessary information to succeed at caring for your children. Don’t hide things from the other parent, don’t set conferences and not let them know. Even if you don’t invite them you can be open and willing to share information. Remember, the best interest of the children. There will come a day that being rigid or evasive will hurt your custody case and frankly, your children.
Fourth do not criticize the other parents parenting style. You may not see eye to eye on the method, but you need to be open to the idea that there is no one correct way to parent. Show the court that you are willing to allow the other parent to parent their way, namely that you will not insert yourself into their parenting time. Show the court you will work together with the other parent on specific goals for your child, even if you do not agree with their parenting style. Take homework as an example. If you feel your child needs to have an hour to unwind after school then jump into more learning, talk to the other parent and be willing to hear and listen to their reason for wanting it done immediately. Is it a situation in which dad only gets one weekday and having dinner together is meaningful and he needs to allow the child to break that schedule so they can enjoy their time at dinner? There are many reasons and rationales for different parenting styles; being willing to hear and accept the difference in parenting styles will go a long way in court.
Fifth, do not badmouth, degrade, belittle or try to tear apart the other parent’s character to your children. It is not only damaging to the other parent, but it is also damaging to the child in many respects and is a sure sign that the best interest of the child is not in the forefront of your mind or actions. There is a point where such behavior is emotional abuse against your children as well as the other parent. There may be extreme feelings of dislike, disappointment, confusion, and contempt for the other parent for reasons beyond your control; these feeling should be kept private as they are adult issues and worked out in counseling with the children
If you find yourself involved in custody matters, we hope these tips provide for better parenting in the children’s best interests and either keep you out of court or maximize your custody position, if you do find yourself in court. This blog was written by Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys who handle custody cases of all types throughout the state. This blog is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement