For many parents, child custody battles are the most stressful part of the divorce process. It can be challenging to know how to approach the issue, particularly if you're on bad terms with your child's other parent. Familiarizing yourself with common mistakes made during child custody battles can help you navigate the situation with more confidence.
How You Should Approach Your Child Custody Battle
If you're involved in a child custody battle, you should try to avoid making the following mistakes:
- Assuming you know what's best for the children. It's possible—maybe even probable—that you have a different relationship with your ex or co-parent than your children. Throughout the custody battle, you should ask your children how they feel and what they want. If possible, have them speak with a counselor, and ask the counselor for their opinion. Pursuing your child's well-being should ultimately lead to a child custody arrangement that serves the child's best interests.
- Disparaging your co-parent. There are a couple of major reasons you should avoid talking badly about your co-parent. Firstly, you want to avoid setting up a "bad cop, good cop" dynamic with your children. Being the "cool parent" may sound good on paper, but it quickly becomes less appealing when your teenager won't listen to anything you say or continually pushes back against your co-parent. Unless your co-parent engages in an act like verbal harassment that's unacceptable, don't disparage them in front of your child. This is especially important during the custody battle because courts look down on actions that prejudice children towards either parent. If you disparage your ex in front of your child, the court may interpret you as trying to manipulate your child to change the custody case outcome, which can even result in legal penalties.
- Refusing to communicate with your ex. We understand that communicating with your ex—especially if you're estranged—can be challenging. But in most child custody battles, the court will ask both parents to draft a parenting plan together. If the parents refuse to work together, the court may feel the need to develop and administer its own parenting plan. In most cases, court-ordered parenting plans result in compromises neither party wants to make. Cooperating with your partner, even if you have strict boundaries, can allow you to secure a child custody arrangement that suits your needs more than a court-ordered arrangement would.
Additionally, most courts favor whichever parent is more willing to work with their co-parent. If your case requires a court-ordered parenting plan, you want to be on the court's good side. Cooperating with your co-parent enables you to achieve that goal more easily.
- Failing to gather evidence against your co-parent. If your co-parent isn't a fit caretaker, you should move to gather evidence to use against them in court. If your ex refuses to cooperate with you on child custody, document how and why. If they over-discipline your child, take notes and photos you can use to support an allegation of child abuse or harassment. The more evidence you gather, the stronger your case will be.
- Getting into a new relationship too soon. If you get into a new relationship, and your child isn't a fan of your new partner, the court may consider it against your child's best interests to give you custody. If you're going to date, wait until the custody case is over. Working with a counselor to ease the idea of a new partner into your child's life is recommended.
Knowing what mistakes to avoid can help you navigate your child custody battle more successfully. If you need help with a child custody case, our lawyer at K. Dean Kantaras, P.A., is able and willing to assist you.
Contact us online or via phone at (727) 939-6113 to schedule a consultation with our office.