5 Common Pitfalls to Avoid In Your Child Custody Case
Child custody proceedings are difficult and stressful for both parents. With emotions running high, parents often unwittingly make poor choices that adversely affect both their children and their case. While not exhaustive, here are some common pitfalls to avoid in your child custody proceeding:
1. Denigrating or Disparaging the Other Parent
The courts recognize the obvious: that children thrive best when they have a healthy relationship with both parents. Nothing undermines that relationship more than when one parent one parent repeatedly denigrates or disparages the other to the child or otherwise pressures the child to choose sides.
Judges have seen it all before and are well aware of the profound and long-lasting damage that this type of behavior can have on a child’s emotional development and long-term well-being.
As such, the courts have consistently maintained that one of the primary responsibilities of the custodial parent is to foster and facilitate a relationship between the child and the other parent, so much so that a parent’s inability or failure to do so creates a presumption that that parent is unfit to have custody of the child.
2. Manipulating the Child’s Preferences
Similarly, some parents may use a variety of tactics to influence the child’s decision or preference about with whom the child wants to live. This could include spoiling or bribing the child, or more overtly, encouraging the child to express their preference to the appointed attorney.
This type of behavior is unhealthy for the child and typically backfires on the manipulating parent when it is often picked up by the child’s attorney and the Court, who, again, have seen it all before.
3. Absence in the Child’s Life
Judge’s view a parent’s past-involvement in the child’s life as the best indicator of future involvement. As such, it is important for parents in custody cases to remain active and involved in their children’s day-to-day activities and major decisions (medical, education, extracurricular, etc.).
A parent’s continued involvement is what is best for the child and what is best for their custody case.
4. Illicit Use or Abuse of Drugs
When allegations of drug and alcohol abuse are made, Judge’s will typically order that both parties be tested. Should the result come back positive, the parent found to have used drugs or alcohol must then defensively argue that his or her drug and/or alcohol use is limited in nature or controlled and does not occur when the child is in his or her care. This is a surefire way to lose your custody case.
5. Lack of Stability and Poor Decision Making
Courts do not look favorably on parents who make hasty or detrimental decisions. This could include prematurely introducing the child to a paramour or significant other, removing the children from their school or daycare program, or arbitrarily changing residences. Doing so only compounds the instability of the child’s life—making it increasingly more challenging.
Divorce and custody disputes are very difficult for families. It is important for parents to always keep their children’s best interest in mind—particularly as it pertains to actions and decisions during the transition.