Child custody cases can be frustrating, time consuming, and difficult to navigate. Many parents want what is best for their children but are not sure what to do (or not do) to strengthen their cases. Here are the dos and don’ts in a child custody action.
DO co-parent with your ex.
As difficult as this may be, co-parenting with your ex will not only benefit your child but will also show the court that you are doing everything in your power to make the custody arrangement work. Some examples of co-parenting include agreeing to switch occasional weekends with your ex due to schedule changes or preplanned events and picking up or dropping off your child at activities during your ex’s custodial time if your ex cannot. The level of conflict between the parties and how willing the parties are to cooperate with one another is one of the custody factors that the judge will consider at trial. Although co-parenting may not be fun, it will help your child and your case.
DON’T disparage or speak poorly about your ex.
This may be a hard feat; however, not trash talking your ex may even be required by your custody order. In general, judges frown upon parents who speak negatively about each other in front of their children even if this provision is not in their custody order. One of the custody factors is whether a parent is more likely to encourage frequent and continuous contact between the child and the other parent. Speaking negatively about your ex in front of your child may cause the judge to question how sincere your efforts to encourage contact between your child and your ex really are. If anything, refrain from speaking negatively about your ex because this person is still your child’s other parent whom your child loves.
DO consider enrolling your child (and yourself) in counseling.
Divorce and separation are challenging for children to comprehend. It is all too common for children to internalize separations and believe that somehow it is their fault. It can be helpful for you and your child to have a neutral third party to talk to about your feelings. In addition, one of the custody factors that the judge will consider at trial is which parent is more likely to maintain a loving, stable relationship with the child to meet the child’s emotional needs. Counseling is a good way to maintain your strong relationship with your child during a difficult time.
DON’T ignore changes in your child’s behavior, attitude, or morale.
Child custody cases oftentimes turn into battles. Unfortunately, there is not a quick resolution to most cases, meaning that this is a marathon rather than a sprint. This can be particularly traumatic for children. Do not ignore changes in your child’s behavior; this may be your child’s way of asking for help. Children are children and will not respond to situations with the logic or maturity of an adult. If you believe that your child is struggling emotionally speak with your ex about your concerns and consider enrolling your child in counseling.
DO communicate with your ex.
I know the phrase communication is key is a cliché, but in child custody how well you communicate with your ex actually greatly impacts your case. Make sure that you communicate with your ex about your child’s schedule, including school activities and meetings, extra-curricular activities, and medical appointments. If you have shared legal custody with your ex (as most parents do) you are already required by your custody order to do this. Shared legal custody is the ability of both parents to make major decisions in their child’s life including decisions related to healthcare, school, and religion. Also make sure to send your ex your child’s schedules for extra-curricular activities and sports, report cards, dates of parent teacher meetings, etc. Going the extra mile to share information that you are not court ordered to share or that your ex already has access to shows the court that you are willing to co-parent with your ex.
DON’T attempt to freeze out your ex from your child’s life.
Like it or not, you are stuck with having your ex as a part of your life until your child is eighteen. Do not attempt to isolate your child from your ex or interfere with your child’s relationship with your ex, your ex’s new boyfriend, or your ex’s family. Not only is this harmful to your child’s wellbeing, but one of the child custody factors that the judge will consider is whether there is evidence of a parent’s attempt to turn the child against the other parent. Not only will attempting to freeze out your ex hurt your case, but it will ultimately hurt your child.
DO consider what you post on social media.
Nothing ever really disappears from the internet. That being said, be mindful of what you are posting on your social media accounts. In a custody trial, social media posts are fair game and could come back to haunt you. Make sure your posts are “G” rated. If you would not want your grandmother or priest seeing it, then don’t post it.
DON’T verbally attack your ex.
As tempting as this may be, verbally attacking your ex is not wise and will not help your custody case. Whether it’s an online post, a text message, an email, or a conversation, your statements are admissible as evidence in court. You don’t have to like your ex, just make sure that you are being respectful. Also, only communicate via text message or email so that there’s a paper trail as your ex’s statements can also be used against him or her.
Child custody cases are complex and require knowledge of child custody statutes and case law. It is important to have an aggressive and strategic attorney in your corner. For more information regarding child custody cases, contact Mooney Law at 833-MOONEYLAW and schedule a consultation. With 14 offices throughout Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland, we stand ready to fight for you. You can Count on Mooney Law.