Over one-quarter of children in the U.S. live with one parent, while their other parent lives in another home. This shows how prevalent divorce and child custody cases are.
If you’re a parent finding yourself in the middle of a child custody case, you may be confused about your parental rights and the uncertainty of the outcome. However, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of gaining and retaining custody or shared custody of your children.
Here’s a list of seven of the most common mistakes parents make when facing a child custody case.
1. Don’t Badmouth Your Ex to Your Child
It isn’t fair to use your children as a pawn or to create negativity in their minds about your ex. After all, your former partner is still your child’s other parent. Your children deserve the right to form their own opinions about their parents as they grow.
Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself how you’d feel if you were spending time with each parent and hearing bad things about one of them. It would make you feel confused and stressed, two emotions that your child does not need nor deserve during this lifestyle adjustment.
Resist the temptation to speak of your ex in a negative light when your child is present. If you must, confide privately with a friend or family member without your child being there.
2. Don’t Repeatedly Cancel Visits
Being repeatedly late for picking up your children for visits or having to constantly cancel or reschedule visitations does damage in two ways.
First, it really hurts your child. They will feel that they’re no longer a priority in your life and that you don’t care enough to follow through on spending time with them.
Children need to know they’re still loved and valued by both parents after the relationship ends. One of the best ways of giving them this assurance is to be there for them when you say you will.
Second, this behavior will make you look bad in your ex’s eyes and in the court. It will make the court think you’re not serious about making a commitment to child custody. Your ex can make a record of repeat cancellations and no-shows and use it against you in a court of law.
3. Don’t Disrespect the Court
Always respect court officials and what is asked of you. If you are ordered to take a parenting class or get help for a substance abuse problem, do it. If you are issued a temporary order, you must obey it.
Wear professional clothing when attending court and respect the judge and other court officials. Dressing appropriately shows that you take the child custody hearing seriously, and this small action will help you make a positive impression.
Never lie to the court or your lawyer. The truth always comes out eventually, and it can hurt your parental rights.
4. Don’t Be Anything Other Than a Great Parent
You don’t stop being a parent just because you’re no longer living with the mother or father of your child. So while you no longer have your partner with you, that doesn’t mean you can skimp on raising your child properly.
Be a good parent by creating a safe environment for your child when they’re with you. Any firearms that you own should be securely locked up. Any films you watch with your children should be family movies or age appropriate for them.
You don’t want to leave your children unsupervised or enforce corporal punishment. This information will get back to your ex, and it could get blown out of proportion into a domestic violence issue.
Make sure they have plenty of nourishing, healthy food to eat, and a comfortable place to sleep. Don’t abuse alcohol or take drugs. It may sound like common sense, but you always want to present yourself as the best parent you can possibly be.
5. Don’t Neglect to Pay Child Support
Don’t neglect or forget to pay child support to your ex. They can use this information against you, and you could lose visitation rights.
If you find yourself with a financial hardship whether from a job loss or emergency, do let the judge know. File a motion to make the court aware, and you may receive permission to reduce your child support until you have the funds again.
6. Don’t Take the Kids on a Trip without Letting Your Ex Know
Taking your child on a trip without your ex’s permission can quickly look like a kidnapping situation.
Always ask your ex if you can take your child on a vacation. Provide them with all of the information they need to know, such as contact info for the hotel, flight numbers, and departure and arrival times.
Doing so shows that you can be trusted by both your ex and the court.
7. Don’t Lose Your Cool
Although emotions run high in times of divorce and figuring out child custody rights, try not to get angry with your ex, especially in front of your kids. It’s especially important to avoid any kind of physical contact as that will not help your case and can turn it into a domestic violence incident.
Take a deep breathe and leave the room during a heated argument if you have to. Never threaten your ex and always try to keep the environment as calm as possible.
Winning Your Child Custody Case
Avoiding these seven child custody case mistakes will put you in good standing with the court and help you work out an agreement with your ex sooner rather than later.
If you find yourself facing a child custody case, you need a family attorney who cares about you and your parental rights. Start by conducting a search for family attorneys near you.