By Alexis Doree |
What Not to Do in Your Child Custody Case
When two parents separate and are unable to come to a mutual agreement, there is no alternative but to turn to the Court system. While parents say they are doing what is best for their child, there can be a disconnect between what a parent thinks is right and what the Court thinks is right. One wrong move can put you on the wrong foot with the Court or can even affect the amount of time you get to spend with your child. Here are some of the most common mistakes parties should avoid making before, during, and after a contested custody case:
1. Withholding visitation from the other parent without an urgent reason. This is what is known as parental alienation, and this is not something a court will look fondly on. Even if you have strong negative feelings about the other parent, do not let those feelings be put above the best interests of your children. If you refuse to communicate with the other party, the Court may view it as you do not care about your child’s best interests and that you only care about getting back at the other party. The best thing you can do is to keep an open line of communication with the other side. If you are unable to do this, an experienced family law attorney can have those communications for you. However, if you have a valid reason for keeping the child away from the other parent, such as the other parent is abusive or is using illegal substances, you should still consult with an attorney, time permitting, before you decide to unilaterally withhold the child from the other parent.
2. Fighting or talking badly about the other parent in front of the kids. While it may be easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment, you need to put your children’s best interests first. Even if the other parent is next to impossible to co-parent with, take the high road and be the bigger person. This will only help your custody case. No matter what the other side does, do NOT sink to their level. Talking negatively about the other parent in front of the child has severe negative effects on a child and can make them feel as if they need to choose sides. No matter what you do, do not involve your child in your relationship with the other parent.
3. Making unsubstantiated allegations. If you are going to make claims that the other party is on drugs, they are an alcoholic, they are abusive, etc., you better have proof to back up those allegations. Without it, the Court may think that you are lying and will stop at nothing to tear down the other party, which may in turn harm your case.
4. Exercising poor judgment on social media. Always remember that when you put something on the internet, it is there forever and it is free game to use in court. It is not a good look for a party who consistently posts pictures of them at the bars or making disparaging comments about the other party. A good rule of thumb is to never post anything on social media that you would not feel comfortable being presented to the Court. If you have posts out there that you feel could be used against you, do NOT delete them. That post may be considered evidence and you could face legal consequences for trying to get rid of it. Instead, discuss it with your attorney who can attempt to prevent it from being admitted as evidence or reduce its impact when presented to the Court.
5. Not being active in your children’s life. If you are fighting for primary residential responsibility, but do not know anything about your children, such as their shoe size, their teacher’s name, where their doctor’s office is, you may need to take a step back and ask yourself if you truly want custody and if that is what is best for your children. If you do not know these answers because the other party has kept the children away from you, you must go to court to fight for them right away. If you wait years before taking action, the Court may doubt the sincerity of your request.
6. Disobeying a court order. All too often we see parties take matters into their own hands. If you violate a court order, be aware that there will be consequences. A judge may take your disobedience as a sign of disrespect for their authority and that can play a factor in the Court’s future decisions. If there is a valid reason why the Court Order is no longer effective or in the children’s best interests, you must go through the Court system to modify it, unless both parties agree to the proposed amendments. It may be in your best interest to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can show you the right options.
7. Not hiring an attorney to represent you. Custody cases are no walk in the park. There is an abundance of paperwork, court dates, and schedules that must be followed. Missing even a single detail can be consequential to your case. Your relationship with your child is too important to take a risk of letting that happen. Having an experienced family law attorney who can argue on your behalf and keep track of all the requirements is of great benefit. Furthermore, it is imperative that you do things right the first go around as after a judgment is entered by the Court, it is very difficult, if not next to impossible, to amend.
If you are involved in a custody case or are looking to initiate one, please contact our office at (701) 775-0654 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free consultation today.
*The information contained in this article and on this website is for informational purposes only. This information is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.