A divorce can be extremely stressful. When you add in having to decide who gets custody of your children, it can be especially draining on all those involved. However, it is important to keep in mind that the court will be watching every move you make—both during any legal proceedings and outside of the courtroom. The way you behave can and does have a huge impact on your child custody battle.
If you have a good understanding of what your ex-spouse may try to use against you in your custody battle, you can avoid making a lot of mistakes.
The following is a list of things you should avoid because they can be used against you in a child custody battle…
- Engaging in Verbal/Physical Altercations
It is normal for tempers to flare during a custody battle, as your emotions are running hot. However, having a verbal or physical altercation with your child’s other parent can and will be used against you in a custody battle.
If you start shouting at your ex (especially if the children are present), the judge will not be pleased with your behavior, and the same is true for a physical altercation. The solution to this problem is to be in control of the argument and calm yourself down. Talk calmly and rationally. Do not yell. And above all else, do not get physical.
- Bringing Your New Partner Around Your Child
As long as your child custody agreement has not been decided in court, do not have anyone you are seeing around your child. It’s even best to maintain this separation for a time after your divorce agreement has been finalized.
If you do not take this precaution, it can confuse your child, create drama that is not necessary, and cause tension with your ex-spouse. All of these repercussions can lead to legal complications. Instead, keep things toned down after your divorce.
- Criticizing Your Child’s Other Parent to Anyone
This restraint includes your family and your friends. The bottom line is that anything you say to anyone can be used against you in a custody battle, and it can portray you in a bad light in the eyes of the court.
Someone you confide in may not intentionally repeat what you said, but they could be subpoenaed to testify in court or at a deposition. At that point, it is out of their control because they have to swear to tell the truth. Therefore, they may have to betray your confidence.
- Not Paying Your Child Support or Not Seeing to Your Other Parental Responsibilities
If you have agreed to pay child support and/or alimony to your ex-spouse, it is important that you make these payments promptly, especially if they are ordered by the court.
Failing to make any court-ordered payments will cause you to be seen as in contempt of the court’s temporary or permanent order. Therefore, you could end up with more legal problems.
Additionally, if you do not make child support and/or alimony payments, the court may view you as an uncaring parent who does not have your child’s best interest in mind.
The same thing applies to such things as picking your children up from visitations and dropping them off at the time and location you and the other parent agreed upon.
- Stopping Contact between Your Child and Their Other Parent
As long as your child’s other parent has legal visitation rights and they are obeying the court’s judgement, it is illegal for you to deny them reasonable contact with their child.
If you make this mistake, the other parent can ask the court to hold you in contempt, and the court may end up reviewing your child custody and placement agreement. At this point, the court may decide to limit your contact with your child or change the current visitation and/or custody agreement. The decision would not end up in your favor.
- Removing Your Child from Their Regular Activities
A divorce can leave your child’s mental and emotional health in a fragile state, depending on your child’s age. Children need routines. If they participated in any activities before your divorce, it is vital that you continue them after the divorce.
- Removing Your Child from School or Daycare without Notifying the Other Parent
You should never take your child out of daycare or school if you are not the primary custodian of your child. Even if you are the primary guardian, your child should remain in school or daycare unless you have a very good reason to remove them.
Your ex could show the judge a printout from the school and/or daycare that will show how many times your child has been late or absent from school.
- Abusing Alcohol and/or Drugs
If you abuse alcohol and/or drugs (especially around your child), it gives your ex more ammunition to use against you, as you are hurting your child. It is important that you make sure you are not doing anything that puts your child at risk.
- Refusing to Follow the Court’s Requests
If you want to win custody of your child, you must honor any request the court asks of you. Now is the perfect time to show the judge how committed you are to your child. If they require you to take a class on parenting or go to counseling, then do so immediately.
How Does the Court Decide Child Custody?
When deciding who will have custody of your child, the judge will use what most courts call the “best interest of the child standard.” The court must evaluate the entire situation, in order to properly determine child placement, parenting time, and the best interest of your child.
Some of the factors they take into consideration include:
- The amount of time your child has been under the care and control of any person other than a parent, as well as the relevant circumstances.
- The wants of each parent, as they relate to any residence agreement reached by you and your ex that your family law attorney submitted to the court.
- The interrelationship and interaction of your child with both you and the other parent, as well as any other person(s) who could have a significant impact on your child’s best interest.
- The way your child has adjusted to their home, community, and school.
- Any evidence or allegations of domestic abuse
- Any evidence or allegations of sexual abuse
- If you or your ex has to be registered as a sex offender
- If you or your ex is residing with anyone who has to register as a sex offender
- If you or your ex has ever been convicted of child abuse
- If you or your ex is living with someone who has been convicted of child abuse
- If you or your spouse has a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse
While there is no way to guarantee you will prevail, using the above information about what can be used against you in a custody battle can give you a fighting chance and help you avoid actions that can hurt your case.
One of the most important things you can do to help yourself during a child custody battle is to have a good family law attorney by your side.
While you are committed to winning your child custody battle in your heart, you need to be able to show the court your willingness to work with your ex-spouse and demonstrate the reasons why your child would benefit from you having custody.