It’s extremely stressful to learn your ex is making a bid for sole custody. And when a person is under stress, a person is also prone to making mistakes.
Here are eight mistakes you should avoid making if you don’t want to increase your ex’s chances of winning.
Dating can be problematic for several reasons.
First, it just tends to make an angry ex even angrier. This means he or she might start playing dirty. Many judges can see through the types of games that divorcees try to play, but not all of them will. It’s not worth it.
Second, if your new boyfriend or girlfriend is in contact with the children at all the judge will have to consider the impact this person will have on their well-being.
Finally, your new girlfriend or boyfriend might not appreciate facing a subpoena to come and testify to certain facts in divorce court. Few significant others want to be right in the middle of divorce drama, which means the divorce itself could have a deleterious effect on your relationship anyway.
See also: Should You Date During Divorce?
2. Losing your cool.
Losing your temper makes you look like a volatile, potentially dangerous parent.
It can also cause you to do things which make your case even worse. Destroying your ex’s property. Screaming profanities or calling names. Talking badly about your ex where your child can hear.
Meanwhile, you never know when your ex is recording your conversation with the aim of using all this behavior against you in court.
3. Failing to focus on what makes you a good parent.
Even though bringing evidence that the other parent is a “bad parent” is a tactic that can have an impact, focusing on what makes you a good parent is generally the stronger move.
It means you take the moral high ground in court and refuse to lower yourself to mudslinging. It also means producing documentation of your involvement in your child’s life.
Which means you can’t just “check out” in the middle of the divorce. You need to make seeing your kids and interacting with them a priority. You need to take every minute of parenting time you’re given and you need to make the most of it.
4. Making it hard for your ex to see your children.
Courts want to know the custodial parent will honor court orders regarding visitation time and will do their best to foster a positive relationship with the child and the other parent. The parent who seems less willing to work with his or her ex is the parent who often loses out when custody is being decided.
This can include showing up late for drop-offs, showing up early for pick-ups, sending your child unprepared, shuffling schedules around, or any other move you might make to reduce parenting time or to make it as inconvenient and as upsetting as possible.
See also: What is Parental Alienation?
5. Spout off on social media.
Rants and raves on social media can absolutely be used against you in court. Anything that makes you look less mature, less level-headed, more acrimonious or more temperamental can be a huge problem.
Every post and picture can be subpoenaed and brought in as evidence. Ideally you should stay off social media and ask your friends to avoid posting any photos which include or tag you. Much of what you do or post is just too easy to twist around to make you look irresponsible, even if what you’re doing is perfectly responsible.
6. Get behind on support orders.
Usually there will be some sort of temporary child support order while the divorce case is going. If you’re the payee you can ignore this piece of advice.
But if you’re the payor, you do not want to get behind. If you’re not financially stable enough to pay your child support, how can you make a case you’re financially stable enough to care for that child full-time?
To the courts, paying your child support is a big indicator that your child’s well-being is front-and-center in your list of priorities.
7. Failing to keep the other parent in the loop.
Want to pick up your kid from school a little early and take him or her out for ice cream? Make sure you inform the other parent and make sure they’re okay with it.
Removing kids from school early, taking them across state lines for vacations you’re not telling your ex about, doing end-runs around temporary visitation orders to get more time can open you up to accusations of parental kidnapping.
At the very least, it shows a lack of respect for the court’s orders, and may tip the case in favor of your ex.
8. Failing to keep good documentation.
When you pick up your child, mark the date, time, and location. Mark observations like whether the child’s bag was packed with enough clothing and whether the ex was on time. Document what you did while the child was with you. Write down any notes about the other parent’s behavior.
It’s not a bad idea to add supporting records like doctor’s instructions, medical bills, receipts, school papers, or even photographs which help back up your documentation. Your precise record-keeping can back up your claims and undermine accusations.
Sole custody is getting increasingly rare.
If it helps you keep your cool, remember sole custody is less and less the norm. Courts feel it is in the best interests of the child to foster a relationship with both parents whenever it’s safe and possible. If you avoid behaviors which might call your ability to be a good parent into question it’s far more likely you’ll see something very close to a 50/50 arrangement of time and responsibilities.
But every case is different, and general advice like this can only take you so far. If you’re embroiled in a divorce and don’t have legal counsel already, give us a call. Set up a free consultation so we can talk about how we can help you keep your child in your life.