Mistakes You Should Avoid When Fighting for Custody
When a couple divorces or dissolves their relationship, one of the most emotional and difficult things they deal with is splitting custody of children. Traditionally, courts have sided with the mother of the child when it comes to placing primary custody but, as times change, more and more fathers are proving they are the more appropriate choice to have physical custody. But, during these custody cases, fathers often make some crucial mistakes – here is what you should avoid to win your custody case.
- Not Acting First
One of the biggest mistakes that fathers make when fighting for custody is not being the first one to file for a hearing. There are many benefits to being the first parent to take action and often it can have positive legal implications. In many cases, waiting for the mother to file will often lead to increased feelings of frustration and dislike, which will not be any help during the court hearing. Being proactive about requesting custody will often only help to strengthen the father’s case in court.
- Leaving the Family Home
For those fathers going through a divorce, leaving the family home can often be detrimental to their custody case. Leaving the mother, and more importantly the children, behind does not make a father look good in the eyes of the judge. Every day that passes that a father is away from his children is not only hurtful to his case but also damaging to the children’s emotional state. Always consult a family law attorney before deciding to leave the family home in order to better your chances.
- Not Spending Time with Children
Courts will always choose a custody agreement that is in the best interest of the child or children and judges often believe that involvement from both parents is crucial for children to have a stable upbringing. Fathers who do not spend enough time with their children are not looked upon fondly in custody court, so make sure you are spending as much time with them as possible. Things like riding bikes, doing homework, going to the park, or playing games are all things the children will appreciate and remember, helping to better your relationship and your custody court case.
- Refuse to Cooperate with the Mother
As mentioned earlier, family court judges will always choose what is in the best interest of the child and often, that is having both parents be involved in their lives. While emotions may be high, it is important to keep an open mind about what the custody arrangements should be and work to come to a cooperative agreement between yourself and the mother of the children. Judges often look favorably on fathers and couples who are willing to work together in the best interest of their children.
- “Bad-Mouthing” the Child’s Mother to Family and Friends
Courts will often ask for character witnesses to determine who the better parent would be to have custody of the children. It is important to keep the relationship between yourself and the mother civil and make sure to hold your tongue when urged to talk badly about them, even to family and friends. While you may trust them to keep your ranting private, it is better to be safe than sorry – when it is revealed that you speak badly about the child’s mother, the court will be less likely to award custody.
- Moving in with a New Significant Other
If the relationship has been over for some time, it is possible that the father has met a new significant other. It is important to remember that a divorce is already an emotional and confusing time for children; adding a new girlfriend and “mother figure” into the equation can only make matter worse. Judges will more than likely look down on a father who has already introduced their children to a new significant other, especially if the divorce has not yet been finalized. Make sure to give your children enough time to adjust to a new situation before adding additional variables, like a girlfriend, into the mix.
- Not Hiring an Attorney
This is very important for fathers who are serious about having custody of their child. While it is possible to represent yourself in a child custody case, it is very unadvisable. A knowledgeable attorney knows how the family court system in your state works and will be able to advise you on the things that can be done to strengthen your case and your chances of winning. Additionally, having a professional deal with the legal proceedings gives you more time to spend and focus on your children during a difficult time.
- Disobeying a Visitation Order
In most cases, custody will be placed with one of the parents while the other has visitation until the case is decided. Should the mother be given custody and the father have visitation, it is important to follow that court order regardless of how unfair you believe it to be. Keeping the children when you are not supposed to and disobeying the visitation order will only hurt the overall custody case. Make sure to keep your emotions in check, follow the order, and do whatever possible to strengthen the case.
- Moving Out of the Children’s Current School District
Family court judges want to make the divorce and custody case as easy on the children as they can and that often means changing as little about their day to day lives as possible. Should you leave the family home, try moving to an area that is still within the children’s school district so their schooling, teachers, and friends will not have to change should you get custody. This will show the judge that you share their feelings for the importance of keeping the children’s lives as unchanged as possible.
- Giving Up
Trying to win custody over the child’s mother may seem like an impossible task. In some cases, fathers who feel hopeless about winning custody give up the fight and allow the mother to make the agreement. Courts will take the backing down of the father as a sign that they do not want custody, regardless of the father’s actual feelings. Make sure you continue to work with your attorney for fathers rights and be present at all hearings to show the judge you are invested in having custody of your child.
Divorces and custody battles are not pretty – they are often filled with high emotions, frustrations, and even senses of hopelessness. Although all of these feelings are terrible for the parents involved, the children go through a hard time as well, dealing with the confusion of the situation as well as the changes in their lives. While it may be important to you to have custody of the child, make sure that the decisions being made are in their best interest so they can grow up with a well-balanced home life.