One of the most harrowing parts of many divorces or suits affecting parent-child relationships is the fight for child custody and visitation. The prospect of not being a part of their children’s lives, or at least having a diminished presence, terrifies many parents.
Numerous factors play into the court’s decision on child custody and visitation. It’s important to put your best foot forward and portray yourself as a responsible, ideal parent. With that in mind, here are some dos and don’ts to help protect child custody and visitation while preserving your relationship with your child.
DO: WORK WITH YOUR EX
Unless there are extreme circumstances in play, as long as both parents are in the picture, there will be some level of contact. Raising a child takes collaboration.
If you continually show you are unwilling to do this, it damages your cause. So, put aside your feelings and do what is best for the kids.
Even if you do not particularly like each other, you and the other parent have to work together
DON’T: ALLOW YOUR EX TO REMOVE YOU FROM YOUR CHILD’S LIFE
Remaining a part of your child’s daily life is not always as simple as it sounds. This is especially true if the other parent actively tries to cut you out of the picture or limit your visitation.
It’s important to you and your case to stand up and not let the other parent push you around. An occasional change of schedule is one thing, but if it becomes a pattern, you should consult your attorney to learn what to do.
DO: STAY A PART OF YOUR CHILDREN’S DAILY LIFE
Being involved in your child’s daily life is important for a number of reasons. It helps your relationship, it’s good for both of you, and it may further your cause when it comes to custody and visitation.
Spending regular quality time with the kids demonstrates a desire to be an involved parent.
Also, when ruling on custody and the like, the Court often tries to minimize drastic changes in schedule and routine. If you are already an active participant, that’s less likely to change.
DON’T: WAIT TO ACT
It’s important to take an active approach when it comes to child custody and visitation. A wait-and-see approach often puts you at a disadvantage.
Instead of acting, parents too often find themselves reacting to the other party’s actions. Instead of pushing for what you want and need, you spend time and energy pushing back against your ex.
DO: KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
It’s helpful to have an experienced child custody attorney in your corner. But there’s also a lot of other information out there. Read up on child custody laws, find out how the courts determine visitation and parenting time, and learn how the state calculates child support.
The more information you have, the better prepared you’ll be. This often goes a long way toward informing the strategy of your case.
DON’T: INTERFERE WITH YOUR EX’S VISITATION
It is natural to have ill feelings towards your ex. There are bound to be bruised emotions in divorce or separation. But it is still important for both parents to remain in a child’s life—so long as it’s not dangerous.
If there is visitation scheduled, do not interfere or try to block it. If nothing else, it makes you look petty. And if you complain that the other parent hampers your visitation, think about how it looks to a judge if you do the same thing.
DO: DOCUMENT EVERYTHING
Make sure to document and record everything. Did your ex send an email unjustly denying you a scheduled visit? Save it. The same goes for text messages, social media posts, and voicemails. If you legitimately believe your child is not safe with the other parent, keep records of why.
Also, maintain a chronicle of the time you spend with your kids. If the other parent says you are not involved, then you have proof to show otherwise.
Whatever claims you make to a judge, collect as much concrete evidence as you can to back up your statements.
DON’T: ARRIVE LATE, RESCHEDULE, OR CANCEL
Schedules change, last-minute complications arise, and sometimes things just do not work out. That happens. But as much as possible, if you have a visit scheduled, do not show up late, reschedule, or cancel.
Not only is this frustrating for your children—it’s hard to get expectations up and have them not met—but it can leave a negative impression. Missing visits may paint a picture of a parent who puts other things ahead of the children and their needs.
DO: ABIDE BY TEMPORARY COURT RULINGS
During the pendency of a divorce or suit affecting parent-child relationship, courts often make temporary rulings. These can include:
- Temporary custody or conservatorship rulings.
- A temporary visitation schedule.
- Dividing holidays.
- Temporary child support.
Stick to these. If you fail to follow temporary orders, you can wind up facing contempt charges. At the very least, this makes you look unwilling to cooperate or that you do not have the children’s best interests in mind.
DON’T: TRASH TALK YOUR EX TO THE KIDS
Again, you may harbor hard feels or anger towards your ex. But while you’re with the kids, keep those feelings under wraps. Do not try to use the children as pawns in child custody and visitation or turn them against your ex.
Not only is it unhealthy for them, if it appears you’re trying to manipulate them or turn them against your ex, it reflects negatively on your case.
Instead of trying to make the other parent look bad, focus on making yourself look good, on being the best parent you can be. That helps your case so much more than going negative.
DO: HIRE AN ATTORNEY EXPERIENCED IN CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION
These cases are often complicated. Flaring tempers and heated emotions only amplify this. It is most likely in your best interest to hire an experienced child custody attorney.
This is especially true if the other parent enlists the help of a lawyer. Not only can a litigator guide you through the process, when things get hot and you may not act rationally, an attorney can also calm things down and advise you on the best way to proceed.
Contact the experienced attorneys at Payne, Powell, Truitt & Chandler to help you navigate these issues today.