Everyone understands that the divorce process causes emotions to run high and people often act out of character by reacting irrationally. These irrational reactions and behaviors can have a detrimental effect on your custody case. The court will evaluate your behavior in its entirety throughout the proceedings when determining custody.
To begin when determining the placement of a child, the best interest of the child is always considered. For more details on the criteria the courts consider, see our past blog, about child custody.
No matter what type of custody arrangement you are fighting for—full, joint, weekends, etc., the court will evaluate all of your behavior. A good rule of thumb is to behave as if the judge were standing next to you each time you have any form of communication with the children and/or the other parent. This includes face to face interactions, phone conversations and text messages. This is also a good rule of thumb to keep in mind when making social media posts. Social media posts can be particularly devastating even if you later regret it and delete the post, it’s already out there and you can almost guarantee that someone has a screenshot of it. Also, avoid talking negatively about the other parent when they are with you. Kids tend to repeat and mimic everything they see and do and after all this is their mom or dad. It is always best to take the high road. The children can often feel torn and forced to choose one parent over the other.
Remain active in your children’s activities and schedules. Just because you and your ex can no longer be married, you can co-parent (see our past blog about successful co-parenting). Now is more important than ever for your children to see you at their ballgames, plays, and other activities. The courts will also take note of your continued involvement and commitment to your kids.
You are ready to move on to the next chapter in your life, but it is best to avoid moving in with your significant other. Courts are reluctant to put kids in this situation and do not appreciate children being exposed to significant others while a divorce proceeding is going on. Children have a hard time understanding that their mom or dad’s love has transferred to another person and could feel uncomfortable around the new partner.
Just as you shouldn’t criticize your ex in front of the children, do not criticize him or her in front of family, friends, co-workers, etc. You can always assume that your comments will get back to the other person.
Never deny contact, such as telephone calls, texting or social media with the other parent when the children are with you. The judge will see this as alienation of affection. Again, you don’t want the kids to feel as though they have to choose one parent over the other.
Never, never take the children out of town without telling the other parent. Besides showing disrespect to the other parent, this could be considered kidnapping and result in emergency orders restricting or terminating your parenting time or custody. According to the FBI, “By law (specifically the 1982 Missing Children’s Act), any person younger than 18 whose whereabouts are unknown to his or her legal custodian” is considered to be a missing person. When a child is believed to be abducted and taken across state lines, the FBI can become involved.
The same rule as above applies to removing children out of daycare and/or school. Even if you are the primary custodian, the children should stay in school unless there is a valid reason for the absence that has been discussed with the other parent, i.e., doctor’s visits, dental appointments.
If a temporary custody, order and child support have been put in place until a final decision has been made, be sure to follow it and pay the child support as ordered.
Finally, follow your attorney’s advice throughout the entire process. This is a stressful time and you are often not making decisions with a clear head. Your attorney will keep you focused on the ultimate goal of surviving the divorce process while protecting your rights to your most valuable asset—your children.
When fighting for your custodial rights, hire Kevin Hickey Law Partners because there are never any guarantees in custody battles. We specialize in family law matters and are here to help you.