Going to court over custody of your children can be one of the most stress inducing situations a parent could ever imagine. Maybe you are going through a divorce and you never imagined yourself needing to do this. Or, perhaps this is a situation you thought to be inevitable and now find yourself in need of some legal assistance. Whatever the case, here are some tips to help you navigate the situation.
DO Keep the Kids in Mind.
This may seem obvious, however, this fact is almost always the first to get fuzzy. A broken relationship is the culprit to most custody battles and the fight quickly becomes about revenge. Your ex-partner may not have been the right fit for you, but they will always be a part of your child. Below is a link to the American Bar Association’s Guide for making child centered decisions. It is a guide for judges, but provides great information to base your case on.
DON’T Fail To Prepare
Preparing for your custody case is extremely important. Make sure you understand the direction that you and your lawyer are going. Ask questions, take notes. You can never be too understanding of the terms and conditions that are available to you. To get you started here is some information on the most commonly asked questions about custody hearings: http://www.fresno.courts.ca.gov/family/fcs_assets/Child%20Custody%20FAQs.pdf
DON’T Take the Bait
Stand firm in what you want for your case. Many times temporary “trial” solutions become permanent, creating more court time and longer in-between phases. For example, here are some tips on getting full custody of the children: don’t agree to a temporary 50-50 custody. Make sure that you feel comfortable enough in your situation so that you don’t wind up back in court trying to reverse what you agreed to.
DON’T Fabricate Claims About Children
It might seem like a good idea to create situations within your child’s life that beg your personal attention however, stating this in court might do more harm than help. Even if your child is more attached to you, stating reasons for this might provide the court with reason to believe your relationship is overbearing, controlling and in some cases a parental alienator.
DO Choose an Honest Lawyer
Deciding on a lawyer who is constantly in agreement with you could seem comforting, but the truth matters. Choosing a lawyer who will tell you everything you need to know sometimes means that they will say things you don’t necessarily want to hear, but this is truly the best kind of child custody legal advice. This is important; this is also a good lawyer’s job. Find someone who cares about your case enough to inform you when you are wrong. You can find your local directory through the American Bar Association’s lawyer referral directory here:
DO Comply With Court Orders
Whether you like the orders or not, it does not hold up well in court to be insubordinate. File appeals when you need to, but do not fail to comply. Seek clarification in court, ask questions so that you are 100% certain of your limitations and allowances. Also, don’t make the mistake of only following orders when your ex-partner has upset you. This is a strong argument that can be used against the integrity and quality of your parenting.
DON’T Wait Until Things “Go Bad”
It may seem like a good idea to keep your split out of the courts however, even an amicable divorce can go through times of trouble. Keep in mind that what may be working right now could change. What if your ex-spouse decides to move out of town? Out of state? What if they lose their job? Don’t be afraid to bring up the necessity of court as these uncertainties could leave you kicking yourself and scrambling for a last minute order.
DO Have Evidence
Accusations without solid back-up are just ways to ruin your own credibility. Document specifics, take photos, write down dates and times. Communicate in e-mail or text message. Record your conversations. Do the work in order to provide sufficient evidence for your claims. Knowing just what to document is a good start. Here are some ideas of important things to document: