Divorces are complicated under the best of circumstances. The process gets even harder when the relationship breaks down further, leading one or both parents to act irrationally and make bad choices. At this point, it is likely quite clear that the couple is heading to court.
It is important to remember that behavior leading up the court proceedings will have a direct impact upon many parts of the settlement, including the custody and parenting agreement involving the children.
The best interests of the children
If the custody and parenting plan are in dispute, the court operates under the premise of making decisions that serve the best interests and well-being of the child. It will look at a variety of factors.
- The relationship each parent has with the children
- The proposed plans presented by each side
- What arrangement is least intrusive in the life of the child
- Whether there is a history of abuse by one spouse
- The willingness of the parents to work together
Parents need to mind their manners
The goal is not hurt the other spouse. The goal is to maintain a relationship with the children and enable that to flourish in the future. With that in mind, parents must try to avoid further temptation to cause additional acrimony. Careless mistakes that could come back to haunt a parent include:
- Alienation of affection: Regardless of how a parent feels, it is best for mom to avoid speaking badly about dad, or dad to restricting access mom’s access to the children when he is caring for them.
- Yelling: Refrain from yelling at a spouse or the children.
- Move-in with a new partner: Judges expect parents with custody to provide a stable home life for the children, which will likely not be the case if they introduce a new live-in boyfriend or girlfriend to the family dynamic.
- Fail to pay child support: It is tempting to use money as leverage, but this will lead to contempt of court. Those who do not pay will be fined and possibly jailed.
- Disparage spouse to others: It is best to keep emotions under control and stick to the facts, particularly when speaking with caseworkers, the judge and attorneys, as well as friends and other family members. Also, mind your online posts as well.
- Take the kids out of town without permission: It is essential to clear all travel with the spouse a few weeks ahead of time (ideally in a text or email). Leaving the area to attend a family reunion could be misconstrued as kidnapping.
- Careful about school or daycare: The primary custodian should pick up the children or authorize the pick-up. Make sure the children are on time if the parent drops them off.
Building a case for custody
Judges look for parents who are stable and trustworthy enough to provide a stable home environment. The red flags listed above will do the opposite. In difficult custody cases such as these, it is also wise to consult an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. They may be able to provide additional guidance based on the specifics of the client’s situation and help protect individual and parental rights.