What can you do to protect your interests in a contested child custody case? When you are in the midst of a pitched battle to determine the outcome of legal and physical custody and parenting time your actions really matter. The Court will be carefully observing each party during and after a divorce, how they handle themselves, communications, parenting style and their ability to potentially collaborate to co-parent the child(ren). In the majority of cases the Court prefers some sort of shared parenting arrangement. However, sometimes the Court must decide who has the better temperament to care for a child.
What are some of the things you should do and should not do to protect your interests in a contested child custody case? First, you should absolutely remember the primary directive which guides California law in child custody and parenting cases: the best interest of the child(ren). No matter what happens and how you feel about your former spouse at the moment, you will always need to put the needs of your child(ren) first. Whenever possible it is best for co-parents to present a unified point of view. This not only helps the children to deal with the process of a divorce and prevent playing one parent off of the other, it shows the Court you are emotionally balanced and prepared to work together for the best interests of the child(ren).
It is best to try to approach the conversation of custody and parenting time from a practical point of view. Think about the natural rhythms in the lives of your children and how the skills, experiences and schedule of each parent matches the needs and best interests of each child. Make sure you are a little early for every hearing, mediation, meeting or Court appearance. The Court is carefully observing all your actions, communications and behavior inside and outside the Court in order to determine your fitness as a parent or co-parent.
There are definitely things you should avoid to protect your interests in a contested child custody case. The first and perhaps the most important is the tone of every communication. Never communicate via text, email, voicemail, social media or in front of the children when you are emotionally upset. Remind yourself that every single digit of any communication can and will be read by the Court. It very likely will be.
Manipulating the children or bad-talking the other co-parent in front of the children must be avoided at all costs. Parental alienation, attempting to turn a child against one of their parents, will work against the interests of a parent who seeks custody or parenting time with their child(ren). Attempts to coach the child(ren) to tell stories, lie or otherwise how to act before the Judge or any appointee of the Court will be met with harsh consequences. Likewise, asking the children to decide which parent they wish to live with can put unnecessary pressure on a child and can be perceived as manipulative as well. The Court will often seek the input of each child. The Judge is an expert in these matters and will quickly uncover parental coaching or lies.
These are a few of the things you should do and should not do to protect your interests in a contested child custody case. If you are involved in a contested matter you need the skill and experience of the Certified Family Law Specialists at Burke & Domercq.