Child custody battles are often the most contentious part of a divorce or paternity case, and it's not hard to see why. For many parents, the outcome of the custody battle dictates the family dynamic going forward. Handling a custody dispute can be particularly daunting for parents going through a divorce, who dread spending less time with their children post-divorce.
In today's blog, we're covering how to navigate the custody process more successfully. From tips for reducing stress to advice on how you can effectively negotiate with a co-parent, we'll be discussing how you can lessen the burden of your custody battle.
Try to Take the High Road (Where Possible)
Child custody battles can get ugly quickly, especially if one parent is willing to act disingenuously throughout the process (spreading rumors about the other parent, trying to turn the children against them, etc.).
Still, you should try and take the high road and be willing to work with your ex whenever you can throughout the process—even if you don't really want to.
The reasoning here is simple. Courts have a fair amount of flexibility in how they handle child custody cases. While courts do follow a set of guidelines for determining custody, the judge's subjective opinion on your case will also probably play a role in the final outcome—especially if the court ends up deciding the case because the parties can't reach an agreement.
To that end, judges appreciate anything that makes their lives easier. If one parent is more amicable than the other throughout the custody battle, the court often favors that parent in the final arrangement.
Understanding the court's objective is also important. In a custody battle, the court's primary concern is securing the child's best interests and attempting to ensure they maintain the same quality of life post-divorce they enjoyed while their parents were married.
As a result, many judges perceive that the parent more willing to work with their co-parent and try to find a mutually beneficial solution is more invested in their child's well-being. Courts typically frown on parents who try and butt heads with their co-parent too much, since that can shift the focus of the case away from the child's best interests.
Of course, that doesn't mean you should acquiesce to whatever your co-parent says. You and your lawyer should defend your parental rights and fight for what's best for your child. But acting as magnanimously as you can will play a huge role in helping you achieve a positive outcome in the custody case.
Don't Bring Your Children into It
As difficult as it may be, you should avoid involving your children in the custody case if you can. Try and circumvent disparaging your co-parent in front of the children, even if they're not acting in good faith or aren't showing you the same respect.
Courts often bring in auxiliary professionals, like child psychologists, to evaluate children during custody cases. These professionals can usually assess family dynamics fairly accurately and identify if one parent is attempting to alienate the children from the other party. Keeping your children out of disputes you have with your co-parent increases your chances of getting good marks from the evaluator.
Additionally, keeping your children out of the custody battle can help lay the foundation for a healthier co-parenting relationship later down the line. Even if you don't get the ideal custody arrangement right off the bat, having a healthier relationship with your children and a record of good behavior can enhance your chances of receiving a custody order modification in the future.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask for a Court-Mandated Evaluation
If you're worried that your co-parent will attempt to manipulate your children or the court to secure an inequitable custody arrangement, consider requesting an in-home custody evaluation.
Custody evaluations are typically conducted by neutral professionals, like state-affiliated officials or a child developmental psychologist. Evaluators visit a home, observe the children and the parent's behavior, and then prepare an objective report for the court stating their findings.
While you can't have an evaluator randomly show up at your co-parent's door, you can have them observe you and verify your capabilities as a parent for the court. Having a positive review from an evaluator can strengthen your case. Before requesting an evaluation, consult your custody lawyer to make sure it's the best option in your case.
At Lane & Lane, LLC, we work with parents to shoulder the burden of custody battles so that they can maintain a positive relationship with their children throughout the custody process.
To schedule a consultation with our team or learn more about how we can help you handle your custody case, contact us online or via phone at (908) 259-6673.