The mere mention of a custody ‘battle’ carries all sorts of negative connotations often associated with parents fighting with one another, sparing no expense, and leaving no stone unturned in their effort to ‘win’ custody of their children. Unfortunately, parents may find out too late that this high conflict strategy does not usually serve them or their children well in local family courts.
In today’s Massachusetts Probate and Family Court system, judges do not focus solely on whether you can effectively prove the other parent unfit. Instead, they also assess factors such as whether you can be a positive role model for your children and promote their relationship with their other parent if custody is awarded to you.
With this in mind, it is essential to avoid certain negative behaviors when fighting for child custody. Because our team has over 35 combined years of exclusive family law experience, we understand how to make this process go as smoothly as possible, given your circumstances.
Avoid Badmouthing Your Ex
While it may be tempting to call the child’s other parent every unpleasant name in the book, it will likely hurt your custody case. The court is determining whether your child’s best interests will be served when placing him or her in your custody. Demonstrating that you lack the maturity and ability to rise above conflict and treat the other parent with respect may lead the court to question your ability to parent maturely and effectively. Therefore, you should avoid behaving disrespectfully toward your ex at all times, but especially during your child custody case.
Do Not Introduce Your Kids to a New Partner during a Custody Case
Bringing someone new into your children’s lives while your custody arrangement is still being negotiated can confuse the kids and unnecessarily antagonize your ex, especially if your child or your ex do not like your romantic partner. While moving on to another relationship might feel like a positive step for you, keeping your dating life out of your children’s presence can help minimize any unnecessary drama and show a court that you can put your kids’ needs ahead of your own. Plus a new love interest often creates jealousy with the ex, which can cause the case to become more contested rather than less. More contested always means more expensive as well. So it’s generally in your own financial best interest to wait until you’re done with litigation to step into the dating arena.
Failing to Abide by a Temporary Custody Schedule
It is vital that you comply with any temporary custody schedule the court issues pending trial and that you avoid interfering with your ex’s court-ordered time with the kids. If you deny the children’s other parent their time for any reason, you must prove that the refusal was justified and based on a need to protect your kids from immediate danger. Otherwise, a court may deem you uncooperative and unwilling to support your children’s relationship with the other parent. The court looks down on this type of behavior when hearing a child custody case, and therefore, actions of this nature should be avoided.
Using Social Media as a Support System
While reaching out to friends and family during stressful custody litigation can help you tremendously, turning to social media for support to air your grievances about your ex can be disastrous. You must assume that anything you say, do, or post on social media is public knowledge and may be used against you in the custody action. Even your private messages to someone could end up on the hands of your ex and being used against you in court. If you appear as someone who cannot exercise discretion and keep your family’s personal matters private for the sake of your kids, a court may be unwilling to entrust you with their care. Thanks to a certain legal television show, everyone knows the quote, “You have the right to remain silent. Everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” The same thing with anything you post. Before you hit send, think about what it will look like in front of the Judge deciding your case. If there is any argument that it could make you look bad in any way, just don’t post it.
Neglecting Your Child Support Obligation or Parenting Agreements
Regardless of whether a court has not yet made a final child support determination, if you and your ex have agreed on child support payments through a temporary order, make them. The same holds true for any agreements you have made regarding locations for the children’s exchanges, transportation to and from their activities, and signing them up for extracurriculars. Honoring your commitments demonstrates your ability to support your kids financially, your willingness to co-parent, and your intention to put your children’s needs first. If you cannot afford your child support payments, you need to file a motion for further temporary orders seeking to modify the previously ordered payments. Do not think you can just stop paying.
Refusing to Comply with the Court’s Requests when Fighting for Custody
If a judge directs you to participate in a custody evaluation or attend parenting classes as part of the custody process, be like Nike and just do it. It is important to show the court that you take the matter of your children’s custody seriously and are willing to do whatever is asked of you to assist the court in making the right decision for your kids.
If the Judge instructs you to do something that you do not think is necessary or even fair, suck it up and get it done. This comes up often where either the parents agree to not drink alcohol (or smoke or not do something else) while the children are with them. Then the case drags on longer than they thought it would and they don’t see how them not having a single drink at a wedding while their children are there could hurt. Well, it can. Defying a court’s order (which includes an agreement that was entered as a temporary order) can result in pretty severe consequences.
Do Not Hesitate to Reach out to a Child Custody Attorney
While winning a custody case is never guaranteed, acting inappropriately will almost certainly result in damaging your case when fighting for custody of your children. By avoiding these behaviors when fighting for child custody, you can demonstrate that you are a stable, invested parent and that your children’s needs are the priority.
The dedicated attorneys at O’Connor Family Law can help you through this difficult and emotional process and work hard to protect your parental rights.