5 Things That Can Effect Custody That You Didn’t Think About
1- Communication With Your Ex
While it is understandable that is difficult to communicate with your ex, you need to learn. Communicate with your ex as if a judge is reading everything that you write. Attacking your ex in text messages or emails, or even on the phone, will only hurt your custody case. Some of the factors the court’s look at in deciding custody is the level of conflict between the parents and the ability of the parents to cooperate to meet the needs of the children. If you are antagonistic towards your ex and pick fights, fuel fights, or attack the other parent, it can and will be used against you in the custody case.
2- Social Media
My advice is to my clients is to delete or disable their social media accounts. It will only get you in trouble. Everything you post is fair game, including past posts. Even innocent posts can and will be taken out of context and used against you. I always scour the opposing parties’ social media accounts when custody is at issue. One night out partying (even if you do not have the kids) will come back to haunt you. And obviously do not post about your custody case or say anything disparaging about your ex on Facebook.
3- Pick Your Battles
Along the lines with communication well with your ex, learn to pick your battles. Be cooperative with your ex in regards to your children. One small gesture can go a long way and the courts consider which parent is willing to allow more frequent associations with the other parent when deciding custody. If you say no every time your ex asks to switch days, you look difficult. Now of course if you have something already planned, thus a justifiable reason to so no, that is okay. But if you just saying no to be a jerk – knock it off. It only hurts you and makes you look difficult to the court. Go above and beyond and it will pay off in the end. Ultimately, think of your children – the better you are able to get along with your ex, the better it is for your children.
4- Understand and Respect Legal Custody
In nearly all custody cases, the parties share joint legal custody, and that is also the default until there is a court order in place. Legal custody is decision making power on behalf of your children, i.e. medical decisions, which school they attend, which activities they participate in, etc. As part of sharing joint legal custody, there is the requirement to notify the other parent of doctor’s visits, school events, and other major decisions. This of course does not include minor day to day decisions such as what food they eat, bed time, chores, etc. If you do not respect the other parents joint legal custody rights, the Court will not be pleased, and you could be held in contempt if you have a court order that states the parties share joint legal custody. One of the most common examples I see where joint legal custody is violated is a parent taking a child to see a therapist. Even if it is on your custodial days, you still need to get the other parents’ consent before you can take your child to a therapist. Another common example is changing the children’s school if you are the residential parent for the school – you need the other parties consent to change schools. This is true in all respects even if you have primary physical custody.
At the end of the day, family court is he said/she said and they only thing you have in that courtroom is your credibility. Being dishonest or stretching the truth even slightly will come back to haunt you and trust that the opposing attorney will expose these mis-truths during cross examination. While it may seem obvious to not lie, it is very common where parents stretch the truth either to bolster their case or in defending their own actions. Being honest, even if it hurts you, is always the best option as you can gain that credibility with the court. If you lie, you lose.