Everything that the parents say or do has a direct effect on a child’s psyche.
Apart from that, every word and deed from either of the parents can have lasting bearings on their case for child custody. They should know the court will evaluate their behavior holistically throughout the proceedings, and hence, they need to watch everything they do and utter.
If, by reading the title of this post, you thought that I’m going to give you a magical mantra to win your custody battle, then you couldn’t be more wrong. The truth is, fighting for custody takes knowledge of the legalities involved and a lot of common sense.
Custody and Visitation
Novices tend to get confused between the terms ‘custody’ and ‘placement.’ It is important to get the basic difference between the two correct to know exactly what you’re in for.
Custody entails the right to make decisions on the child’s behalf on matters related to health, education, and finance.
Placement, or visitation, is more about deciding where the children will live and when they are and are not scheduled to be there. This, however, will be based on the judge’s verdict, depending on who he deems to be a better parent to the child.
Ultimately, it is the judge who decides about who will be principally responsible for the child’s health, education and finances, and with who the child will primarily reside. This decision is arrived upon after the judge hears from professionals and other sources that may be familiar with the parents and the child.
As far as the professionals are concerned, the first among them (as per the state law) is the guardian ad litem (who may be a lawyer), or the custody evaluator (who may be a psychologist). The court appoints one of these professionals to look into the specific points put forward by both the parties. They’re then required to make a recommendation to the judge by keeping the best interest of the child in mind.
For children born out of a wedlock, both the parent have equal rights to full custody, until the family court issues an order setting custody. Typically, it is the mother of the child who has custody until the family court rules otherwise. An actively involved father stands as much a chance to get custody as the mother after the court ruling.
But what happens when, despite your active involvement in your child’s life, you find yourself facing an antagonistic custody battle?
Here are a few aspects every mother expecting to go into a custody battle should consider before she makes her way into the courtroom.
1. Put up a tough fight from the very beginning
Spending quality time with your kids is important and you definitely want to do that in order to stay connected to them. The court needs to know that you’re leaving no stone unturned in your effort to be a big part of your child’s life. Hence, you will have to put up a tough fight from the word go.
Be clear about your goals and pursue them relentlessly. Whether you’re looking for primary residential custody and want your child to live with you, or simply want a visitation schedule that allows you to spend ample/equal time with him, go after it from the start of your case.
Figure out ways to show the court that you understand your child’s routine, needs and habits. Tell them why the schedule you’re proposing is ideal, realistic and in the best interest of the child.
Avoid settling for a miniscule schedule even temporarily with the hope to fight for more later, as that will be akin to making an uphill climb.
2. Engage the right attorney
It is advised that you engage an attorney who understands your reasons for winning the custody of your kids and helps you put forward your case strongly. Consider hiring an attorney from around your area i.e. if you’re a resident of Chicago, pick a child custody lawyer in Chicago as such a lawyer will have specialized in fighting such cases and would be well-versed with the laws governing your state.
Consult with him, ask him about other such cases he may have handled in the past and how he plans to help you reach your end goal. In other words, find a lawyer who will fight to secure your goals from the start.
3. Avoid demonizing the father
Do not forget the fact that the case is about determining what is best for your children instead of trying to prove what a failure of a person their father may be. Demonizing the other party may backfire and you might end up losing credibility entirely. This may result in them winning the custody.
Additionally, do not attempt to demean or vilify your ex-husband in front of your kids. Doing so may affect their perception of marriage adversely, and further sour your relationship with your ex.
You will do well to keep your thoughts to yourself. Your children will eventually establish a relationship with their father, for better or for worse through their own understanding. Moreover, mudslinging will only present you as the unhealthy, negative parent.
4. Do not oppose visitation
Do not stop your ex from visiting the kids; they’re his children too, after all. Of course, in an unfortunate case, if you happen to witness physical injuries or signs of sexual abuse on them, withhold the visitation immediately by consulting an attorney citing an emergency.
Do not bring this up in the court on your own as even with such factors coming into play, mothers can be accused of making false allegations. Heed legal advice.
5. Keep the peace
Never lose sight of the bigger picture. Don’t forget that once the custody proceedings are done with, you and your ex will be co-parenting your child. You don’t want him to have even an iota of negativity around him as that can go on to set a toxic example for his long-term relationships in the future.
Try to be adjusting and reasonable and make the effort to get along with your ex as much as you can. Think about the long-term positive effects of doing so on your child.
It goes without saying that divorce and everything it entails is an extremely difficult and a trying experience to go through. More often than not, everyone involved gets hurt on one pretext or another. Such difficult times can cause a person to act on emotion, which may not always be a rational thing to do. It can get extremely frustrating for an involved mother to be embroiled in a court battle just to be able to spend time with her children. However, the above tips should go a long way in helping you stay calm and composed, and tackle the situation head-on.
(Image courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/pin/233624299396717352/)