One of the most emotional issues that must be decided in a divorce is how to share custody of minor children. Reaching an agreement on child custody and parenting time is the best option, but for many couples this is not possible. If you must litigate child custody issues, below are a few mistakes that are commonly made and you will want to avoid:
- Represent yourself. Custody disputes are complex and you need legal counsel on your side. Trying to represent yourself can have devastating results, especially if your spouse has an attorney. There are a wide variety of legal nuances and pitfalls that will trip you up. In fact, you should retain an attorney that is experienced in family law matters, particularly litigating custody disputes.
- Be dishones It is normal to want to put your best foot forward in your custody case, but make sure you do not embellish or lie. Once your lie is discovered (and it will be), you will lose credibility with the court. In fact, you may not be able to repair the damage you cause. It is always better to be honest and trust your attorney to work with what you’ve got.
- Disobey court orders. Nothing makes a judge angrier than for a litigant to violate a court order. You may not like it, but abide by the terms of all court orders and decrees. If you do not, the judge may take your breach into account in all future decisions.
- Vent to your child. Don’t feed your child with negative thoughts about his or her other parent. Trying to coach your child into telling the court information that will benefit you or harm the other parent will only work against you. The court will see right through it and know that you are “brainwashing” your child, which puts you in a bad light. Protect your child as much as possible. One of the best ways of doing this is to keep the child out of the middle of your fight with the other parent.
- Don’t ask questions. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions when you don’t understand what is happening in your case. Your attorney doesn’t expect you to know the legal side of your case, but he or she may assume you understand what is happening if you don’t speak up. You are paying good money to get the advice and guidance you need, so get the answers you are entitled to.