Pursuing child custody is a stressful and very emotion-packed process. Always remember that the Court focuses on what it believes, based on the evidence presented, is in the child’s best interest. This article by our child custody attorneys in Philadelphia includes some of the most common mistakes that parents can make when pursuing child custody. For help with your case, contact Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC. today.
1. Not Communicating With Your Former Spouse
Under Pennsylvania law, the Court recognizes and encourages the child’s relationship with both parents and anything that disrupts or alienates the relationship with one parent by the other will be viewed negatively. The Court understands the likelihood of significant conflicts between the parties, but it fully expects that the best interest of the child will be more important to the parents and refusing to speak to your ex-spouse hurts your case.
2. Not Staying Civil With Your Prior Spouse
Despite the hurt and anger that most parties feel towards the other in a divorce case, it is critical to remain calm and civil with your prior spouse. The Court is looking for you to exhibit the emotional maturity to be the best role model to your child. If you cannot, or choose not to, exhibit basic and consistent civility to your
Prior spouse, the Court may question how you will be able to share custody and make the best decisions for your child.
3. Refusing to Compromise
“My way or the highway” is a recipe for disaster. While there may be some areas you are unable or unwilling to compromise on, they should be the exception, not the rule. Showing the Court that you are willing to reasonably work with your prior spouse to craft an agreement for the child’s benefit will be viewed positively while remaining rigid and uncompromising will not.
4. Sharing Too Much on Social Media
In today’s zero privacy, social media society, we have a tendency to share everything and seek support from friends, family, and even strangers. While it may feel good to vent publicly, social media can harm your case if you share too much. Anything you post can, and if detrimental, likely will be used against you. Focus your posts (including any photos) on what makes you a “good” parent, not what makes your prior spouse a “bad” parent.
5. Not Staying Involved in Your Child’s Life
While your relationship with your child is always important, now more than ever, it is critical to stay involved in all aspects of your child’s life. Being the “fun” parent and doing enjoyable things is great but staying involved in the less fun elements such as parent/teacher meetings and doctor’s visits is significantly important when seeking physical and legal custody. Working extra hours is sometimes necessary, but if your work negatively impacts the time you spend with your child, the Court will take note of it.
6. Leaving with Your Child without Informing Your prior spouse
Although similar to refusing to communicate with your prior spouse, taking your child without letting them know can be even worse. While accidents in communication can occur, the Court is far more likely to infer that you don’t care about your child’s well-being and are simply out to hurt the other parent if you engage in this type of conduct. Outside of a clear safety issue, this type of behavior can be highly detrimental to the custody case of the offending parent.
7. Not Paying Child Support
If there is an order in place, and you choose to ignore it, the negative impact on your custody case is fairly imminent. Life circumstances do happen, and is it far better to be proactive and seek relief through the Court than to simply not pay child support.
8. Demeaning Your Prior Spouse to Your Child
No matter how you feel about your prior spouse or what your prior spouse has done, never forget that your prior spouse is your child’s other parent. Children love their parents unconditionally, and it is hurtful to them in many ways to hear or see one parent demean the other. The Court advocates relationships with both parents and looks negatively upon the conduct of either parent who interferes or attempts to disrupt the parent/child relationship.
9. Abusing Drugs or Alcohol
In a contentious custody case, allegations of substance abuse are not uncommon from one or both parties against each other. The Court takes parental fitness firmly into account and fully considers any allegations. Be very aware of your social media profile in this regard. If you do have a substance abuse issue you should consider immediately seeking treatment and discussing this with your attorney.
10. Not Treating Your Mental Illnesses
It is in the child’s best interest to be safe and secure and have parents who make sound, rational decisions at all times. In the event of a challenge to Parental Fitness/Stability, such as an allegation of mental illness, the Court considers it thoroughly. Having a mental illness does not automatically prevent a parent from obtaining custody if they show that they are successfully treating their condition. However, if they choose not to treat it, this can negatively impact that parent’s case.
11. Disobeying the Law / Getting Arrested
As a parent, if you violate the law, get arrested, are convicted of a crime, or are in jail, this will inevitably affect your custody case. While the Court wants there to be a relationship with both parents, “trouble with the law” is a serious adverse factor.
12. Disrespecting the Court
While emotions often run high during custody disputes, there is very little, if any, tolerance for disrespecting the Court. There are times where you will disagree, become frustrated, and even angry at the process, but if you react in a manner that is disrespectful to the Court, it can be highly detrimental to even the best case. Answer any question a Judge asks you honestly and directly. Don’t try to figure out why the Judge is asking you; just answer the question.
13. Disobeying a Court Order
If you willingly and knowingly disobey a Court order, it will inevitably impact your custody case. Mistakes happen, and truthful explanations will be heard and decided upon. If you discover that you have an issue complying with something the Court has ordered, speak with your attorney and address it proactively. Never hide any fact from your attorney, regardless if you believe it is a positive or negative fact.
14. Not Documenting Everything
The Court is looking for evidence to support its decision on what is in the child’s best interest. The better your evidence, the better your case! Think of your case as traveling across a shark filled ocean and your evidence as the building materials for the boat in which you travel. Will you be successful with a raft you built with just a few sticks? You can make your case stronger based on your documentation!
15. Representing Yourself in Court
While you have the legal right to represent yourself, divorce and custody proceedings can be extremely complex as well as highly emotional. There may also be a great deal of disparity if one party has an attorney representing them and the other does not. With the custody of your child in the balance, it is wise to consider engaging an experienced attorney whose sole focus is representing and advising you. You may think you know what the Judge wants to hear; in most cases, a non-lawyer simply does not know.
Final Thoughts on Child Custody Mistakes
In pursuing the custody of your child, there are many variables and considerations. Having the best advocate who explains the process, your rights and helps you strategize for the best results, as well as someone who truly cares about you and your family, is extremely important. Put our decades of combined experience to work for you!