Often people sabotage their own custody cases. If you make any of the mistakes listed below, you are setting yourself up to lose!
- Don’t cooperate with your lawyer. You have hired someone who knows the law and knows the judges who will decide your case. If you fail to follow your attorney’s advice, you are throwing away all of that expertise, in addition to hurting your case. You are also increasing your legal fees needlessly. Cooperation includes telling the entire truth. Surprises in court are truly bad experiences for all involved.
- Don’t cooperate with Social Services. Often Social Services will be involved, either in preparing a court ordered Home Study or in investigating a complaint of child abuse or neglect. If you make an enemy of Social Services, bad consequences are sure to follow.
- Don’t cooperate with the Guardian ad Litem. A guardian ad litem, who is a lawyer for your child, may be appointed by the court. The guardian ad litem typically interviews the child, parents, are others involved in the case. The guardian ad litem then reports back to the judge about their observations and opinions, often making a recommendation to the judge as to who should have custody. It is therefore crucial that the guardian ad litem have a favorable opinion about every aspect of you and your life.
- Don’t cooperate with the court. When a judge enters a court order, he expects everyone to abide by it. If you do not, the judge can punish you by finding you in contempt of court. More important though, he can rule against you, and you will not have custody. This rule applies even if you think it was a dumb order.
- Don’t cooperate with the other parent. While it may be human nature to behave badly toward the other parent during a custody battle, you need to resist this impulse. Judges consider which parent is cooperative and fair with visitation. Encourage contact between your child and the other parent. Do not create difficulties. Do not make a scene, especially in front of the child. This rule applies even if you think that the other parent is a horrible person and an even more horrible parent. Just remember they possibly feel the same way about you. Get over it.
- Don’t cooperate with the school. Teachers and babysitters often find themselves in court as witnesses. They can be friend or foe based on their perception of you. Get the child to school on time with brushed teeth, brushed hair, clean clothes and a clean body. Communicate and show your involvement and concern. Do not try to exclude the other parent from school information or school activities.
Suggested Resources For Parents
- Divorce Book for Parents: Helping Your Children Cope with Divorce and it’s Aftermath by Vicki Lansky
- What About the Kids?: Raising Your Children Before, During and After Divorce by Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakesee
- Family Advocate
- Administration for Children & Families
- ABA Center on Children & the Law