How to avoid being your own worst enemy in a custody battle

You and your co-parent have tried to negotiate a custody agreement, but you just can’t reach a compromise. Having to turn such a significant part of your divorce over to a judge to decide is no one’s first choice. However, it’s sometimes the only way to settle the matter when both parents want primary custody or one is seeking sole custody. Family court judges are tasked with the responsibility of listening to both parents’ sides – and perhaps to third parties.

Unfortunately, divorce (and custody battles in particular) often bring out the worst in people. As difficult as it may be, these feelings need to be put aside, both inside and outside of court. This is not the time to show anger or unwillingness to cooperate with your co-parent. The judge will be looking at – and likely hearing about – every false move you make.

Be a good co-parent

Right now, you need to work within whatever parenting plan you have in place. That means avoiding any of the following:

  • Being late for custody or visitation exchanges
  • Rescheduling or canceling unless you have no choice
  • Speaking negatively to or about your co-parent in front of your children
  • Asking your kids to keep secrets from your co-parent
  • Not abiding by any terms of your parenting plan

Engaging in any behavior around your kids that could be viewed as unsafe (such as drinking, smoking or using drugs), particularly if it’s a point of contention in your parenting battle.

Remember that you don’t want to give your co-parent any further ammunition against you.

Respect the people and the process

When you’re in court, it’s crucial to remember that how you present yourself matters. Judges are human beings, and their judgment about people can be persuaded for better or worse by how they look and act. That means.

  • Be on time or early for all court appearances as well as any meetings with social workers or anyone else involved in determining custody.
  • Always dress appropriately for court and other meetings.
  • Don’t make accusations about your co-parent that you can’t back up with evidence.
  • Be respectful towards everyone – including your co-parent – involved in the process.

Having experienced legal guidance can help you maneuver a custody battle and keep you from letting what may be well-founded feelings of anger get the better of you.