Custody battles are not easy for anyone. Everyone involved ends up under a lot of scrutiny and a lot of pressure. Often, even the best possible outcome of a custody battle leaves a lasting negative effect on the entire family. It’s not easy to co-parent with a person that you no longer want a relationship with (or who no longer wants a relationship with you) and it’s also not easy to parent alone or to not be able to parent your child at all. But sometimes, a custody battle is simply impossible to avoid.
As a parent, you will want the chance to spend time with your child and guide them through the years, and to build a relationship that will last even after they become adults and you’re no longer actively parenting them, and if you can’t come to an amicable agreement with your ex, family court is the next step. Take a look at some of the custody battle tips that fathers in this situation absolutely need to know.
Is your child in Little League? A cast member in the school play? Do they have a parent/teacher meeting or a doctor’s appointment coming up? Whatever it is that’s going on in your child’s life, you need to start showing up for it if you aren’t doing that already.
When a judge looks at your family dynamic, they’re going to look at who is currently the primary caregiver and who is most actively involved in their children’s lives. That means more than just being the one to tuck your child into bed at night – it also means being active in all parts of their lives.
- You should know your child’s pediatrician and what allergy medications they’re taking.
- You should know your child’s teachers and what subjects your child is struggling in or excelling at.
- You should be there for the triumphant moments in your child’s life
- You should be there to comfort them when they play off-key at a band performance or miss a goal they should have scored at the soccer game.
If you’re not doing these things, and the other parent is, the judge is going to see them as the primary caregiver, not you.
Relatedly, you should go out of your way to spend every minute you can with your child, even when there’s nothing special going on. There may be a temporary custody order or visitation order in place. This is common. Maybe the order doesn’t give you as much time as you’d like with your child. This can happen.
But if the temporary order only gives you every other weekend with your child, and you cancel that once a month, what makes you think a judge is going to give you more time? Don’t cancel plans or scheduled visits with your child. Show up, every time, and if it’s absolutely unavoidable to break a scheduled plan, ask for a make-up visit.
Don’t Be Stingy
Let’s face it: children cost money. Sometimes a lot of money. And depending on your situation, there could be any number of expenses that perhaps you’re not court-ordered to pay, but that you could pay or chip in for. An upcoming field trip. New clothes for the start of the school year. A membership fee for a team or club that your child is interested in joining.
Don’t spend irresponsibly, of course, but don’t be stingy when it comes to paying for things for your children, even if you’re not court-ordered to pay them. You want to demonstrate that your priority is making sure that your child gets the things they need (and the things they want within reason) not saving money for only yourself.
What’s more, if you can afford these extras without financial difficulty, it’s a way of demonstrating that you’re financially capable of giving your child a good life. Like it or not, money is a factor in a child custody case, and a parent who is both willing and able to make sure that their child doesn’t go without is a parent who will be looked on more favorably by the court.
Don’t Drag Your Kids Into Your Custody Battle
Custody battles are often more upsetting for children than they are for the adults involved. Your child’s instinct is to love both parents equally and want to spend time with both of them. Ideally, your child might even prefer that you and your ex get back together. And while you may not be able to give them that, you can certainly give them the courtesy of letting them stay out of your dispute with your ex.
Don’t speak negatively about your ex to your child. Don’t accuse them of trying to keep you away from your children or turn them against you in front of your child. Don’t try to get your child “on your side” or drive a wedge between your child and their other parent. Don’t burden them with talk about what’s happening in court or with your worries and fears about losing the custody battle.
As a parent, you should avoid doing these things because they’re bad for your child. Your child does not need to share your animosity toward your ex – they need to be able to trust their other parent. Your child doesn’t need to worry about you being worried – they need to be able to believe that you’re able to take care of them, not that they need to take care of you.
But furthermore, as a legal strategy, you shouldn’t do these things because they will most likely backfire on you. Family court judges can recognize when a parent is trying to use their child as a pawn against the other parent, and they don’t like it. You may end up with even less parenting time than you would have gotten otherwise. Your goal, both as a parent and as a party to a custody battle, should be to keep your children as far away from the fight as possible.
Did you know that you don’t actually need to hire an attorney for your custody case? It’s true – in all but the more complex cases, parents are often capable of advocating for themselves and their children in family court. A legal resource group like National Family Solutions can give you guidance and resources that will help prepare you to act as your own advocate in a custody battle.