The most popular question I receive when first meeting with a client to talk about their custody case is, “How can I win?”. Parents entrenched in long custody battles desperately want to know how to make their case end, and understandably so. Custody cases are long, exhausting, and worst of all, painstakingly expensive. Unlike divorce, which can have a definitive end, custody cases can span years and are always subject to open up again, even after having arrived at a conclusion. My answer to this question isn’t exactly a happy one on the surface. Quite simply- there are no real winners in a custody battle; only broken families, left to figure out how to put the pieces back together in a way that works for everyone.
Don’t worry, I won’t leave you with just those somber words, because there is a way to “win”, it just sometimes involves a shift in thinking. Before we continue, I want to ask you to evaluate what it is you truly want, or rather, what does winning look like to you? If making your sure your child’s other parent never sees your kid again is your goal, just because of differences the two of you have, I would ask you to re-evaluate. There are, however, very specific times when this is an appropriate goal, in cases of child abuse or substance abuse, for example, but more often than not, the motive for this line of thinking is due to a personal vendetta.
If your goal is something along the lines of “I just want to provide the best life possible for my child”, then I would congratulate you, because you have discovered the key to winning a custody battle. It doesn’t matter who has primary custody, so long as your child is safe, healthy, and happy. This is such an easy goal to achieve, because that is the Court’s mission, too.
I’ve seen so many excellent parents lose out on really great custody schedules because they could not put their own motives or vendettas aside. There are 16 factors a Judge considers when compiling an opinion for a custody arrangement, and the first factor they will consider is the ability of a parent to be an encouraging co-parent.
What makes a good co-parent?
Compromise, maturity, and the ability to put the needs of your child above your own need to sabotage your child’s other parent. You don’t have to be best friends with them, but remaining courteous and respectful will do you wonders in a custody battle. Even if the other parent doesn’t extend you the same respect, you will be seen as the more encouraging one- more likely to follow and enforce a custody schedule, more likely to insist that your child make that phone call to their other parent, even if the child doesn’t want to, and more likely to cooperate during custody exchanges.
Many times, the other parent will follow suit, and who knows- maybe one day the two of you could be amicable enough to settle your differences outside of the courtroom. The greatest incentive to act in this manner is that it sets an example for your child. Children can sense when adults are stressed or angry, and reducing tense moments may help to model appropriate conflict resolution techniques and anger or stress management.
Along the lines of setting good examples- never ever vent about your custody frustrations to your child. In fact, steer clear of discussing court with the child entirely. Never coach a child on what to say if they do become involved in the custody action. But please do strike a balance. Children are naturally curious, so do try your best to answer their questions, but be aware that your answers will shape their attitudes. Remember the goal of having happy children? As a parent, you bear the majority of responsibility for their happiness, and involving them in a custody case can negatively affect children- mentally and emotionally. Children don’t always understand why their parents are fighting, but they almost always know what–or who– they are fighting about. Don’t leave your child to think they are the reason why Mommy and Daddy aren’t friends anymore. Just remember, children are not your therapist nor your best friend, and they certainly are not weapons to be used against the other party in the courtroom.
Obviously, my advice will be much different in cases where there are clear dangers or concerns, so if you have a real concern about co-parenting, please, speak up to a legal professional. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact JD Law Offices at 412-295-8066, and we can discuss the best way to set you on the path to custody victory.
This post was written by our Writer and Content Strategist, K. Gleason.
© 2018 JD LAW. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED