One of the most complex and emotional parts of a divorce proceeding is determining child custody. There are many different considerations for child custody, including legal custody, physical custody and financial responsibility. Navigating the custody hearings while you're trying to wade through the emotional aftermath of your marriage dissolution can be difficult. Unfortunately, in the process, many parents find themselves making mistakes that can't be undone. Here's a look at a few of the most common mistakes made during custody battles and how you can avoid them.
Missing Court Dates
One of the most important things during a divorce is ensuring that you are present for every hearing. Your divorce attorney will stress the importance of active participation in every hearing and appointment. Making the effort to be there for every appointment shows the judge that you are taking the process seriously and that you are responsible enough to be the custodial parent.
Overlooking Your Child's Best Interest
In the midst of a divorce, it's easy to lose focus on what's most important. When you're struggling with disagreements with your former spouse, you need to be able to put your children first. If you put your hurt feelings ahead of your child's needs, the courts will see that as a poor parenting decision.
Remember that every decision you make about your children needs to be about their best interest, not your personal feelings. Put your emotions aside when it comes to visitation, school events and other major parenting decisions. Avoid putting your kids in the middle of the dispute, too. They shouldn't feel as though they have to choose between you and their other parent.
Signing Anything Without Reading It
One of the furthest-reaching mistakes you can make during a divorce is signing documents that you don't read. Even if your attorney says that he or she has read the documents, that doesn't mean that you know everything that the document contains. Before you sign anything – including parenting plans, custody agreements and other settlements – make sure that you read them thoroughly. This ensures that you know what is required of you, because missing a single court mandate about your kids could cause your ex to bring you back to court.
Being Hostile Or Withholding Visitation
The emotional upheaval that comes with the end of a marriage can leave you dealing with a lot of emotions, from sadness and grief to anger and hostility. If you are feeling angry, you'll want to make extra effort to make sure that you are civil in your communication with your former spouse. Don't use threats, anger and hostility to try to further your position.
It's also important that you not withhold visitation. There are very few cases where you can legitimately keep your children from your former spouse, and any attempts to do so that aren't legally supported will reflect poorly on you in court. Talk to your attorney before you refuse your former spouse access to the kids.
Sometimes, people will take steps during a divorce that they might not otherwise do. That may include your spouse taking steps to record interactions with you if your behavior is inappropriate. Any hostility or threatening behavior may cost you custody of your children.
Divorce is typically a complicated process, and not something you should take lightly. If you're in the midst of a divorce, it's in your best interest to talk to an attorney right from the start. The legal support and guidance will be valuable for you. With the legal advice from an attorney and the information presented here, you can avoid some of the most common and costly child custody mistakes during your divorce.