You and your spouse are at loggerheads over custody arrangements, and it now looks like your matter could be headed to court.
Despite all the drawbacks to custody battles, they’re sometimes unavoidable: if your ex poses a safety risk to your kids; if your ex is obstructing your visitation time; if co-parenting is next to impossible. While mediation and other low conflict resolution matters are preferred whenever possible, going before a judge may be your best option for safeguarding your relationship with your child.
Are you ready for this next big step? Whether you’re initiating or responding to litigation, here are some tips for standing strong in your custody battle.
Know what you’re fighting for. You want to go court with nothing short of compelling evidence and crystal clear goals. Has you ex been denying you access to your kids? Bring evidence that shows parenting time that was purposefully blocked or interfered with by your ex and evidence of your good relationship with your kids (birthday cards, ticket stubs to activities you’ve attended together, parenting log, etc.).
Back this information up with am unambiguous statement to the judge that you’re there because you want your current parenting time plan to be enforced. Going to court and spending precious time explaining to the judge things like why your marriage broke down in the first place probably isn’t central to what you want — and may just end up creating confusion about why you’re even there. Stay focused on your main points.
Expect that things could get ugly. Depending on the nature of your battle, you may need to read documents from opposing counsel that are at best unflattering to you and your parenting, and at worst, complete lies. Stay calm and work with your attorney to provide evidence to refute claims. Be aware that evidence may come in the form of enlisting the help of a child custody evaluator or child psychologist to observe you and your child together; a judge may also order this step. Also be aware that you will have to document all your ex’s parental shortcomings. Be honest, but don’t lie or exaggerate. Your attorney can help you prepare your statements.
Be organized. Staying organized will help you feel more in control. Avoid leaving paperwork scattered about, so you don’t have to scramble to find it. Put all documents in a notebook or file folder that you keep in a designated space – away from your children! If you have mainly e-documents, keep them in a private folder.
Institute a divorce curfew. If you live your custody battle 24/7, you’ll burn out. Try to complete all litigation tasks before 8 p.m. Following a “divorce curfew” will give your nervous system time to settle down so you can get a good night’s sleep. Being rested is incredibly helpful for keeping your thoughts clear and focused.
Practice strategic communication. While you can’t control your ex’s high-conflict behavior, you can communicate in ways that minimize drama. Avoid face-to-face and phone contact as much a possible — until your matter has concluded or even beyond. If your ex persists in writing or texting inflammatory messages or threats, don’t respond to crazy-making correspondence with emotion. Print out messages and give them to your attorney. If communication is needed (about drop off or pick ups, or other kid-related matters), be brief, informative, and neutral in tone. This is one instance where it’s good to be boring!
Practice self-care. Don’t try to white-knuckle your way through your custody battle. Stay up to date with medical and dental care. Do what you can to eat and sleep properly. Shift your focus to other, positive activities whenever possible: social engagements, hobbies, exercise, meditation. If you’re really struggling emotionally, see a therapist who specializes in high-conflict divorce.
A final word about staying your ground: try not to focus on the outcome. Instead, concentrate on doing the next right thing. Controlling what’s in your power – your own choices – will help you weather your custody chaos, regardless of the result.
Have questions about child custody? Please contact us today to schedule your initial consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys and get answers and a clear strategy for safeguarding your children. Call us at 888-888-0919 or please click the button below.