Divorce is stressful and emotional for everyone who goes through it, but child custody disputes can take the high stress and negative emotion to a whole new level. There are actions you can and should take before filing for child custody that will enable you to cope better, and assist even the best child custody lawyer to achieve the outcome you desire.
Immediately hire a child custody lawyer
Every child custody case is a mountain of paperwork, court dates, and visitation schedules. The stakes are very high if you miss anything at all, and it is easy for this to happen. Hire a family law attorney before even sticking your toe into these muddy legal waters. Not only does your attorney argue on your behalf in court, but he or she will also organize all the details so nothing is missed.
Keep a custody journal
When you go before a judge, you will need clear and reliable records to back up any assertions about the other parent. Make sure you date every entry; also, write notes about every encounter with the other parent. This is doubly important if you believe he or she has done something that you think is unhealthy for or harmful to the child. Take photos and write down the names of any possible witnesses. Use the journal to record your activities with the child, and your efforts to cooperate with the other parent.
Cooperate with the other parent
Keep an open and courteous dialogue with your ex, even if you are unhappy with the overall situation. Appearing to be unreasonable can work against you in court. If communicating with the other parent is too challenging, ask your divorce lawyer to handle communication or give you advice about how to manage the situation.
Enable visitation for the other parent
Even though you believe you can provide a better environment for the child, do not withhold visitation from the other parent. The court will look more favorably on your case if you cannot be portrayed as spiteful or uncooperative by your spouse’s attorney. Of course, if you suspect an imminent threat to the safety of the child, consult with your attorney about the next best steps.
Be careful in front of the children
Always respect that the children will be very upset if you place them “in the middle” by openly criticizing your ex-spouse or partner. Take the high road, stay calm, and protect the children from negative comments. This is truly the best for the children, and the court will be looking for evidence that you do put their welfare ahead of your own emotional state.
Curtail social media interaction
It is a mistake to use social media to belittle your ex or complain about the custody arrangement you would like to change. Social media is a public space and anything you post there may find its way to the courtroom. Along with refraining from criticism of the other parent, make sure social media does not show you behaving irresponsibly by being drunk or using illegal drugs. Your child support lawyer will tell you that even posting something positive like a new car or dining out can be used against you. You may post wholesome family activities on social media, but in general, it is safest to stay off social media as much as possible.