In a perfect world, all divorcing parents would get along great and
child custody would be a non-issue. The parents would readily agree on a child custody
and visitation schedule that would benefit all parties involved. In reality,
one of the most painful aspects of divorce for parents is having to divide
their time with their children with their ex.
If you’re reading this, child custody may already be a sensitive
issue. Will your ex fight you on child custody? Will you both try to be
the parent who has the children most of the time? Or, if everything seems
fine now, will your spouse change their mind one day and drag you to court
for full physical custody? In any case, it’s important that you
are careful about child custody. Whether you intend to have joint physical
custody or not, the advice is the same.
Here Are Our Top Child Custody Tips for Divorcing Parents:
1. Whether it’s a temporary order while your
divorce is pending through the court or a permanent order after your divorce is
finalized, stick to the child custody and visitation schedule in the Parenting
Plan. If it’s your day or your weekend with the children, don’t
call your ex and cancel on your kids. This does not make it look as if
your children are a priority in your life.
Keep a detailed log or diary of all visits with your children. Even if
you’re the one receiving child support because the kids are with
you most of the time, you should still catalog when your ex picks up the
children and drops them off. If your spouse sends a friend or relative
to handle pick-ups and drop-offs, be sure to make a note of it and record
the person’s name.
2. Be active in your children’s lives. This means attending parent-teacher
conferences, attending soccer practices, dance classes, and karate classes,
and showing up to all school-related events. If your schedule allows,
volunteer in your child’s classroom, become a coach on their team,
and do whatever you can to play an active role in their daily lives.
3. If your child begs you to let them go to Disney Land, the beach, to
a friend’s birthday party, or a camping trip with their friends
on your “day” with them, highly consider letting them go.
Not only does this make your child happy, but it shows your flexibility.
If you do let your child get their way, don’t forget to write down
the details in your diary or log and explain why you let him or her go.
It truly helps to be flexible, especially as your children get older.
4. If your ex-husband or wife really needs your help watching the children
because they have to work, or because they have a job interview, or because
their family member is ill, don’t hesitate to take the children
off their hands, even if it’s not your scheduled day. Instead of
thinking of it as an inconvenience, look at it as an added bonus –
you get more time with your children!
5. Suppose you and your spouse agree it’s okay to see other people
while your divorce is pending through the court. If that’s the case,
don’t schedule date nights for the evenings you have your children.
Instead, always schedule dates for when your children are at the other
parent’s house. Also, don’t introduce anyone to your children
until after you’ve been dating for at least six months and the divorce is final.
6. Be very careful of who you choose to date. Before you let anyone into
your life, do a Google search of his or her name and take a close look
at their LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. Don’t
date anyone with a felony record, a drug or alcohol problem, or a history
of domestic violence. If you find out that your date is a convicted sex
offender, end the relationship immediately! You don’t want to bring
a child abuser or molester into your home!
7. Don’t use your children as pawns. Don’t ask them for information
about your ex, and don’t force them to be the “messenger”
between you and your ex. No matter how you feel about your ex, don’t
use your children to pass along information. If you absolutely don’t
want to talk to your ex, use text messaging or email to communicate with
him or her.
8. No matter how you feel about your ex, don’t badmouth them to your
child, and refrain from saying negative things about their other parent
within earshot of your kids. Instead, let your kids be kids and allow
them to enjoy their innocence. If your husband ran off with the babysitter,
or if your wife developed an alcohol problem, don’t bring it up
in the presence of your children, especially if they’re too young
to understand what’s happening. Of course, you need to consider
your children’s ages. Even if you have teenagers, there’s
probably plenty of details you can spare them so they can worry less and
enjoy their teen years more.
9. If the children will be living with you most of the time, don’t
move to another county or out-of-state without seeking legal advice first.
Unless you have sole physical custody, you generally need the court’s
permission before you can relocate with your children. If you move without
the court’s blessing, your ex can become very upset and you could
be setting yourself up for an ugly child custody battle.
If you are getting a divorce, it’s important to understand how to
handle child custody matters, especially if you anticipate any problems
with your spouse. For experienced legal advice,
contact our firm to meet with a Los Angeles child custody attorney.