Being a parent is such a challenging yet extremely rewarding experience. For most people, it’s one of the best experiences they’ll ever have. However, a parent’s whole world can feel like it’s crashing down when they break up with or divorce their children’s other parent. Suddenly, they’re worried about how the split will affect their relationship with their children, and this fear is understandable.
If you’re in a complicated relationship with your children’s other parent, you may be worried about the future. Are you headed towards a child custody battle? Do you fear the other parent will get in the way of your relationship with your children? Are you worried that you’ll lose custody of your children? Are you worried that your children’s emotional and physical well-being will be at risk if they live with the other parent?
If your answer was “yes” to any of these questions, we encourage you to continue reading this post because it was written with parents like you in mind.
When You’re Facing a Child Custody Battle
When parents are new to child custody battles, they often don’t know how the laws work. Sometimes they mistakenly believe that they’ll “win” custody and they are in for a shock when the court does not award them sole physical custody of their children. If you’re hoping to win sole custody, there are a few things you should know.
- The courts lean towards joint legal and physical custody arrangements whenever they’re in the “best interests of the children.” Meaning, the courts generally prefer to let children have both parents actively involved in their lives.
- If a parent is loving and has their life together, the court will not usually prohibit that parent from having some type of custody if they are fighting for it.
- Even in domestic violence cases, the court will usually award visitation, unless the abuse was severe. If your situation involves spousal or child abuse, please contact us immediately for advice.
- If both parents are fighting for custody, the courts will see if a joint custody arrangement is feasible and in the children’s best interests.
- Usually, a court will not terminate an absent parent’s parental rights unless someone else is adopting the child, such as a stepparent.
Suppose you want to fight hard for sole physical custody, or at the very least you want to have your children most of the time with you receiving child support. You strongly believe you are the one who is the most suitable for the job because of one or more of the following reasons:
- You have been your children’s primary caregiver for some time.
- Your spouse is physically abusive to you or your children, or both.
- Your spouse has a substance abuse problem.
- Your spouse is gone all the time for work and cannot care for your children like you can.
- Your spouse does not have a “connection” with your children like you do.
- Your children prefer to live with you because they like you better and are much closer to you.
- Your spouse does not have the time or attention to raise your children like you do.
- Your spouse is more interested in themselves and being single than raising your children properly.
- Unlike you, your spouse cannot afford to provide proper food, clothing, and shelter for your children.
- Your spouse has been engaging in criminal behavior and your children should not be in that unhealthy environment.
Our Advice if You Want to Win
So, you want to win your child custody case. What can you do to improve your chances of getting the outcome you desire? Here’s our advice:
1. Don’t move out of the house. If you’re still living with your spouse, the last thing you want to do is move out while leaving your children with your spouse. This would send a powerful message to the family court that your spouse is perfectly capable of being the children’s primary caregiver.
Instead, stay in the house with your children until you have temporary child custody orders. Even better, don’t go anywhere without the kids and if you do move, make sure you have the court’s blessing to take the kids with you.
2. Don’t begin dating. Even though California is a no-fault divorce state, your child custody case can be weakened if you start dating before you’re divorced. Your spouse can use your affair as ammo against you; for example, he or she can say that you put your needs in front of the children’s so you could engage in an extramarital affair.
3. Don’t neglect your children. If you’re having a hard time in your personal life, you cannot neglect your children’s needs. For instance, if you lost your job, don’t sit around the house for weeks on end. Instead, go out there and find a new job. Or, if you’re depressed because your spouse has been cheating on you, avoid staying in bed all day neglecting your responsibilities as a parent – your spouse can use this against you. If you need help from a therapist, friends or family, get it and be sure to take good care of your children in the process.
4. Be a responsible adult. When spouses get a divorce, they can have such strong emotions that they say and do foolish things, which harm their divorce and child custody case. No matter what your spouse did wrong in the marriage, you have to behave in a mature and responsible manner.
This means don’t destroy your spouse’s property. Don’t ruin their reputation on social media. Don’t get arrested for vandalizing their car or causing a scene at their work. Don’t assault them, and don’t hide assets in the divorce. All of these behaviors can ruin your credibility in divorce court and affect your custody case.
5. Don’t prevent your child from being in contact with their other parent. Courts hate it when parents prevent their children from having frequent and meaningful contact with their other parent. In the absence of domestic violence, if you don’t let your spouse speak to and see your children, this will act against you and affect the outcome of your case.
6. Be a great parent. One of the best things you can do to strengthen your custody case is be a great parent. Take your children to school on time and pick them up on time. Make sure they are properly fed, rested and clean and ensure they do their homework as required by their school.
Enroll them in extracurricular activities, take them to all of their regular health checkups and tend to their emotional needs. Keep the details of your divorce off their plate, don’t badmouth your spouse to them, and shower them with the love and attention they need during this major life transition.
Do you need professional legal assistance with a child custody case in Los Angeles? Contact Claery & Hammond, LLP for a free consultation.