child in family court

Win Parental Responsibilities Of Your Children

by Cory Gallagher, Family Law Attorney

Dealing with divorce is never an easy or painless process, and it can be made especially difficult when a divorcing couple has children.

In rare instances, the mother and father are able to work amicably toward a divorce that provides both of them with satisfactory arrangements with regard to parenting time, support, and visitation, those instances are often the exception - not the rule.

Divorce is a combative action by nature, which means there will be a battle of some kind, be it over material possessions, monetary holdings, or other aspects of a couple's life together. This means there is always a winner and a loser.

Even if both parties agree on the terms prior to entering a courtroom or a family court judge makes a final decision one person if not both always loses.

Here are twelve tips to keep in mind when you are going through a divorce and attempting to gain or keep parental responsibilities of your children. Some of these tips are relevant to the courtroom only, while others are those you should be aware of long before a petition for divorce is even prepared or filed.

1. Never attempt to sway a judges opinion by speaking a negative opinion about the other parent.

Regardless of how you feel about your soon-to-be ex it is always better to keep those feelings to yourself when you appear In court. Negative comments about another person's ability to provide for the wants and needs of their children generally only end up making you look petty, vindictive, and hostile. In situations where you have nothing good to say about the other person, it's always best to say nothing at all.

2. Know Your Children Well, And Make Sure The Court Knows Your Depth Of Knowledge.

You might be surprised to know that many parents have no Idea who their children are In terms of what the child likes or dislikes, or does and does not do. This lack of knowledge can range from not knowing a child's favorite color or television show to not knowing their sleeping habits, childhood phobias, food or pet allergies and other information. In the eyes of the court, the more in-depth knowledge you have about your children, the better you would be at anticipating and meeting their needs, addressing their anxieties or fears, and making them feel safe, secure, comfortable, and loved.

3. Unless you have documented proof that the other parent poses a danger to your child(ren) in some way, you should always openly express your desire that your child(ren) have and maintain a close and healthy relationship with the other parent

Family court Judges prefer not to exclude a parent from the lives of their children unless it would be detrimental to do otherwise. Your desire that your child(ren) have a good relationship with the other parent demonstrates a concern for the child's emotional and psychological well-being.

4. If you engage in lifestyle habits that would be viewed negatively by a family court judge, you should stop those habits as soon as possible.

Whether your negative habits consist of bar-hopping with your friends every weekend or doing recreational drugs until you are in a stupor, anything you do that detracts from your ability to best provide for your children is ammunition that can be used against you in court. Even loose associations with acquaintances who lead questionable lifestyles can cause a Judge to decide In favor of the other parent in a parenting time battle.

5. Always avoid arguing with the other parent in court (and anywhere else, if possible).

Judges want parents to get along with each other as much as possible when It comes to child custody, because an ongoing relationship with both parents is the most healthy for the child. Try to keep your communication with the other parent as civil and polite as possible, especially when you appear in court for any divorce and parenting time hearings.

6. Prepare a parenting plan before appearing In court.

Even If you cannot create a parenting plan with the cooperation of the other parent, at least prepare one on your own. With a parenting plan in hand at a court appearance, you give the impression that you have a sincere desire and dedicated intention to make sure your child is cared for in the best possible way. Parenting plans should Include, at the least, provisions for overnight stays with the other parent, visitation arrangements for holidays, and child-sharing terms for school breaks and other special occasions.

7. Do not skip visitation periods because of animosity toward your soon-to-be ex (or for any other reason).

If you want a court to award you with parenting time or liberal visitation, you won't get it by failing to exercise any existing custody or visitation rights. Regardless of how you feel about the other parent, you love your children and you won't demonstrate this to a judge if you don't visit them and spend time with them as often as you are able to do so.

8. Always follow the rules, guidelines, and etiquette for court appearances.

How you present yourself in court is extremely important when it comes to convincing a family court judge that you are a mature, competent, loving parent. Make sure you dress appropriately, behave civil, and demonstrate punctuality. In addition, you should also be prepared for each stage of the divorce and custody process with any required or requested documents, paperwork, or other items needed by the court.

9. Obtain an attorney who is skilled in handling child custody matters.

When you want to bake a cake, you ask a baker, and this adage is equally applicable for parenting time cases.  You will want to find an attorney, like Cory Gallagher, who has significant experience in family law and specializes in parental responsibility cases. In addition, make sure the attorney is willing to discuss all aspects of your case with you and answer any questions you have as they arise.

10. Familiarize yourself with your state's divorce and custody laws in advance.

In addition to letting you know what to expect when you go through the process, becoming familiar with the laws of your state will also help you prepare questions for your attorney, collect the information you will need for court appearances, and give you guidelines on the standards used by the court to determine custody arrangements (such as the 'best parent' standard).

11. Examine your true motives before seeking sole legal and physical custody of your children.

Are you doing so because you truly believe the other parent could cause harm to your children, or are you doing so simply to be spiteful and vindictive, or to somehow punish the other parent? If the latter is your real motive, you should bear in mind that the other parent is an adult and, while finding your strategy painful, is able to logically understand it-your children are not. Your children will be the real losers in that type of situation.

12. Last but not least, do not involve your children in your divorce or custody case.

Parents are often tempted to try to tell their children what is going on in court, even when the children are far too young to understand. Another common parental mistake is to bad-mouth the other parent in an attempt to 'win favorites' among your children. Neither tactic is profitable in the long run and parents have often found that these strategies can backfire. When that happens, It often creates a rift between the children and the parent who was attempting to create one for the other parent.

when it comes to deciding custody arrangements in most states, family court judges often follow a 'best parent' standard, or a guideline that will place children in the home of the parent who is nest capable of looking after the best interests of the child(ren). Mothers have traditionally been given significant preference in parenting time battles because of the assumption of a nurturing and loving nature that can only be provided through a maternal instinct, but that trend has shifted in more recent times. Courts have become far more gender neutral and have started examining only which parent can meet the needs of the child(ren) in the best possible way.

No matter which way your parenting time battle goes, always make sure your children come first and that you constantly reassure them that the situation is not their fault, and that both you and the other parent still love them very much.

Contact Cory Gallagher as soon as possible if you need assistance with divorce, parenting time or child support.

Cory has hundreds of satisfied clients, the experience you need and passion for family law that clients find comforting through even the most difficult times.