When a couple who has children decides to end their marriage, they must come to an agreement regarding custody of their children; namely, who will be the primary residential parent (with whom the children will live during the majority of the time) and an access schedule for the non-custodial parent. In cases where both parents want the children to live with them, a contentious custody battle may ensue, and the children are the most deeply affected.
In our more than 30 years of combined legal experience, we have seen many different child custody matters. Here are a few examples of what not to do when you are involved in a contested child custody matter:
- Threaten the other parent. Once you become embroiled in a custody dispute, everything you say and do can be used as evidence against you. What if you were to lose your cool and say threatening things in the heat of an argument, and you later discovered that the other parent was recording the conversation? While this recording is likely not admissible in court because it was obtained illegally, such a recording taken out of context can cast you in an unfavorable light. When a judge has to make a decision between the two of you, your behavior as well as that of your spouse will be under a microscope.
- Violate the existing custody orders. The existing custody order is enforceable by the Court. If you purposefully violate those orders, this will not only reflect badly on you, but it could land you in contempt of court and ruin your chances of getting custody.
- Criticize the other parent in front of the children. Yes, you are angry, you are bitter and you are feeling frustrated at the whole process. You might feel as if the other parent is playing games and getting away with it. No matter what they say or do, for the duration of the custody proceedings and even beyond, do not criticize your child’s other parent in front of them. When you do, you put the child in the position of feeling as if they must take sides and no child needs to deal with that.
- Coach the children to take your side. Never coach your children, tell them what to say or encourage them to lie or take your side. There will be times when your child will be interviewed by child psychologists or other child development experts and by the court. They will quickly be able to tell when a child has been coached and when they are speaking from their heart. If you get caught having coached your child to say something unfavorable about the other parent, whether you believe it to be true or not, this will backfire on you every time.
- Post disparaging content about the other parent, their attorney or the judge on social media. The best policy is not to post anything on social media while you are in the midst of a custody matter. Do not post cryptic updates with veiled references as to how you feel about your spouse, their attorney, the judge, or your frustration with the whole process. Whatever you post may be used against you.
- Go on a shopping spree. Now is not the time for retail therapy. A significant amount of conspicuous consumption, especially if you are saying that you cannot afford child support payments, or your children’s expenses, will look suspicious.
- Take the children away or out of the state without notifying the other parent. Every so often, parents will act irresponsibly and take the child away on vacation without informing the other parent. This causes the other parent to panic when they do not know where the children are. Be respectful of the other parent’s rights and their feelings even during this challenging time.
- Move in with your new paramour or invite your new paramour to move in with you. This is a stressful time and it would feel great to have someone who is on your side to come home to. Having your new romantic partner staying overnight or living with you while you are going through a divorce and custody matter will be confusing for the children, and does not demonstrate good judgment on your part in the eyes of the court.
- Allow yourself to be railroaded into a decision that you do not agree with. There are some people who simply shut down in the face of conflict and just say yes and agree to everything because they hope that this will make things move along faster. The agreements that you make now will govern your relationship with the other parent, and your children, for many years to come, so your voice needs to be heard. Work with your family law attorney and take an active role in the proceedings. Stand up for what you want, and be willing to compromise when necessary.
- Try to represent yourself. Litigating a custody dispute is complicated. It involves high-level negotiation skills and knowledge of Maryland law. Even divorce attorneys hire lawyers to represent them in family law matters. Work with an experienced family law attorney who will listen to you, understand your needs and fight valiantly for you and your family.
Fighting over custody is destructive, non-productive and expensive. When you work with an experienced team of Maryland family lawyers we will work towards whatever is in the best interest of the child, and we will advise you so that you can avoid these kinds of mishaps.
Child custody does not always have to be a pitched battle. When you work with the family law attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, you enjoy the benefits of their more than 30 years of combined legal experience working on your behalf. Please take a moment now to contact us to reserve a consultation today at our Annapolis-based office to discuss your case.
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