A child custody case is one of the most stressful legal situations you can find yourself in. Often child custody cases occur as part of divorce proceedings or a break-up between unmarried parents. Other times, they occur long after separation, when an existing or informal arrangement between the parents stops working.
People always want what’s best for their children. Unfortunately, often emotions and lack of knowledge can lead a parent to make decisions or engage in behavior that hurts their outcomes at a custody hearing. For a smoother custody case, here are four common custody case mistakes you should work to avoid.
1. Parental Alienation
Parental alienation is the legal term for when one parent withholds a child from the other. Parental alienation can take many forms. It can consist of:
- Refusing visitation or parenting time
- Moving out of town or state
- Refusing phone or video calls
- Withholding mail or gifts
- Turning a child against the other parent
The basic goal of parental alienation is to distance the child from the other parent. Sometimes, this is done on purpose because one parent wants to harm the other parent’s relationship with a child.
In other cases, the alienating parent may not intend this to be the outcome. For example, one parent might take the child and stay with grandparents when a separation begins. Situations like this can come back to hurt you in court. This is especially true when the children are accustomed to living with both parents.
2. Bad-Mouthing the Other Parent
Speaking poorly of the other parent is another common mistake that can hurt your child custody outcome. If you speak badly about the other parent to or in front of your child, it’s a form of parental alienation. However, bad-mouthing also applies to a broader range of situations.
Bad-mouthing includes making demeaning social media posts about the other parent or maligning them to family and friends. It also applies to how you directly communicate with them. Social media posts and personal communication like texts, emails, and voicemails can be submitted in court as evidence.
If you make a habit of demeaning your child’s other parent, it doesn’t look good in court. A judge wants to see that both parents can work together with mutual respect to successfully co-parent in a way that serves the child’s best interests.
3. Withholding Financial Support
Another common custody mistake is withholding financial support. Both parents bear a legal obligation to contribute financially to their child’s upbringing.
If the parents were married and are now divorcing, an order for child support will usually be included in a final custody agreement. In the meantime, both parents should continue to adhere to previous levels of support.
Unmarried parents might have come to an informal agreement or previously applied for child support through the court system.
Whatever the case, a judge will consider whether a parent seeking custody contributes financially to a child’s upbringing. When parents are on bad terms, one may feel reluctant to hand money over to a former partner.
They should remember that child support money is intended for the child, not the former partner. Withholding that type of support doesn’t look good in court.
4. Poor Lifestyle Choices
When making a custody determination, a judge will consider which parent is better able to provide for the child’s best interests. This includes the child’s physical and emotional well-being.
Common lifestyle factors that can poorly influence a custody outcome include:
- Legal issues
- Substance abuse issues
- Proof of mental or emotional instability
- Lack of stable employment
- Lack of stable housing
When you’re seeking custody, you should be able to demonstrate in court that your lifestyle is stable and that you can adequately meet your child’s needs. Securing stable work and housing and making smart choices are essential to a positive custody outcome.
You can also work with an experienced family law attorney. At Patriot Legal Group, we help Orlando families resolve child custody issues with skill and compassion. Contact our team today.