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Why custody battles often do the kids more harm than good

One of the most contentious issues in many divorces involves custody of the children. However, family law attorneys and other parenting experts have found that battling over custody often does more emotional harm than good to the kids caught in the middle. Besides that, these parents often end up spending money on a custody battle that would be better put towards their children's education or other needs.

Of course, that's not the parents' intention. Many truly believe that it's best for them to have primary or even sole custody of the children. However, often their feelings about their estranged spouse's parenting skills are influenced by their own anger and resentment towards him or her. One attorney calls these "emotional facts -- emotionally-generated false information accepted as true and appearing to require emergency legal action."

Parents may think that if their children see them fighting for custody, it will make them feel loved and wanted. Often, however, it simply makes the kids feel like their parents are more interested in continuing to fight with each other than in taking care of them during a time in their life that's already stressful and uncertain.

Generally, it's been found that most children benefit from a shared parenting arrangement. It doesn't need to be exactly 50/50, but with a shared parenting plan, both parents have some rights and responsibilities for their children.

In fact, under North Dakota law, custody is called "parental rights and responsibilities." Responsibilities fall into two categories: "decision-making" and "residential." Decision making responsibility can include things like determining matters involving medical care, religious training and schooling. Residential responsibility, as the name indicates, refers to providing the child a home. A parent who has more than 50 percent residential responsibility is considered the "custodial parent."

Of course there are situations in which one or even both parents should not be given custody of their children. This could be due to having a history of violence, sexual assault, drug or alcohol abuse or mental illness. However, in most cases, if a custody case goes before a judge, that judge's job is to decide what's in the children's best interests.

Your family law attorney will help you fight for whatever parenting arrangement you're seeking. However, before you decide to battle it out in court, take a step back and look at what truly is best for your children.

Source: Huffington Post, "Parents Should Think Twice Before Engaging in a Custody Battle Over Their Children," Mark Baer, accessed Jan. 20, 2016

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Commandments of Family Law

  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
  4. You can only control yourself and how you respond. Don't engage.
  5. Do set up rules and responsibilities. Kids feel better when routine is continued.
  6. You are still their parent — don't be afraid to be one.
  7. Disneyland is in California, not in your home. Don't set up unreasonable expectations.
  8. It is not their job to take care of you. Repeat that to them. Often.
  9. Yelling is for sports — not court. Good lawyers strongly advocate without being disrespectful to opposing parties.
  10. Fair is a place you go to get cheese curds. Aside from that, nothing in life is fair.

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