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Child custody is yours to lose

A positive trend in divorce courts allows fathers and mothers the same consideration for parenting time. Many state laws begin with the assumption that both parents are equally fit and that, if safe to do so, custody should be awarded as equitably as possible. Studies show that time with both parents benefits children, and custody courts work for the best interests of the child.

This is why parenting advocates recommend that you be on your best behavior during your divorce. If a judge sees anything in your actions or habits that indicates you are unfit to care for your children, your parenting time may be at risk.

Behave yourself

Some parents are fortunate to get through a divorce amicably and enter the co-parenting phase in a spirit of cooperation. Other parents can barely speak a civil word to each other. If you and your co-parent relate more to the second extreme, it is likely that your former partner is watching carefully for signs that the court should limit your custody rights. Some of those behaviors may include the following:

  • You do not spend time caring for the children's daily needs, such as bathing, feeding, homework or bedtime stories.
  • You are not active in the child's routines, including school activities, doctor appointments or play dates.
  • You behave in ways that may hinder your parenting ability, like drinking alcohol, taking drugs or becoming violent.
  • You try to negatively influence the children's opinions of their other parent by speaking negatively about your co-partner, demeaning him or her, or failing to support your spouse as a parent.
  • You demonstrate that you cannot control your emotions by outbursts of anger in front of attorneys, teachers or anyone who may be called to testify.

If your spouse is able to produce evidence in the form of abusive texts, emails or voice mails, these will likely damage your bid for custody. While you may feel it lets off steam to leave such messages, giving in to those impulses may come back to haunt you during a custody hearing.

Be your best self

Following your attorney's advice is crucial during this time of high emotion. It is easy to become angry or wish to exact some kind of revenge on your spouse, but this may hurt your own cause more than it will hurt your spouse. Remaining calm and cooperative may help establish an atmosphere for negotiation rather than litigation.

Even if your relationship with your spouse is filled with animosity, you certainly want better than that for your children. A bitter custody litigation may only serve to exacerbate existing resentment, making it more difficult to co-parent. By staying focused on the well-being of your children and keeping your behavior under control, you improve the chances of an agreeable parenting arrangement.

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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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