You may want your child to never see that lying, cheating ##&*! ever again. You may think your ex-spouse is the worst person on the face of the earth. Your parental instinct is to shield your child from hurt, and by extension, you may project your hurts from your broken relationship on to them. Unless the ex has committed a crime of abuse, violence or other crime, the idea is that no matter how much you hate the other person, they still contributed some genetic material to your child. The child is not just "yours". Your child has two parents, and shouldn't feel bad for naturally wanting to spend time with both of them. Don't project your hurt on to your child but accept that while you might not like your ex very much, they most likely love and are loved by your child.
Keep New Relationships Out Of It
A custody dispute is no time to bring in a new suitor. Your child is confused, you are emotional, and the opposing side is looking for any little thing to paint you in the light of a bad parent. Friends are excellent sources of support, but if at all possible, do not enter into an intimate relationship while in the middle of a custody dispute. It distracts your focus, can confuse your child and introduces a new person in to the mix that the court might find is a hinderance. I have seen plenty of custody cases drag on much longer than necessary because a party's new paramour was over-involved and created tension.
If you decide you just can't wait for that new relationship, inform your attorney immediately and establish ground rules.
You are the parent, not your mom, not your boyfriend, not your baby sitter
Chances are you hopefully have a support system around you. That's great! However, make sure that you are the only person who disciplines or parents the child. Your new paramour/spouse should quite frankly stay out of any parenting, other than positive reinforcement. If you find yourself wondering why your perfect new spouse shouldn't be allowed to discipline your child, just try to imagine how you'd feel knowing that your ex's girlfriend/spouse was doing the same thing during periods of visitation.
When non-parents get involved, tempers and tensions begin to rise. Parents need to work together, not against eachother.
Fight your own battles.
Don't let your family/new spouse/etc. fight them for you. Speak up for yourself and say "I am uncomfortable with the way you take care of "insert child". Can we discuss this?"
Use "I need" statements. "Mom, I need you to stop interfering when "insert ex" calls to discuss visitation. It will only hurt my case. Instead, why don't you think about how much better my case will go if "ex" and I can work together?"
Telling your loved ones how they can positively help you as well as gently letting them know how their zeal to protect you can hurt you will benefit all parties. Nobody wants the Judge to call them out in court for interfering. You are an adult (in most cases) and have your own voice. Take control of your situation and don't let a loved one inadvertently hurt your case.
Do not refuse to work with the other parent.
This goes back to the first step. Just because you have been hurt in this relationship does not mean your ex is a total failure at parenting. They aren't, any more than you're the shining star of parenting. You both deserve equal chances to be good parents. So find your line. Draw a list of hopes and desires for your child, and things you're not willing to budge on. Find your sticking point and learn to work with the other things that are more malleable. Compromise. Think about your child and what they enjoy. Negotiations work better when there is material to work with. Realize again, that you're not the only parent in this equation. You will be your child's parent till they are 18, and you are a co-parent for the same duration of time. Learn early on to deal with it. In the words of Supertramp, give a little bit.
Live your life like you're in a glass house.
I can't stress this enough. The minute a custody dispute is filed, your life becomes an open book. Emails, phone calls, texts, your intimate life, and the lives of your loved ones: All are fair game.
I instruct my clients in this manner: Before you do anything, ask yourself "Will I enjoy explaining this to the Judge and could this in anyway negatively effect my case?"
If your answers are no, and yes possibly, DO NOT DO IT. Do not stop. Do not pass go. Even the most "slam dunk" case can be lost in a moment of poor judgment. For your child's sake, and for your case's sake, and on most levels, for your lawyer's sake, avoid doing things that will give your ex ammunition.
Oh, what? You don't think they'd use it against you? The same person you don't trust to raise your child? The same person you've just spent an hour telling your attorney is a lying, cheating scum? They can, and will use anything against you. Live life accordingly. Your lawyer will thank you and so will your child.
Use your common sense. Try to put all the hurt aside and look at your child. Think of a friend in a similar circumstance and how you'd advise them. Listen to your attorney and if you need it, find a counselor who will listen to you rant about your ex and help you find constructive ways to deal with the hurt so you don't inadvertently take it out on your child.
Be smart, be reasonable and realize that for better or for worse, in most cases you're going to need to learn to co-parent. Knowing is half the battle.
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