10 Things Men Can Do to Stay Focused and Sane, Do the Best for Their Kids, and Enhance Their Chances for an Equitable Child Custody Determination
Know That You Have Value
You are a parent just as much as the mother of your child. Hold your head high and do not under any circumstance diminish yourself in anyone's eye. A child needs a father's love, guidance, wisdom, protection and support just as much as from a mother. In fact, many studies show the critical necessity of a father in the life of his son or daughter. Don't let anyone tell you that you have less value than the mother.
Do Not Fear Court Bias
Many men believe that the family courts are biased against men and will automatically award custody to the mother. The accuracy of this is suspect. We all have biases and leaving them at the courtroom steps is difficult. Nonetheless, more and more, courts give an equal footing to both parties in custody disputes. The bottom line is that if you go into court with a defeatist attitude thinking that the odds are against you, then you will bring to fruition a self-fulfilling prophecy through your negative thinking. Instead, go in with a positive attitude, knowing who you are, and expecting the other party's lawyer and the judge to take you seriously as a person of equal merit.
Be an Encouragement to Your Child
Your child or children will in most instances be going through a rough period during your divorce proceedings. Be a pillar of strength for your child. Encourage them and let them know that you love them. Let them know that you will always be there for them. If the other party is demeaning you and sliming your good name, your child will know the truth. You need not engage in a similar fashion. Trust that your child knows who you are and let your loving attitude be a beacon of light and encouragement for them. It won't matter one iota that your spouse thinks you're worthless, because your child will see the real you.
4. Be Organized and Prepared
Nothing can sink your case faster than a lack of preparation and organization. Never mind that you may have hired a lawyer. No one will be more invested in your case than you. No one will know your case as well as you. This is about your life - not your lawyer's life. Don't, and I repeat don't rely solely on the expertise, knowledge and organizational skills of your lawyer. Find out what they're doing. Where they're going with your case and assist them to make sure they have everything ready at their disposal to help you in court.
5. Spend Time With Your Child
Do you want joint custody or more visitation time with your child, but you're late to pick them up, forget important school events and your time together is not quality time? Be responsible and do everything in your power to spend meaningful quality time with your child. It's not about spending money, but if it requires you to do so and you can, by all means do so. Ask your child what they'd like to do - maybe go to the park, relax at home and watch a movie, help them with their homework and school projects, etc. There's no definitive list. Just follow through with your promises to the best of your ability.
6. Parent, Teach, & Provide Guidance and Discipline
I think a lot of parents, and maybe fathers in particular, worry that if they set guidelines, boundaries and rules, their child will rebel and drift to the other parent. While this can never be ruled out, it's important to have your child become a responsible and well-developed human being who contributes to society. Even if your ex-spouse doesn't have a bedtime for your child, you should. Even if your ex-spouse does not instill the need to do household chores, you should. This shows that you are a responsible parent who wants to raise a responsible child. It's not your issue that the other parent allows your kid to stay up all night watching TV and playing video games. You have to be the anchor that guides the child on a path to future stability and success.
Don't Get Sucked in to the Crazy Drama and Theatrics of Your Ex-Spouse
You are no longer with your ex-spouse. You don't live with them. You don't sleep with them. They no longer get to feel entitled to control, manipulate or dictate every movement of your waking existence. If they send you a rude, inane email or voicemail, read over it or listen to it once and give some space and time before you respond to it. Nothing will be worse than lashing out and having the Judge in your case see that. More importantly, on an emotional/psychological and spiritual level, it won't help you one bit to resolve anything or feel better about yourself. I have to admit this is very hard for so many people because your ex-spouse knows all of the trigger points that will set you off. Moreover, when your ex-spouse sees that she can no longer manipulate and coerce you into doing things that you don't want to do merely to keep her calm, she will often expose her true nature by becoming belligerent, hostile and rude. Just document and keep dealing with her in a very polite yet assertive manner. At some point, most but not all will see that they can no longer snap their fingers for you to do their bidding. But that comes with thoughtful reflection and patience without resorting to a reflex jab back at them. Hard to do for sure! Truly "crazy" ex-spouses can be volatile and highly explosive to say the least. Do your best to minimize the drama by addressing the issues that are in the best interest of your children and leaving the emotional baggage and psychological pathology stuff for their therapist.
Keep Accurate Records of Everything
When and where you took your kids - Expenses you make for your kids - Time spent together - Parent-Teacher meetings/conferences - Extra-curricular activities - Phone calls, voicemails, emails, text messages from your ex: As an example, the following happened once in court. The husband was asserting that the wife was abusive physically and verbally. Yes, women to abuse men both physically and emotionally/verbally! The wife vehemently denied this while on the witness stand and claimed she was the most docile, sweet and loving wife ever. The husband's attorney, while holding up a voicemail recording, asked her if she'd have the same answer if he played a voicemail of her calling him all sorts of nasty names while screaming at the top of her lungs. There was never the need for the Court to make a determination as to whether or not the tape recording was admissible evidence. The wife acknowledged while crying on the stand that she may have called him names and screamed at him on one or two occasions. Another example. An ex-wife claimed that ex-husband's family members were all insane, maniacal lunatics who never gave her the time of day and we're always hostile to her and pose a danger to their child. The husband had many pictures showing the ex wife at the home of each of these alleged misfit family members laughing it up, hugging and kissing, exchanging gifts, playing with their child as the child grinned with a happy expression of contentment on her face. The point is - keep records of everything and anything that will help your case.
Find a Support Group
Whether it's a divorced persons group, or church/religious group of some kind, you need the support and encouragement of other men and women. Family can always be a source of help in times of need as well. If coping has really taken a toll and is weighing on your ability to function, it may be wise to seek the professional help of a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist as well.
It will keep you healthy, fit and boost your immune system. Divorce is costly and draining physically and emotionally. Your body and mind need to be in peak performance mode at all times. Walk, jog, or go to the gym a few times a week so that you can feel your best. Not only your body, but your mind and emotions will get a much-needed spark that will invigorate you and keep you feeling your best at all times.
Notice & Disclaimer
There are many other things one must do to get a favorable divorce/custody settlement or Court Order/Judgment. It is critical that you seek the services of an experienced family lawyer who is experienced with these types of cases, which are highly complex and labor intensive. The article above only highlights some of the ways in which to approach a divorce/child custody case. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list. This AVVO article/post does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. Nor should it be relied upon as medical and/or psychological advice. The opinions given are based upon generalized hypothetical facts or scenario. To the extent additional or different set of facts exist or the hypothetical or scenario presented herein is different, the opinion or commentary of the Attorney might possibly change as well as the outcome in a court of law. For answers to specific legal questions, always consult with a licensed Attorney in your jurisdiction. This Attorney practices only in California and his opinions only have that jurisdiction in mind.
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