Record every communication with the opposing party.
Under Arkansas law, a conversation may be recorded so long as one of the parties to the conversation is aware of the recording taking place. Also, what another party SAYS in a candid moment can be very powerful when used to impeach their credibility.
Example: mom and dad are in a post-divorce custody dispute over kids. Dad has had a drug problem for the last 2 yrs, and regularly smokes pot in front of the kids, but the kids are too young to testify. Mom finds out about the drug use, but is afraid she can't prove it (and to make matters worse, when dad is tested for drugs, the test comes back clean - he's obviously bought some "products" to clean out his system). Mom feels helpless, but what can she do? She starts talking to dad by phone every time he's willing, softening him up. 4-5 conversations in, she asks "why are you pretending you haven't been smoking pot for the last two years?" In a moment of weakness, he tells the truth, and luckily, she has been recording all along.
Communicate with the other party via email or text whenever possible.
Keep in mind that anything you put in writing might be brought up in court later, and plan accordingly. It's amazing how people show their true colors via text and email. Just be sure to keep your guard up when responding. Also, realize that most phone companies (AT&T, Verizon, and Cricket, to name a few) DON'T keep copies of the content of text messages, so if you get something useful, save it on your phone, because it can't be subpoenaed later.
Take the kid(s) to a reputable counselor.
This is especially important if the other party is trying to brainwash your kids or alienate their affections against you, and doubly effective if the children are too young, or unwilling, to testify. Most of the counselor's notes and records are made "with a purpose of treatment or diagnosis," and therefore may be entered as evidence as an exception to the hearsay rule (the hearsay rule would normally keep the children's statements from being entered into evidence). Also, even if it doesn't help your case at all, counseling can always be beneficial for kids who are going through a parental tug-of-war.
Look into having an attorney ad litem appointed.
Talk to your attorney about having an attorney ad litem appointed. An attorney ad litem is an attorney to represent the interests of the children. This attorney should go through medical records, school records, make unannounced visits to each of the households, and generally try to get to the bottom of things. She will also talk to the children about their concerns, speak with teachers and/or counselors, and eventually report her findings to the attorneys and to the Court.
Look at the child's school attendance records and grades.
There are very few objective measures of how a child is doing (whether he is thriving or losing ground), but school grades are definitely a good indicator. If you think about it, school-age kids spend more time at school than they do with their parents, so why shouldn't school records be given great weight when a court contemplates making a custody determination? If there are excessive tardies or absences, this can be an indicator that the current custodial parent isn't doing their job, and may suggest a change should occur. Also, if the grades have taken a nosedive in the recent past, this could be an indicator of other, bigger problems (medical issues, criminal activity, drug use, etc.). Academic performance is always a prime consideration of the Court in changing custody of school-age kids, and should always be looked at closely by the client and her attorney.
Try to see what the child REALLY wants to do.
When children are young, courts normally won't give their testimony much weight, because kids are very impressionable, and are unable to see the "big picture." But later, often upwards of the age of 12 or so, it may be useful to have the child testify to where he/she wants to live, and his reasons for wanting to live there. Unfortunately, there's no way to know ahead of time what the child will say. He will will most likely tell YOU that he wants to live at your house, but when at dad's house, he will tell dad that he wants to live with him. This is what I affectionately call "playing both sides against the middle." It results in large legal fees and a bitter dispute that generally doesn't get anyone anywhere. One way to get to the bottom of what the child really wants is to get him into counseling, and have him talk to the counselor about it. You can then ask the counselor if she thinks the child is leaning one way or another, and that can help you decide whether to pursue custody
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