Written by attorney Tonya Dianne Page

Top 10 Mistakes That Could Hurt Your Family Law Case (And Your Children)

Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid in a Divorce or Custody Proceeding Mistake Number 1 Preventing your spouse from seeing your children. One of the factors the courts consider when determining custody is which parent is more likely to promote frequent and meaningful contact with the other parent. If you deny the other parent custody before or during the divorce proceedings, this can have a negative impact on the outcome of your case and on your children. Of course, if there are safety concerns, such as violence, drinking or drug abuse, unsupervised visitation between the children and your spouse may not be appropriate. It is extremely important to talk to an attorney regarding these issues before making any decisions that could impact your case. Mistake Number 2 Using your children as a weapon against the other parent in the divorce proceedings. You may be very angry at your spouse or even feel that you hate him or her. However, it is important to remember that they are the parent of your children, and that you will have to co-parent after the divorce is over. Never use your children as a pawn to try to gain a financial advantage in a case. Mistake Number 3 Introducing your children to your new boyfriend or girlfriend while your case is pending. Not only could this be detrimental to the outcome of your case, but it can be detrimental to your children if done too early in a relationship or too often. Your children are already having to deal with their emotions regarding their parents separating and need time to adjust. Children should not be introduced to your new boyfriend or girlfriend until your new relationship is stable. Mistake Number 4 Using the children as "spies" to report to you about the other parent or using the children as messengers to deliver messages, support or information. It is human nature to want to know what your soon-to-be ex-spouse is up to, especially as it relates to your children. However, playing 20 questions with your kids when they return from a visit with the other parent can have a negative impact on your relationship with your children and cause your children to withdraw from you or the other parent. If you and your spouse are not able to communicate in person or over the phone without getting into an argument, try other modes of communication, such as email. Mistake Number 5 Listening in or taping phone calls between your children and the other parent. Not only can this type of behavior break the trust your children have in you, taping a phone conversation that you are not a party to is also illegal. Mistake Number 6 Criticizing the other parent in front of your children. Although you may have negative feelings toward your spouse or ex-spouse, it is critical that you not "bad-mouth" the other parent in front of your children. It can be harmful to your children emotionally and may cause them to act out or withdraw from you or the other parent. Your children need to respect both parents and criticizing the other parent in front of your children will teach the children that they do not have to respect the other parent. If both parents are criticizing the other in front of the children, then the children may lose respect and act out toward both parents. Mistake Number 7 Arguing or confronting the other parent while dropping off or picking up the other children or at any time the children are present. Many people will say that they are leaving their spouse because it is not good for the children to be in a household where their parents are arguing all the time. The same is true during and after a divorce. Try to avoid arguing with the other parent at all times when the children are present. If you and your spouse or ex-spouse have a hard time speaking without arguing or seem to get into a confrontation every time you are around them, your attorney can recommend alternative arrangements for pick up and drop off of the children, including using a custody exchange center. Talk to a family law attorney about what resources for divorcing parents, such as custody exchange centers, are available in your county. Mistake Number 8 Moving your children out of the city or state in which you live immediately before or during your divorce case. In some states, moving your children without court permission is a crime. Even where it is not a crime, moving the children away from the other parent without the other parent's permission or the court's permission can have a negative impact on your case and ultimately result in you losing custody of your children. If you are married or going through a divorce proceeding and wish to relocate with your children, consult an experienced family law attorney handling relocation cases to advise you on how to proceed. Mistake Number 9 Bringing your children to court or to your lawyer's office. Even if your children are young, remember, children are smart and pick up on everything you do, including the tone of conversations. Divorce and custody litigation can be adversarial, and it is best to avoid involving your children. During your case, the Court may appoint a Guardian ad litem to represent the best interest of your children. If a Guardian ad litem is appointed, then the Guardian ad litem will meet with the children and interview them, if appropriate. If your children are represented by a Guardian ad litem, it is unethical for your attorney to talk to your children. Mistake Number 10 Trying to "buy" your children's affection. Spending unusual amounts of money on the children or buying them lavish gifts can be viewed as an attempt to buy their affection or bribe them. You may have heard the terms "Disneyland Dad" or "Disneyland Mom." These terms are often used to refer to a parent who always takes the kids to do holiday type activities during every visit or buys them expensive toys or clothes every time they see them. Spending quality time with your children is more important than buying them material things. Not only can this be bad for your case, but your children may come to expect these things, and when you stop this behavior after a divorce, the children may resent you. It is important to continue to be a parent in all aspects, including being involved in your children's education and discipline, not just fun. I hope you have found this report helpful. Good luck!

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