Let 'What's Best For Your Kids' Be The Guide To Your Behavior.
During the course of your case, you may find yourself wondering how you should handle a situation with your co-parent. When in doubt - your best bet is to do "what's best for your kids" as the guide in determining how you will respond or proceed. Your children will benefit, and in the big picture - you likely will too.
Create And Maintain a Log of Key Events Related to Your Children And The Other Parent
A custody case is about telling the story - and the facts often win the case. The facts come from the history of interactions and behaviors by or between the parents and children. The creation and maintenance of a log of events helps you and your attorney understand the facts; identify the theme of your case, as well as its strengths and weaknesses. The dates, relevance of events and the witnesses to those events are more easily identified if an ongoing log is maintained. Every parent in a custody case should maintain a log, even after the "dispute" is resolved as long as there is the chance that your case could return to court - even years later.
Identify Witnesses To The Key Events In Your Case
While there are often "two sides to every story", your job in a custody case is to persuade the Court to conclude that your 'version' is most accurate. Most courts require parties to list the names and contact information for the witnesses they may call to testify, and to identify what other evidence (exhibits) they may offer to establish their version of events (and their interpretation of those facts). Your attorney will want to interview your witnesses or know what things you can offer to the Court to back up your description of events or justify that your concerns are reasonable. Statements by a party are typically admissible. Retention and preservation of emails, texts, facebook and myspace comments or voicemail messages or legal recordings can be powerful tools to help persuade the Court to adopt your view of the facts.
Don't Create Evidence For The Other Side
Divorce is stressful and has been described as a process that brings out the worst in good people. The person with whom you have had an intimate relationship knows how to push your buttons. Do not give them the satisfaction of "venting" into a voicemail; email; text or recording device they have brought with them to a parent exchange. One weak moment of expletives or loss of control can equate to a bell that is very difficult to "unring".
Do Not Do Or Say Anything You Wouldn't Want The Judge To Hear
If the last tip left you thinking, 'who would do something so dumb', remember that it isn't always the obvious missteps that can cloud the Court's impression of a party. A "just response" to treatment you receive from your soon to be "ex", can be painted in the most unfavorable light before the Court. Avoid the "quid pro quo" and first consider - "How will this look to the Judge?". E.g, your spouse slams you with every petty insult/zinger they can muster and in a tone that is more than annoying. You respond by eliminating your "ex" from the phone plan. The "ex" and their attorney use your termination of the phone plan as an opportunity to contend you are motivated to destroy their relationship with the children, by finding ways to cut off communication between the child and parent, or preventing your child from having means to seek help in an emergency when you are not available. Don't get snookered.
Credibility is the corner stone to a successful case. Perception can be affected by the dynamics of a relationship (domestic violence) as well as the emotions of the parties involved. Smart people can fall into the traps of using phrases like 'always' or 'never', out of exasperation with the other side. E.g. 'She never attends the kids functions', permitting the other side to attack your credibility by the demonstration of attending a mere one event in the life of a child. Meanings of words can also be used to attack credibility - He was 'threatening'. Perceived exaggeration can undermine an otherwise meritorious case. Be careful not to help the other side. Be accurate.
Be Involved In Your Children's Education
A child's education is key to their success. A parent's recognition and choice to participate and support their child's education will be given heavy weight by the Court. As the family is transformed, so to will the role sharing by the parents. If you have not been the parent engaged in your child's education, it is now time to be proactive, provide your contact information to the school, show up at parent teacher conferences and school functions and be sincerely engaged with your child as well as support the educators who are helping your child reach their potential. Know the names of your children's teachers and be familiar with the school routine. Talk with your child and check their homework. If your child is having difficulties, work with their teacher to support your child's efforts to work through those hurdles.
Attend Your Children's Activities And Be Engaged
Courts know that children benefit from a reasonable level of extra-curricular activities in a myriad of ways. A parent who shares in supporting these opportunities for a child demonstrates their willingness to help their child grow and build confidence. Support can be in the form of payment for the activity; transportation of the child to events as well as parental attendance. Attendance is the best way to show your emotional support and interest in the development of your child.
Communicate Effectively With Your Co-Parent About The Children
Children do not ask for divorce. Yet, they endure it. Parents can help their children and demonstrate appropriate motivation when they demonstrate their willingness and inclination to be effective communicators with the other parent. Often good communication between co-parents is in short supply during a divorce. As children increasingly spend time between households, coordination of their medical appointments, dealing with their care when illnesses arise, or notification and coordination of their needs for the school day or after school events, can be a challenge. If telephone calls are unpleasant, communications shared through email or a notebook in a child's backpack can be effective. Notify the other parent of appointments and invite their input before making decisions about your children. Demonstrating respect for the other parent and their role as your child's parent will help your child and your case.
Maintain The Stability And The Environment You Provide For Your Children
Frequent moves; the premature introduction of third parties and a home environment which involves activities or individuals who undermine the stability of the home is bad for your kids and your case. When in doubt - don't. Consult with child psychologists or counselors as to when and how best to introduce third parties to your children. Your willingness to consult a professional will demonstrate your due diligence to make your children's needs your priority.
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