10 Mistakes to Avoid During Your Child Custody Battle
Updated: Apr 9
We hear it all the time: One of the most painful parts of a split is not living in the same house as your kids all the time or having to send them away for weekends or weeks at a time to stay with your ex. That’s why hammering out child custody and support agreements can become really heated and tense - however, since your kids are involved, and you want them to navigate your split as healthily as possible, they need to feel that they still have both parents in their court.
That being said, we see people make some doozies while they’re working through their child custody agreements. Here are 10 that we advise you to avoid at all costs.
Mistake #1: Letting arguments spiral out of control
Look, we get that it’s easy to lose your cool when you’re dealing with your ex or the court. However, it’s really important to stay as calm as possible. If you get into a nasty confrontation with your ex, try to dial it back immediately. You don’t want to be in a situation where you physically touch your ex or make a threat that can fall under a domestic violence allegation. If proven, this could prevent you from having custody of your kids or having to settle for supervised visitation. Our advice: If possible, try to even avoid yelling at your ex or your kids.
Mistake #2: Abusing drugs and alcohol
This can be scary territory for everyone involved. Bottom line: Don’t do drugs or overindulge in alcohol, especially when you’re visiting with your kids. If this becomes an issue, you may need to undergo drug testing and you may lose unsupervised access to your kids. (Here are some tips on what to do if you suspect that your co-parent has a substance abuse problem.)
Mistake #3: Not paying child support
If you’ve been ordered by the court to pay child support, don’t forget to pay it, plain and simple. If you encounter a financial hardship like a job loss that’s going to impact your next payment, consult with your attorney and determine whether it’s appropriate to file a motion with the court so the judge is aware of the situation and can possibly make an accommodation. If you don’t do this, your co-parent can file a motion and you’ll be back in court, and could end up being responsible for the back support and your ex’s counsel fees.
Mistake #4: Letting it all hang out on social media
Ever figured out when someone you know is going through a divorce or a custody battle when their social media feeds turn into frustration stations, where they often trash their ex? The problem is that your ex and his or her attorney can use these posts against you— especially if they denigrate your ex, his or her attorney, or the judge.
For example, if you share too many “hey, I’m partying” posts, photos where you appear intoxicated can be used to raise concerns that you have a substance abuse problem. Our advice: Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want the judge to read in open court. (Check out some of our best tips for using social media smartly while you’re splitting or going through a custody battle.)
Mistake #5: Getting arrested
Again, we’d hope that this should go without saying, but if you get arrested while custody is pending, you’ve provided your ex with ammunition, even if you’re not convicted or charged. For example, if you’re arrested for a violent offense, your ex could claim that you have anger management issues or violent tendencies. This could result in supervised visitation. Similarly, if you’ve moved out of the marital home and in with a new significant other, be aware of their arrest record and past history.
Mistake #6: Being disrespectful to the court.
Again, we wish we didn’t have to play Captain Obvious here, but all too often we see it happen—where people show total disregard for the judge and court. For example, if the court orders you to take a parenting class, do it. If the court orders you to undergo a custody evaluation, cooperate. If you don’t obey the judge’s orders, he or she could hold you in contempt. This mistake also includes ignoring or disobeying the court’s temporary custody orders at the onset of divorce or custody litigation—these can include the time spent with each parent or decision-making abilities.
Mistake #7: Ghosting on your kids
That means when you should be spending time with your kids, you’re doing it. Similarly, pick them up and drop them off at the agreed-upon times and places. If you’re late or forget, you can be sure your ex will record these instances and try to show the court you’re neglectful.
Mistake #8: Taking your kids on vacation without telling your ex
Your co-parent needs to be aware of your vacation plans and then consent to them. If you don’t make these arrangements with your ex, you could risk being accused of kidnapping your own children and either being arrested, or worse, be subjected to limited or no custody.
Mistake #9: Assuming that your marital issues will affect custody.
Lots of people think that if their ex had an affair or way too much credit card debt or a gambling problem, that will affect their custody rights. They couldn’t be more wrong. Custody is about what’s best for your kids. Whatever your conflicts with your ex, unless you can prove that they affect his or her parenting ability, only then could they influence your custody ruling.
On a similar note, when people get pissed at their ex they’ll often say, “That’s it! I’m going for full custody,” as a way to exact revenge. However, again, this is incorrect, as most court favor shared custody. When one parent is favored, it’s often because the other was able to prove that there’s neglect or abuse, for example, with police reports and documentation from social workers.
Mistake #10: Refusing to communicate with your ex.
You may not like your ex very much at all, but if you share children, you need to be able to communicate civilly, especially as you work out custody. Unfortunately, refusing to work with your ex during a court battle may demonstrate to the judge that you’re refusing—or simply can’t - co-parent, leading to possibly not having legal decision-making power when it comes to custody arrangements. (If you don’t want to “talk” to your ex, here are our recommendations for the best tech tools to use to communicate with your ex.)
We always advise consulting with an attorney about your child custody and child support agreements.
If you need help with a family law matter, our attorneys at Smedley Law Group can provide you with the professional advice you need to make an educated decision. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today.