The process of going through a divorce is almost always a period of intense emotions. These emotions are heightened even further when there are children involved as a parent’s future relationship with their child could be jeopardised depending on how the case is settled.
During these situations it’s prudent to engage the consultancy of experienced custody lawyers, such as Dom Velcic & Co Solicitors. These family law experts know how to help you navigate the legal complexities of your case and identify a clear path forward.
However, even with the help of an experienced custody lawyer, many parents will make similar mistakes going into legal disputes involving children and their ex-partner. The following will take a look at the 3 biggest mistakes that parents rountinley make during child custody disputes.
1. Attempting to manipulate the child or children
This is definitely the most widespread mistake parents make with regards to child custody disputes. It is particularly common when two people have been engaged in a legal dispute for a long period of time.
This kind of behaviour can manifest in a diverse number of ways ranging in severity from simply bad mouthing the other parent in front of the child to directly instructing a child to lie about abuse etc. Of course, this kind of tactic has a hugely negative psychological effect on children and this strongly condemned by the court system for this reason.
Making the child feel sorry for you, whether inadvertently or not, is also an issue here. This includes actions like crying profusely in front of the child after interacting with the other parent or saying things like “your father/mother has abandoned me”.
These kinds of tactics are far less effective today because judges have gotten very good at identifying when a child has been fed their opinion by one parent or another. Parents who are caught attempting to coerce their children are at a huge disadvantage in a courtroom as the judge will no longer see them as having a reputable character.
The judge will assume that this person cares more about ‘winning’ against their ex-partner than reaching an arrangement in the best interests of the child. Once a judge has this opinion of you it can be very difficult to change.
It’s also counterproductive in terms of building a positive relationship with children. Children tend to figure things out on their own and will grow to resent any parent who deliberately undermined their relationship with the other.
2. Failing to make a genuine attempt at negotiation
Obviously, due to the nature of relationship breakdowns, there’s usually a high degree of acrimony involved. Separations that were prompted by issues like infidelity, family violence and drug abuse can be particularly toxic with one or both parties appearing to sincerely hate one another.
While your ex-partner may be the last person in the history of the human race you’d want to speak with, if you have children you will both have to interact eventually. This has nothing to do with the pride of either party, it’s about securing the best possible arrangement in order to protect the lifestyle and aspirations of the child or children.
Children benefit greatly when separating parents are able to put aside their personal animosity and handle their divorce cordially. When both parents are still active in the child’s daily life, they can really thrive.
When parents fail to cooperate, you end up with the classic situation of ‘mum’s house VS dad’s house’ where the child’s lifestyle differs greatly between both households. When a child grows up witnessing an endless back and forth between you and your ex-partner, they will simply learn to play both of you against each other in order to get what they want.
This causes children to be more rebellious and destructive as parents will be reluctant to discipline a child they think will simply cosy up to the other parent. This causes very problematic family relationships and is often a precursor to issues like petty crime and illegal drug use.
Because of the backlog of cases waiting to be heard by the Family Courts, the legal system heavily encourages disputing parents to come to custody arrangements outside of the courtroom. This has caused judges to heavily scrutinise any party that fails to attempt family law mediation.
While the court system obviously does not expect separating parents to be best friends, it expects that both parties should be mature enough to settle matters relating to their children in a productive and non-abusive manner.
3. Not being honest about drug or alcohol abuse
Another huge mistake people make during child custody disputes is failing to be honest about their use of drugs and/or alcohol. This is because drug and alcohol abuse is normally one of the first things claimed by the other parent.
It’s important to be honest and upfront about any drugs you have used recently and in what context you used them. Remember; the court cares more about a drug’s potential to affect your ability to parent rather than the fact you have done it.
If you have dealt with a substance abuse issue in the past and have evidence of rehabilitation, the court system should not see you any less favourably than the other parent. The court system cares about your future ability to be a caregiver, not your past issues.