The 5 biggest mistakes people make in custody cases

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Your children are incredible; there isn't a thing you wouldn't do for them. The thought of someone — a stranger — telling you when, where, and how often you can spend time with them is more than you can stand…which is why you're prepared to fight tooth and claw for them.

When you're faced with a custody battle, fear, anger, and strong emotion take over. And when you're ruled by these negative emotions, it's all too easy to act irrationally, jeopardizing the very thing you're fighting to protect — your relationship with your children.

There are many mistakes you can make in the midst of a custody battle but these five are the most common. Take note: if you know the pitfalls in advance it's far easier to rein in your emotions and avoid falling into the same trap yourself.

1. Violating a custody order.

Custody cases can take some time to play out and it's common for a family to be given a temporary custody order until matters can be settled.

If you've been dealt the short straw in a temporary order, of course your first instinct is to grab your kids and head for the hills. You wouldn't be the first or the last to do so. And you wouldn't be the first to realize that it's a spectacularly bad idea.

On a legal footing, you'll weaken your position considerably; the courts are likely to view you as emotionally unstable and unreliable and therefore not a great candidate for sole custody.

That alone should be enough of a deterrent but consider how your children will feel. Initially they may feel like they're on some kind of exciting vacation but the excitement will fade, to be replaced by confusion and worry about when they'll see their other parent, their friends, their school…

2. Getting confrontational.

Divorce is an ugly time that can bring out the worst in anyone: anger, impatience, bitterness are all too common. One of the biggest mistakes you can make though, is to become confrontational whether that's with your spouse, the legal professionals handling your case, or even your kids.

Any uncontrolled display of anger could be used against you as creating a stable, calm environment for the children will always be the top priority for those in charge of ruling on your case.

3. Forgetting what really matters.

When the relationship with their ex-spouse is particularly bad, some find themselves using their kids as a weapon. They may fail to show up for arranged visits with their children just to try to make life harder for their ex. Or they "forget" to pay that month's child support.

If you've fallen into that trap, yes, you're hurting your ex. But you're also hurting your children, as well as your own chances of being granted a fair deal in the custody settlement.

As upset and hurt as you are by the events that led to this point, it's so important to remember what really matters: your children. When it comes to divorce they are completely innocent and as a parent it's your job to make sure they don't get caught in the cross-fire.

4. Relaxing your parenting rules.

Your children are hurting — it's natural that you want to do everything possible to make their lives easier and more fun. And if you're being honest, you definitely want to establish yourself as the favorite parent. The fun parent! The parent that buys them cool stuff and takes them to exciting places.

There are a whole host of reasons why you should avoid this type of behavior. Firstly, it's important that you try to maintain a sense of normality for your kids. If you suddenly start letting them stay up all night or watch age-inappropriate movies just to curry favor with them, it'll only add to their sense of confusion at their whole world suddenly changing.

Secondly, when it comes to making custody decisions, the legal professionals are likely to dig pretty deep — they will be looking at your parenting skills.

This is the time to prove that you're a responsible loving parent, who can set appropriate rules and boundaries, and provide a positive role model for your children.

5. Going straight to an adversarial relationship.

We all think we know what divorce looks like — it's screaming and shouting at each other across a crowded courtroom, it's paying a fortune for divorce attorneys, it's fighting over the kids, and refusing to be in the same room as each other ever again.

The biggest mistake people make is the assumption that it has to be that way, that there is no alternative. It's the failure to even consider collaboration or mediation.

Of course, collaboration or mediation isn't suitable for every couple or for every situation, but a great many families who've assumed their destiny is to fight for their children in a courtroom have discovered that they don't have to go down that road. They've discovered that, with professional guidance, there is an alternative solution that focuses on finding a fair solution for everyone involved. A solution that results in less stress for you, and more importantly, less stress for your children.

If there's one thing that each of these mistakes have in common, it's that the driving emotion behind them is fear or anger at the lack of control. Seeking the help of a collaborative or mediation professional takes control out of the hands of divorce attorneys and judges and gives it back to you, the parents. Even if you think you've run out of options, your mediator or collaborative lawyer may be able to surprise you — part of our skill is knowing when it's too late to come to the table and when there's still hope.

If you're currently affected by this situation and you're looking for ways to reduce the impact a custody battle will have on your children, please do get in touch to find out if I can help you.

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Tuesday, 15 October 2019