Sometimes one parent is blindsided when he or she receives a custody or visitation petition, the document that notifies them that the other parent is seeking a change in custody or visitation. Often this happens when the couple has separated, but might be filed even before the divorce. But sometimes you have a ‘heads up’. You can tell a visitation or custody issue is brewing when the other parent starts withholding contact with your child, or trying to set limits on how or when you can see your child.
How to Win Your Custody Case
Make regular attempts to spend time with your child.
If you end up in a custody hearing, the Judge will want proof that you have consistently attempted to spend time with your child. Even when the other parent prevents you from seeing your child, you should nevertheless make a polite and respectful request to arrange reasonable visitation. If possible, make this request by email so you can document it.
Your email should demonstrate you are being flexible about times and days, and that you are using a respectful tone toward the other parent. It should propose a specific time and place for you to spend time with your child. You should repeat this request at least weekly. Even if you’re being ignored or denied, continue to make the request in a respectful manner. Eventually, you may need to file a custody or visitation petition to force the other parent to comply. If so, you’ll want to prove that you’ve been trying to work it out peaceably. You win your custody case by demonstrating desire to see your child, and respect for the other parent.
Do not give in to unreasonable demands from the other parent.
The other parent does not have the right to dictate the terms under which you spend time with your child. It sometimes makes good sense to agree on certain terms, but you should agree only after consultation with your lawyer.
For example, one mother moved out of the marital home and took the couple’s daughter with her. She then demanded that the father give her documented proof that he was attending counseling sessions before she would “allow” him to see his daughter. The father wanted to work things out, so without consulting a lawyer, he gave the mother receipts from his counseling appointments. Then, the mother filed a petition for custody and used the counseling receipts in an attempt to prove that the father was psychologically unfit to be a parent to his daughter.
Do not agree to “terms” set by the other parent without first seeking legal advice. Whether you should agree to these kinds of restrictions is a legal determination based on many factors. Making the wrong choice can have massive consequences. You win your custody case by standing firm on your right to see and care for your child.
Support your child financially, even if the other parent is unfair or wrong.
Even during a dispute of custody or visitation, never withhold financial support for your child. Even if there has been no court-ordered support, you should proactively support your child. Keep proof of your payments, including anything you pay for directly. If you are providing medical insurance for your child, do not drop them from your policy. Contribute money to your child’s expenses, even when you are not getting to see him or her. If you end up in a custody or visitation dispute, your continued support of your child will be a strong factor in your favor. You win your custody case by financially supporting your child, even during a dispute with the other parent.
Do not criticize the other parent in front of your child.
If you do get to spend time with your child, never criticize the other parent. Courts want to see parents who are willing to work together and peaceably co-parent their children. If they get any hint that one parent is attempting to turn the child against the other parent, it will cause problems for that parent’s custody or visitation. To win your custody case, you must demonstrate that you can co-parent without undermining the other parent.
Follow these tips and consult an excellent family law attorney about your case. Too many parents damage their own chances of custody or visitation because they are angry at the other parent. In these decisions, the rational and calm side usually prevails. Contact us to discuss your custody or visitation case.