The animosity between former spouses can clearly affect children. However, it can also affect the ability of parents to retain child custody and visitation rights. When parents display the following behaviors, it can endanger their position in the mind of a judge:
Not spending enough time with the kids: Courts tend to award primary custody to the parent who plays the most significant role in their children’s day-to-day lives. Parents who don’t take an active role in their children’s home lives, education and extracurricular activities will usually be at a disadvantage during a child custody dispute.
Glossing over “parental fitness” issues: Even casual use of alcohol or drugs can have a negative impact on a parent’s custody battle. Parents with a history of substance abuse will likely face significant investigation, especially if they have not successfully completed treatment. The same goes for parents who have a history of domestic abuse, violence or other criminal acts.
Leaving a paper trail: Parents should assume that every email, text, voicemail and social media message they send will be permanently available and eventually submitted to the court. Too many lose custody because of impulsive messages they have sent to a third party.
Disparaging the ex: Courts want to see that both parents are able to cooperate in the child’s best interest. If one parent is unreasonably negative toward the other, the court may worry that the parent will attempt to interfere with the custody arrangement or deny the other parent access to the children.
Not displaying self control: Divorce is stressful. Far too many parents, though, hurt their cases by making an angry outburst in front of a social worker, teacher, neighbor or their ex’s attorney. Some even lose their temper in open court. Evidence of angry outbursts is almost sure to damage a parent’s case.
Before embarking on a child custody battle, parents would be wise to consult with an experienced family law attorney and, more importantly, to follow that attorney’s advice. Most lawyers have navigated enough custody cases that they are able to quickly spot trouble areas and help clients minimize negative impacts.