Nothing is more important to parents during a divorce than the children. Thus, many parents immediately turn their attention towards “winning” custody of the kids. The following child custody tips and advice will help you ensure that you get a fair shake in the custody arrangement and don’t jeopardize your chances of working out a fair deal.
Child custody tip #1: It’s important to remember that custody evaluations or discussions with a therapist ARE NOT confidential because the written report is distributed to the attorneys and the judge and may even eventually become evidence in a public trial. So normal patient-client privileges do not apply.
Child custody tip #2: Start keeping a diary or journal of your child’s activities and the role you play in their lives. Judges pay attention to effort and take it as a sign of your commitment to the kids. Just be sure to fill it with positive or neutral information. It won’t put you in positive light to merely use this journal to trash your ex-husband or document all the problems the kids have with him. It’s okay to document struggles the kids are having with the divorce – just approach it like a scientist and avoid assigning blame or fault.
Child custody tip #3: Read, read, and read some more. Bury your head in books about children and divorce, and keep a written record of everything you’ve read. Once again, this displays effort and a commitment to do what’s best for the children.
Child custody tip #4: If you can find the time, try to enroll in divorce parenting classes in your area, or engage in other types of education that would boost your skills as a parent. You might even consider enrolling in online child development college courses.
Child custody tip #5: Remember what’s important in child custody arrangements. According to Google, “how to get custody” or “how to get full custody” or “winning custody of the kids” are collectively typed into the search engine 100,000+ times a month. It’s one of the most hot-button issues amidst divorce. Yet we fear these parents may have forgotten about what’s important in child custody situations, and may not have the noblest of motives in mind.
The goal in child custody is not to take the kids away from your former spouse. Nor should it even be to win full custody. Generally speaking, joint-custody situations are the best for your child’s future. You may no longer like your spouse, but he or she is still a crucial part of your children’s lives. Custody is not an opportunity to get back at your spouse or injure them by restricting their contact with the kids, and to be frankly honest, if you’re someone who’s using it as such, you’re not acting like a very good parent yourself.
Divorce legal tip: Don’t let your emotions stop you from fighting for your rights
Some people, men especially, feel so guilty about the failed marriage that they’re willing to let a partner dictate the separation terms. This is a big mistake, especially when it comes to child custody issues.
I don’t care what role you played in the breakup, or if you were an absolute jerk throughout the marriage. It doesn’t matter if you had 10 affairs. Now is not the time to be self-punishing. You’ll have plenty of time to feel guilty later, but you’ll have to live with the terms of the divorce settlement for the rest of your life.
As divorce counselor Barry Frieman states, “You must not allow your feelings of guilt to lead you to do things to punish yourself that affect the relationship with your children. No matter how guilty you feel about your role as a husband, you still have the right and need to be a father to your children.” (2005, p. 13) Educator Rosalind Wisemen agrees, stating that “I’ve spoken with divorce parents who . . . gave full custody of their children to their ex’s because they saw it as in the kid’s best interest – and then felt attacked by parents who told them they ‘hadn’t fought hard enough for their kids.’” (Wiseman, 2006, p. 86)