If you and the other parent of your child are involved in a custody dispute, you’re probably considering, “What should you not do in a custody battle?” There are many things you should avoid if you want to get custody of your child. These items are mostly common sense and require that you be as thoughtful and rational as possible. Your deep love for your child shouldn’t be converted into an emotional test of wills over custody.
Unless your spouse has serious personal problems like substance abuse, a severe physical or mental illness, or a history of emotional and or physical abuse of you and or your child, the two of you will probably share legal custody. That’s the ability to make important and major decisions about your child’s life (education, healthcare, religious upbringing).
There’s also physical or residential custody, which is time spent living with your child. This is also typically shared in some way (sharing doesn’t necessarily mean 50/50) unless the other parent is unwilling or unable to care for the child (in these cases, the parent usually has a right to spend time with the child, known as visitation). A schedule between the two of you, like all custody issues, will be decided by the judge based on your child’s best interests. One example is to devise a schedule that makes sense during the school year and then alternate holidays and summer vacations. Of course, if you and the other parent live reasonably close to one another, then each of you spending time or overnights with your children during the school week is not so difficult.
One thing you should try very hard not to do is to take your custody dispute to trial. That can be very expensive in time, energy, stress, and money. It would also put your child in a tough situation as the focus of a courtroom dispute between two parents he or she loves. It’s usually much better for both parents and their children to put emotions aside, make some concessions to obtain some goals, and reach a custody agreement both of you accept.
What Can Be Used Against You in a Custody Battle?
Our child custody attorneys are skilled negotiators and will walk you carefully through the process to be sure we protect the interests of you and your children. It’s important to know there are things not to do to have better chances of getting a favorable custody order and our experienced attorneys will help you avoid those missteps. A New Jersey statute (NJSA 9:2-4(c)) spells out factors a judge will consider when deciding which parent should get what kind of custody. You have some control over most, but not all, of them.
What can be used against you in a custody battle are actions and words that make these statutory issues illustrate it’s not in your child’s best interests that you have custody.
Do’s and Don’ts Tips You Can Use as a Guide
There are several points in New Jersey law that clarify what factors go into the court’s custody decision. While the law implies what you can do, it also lets you know what you should not do. Here are guidelines to steer you away from trouble that could hurt you in gaining the custody you want.
- “The parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child.” Don’t be uncooperative and shut off discussions unless you have a compelling reason. You need to be flexible and engage in give and take as best as you can with the other parent.
- “The parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse.” It’s best to avoid stonewalling. Keep an open mind, and be reasonable with a visitation schedule—unless there’s evidence that the child is in physical or mental danger with the other parent
- “The interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings.” Don’t take your stress out on your child. Making your child miserable isn’t a recipe for child custody success.
- “The history of domestic violence, if any.” Don’t be violent with the other parent or, of course, with your child. If you were in the past, recognize it was a problem, address it, seek professional help, and don’t do it again.
- “The safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent.” Don’t engage in violence or threats—or anything that could be perceived as a threat—with the other parent. This means, be careful with the frequency and the substance of all of your communications, including and especially anything in writing like text messages or emails.
- “(T)he stability of the home environment offered.” It is important that your home environment be set up in a way that promotes success for your child. Is it organized? Clean? Does your child have his/her own room? A place to study? What is the safety of the neighborhood like? Also, if you are planning on dating, do not introduce your child to everyone you intend to date. Reserve that meeting for only special relationships where things are getting serious.
- “(T)he quality and continuity of the child’s education.” With all that’s going on, don’t ignore your child’s education. Be super involved, help with homework, encourage your child, support your child emotionally, get him or her extra help if needed, and communicate with your child’s teachers—heck, join the PTA if you can! On a basic level, make sure your child is fed, gets enough sleep, does their homework, and is ready to learn when they get to school.
- “(T)he fitness of the parents.” Love and care for your child. If your child needs medical attention or emotional help, get it. Don’t wait. Don’t think you know it all. It is better to ask for help than potentially put your child in danger because your ego got in the way. Keep a clean home and dress your child in clean/neat clothes. Don’t make bad life choices. Stay away from non-prescription or illegal drugs and excessive alcohol. Don’t get involved in a number of personal or sexual relationships—or at least don’t let your child know! You need not be the perfect parent, just the best parent you can be.
- “(T)he extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation.” In addition to all the rules above, spend as much quality time as you can with your child NOW. As much as the court wants to see you being a responsible parent, it also wants you and your child to have fun together. Do things you child expresses they like.
- “(T)he parents’ employment responsibilities.” You need a job to earn income so you can have a stable home and care for your child. Ideally, a steady job is best for obvious reasons. If you or the other parent work odd or abnormal hours, that is okay. It is best to deal with that upfront when discussing any visitation schedule to find something that works for everyone involved, but most importantly, the best interest of the child. It could turn out to be that one parent may spend more time with the child because of the work schedules of you both, or maybe, a babysitter or nanny will be needed? It is always the preference for a biological parent to care for the children over a third party.
How You Can Lose a Custody Battle
We Can Help You Avoid Potential Mistakes
Doing and saying the wrong things at the wrong time is how you can lose a custody battle. If your dispute is especially emotional or the issues are complicated, not having effective legal representation is also how you can lose a custody battle. You can also lose a custody battle if your “story” doesn’t sound logical or reasonable—or if what you put on social media undermines what you are saying. So be super careful about what you say and do and what you put out into the internet world.
Retain an attorney experienced in family law. At Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC, our lawyers have decades of experience helping families in custody cases.
We are committed to creating solutions that consider the concerns of all those involved. The best custody agreements have the children’s needs and happiness at the center. We are skilled negotiators who seek win-win outcomes while always representing our clients with zealous advocacy. To find out more about how we can help, call us at 201-880-9770.