The DOs and DON'Ts During Your Child Custody Dispute

I don't know if anyone is ever comfortable with the idea of “fighting” over their children, but child custody disputes are the most common and difficult—both emotionally and from a legal standpoint—areas of conflict that I see in my West Michigan family law practice.

What do you do if you are one of those parents, and you find yourself on the brink of what feels like an emotional war over your kids. Or, what if it's already turned nasty, and everything you do seems to be getting back to the judge?

Begin by asking yourself: what type of parent do you believe you are? Would a judge think you were a good parent if they could see your behavior, even outside of the courtroom, during the case? Do your decisions reflect a parent that puts the needs of their children ahead of themselves? It's important to understand that your day-to-day actions and words—whether done and said in the heat of an emotional conversation with ex or not— will make their way to the judge if your case goes to trial. And if you are reading this and thinking this won’t happen in your specific situation, I implore you to think again.

Emotions and feelings of betrayal or entitlement aside, you need to understand what any judge hearing your child custody case will be concerned with.

Judges are concerned with the "moral fitness" or character of the person standing in front of them and that person's ability to make good decisions as a parent. Yes, that means that whether you like it or not, or you think it is fair or not, your judge will use the evidence that is presented to her in your trial as the basis of determining your character. That means your judge is tasked by the law to make their best decision about who are you as a parent, and whether you truly put your kids’ best interests first, without the benefit of having seen who you may have been before you found yourself in this awful situation. So what do you do to ensure that your judge sees you in the light you see yourself as your children’s parent? Here are some DOs and DON'Ts I recommend to my own clients to help them prevail in their child custody cases:

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