Parenting: What the Court Thinks
Based on my experience as a family law attorney, I can tell you what the Court thinks of how you are parenting during your divorce or child custody dispute. I have made you a basic list of "Do's and Don'ts" for parenting during your divorce, or during a child custody dispute.
A few caveats: The things I am about to list are applicable to divorcing couples in a NORMAL parenting situation. These things do not apply in situations of abuse, neglect, criminal activity, etc. Another caveat - divorces and child custody disputes are REALLY hard on kids. It is really great to get them in to a counselor, social worker, or psychologist who can help them transition.
1. DO be there for your child.
This is number one. No matter how much you are hurting, no matter how hard this is for you - your little one is having a really, really tough time and does not understand it was well as you do. Help them. Take them to a counselor. Be present. Be empathetic. Be the best you that you can be to them. If your case goes to court, your efforts here will be noticed.
2. DO try to facilitate the child's time with the other parent.
That other parent is half of your child. Do not forget this. Most likely, your child enjoys their time with the other parent. If you stand in the way of this time with the other parent, it makes you look very bad to the judge in your case, and it will hurt your child in the process.
3. DO NOT speak ill of the other parent in the front of the child.
Again - your child is composed 50% of the other parent's DNA. They likely love the other parent. Speaking ill of them only hurts them, and makes things harder for them. Keep your ill will to yourself. If it comes out in Court that you spoke poorly of your ex , or tried to groom your child to dislike your ex, it only reflects poorly on you.
4. DO try to keep things as normal as possible for the child.
Your child has enough change in their life right now. If you can help it, change as little as possible. Try not to change your living environment, try to keep their room the same if you do have to move, try to stick to a schedule and keep them in the activities that they are used to. Maintaining a stable environment for your child is not only good for them, it will make you look good to a judge.
5. DO try to avoid going to Court over your parenting plan.
I'm giving you these tips about Court. But, honestly, the best plan is just to not to go to Court over your parenting plan if you can help it. I know very, very well that there are situations where it cannot be avoided, and that is why the Court system is in place, and why you need to find a good lawyer. And trust me, lawyers make a lot more money going to Court than settling cases so it maybe is not a great business idea to discourage it. But, it's a human decency thing - Court is hard on everyone. It is hard on you. It is hard on your ex. It is hard on your bank accounts. It is hard, hard, hard on your kids. No matter how much you try to shelter them, they will know what is going on on some level, and it will hurt them. What the Court likes most of all is to see people agree on a parenting plan and work together to implement it. Period.
6. DO go easy on yourself, no one is perfect in a divorce.
You are not going to do everything perfectly in this situation. That is a fact. And it is OK. Humans are not perfect, parents are not perfect. You want to be - and that is a good thing. It shows you that you care enough to try. And that is really what matters. So, try not to beat yourself up when you make a mistake.
Judges are people too. They want to see happy children, and they want to see parents co-parenting successfully. Following these tips will give you a good start. I wish you the best of luck in doing the best you can to co-parent and keep those kids happy!