1. Getting the best child custody results requires that you actively seek out responsibilities for the children that you didn’t traditionally do during the marriage.
Parents often take on different responsibilities during an intact marriage. For example, a dad who works a lot of hours may defer bathing, feeding, and other responsibilities to the mom.
The dad may have never gone shopping for the child during the marriage. But when the parents split up, the dad will need to step up his game and start embracing all the responsibilities. And if Dad and Mom are getting ready to go through the divorce process and the ensuing child custody issues but have not separated, Dad would be wise to start picking up additional responsibilities now.
Not only will this help show the divorce judge that Dad can handle additional time with the children, but it will show Mom too. And sometimes, all Mom needs to agree to liberal time with Dad is to know that Dad can handle it when Mom is in another residence.
2. Shield your children from the pending divorce custody litigation.
The statute is clear: involving the children in the parent’s divorce drama is considered as a negative factor by any divorce judge. Mental health professionals have known for years that involving children in the drama of divorce can negatively affect the children’s well-being.
The law recognizes this, judges take this seriously, and its important to achieving the best child custody results
Do the right thing and you will be rewarded in custody court. Don’t discuss the divorce case with your children.
3. Offer additional time with the other parent for special occasions like birthdays and holidays.
Remember that while it may be inconvenient or even emotionally stressful, the right thing to do is offer the other parent at least some time with the children during special occasions. Also, divorce judges look very favorably upon parents offering such compromises.
4. Offer to use dispute resolution services like parenting coordinators or our family wizard when appropriate.
While this is the right thing to do, focusing on dispute resolution in your dealings with the other parent will indirectly signal to the judge that you are a parent who will always do what is best for the children. And that is a signal that can result in a judge giving you more overnights with your child.
5. Be consistent with discipline and daily routines.
Act like a parent, not a friend. Visits with the non-custodial parents should not be an excuse to eat junk food and go to sleep late.
6. Make sure your children have a bed, appropriate clothing, and the other necessities of life at all costs.
One of any judge’s major pet peeves is a parent who cannot financially support children. Even if you must sacrifice things like golfing, dining out, and vacations, always ensure your children are well-cared for if you expect to get the best custody results
7. Keep a calendar to corroborate your version of events should this case later go into litigation.
Records tell a story that even the most charismatic parent can’t tell. Keeping records of the time you, and the other parent as possible, spend on or with the children can help you win your custody case. This is especially important if the other parent is chronically late, cancels scheduled visits, etc.
8. Don’t say bad things about the other parent, especially to your children or on social media.
Keeping quiet (especially when you don’t want to) will go a long way toward increasing your chances of getting the child custody arrangement that you want. Remember, when any family court case is pending the spotlight is on.
9. Continue to be involved with your children’s extra-curricular and school activities.
While these seems obvious, parents going through a divorce and child custody hearings sometimes begin to see extra-curricular activities as “his” and “hers”. For example, Mom may enroll the daughter in piano, while Dad enrolls the child in karate. Mom may skip the karate, and Dad may be too busy to watch the piano recitals.
Judges see this during child custody trials. Judges are more inclined to award time-sharing to a parent who will support the child at his or her events, even if it is uncomfortable for the parent to do so.
10. Don’t be the nut job parent at your child’s sporting events.
On the flip side, don’t be the crazy parent at a sporting event. Passion has its limits.
We recently had a case where we represented Mom, and Dad went ballistic during a soccer match. Dad shoved another parent, and was arrested. We were able to bring a third party witness (the cop) to potentially testify against Dad. Courts are very weary of parents who are physically violent and commit violent acts on others. This eventually helped settle the case for a favorable resolution for Mom.
11. If you separate and move, move to a place that makes sense for your child’s school and for kid exchange.
This is another factor that makes sense in hindsight, but in the heat of the moment parents often do the wrong thing.
For example, one parent we represented moved to a new residence – 44 miles away from Dad. Sure, it was in the same “town”, but the distance made relatively equal time-sharing almost impossible. Mom moved for a good reason; she had been dominated by Dad during the marriage, and needed the distance, she felt, to help her start over and grow.
Unfortunately, this detrimentally affected the mom for a period of time, so much so that to get the custody result she desired she was forced to move back.
12. Look for witnesses that can help back up your story if needed later.
Divorce cases and child custody trials can often turn into classic “he said she said” cases. And spouses often lie under the pressure of a divorce case. A third party witness can bring evidence to a case that can help support the story of one of the parties. A third party witness can also refute the testimony of a lying spouse. In either care, a witness can help show the Judge the right story to believe.
The best witnesses are those that do not have a stake in the fight. That can be neighbors or acquaintances. Close family members may appear to be biased for one of the parties. Judges often give their testimony less weight when determining the truth.
13. Don’t restrict the other parent’s access to information like medical and school records.
Both spouses have equal rights to the medical and school records of the children. Sometimes however a school or doctor may only have one of the parents’ on file for record purposes.
Be proactive and make sure the other parent has equal access to information. A parent who has traditionally handled these responsibilities can earn brownie points with the Judge by extending an olive branch and showing the other parent exactly what to do get access to records.
14. Be reasonable when the other parent requests a change in the schedule, even if the other parent is a financial deadbeat.
Judges are looking for parents who are flexible with their time when possible. A parent who is unwilling to bend on timesharing when appropriate when the Judge is watching will never be flexible enough to co-parent when the case is settled. And the Judge is is going to be concerned and might be more inclined to maximize the time of the parent.
15. Make sure the other parent has time with the kids – even if the other parent is not paying child support.
Some parents come into litigation mistakenly believing the time with the children is contingent upon paying financial support. This is simply untrue and contrary to Florida’s custody laws.
Look: Nobody likes a deadbeat, especially not Judges. But Judges will swiftly penalize a parent who responds to a financial deadbeat spouse by hurting the child even more.
Keep the two issues separate at all costs.
16. To the highest extent possible, handle parenting responsibilities yourself and don’t delegate out to Grandma, Grandpa, or another third party.
Judges are required to see who is exactly watching the children on a day to day basis. Of course, most parents need to work, and Judges will never penalize a parent for relying on day care and after care when appropriate. But if one parent dumps the children at grandma’s every weekend, the Judges are going to notice. After all, Florida law states that it is better that children spend time with one of their parents than with a babysitter.
17. Keep things stable for your child.
Florida presumes that stability is in the best interests of children.
Of course, divorce and child custody issues create an unstable situation. But how do parents respond to the unstable situation? How does each parent work to bring stability to the children’s life in an unstable time?
18. Take care of yourself: go to the gym, etc. In other words be the strongest parent you can.
Being the best parent possible is no different than being the best businessman or athlete. In all of the above, a solid base is needed to do your job great.
Judges are concerned when a parent responds to a divorce situation by retracting in themselves and not taking care of the bases. Don’t be that parent.
19. Be consistent with your children about routines like bedtimes, brushing teeth, and eating.
There is nothing better for your children and your case then consistency in your daily actions. Judges will look at things like the time that you put your child or children to bed, or your frequency with which you make sure that your children brush their teeth in the morning.
Do you have regular meals with your child or children? Or are they eating McDonald’s every day.
Be consistent with your routines. Not only will help your case, but an overwhelming majority of mental health experts and psychologists agree that this is paramount to your children’s well-being.
20. Help your children with homework; make sure it’s on time and done thoroughly.
In today’s school environment, homework is essential and it’s required of children beginning in kindergarten and first grade. If your child does consistently well with their homework, their self-esteem will go up, and will begin to feel confident in their learning environment.
For most children however, they need help with their homework from their parents to excel. Make sure you are that parent that helps your children. If you want to maximize your chance at the best timesharing plan possible, then act as if you want to be the parent that handles the hard responsibilities. This includes sitting down with pen and paper and covering to your child’s homework on a daily basis.
21. Don’t get into any volatile relationships – even hints of domestic violence charges can sink your child custody and divorce case.
Going through a divorce and child custody case means the end of a relationship. Divorces can take quite some time. It’s not uncommon to see parents while still in the middle of custody litigation beginning new relationships.
If there is ever a time to scout out and be careful of a new boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s when going through a divorce. You need to be careful that any new person that you bring into your life and who may very soon be brought into your children’s life does not have a hint of a past of domestic violence.
If you enter in a relationship with a new person and they have battery or soul charges in their past, you can rest assured that the other parent is going to find out about it in the middle of a contested custody litigation. Think about it: almost everything can be found online with a quick Google search. That which cannot, can be found with a background check report ordered online instantaneously. And in contested custody litigation, dating somebody with a violent past can be seen as reckless in the eyes of the judge.
22. Take any new relationships slowly.
It seems like such obvious advice, but rarely follow: take any new relationship with any significant other slowly. Specifically, take time before introducing your new boyfriend or girlfriend to your children.
Frankly, the statute doesn’t exactly directly address whether or not this is good or bad thing. Rather, people need to recognize that judges are human beings and judges aren’t necessarily thrilled when a parent moves on to another relationship right away. This is especially true when a mother or father moves in with the new boyfriend or girlfriend during pending litigation.
Look, if the relationship is meant to be it will be there in a couple of months. But when your kids are at stake, you’re in the middle of contested litigation, be conservative and be slow-moving in your new relationships.
Be honest: don’t make false allegations or devise other ways to unfairly try to make the other parent look bad.
23. If your spouse is restricting your time-sharing, demand more time in writing.
Quite commonly a parent will restrict the time-sharing with the other parent unilaterally during a pending dissolution or time-sharing case. It’s not so much that the parent has the right to restrict time-sharing; usually it’s that one parent is forceful about it, and the other parent wisely shows restraint and doesn’t overstepped the bounds. After all, what are you really going to do? Have a tug-of-war with the other parent about your children? Clearly there are limits to how far one parent can go.
If the other parent is unnecessarily restricting your time-sharing, then your attorney is going to push to get the issue hurt in front of the judge. But when it’s not an emergency situation it takes time. So while you’re waiting, build your written record. Put in writing your demands for more time-sharing with your children. Keep it coming. When you put this in writing either via email or otherwise, you can share it with your attorney who can use it in part of the judge later.
24. Over communicate with the other parent about your children…even when it’s tough.
One of the hardest things for parents to do after their relationship has gone south is to communicate at all. Yet while it can be difficult to get over the emotional damage that has happened when a relationship ends badly, there is no choice when children are involved. Both parents must learn to communicate because it’s for the best of the children.
The ability to communicate from one parent to the other in the interest of the children is a factor that the courts will look at and contested custody litigation. Therefore, if you’re trying to maximize your time-sharing with your children, over communicate with the other parent no matter how painful it is.
25. Keep the partying to a minimum.
While this seems like common sense, keep your partying to a minimum when there’s contested custody litigation. Recognize that in the age of Facebook, social media, and the Internet at whole, your life and your actions can be made public in the blink of an eye. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with partying, time and time again we see cases where one parent has had a little too much to drink, or acted just a little bit too high, and was caught on camera in a ridiculous position.
When your kids are at issue, be smart. Keep the partying to a minimum.
26. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it.
Unfortunately the emotional trauma from an underlying breakup can often cause parents to say things to each other that they later regret. And when these statements are written down whether an email or a text message, they often find their way into divorce proceedings and contested custody litigation proceedings weeks or months and sometimes even years after they were made.
The best practice is to prepare yourself at the onset: take a deep breath when you get emotional and remember that there is nothing to be gained by saying nasty things to the other parent. While it may make you feel better in the short term, very likely that feel good feeling will be fleeting. And you’ll be left with a recorded statement that could make the court question how you’re going to work with the other parent in the future.
27. Get your kids to school on time.
Get your kids to school on time. There is a written record at every school of how many times your child comes in late, and how many days your child misses. Don’t be the parent that has to explain to a judge why your child had perfect attendance with the other parent, but your child missed ten days during the spring semester when your child was with you.
28. Nurture a good relationship with your child and the other parent: don’t alienate one from the other.
At the end of the day, in close call cases, the court is going to side with the parent that it thinks will work hard to foster a positive relationship with the other parent. It’s that simple. Things can be so difficult in child custody litigation. Parents often struggle to get over their past together in doing the right things for the children. Courts as a result are always looking out for the parent that is willing to go above and beyond to help nurture a good relationship between the child and the other parent. And that parent is one that the courts are going to trust majority time-sharing.
Use a counselor for yourself if it seems appropriate.
29. If you think your child would benefit from counseling, communicate with the other parent; don’t go do it alone.
While many experts agree that separated parents are better for children than parents that are living under the same household but are in chaotic states, we still must recognize that the divorce situation can be traumatic on children. The situation is all new, and while many children handle it fantastically, some children have a difficult time he could benefit from counseling.
With that said, do not go to counseling route alone. Rather, work with your spouse to see if it’s something that you guys can agree upon. You have to balance to equities: first, you have to make sure that you do right by your child. Second, these become joint decisions that you must make with the other spouse. Therefore, do not go it alone. If needed and you still can’t have your other spouse agree with you, then consider getting a parenting coordinator other third-party facilitator to help you and your spouse communicate in the short term while you work through the issues of divorce.
30. Make healthcare decisions with the other parent.
In much the same vein, make non emergency healthcare decisions with the other parent. This is fundamental co parenting, and you can bet that the judge is going to look at how you made healthcare decisions during the pendency of the dissolution of marriage.
31. Don’t miss your timesharing days with your child.
And finally, although obvious, don’t miss days with your child. If you have, say 90 days of time-sharing with your child during a six-month pending dissolution case, and you missed 20 of those days, how do you think that will look in front of the judge? After all, contested child custody litigation is usually both parents fighting for more time with the children.
Missing days without a good reason during a pending dissolution or child custody litigation can be fatal to your case.