If you have young children and are going through a divorce, the courts will determine child custody or parental responsibilities. People often refer to “custody” for both legal and physical custody, but they are two separate decisions. Know that it’s possible for children to spend half their time with you, but your ex still has authority to make major decisions on their behalf.
When it comes to determining both physical and legal custody, the judge will take a variety of factors into account. At the end of the day, he or she will always rule what he or she believes is in the best interest of your children. During the custody hearing, here’s everything you want to avoid to show the judge that the best of interest of your children is to remain with you.
1. Avoid verbal accusations with your ex-spouse and/or children
There will be times where you feel agitated and want to speak out against your spouse, but the best thing to do is to remain calm, especially when around your children. No judge will favor the parent who cannot maintain their composure in stressful situation. Also avoid getting into arguments with your children or badmouth the other parent in front of your children. If you cannot resolve your dispute, it’s likely the court may need to interview the children and their opinions may influence the judge’s decision.
2. Avoid physical altercation with your ex-spouse and/or children
Verbal fights are bad, but physical arguments are much worse. Physical altercations will immediately result in losing the custody battles as well as lead to charges of physical or child abuse and even Injunction (restraining order). Even then, it will be almost impossible to share custody to co-parent your children.
3. Avoid introducing your children to your new partner
You may be tempted to start dating again once your divorce is finalized, maybe even more so if the end of the marriage was caused by your spouse being involved with someone else. But during and even after the divorce, it’s a good idea to avoid having your children meet your new partner. This can cause confusion and even create unnecessary drama, especially if they (or your ex-spouse) doesn’t like your new partner.
4. Avoid criticizing the other parent to friends, family and legal parties
When speaking with your child custody attorney, your spouse’s attorney, family and even friends, remember that anything you say can be used against you in court (doesn’t that sound familiar?). Even if that person didn’t intentionally mean to repeat what you said, something can slip out. They may also be called up on to testify under oath, meaning sworn to tell the truth. Therefore it’s most important to keep your thoughts to yourself. This also includes posting on social media. Always assume everything you say or do can be used against you.
5. Avoid neglecting any child support payments and other parental responsibilities
If you and your ex-spouse have agreed upon child or spousal support payments during the divorce process, you must make them, even if it’s not court-ordered. If it is court-ordered, it’s even more crucial to pay them. If not, it shows contempt for the court’s temporary judgement as well as that you may not have your children’s best interests at heart. This also includes failing to meet responsibilities you’ve agreed to do, such as picking up your children for visitation and returning them at the agreed-upon times and places.
6. Avoid damaging property that belongs to your spouse
Similar to fighting or arguing, it’s crucial to avoid losing your patience and breaking or damaging property belonging to your ex, including their car, home or personal belongings. You also shouldn’t be destroying any joint property, even if you paid for it all yourself. Anything purchased during the term of the marriage is considered marital property; never damage, destroy or sell anything until the divorce is final.
7. Avoid denying your children contact with the other parent during your scheduled visit
You can never deny your ex reasonable contact with your children, especially if they have visitation rights and are following regulations imposed by the courts.
8. Avoid removing children from schedule activities
Do your best to keep them in all their activities at school, including sports and other programs. This may not always be possible, but it’s important to do everything you can. It’s also important not to schedule things during the time your kids are with the other parent without their consent. Keep things as close to normal as possible during a divorce and try to avoid any unnecessary issues by doing anything that might compromise your ability to co-parent.
9. Avoid traveling with your children without informing your spouse
If you’re taking your children out of state, or anywhere away from the home for a few nights, always inform your ex. While they may not be able to prevent the travel, it’s common courtesy to acknowledge their right to know where their children are.
Work with a Child Custody Attorney
If you are going through divorce and child custody hearing, it’s highly recommended work with an experienced child custody attorney. If you live or work near the Schaumburg, IL area, the divorce attorneys at Allen Gabe Law, P.C. are highly skilled and can provide expert advice, whether you are seeking contested or uncontested divorce.
Our child custody attorneys will guide you through each step of the process, from filing the petition to discovery to settlement negotiations. If you and your spouse have disagreements, we won’t hesitate to take the case to trial and effectively argue on your behalf.
Child custody cases can be long and even expensive, but our child custody attorneys will come to an effective solution as they are familiar with all aspects of Illinois law. Overall, we will ensure the best interests of you and your children.