Before engaging in a custody or conservatorship battle you need to way the cost. A custody battle will very likely:
- Cause you and your child pain
- drain your bank account
- cost you time as it drags and on
However, sometimes a custody battle is your only choice.
When possible I encourage parents to try and work out their differences though alternative dispute process such as mediation where they are able create a plan that will work for both parents.
However, sometimes this is not possible because of:
- conflicting personalities
- One of the parents is a violent or abusive or
- One of the parents is engaged in self destructive behavior involving alcohol or drugs
In such cases is not a choice your only option may be going to court. Whatever the reason maybe you will need to prepare yourself to quickly get up to speed on the details of your children and the process ahead.
Below are a few tips to help you and your children prepare for the coming battle:
- Try to settle out of court
- Consult with a Family and Divorce Lawyer before you start a battle
- Try and Minimize your Children’s Exposure to the Case
- Are you fighting for the right reasons?
- Support your Children
- Control Yourself
- Do not engage in parental alienation or make up allegations regarding your EX
- Refrain from moving in with someone new right now
- Work on making a good impression with everyone in the court system
- Stay involved with your children and know about their lives
- Start Documenting Everything
- Do not give up on your children
Try to settle out of court
As mentioned earlier fighting a custody battle and going trial is:
- Expensive and
- In some ways, a gamble because you never know what a judge is going to do
We strongly encourage our clients to make every effort to settle out of court because:
- Gives you more control over the outcome of your case
- When you settle, you know what the outcome will be unlike a trial
- If you do not like what is being offered you still have the option of going to trial
Consult with a Family and Divorce Lawyer before you start a battle
You think twice about representing yourself in a custody case on your own. My best advice to you is that you need a Texas divorce and Family Lawyer to help you through the process.
It is a good idea to setup a consultation with a divorce and family lawyer even if you are not ready to begin. In my article “6 Tips for Getting a Free Divorce Consultation” I discuss some things you should look for in attorney and how one of the best ways to find a good attorney is to set up a consultation. I steer people to interviewing attorneys who offer free consultations because these consults can add up quickly and the case hasn’t even started and you do not know whether the lawyer will be a good fit for you or your case.
Try and Minimize your Children’s Exposure to the Case
Just because you are involved in a custody battle does not mean you should not make an effort to try to keep your children out of the battle. For example:
- Do not talk about the case to them or in front of them.
- Do not bad mouth the other parent to them or allow others to bad mouth the other parent in front of them.
- Avoid fighting with their other parent in front of them.
- Do not bring them to court unless a judge gives you permission. Judges hate when parents bring their children to court.
Are you fighting for the right reasons?
Is what you are fighting for really what is in the best interest of your children? Is there an alternative or some middle ground where you avoid placing your children in a tug of war battle?
- What are you fighting about?
- Is the other parent a bad parent?
- Are they dangerous?
- Are you only fighting about their parenting style?
- A different parenting style is not necessarily going to be seen as bad by a court.’
- Just because you no longer like the other parent does not mean they do not have rights as a parent.
- Protecting your kids from an abusive parent is a good reason to engage in a custody battle.
- If you are fighting about custody to gain leverage over your ex that is not a good reason.
- Are you fighting over your children just to hurt your ex?
Make sure you fighting because your truly believe that is what is in their best interest.
A court makes its decision on who wins custody or is the primary conservator of a child by what it believes to be in your child’s best interest. This must become your frame of reference to if you want to win custody.
When making your decisions, you need to consider is it in your child best interest that:
- You move to a cheaper home
- Your child changes school district
- Child participate in extracurricular activities
- You get a new job, or a second job
- You are required to travel
- You work long hours
- You work a night shift
Support your Children
In Texas under the family code parents have an obligation to support their children.
It does not matter that:
- Your bills are eating you alive
- Your spouse is a jerk
- Your spouse is interfering with your time with your children
Your children need:
- to eat
- a roof over their heads
That must support them. A court will consider your actions in making its custody decision. If you are not supporting your children a court will count that against you in its decision.
While you are going through a custody battle, your life will be under a lot of scrutiny. Everything you do and people you are involved with can potentially make a difference in your case.
- Sending hateful or inappropriate text message, emails, phone calls to your spouse when you are mad. Those communications you sent to your spouse will show up later as evidence against you.
- Stay off social media anything you post may show up later as evidence against you.
- It is important that you conduct yourself in a courteous manner always. Obviously, a witness is not going to make a good impression on the stand if he has had an unfriendly encounter with a juror in traffic, or, if after his testimony, a juror hears him in the hall laughing at something humorous that occurred in the courtroom.
I have had clients:
- lose control and get confrontational in court on the witness stand it did not impress the judge.
- lose control and corner their wife in the courtroom in front of the bailiff and almost get arrested.
Maybe this bad behavior helped them win their arguments during the marriage. However, I suspect it was one of the reasons they were now involved in a divorce.
I can tell you this type of behavior will greatly hinder your chances of a favorable outcome while going through any type of family law case.
Do not engage in parental alienation or make up allegations regarding your EX
Under Texas Family Code parents are supposed to encourage their children to have a relationship with the other parent. If you are interfering with a child’s relationship with the other parent, then a court will consider those actions when making its custody decision.
There are exceptions to the rule in certain grave situations such as if the other parent poses a danger to child. In such a situation then there will be hearing regarding limiting that parents access to the child. However, if you are alienating a child from the other parent just because of a personal dislike then you are in danger of losing your custody case.
Do not make up or exaggerate things about your ex. If you lie it can hurt you. If you are caught in a lie it will destroy your credibility with a judge.
False allegations or exaggerations will show a judge that you cannot be trusted to facilitate a child relationship with the other parent. Will make a judge concerned about leaving the children in your care.
Refrain from moving in with someone new right now
Some have counties in Texas have a standing order in place which puts an automatic “morality clause” in place while you are going through a divorce. A morality clause basically means you are not allowed to have someone you have a romantic relationship spend the night when you have the children.
This means if you move in with someone you are having a romantic relationship you would never be able to have the children overnight while you are living with that individual.
For the county’s that do not have the standing order you are still under the scrutiny of a Judge or an Amicus attorney and they may take a dim view of your actions.
Alternatively, whoever your new partner is may have their own baggage that they bring with them and depending on their past it may affect the outcome of your case. I have had more than one case where that is exactly what happened. Where my client should have won the custody case but because they got involved with someone the Judge did not think should be around the children the judge ruled against my client.
Work on making a good impression with everyone in the court system
It is important that you work on making a good impression with everyone involved in your case.
- the judge,
- the Amicus
- the mediator
- and anyone else involved in your case
These people can affect you and your child’s lives:
- when and how often you see your children
- whether you will have the right to make parental decisions
- where your children will be living
You do not want to make a bad impression or get on their bad side. You may not like the decision makers in your case your opinion of the does not matter. If you let your dislike show it may influence their decision against you.
Stay involved with your children and know about their lives
It is very important that you stay involved with your children and know about the details of their lives.
- Attend your child’s school conferences
- Meet their teachers
- Know the name of your child’s teachers.
- schedule monthly meeting with their teacher so you are aware of your child’s progress
- Make sure you are in the system to get report cards and notices
- Is your child doing their schoolwork, doing well, getting along with other children, happy or sad?
- Make sure the school has your contact info and the teachers know they can call you at anytime
- Make sure you are on the emergency contact list
- Take them to the doctor or attend all doctor’s visits
- Introduce yourself to all the doctors even if they do not have a checkup coming up any time soon
- Know the name and location of your child’s doctor’s, dentist, therapist etc.
- Let the doctors know they can contact you anytime and that you are very interested in how your child is doing
- Attend all extra-curricular activities
- Know what activities your child is involved in
- Volunteer to drive in their carpool before or after school if you can.
It is very important that you stay active in your kids’ lives. If you are fighting for custody and do not know the answers or are not participating in the above things it will weaken your case.
If you are participating it will help you look good to the court and will also strengthen your relationship with your kids.
Start Documenting Everything
You are more credible in court if you can back up your allegations with evidence. For example, telling the judge your husband is violent. Is not as good as telling the judge on this date in summer of 2016 my husband did XYZ.
Memory is perfect, so if you keep a record of dates and events it will help you and your attorney when preparing for court.
- When you and the other parent exercise visitation
- why you or the other parent failed to exercise visitation or switch visitation schedules
- Keep track of who has the children on what holiday.
- Get a calendar and write down everything you do with your children
- Write down what you spend on your children
Documenting can be:
- as simple as recording in a journal on pen and paper
- On a calendar
- In a word document
- There are also several online programs available to parents to help you keep track of the time and money you spend on your kids
- Discussions with the other parent
- Your child's mood and emotions when interacting with the other parent
- Your child's behavior
- Issues you want to talk about with the other parent
- How your child is doing in school and other activities
- Your child's milestones and development
- Anything you want to remember
While documenting every aspect of you and your children’s lives may seem tedious right now, you will be glad you did when it comes time for mediation or testifying in court.
Do not give up on your children
You should keep the court case in perspective. Even if the judge rules against you, do not:
- let that keep you from caring about your children
- stop seeing your children as much as you can
- caring about your children
show your children that they are really what is important to you. A custody case is not a winner takes all scenario. Where if you win, you must disappear. Keeping a relationship with your children is what is most important.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- Roadmap of Basic Divorce Procedure in Texas
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- 6 Mistakes that can Destroy Your Texas Divorce Case
- 10 Quick Tips About Parental Visitation
- Does it Matter who Files First in a Texas Divorce?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.