Mistakes to Avoid Making in Your Child Custody Case

Child custody cases are not necessarily about who is the best parent or who the kids like the best. What a child custody case often comes down to is who makes the fewest number of mistakes. Unforced errors, in other words, are what you want to avoid in a divorce. It’s true enough that mistakes happen in a divorce and are inescapable sometimes. Things happen that nobody could have anticipated. However, when you can avoid a mistake, it is best to do so. Failing to avoid an obvious mistake is what you should try to avoid. 

Before you start to wonder how so many people make mistakes that are avoidable in a divorce consider what happens in a divorce case. You are stressed out about any number of topics in the divorce. Child custody issues come up and you start to wonder how they are going to impact your children. The child custody issues that many parents struggle with are in and of themselves not impossible to solve. However, coupled with the other stressors in a divorce it appears that they are sometimes. We want to help you avoid those mistakes and place the focus of your case where it ought to be your children. 

Child custody- what is it?

A child custody case involves issues of possession, access, rights, and duties related to minor children. You may be surprised to learn that the term “custody” does not appear in the Texas Family Code. Rather the term custody is used casually by just about everyone who is involved in the field of family law. Judges and attorneys alike use this term casually. However, other terms are more accurate when it comes to describing a family law case involving children. 


Conservatorship is the bread and butter of a child custody case. To understand better what makes a child custody case so important you must understand about conservatorship. When you hear the word “conservatorship” it may sound funny or strange. Conservatorship refers to the rights and duties of one person who is responsible for the care of another person. In this context, we are talking about you caring for your child. 

The rights mean your right to make decisions for your child. These run from relatively simple decisions like what to feed your child for dinner to more complex ones like what religion to raise your child in, if any. Duties mean your responsibility to care for your child. Caring for a child is about more than helping him or her with homework. Caring for your child means preparing him or her for the rest of their life. This is not a beauty contest and you are not always able to make parenting look like a breeze. No parent is perfect but your love for your child shines through even during the toughest times.

Do not take for granted these rights and responsibilities. Many parents go through a family law case and do not think twice about these rights and duties. Their focus lies mainly in parenting time. Focusing on one-upping your co-parent in certain areas leads you nowhere promising. Rather, focusing your attention on what matters most to your child helps the most. The rest of your case is not going to stick long in your memory. Thoughts about how you did not accomplish certain goals concerning your child stick around a lot longer. 

Getting bogged down in tedious arguments

While we are discussing topics that tend to become more and more important as your case goes along, arguing with your spouse is something that you need to avoid. It is easy to find yourself in situations where you are arguing about issues big and small. That is the nature of a family law case. If you and your co-parent agreed on every subject under the sun you wouldn’t be in a family law case. However, it is even more important that you buckle down and place your focus where it needs to be. 

That focus should be always on your children. Specifically, you need to consider what is in the best interests of your child as they begin an important transition period in their lives. For all the challenges that you are going through imagine being your children. Their parents are fighting over issues related to them. Their lives are being changed dramatically. Plus, they lack the life experiences that you have as an adult. The ability of your children to process these changes is much less than you or your co-parent. 

For that reason, remember to focus your attention on your children throughout the life of your case. This can be a challenge. There are going to be times that it seems more trouble than it is worth to be civil and negotiate with your co-parent. That said, it always works out better to negotiate and not get bogged down in petty arguments about the kids. Instead, place your focus on the kids and don’t look back. You won’t regret not engaging with your co-parent in arguments that you will forget about soon thereafter. 

Confusing your best interests and those of your child

You and your child are inseparable. You’re the mom who hasn’t spent more than a day apart from your child. Or you’re the dad who races home from work each evening to spend as much time as possible with your son or daughter. No happy hours and late nights for you at the office. Rather, you spend as much time as you can at home with your little one. In short, whether you are a mom or dad, your child is your life. 

What many parents do in your situation is tend to confuse their best interests with that of their child. You think that what makes you the most content is what makes your child the most content, also. Or, you think that what you need the most is what your child also needs the most. This is certainly the ideal situation but is not always where you will find yourself. Rather, it is the reality for many families that what you want is not what your child wants.

More to the point, what is in your child’s best interests is not in your best interests necessarily. For example, you want to spend as much time with your child as possible. In fact, in your heart of hearts, you want to spend time with your child even if it means your child spends less time with his or her other parent. This situation would give you more time with your child but would not necessarily be in your child’s best interests. Learning the difference in this makes your child’s life better.

Not preparing your case before filing

Without a doubt, it is to your advantage to prepare your child custody case before filing. Lining up potential witnesses to testify about any number of subjects relevant to your case. Talk to your child about what to expect in your home and outside of it. Collecting evidence that helps your attorney prepare your case with you. These are reasonable steps to take in preparing for a child custody case. When you know, you are going to file a child custody case there is no excuse for not preparing for it. 

That said, when you do not prepare before filing it causes you to miss a major opportunity. That major opportunity centers around building a life after the child custody case that will help your child evolve and adapt. What do you want to see happen for your child as far as custody is concerned? Who is most important in your child’s life? What is visitation going to look like? What medical needs does your child have that need to be attended to in this order? Many questions like this should be answered before filing for divorce or a child custody case

The reality of the situation is that the better prepared you are the better the outcome of the case tends to be. This does not mean you have to stay up for nights on end brainstorming ideas in this case. What it does mean is that you need to consider what you have under your control before the filing of the case. The more you can do at that point the better. Speaking of which- if you do not have goals for your case that may explain why you have not been preparing.

Preparing to have goals is the best preparation you can attend to

Goal setting is essential in a family law case. To think that you are going to be able to have a successful child custody case and not set goals is a major mistake. This sets you up for disappointment at best. At worst, you are going to be in a position where your co-parent uses their time more wisely. Leaving you in a position where you are not at your best during the case.

This is a shame considering that goal setting is not difficult in a child custody case. After all the most important thing in your life is your children. This case centers around your children. All the time that you spend thinking about your children should lead to time spent preparing your case and moving forward toward goal setting. This does not have to be fancy but it does need to be time well spent. 

After you are done working and the kids are in bed is time to prepare for a child custody case. This is when distractions are at a minimum. Think about the case, your child’s life, and where you want it to be in the future. Planning the case in a situation like this is great because anything is possible. There are no limits to your goals when you are sitting in your pajamas at the kitchen table. Think clearly about what you want for your family. Developing those goals is stage one. The next part is trickier.

Failing to consider reasonable goals and a navigable path to achieve those goals

Many people head into a child custody case with dreams as big as an elephant. What they end up settling for in most cases is peanuts- relatively speaking. Focusing on goal setting is important in a case like yours. We have talked about how goal setting is essential to achieving the best possible results for your child. There are certainly ways to start thinking about goal setting and how those goals can positively impact the life of your child. 

However, preparing for a child custody case realistically is just as important. You need to focus on what goals are achievable in a child custody case. A good example of this is the parent who has spent no time with their child to that point asking for primary custody of their son or daughter. As we mentioned a moment ago it is good to have goals. However, if those goals are not realistic then it is as if no goals had been set at all. 

This is when working with an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan becomes so important. We help guide clients just like you through their family law matters. Not only do we help folks come up with goals, but we tailor those goals to the facts of their case. Family law cases are incredibly fact-dependent. A child custody case is no exception. Contact our office today for a free of charge consultation. 

Assuming the worst in a child custody case

One of the major mistakes some people are prone to making in a child custody case is assuming that the worst outcomes will transpire in the case. It goes something like this. You and your spouse do not agree on anything. This is why a divorce has been filed. Due to you assuming that there is nothing you agree on you then presume that nothing can stop your case from going to trial. The trial involves time, money, and risk. A judge makes the final decision in your case.

This stands in stark contrast to the reality of a family law case where most of the time the parties negotiate a settlement. This allows you and your co-parent to map out a course of action for your family to take. You all know your circumstances better than anyone. After all, it is your child who is the center of the case. As such, you all have a unique opportunity to carve out a successful post-family law case life for your child. 

To do this, however, you need to stay positive and not assume the worst in your co-parent or the process itself. Approach the case humbly and you will be surprised with how successful you can be. Success is measured in different ways in a family case. Above all else, do not presume that your case is destined for a trial. There are ample opportunities to settle a child custody case. Even one where you and your co-parent agree on relatively little. 

Putting your child in the middle of the fight

It is expected that there is going to be some degree of animosity in a child custody case. You and your co-parent are competing against one another for custody time, child support, and other factors. The case is not designed for you two to compete against one another but that is how the case ends up looking a lot of the time. The adversarial court case creates adversaries out of you and your co-parent. 

Expect this to happen but do not expect it to create a situation where your child should be at the center of the arguments. Having your child communicate angry messages from you to your co-parent accomplishes nothing. You are still going to have that anger in front of you. Your child is not capable of emotionally handling the stress of communicating difficult messages from parent to parent. That is a responsibility best handled by you and your co-parent directly with one another. 

Your child has a difficult enough task ahead of him or her as far as dealing with the changes in their life as far as the case is concerned. Do not place more pressure on your child than he or she will be experiencing naturally. Instead, find ways to help your child handle the stress of a case. Be sure your child understands that he or she did not cause the case to be filed. Help your child to see that he or she has a place in your life and always will. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan    

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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