How Men Can Minimize the Impact of a Custody Battle on Children
by Jason Smith
As a father, you’re likely to want to keep your children out of the disagreements between you and your ex-wife. If you’re a divorced father who is facing or will face a child custody proceeding, this article was written for you. Below are common sense things you can do to lessen the negative impact of a custody battle on your kids.
Three Custody Myths Debunked
First of all, don’t lose hope. Often times, fathers receive false information from friends or co-workers regarding child custody. Fathers have as much parental rights as the mother and courts know that children deserve an equal opportunity to nurture a relationship with their father. Below are three common myths that many fathers hear:
Myth #1 – If the mother has primary custody now, then that means that she’ll win the next custody battle too
Not true. People believe that possession of the child is a major advantage in child custody cases, when in fact, some states, like California specifically address this in the family code. To have a good case, the noncustodial parent (usually the dads) must have showed continued interest in being an active parent in the child’s life even if he is not in possession of the child.
Myth #2 – If your name isn’t listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate, then you don’t have any parental rights
Sometimes a child is born without the father’s knowledge or the mother chooses not to acknowledge the man as the rightful, biological father of the child. When this happens, there are things that the man can do to legally establish paternity – and thus, parental rights. Even if your name isn’t on the child’s birth certificate and you know that you are the father, you can hire a family lawyer to get the court to recognize you as the father.
Myth #3 – A mother will generally get custody, unless the father can prove that that mother is an unfit parent
There is not to be any presumption that a mother is a better parent than a father. Both parents get an equal blank slate in court. The judge will take into consideration a variety of factors to see what custody arrangement will be best for the children.
Children Suffer in Custody Battles
When a child is the subject of a child custody battle, he/she becomes exposed to so many things that can become detrimental if the parents aren’t careful. Children may experience:
- Significantly decreased interaction with one parent
- Negative talk coming from mom about dad or dad about mom
- A different, possibly lower, standard of living during and after the divorce is finalized
- Seeing a parent be arrested or accused of domestic violence
- Not getting to participate in regular, routine activities due to logistics or financial burdens that arise from divorce
- Having to live in multiple locations or with their grandparents
- Getting interviewed by authorities who are part of the litigation process (police, child protective services, guardians, lawyers, evaluators, counselors, etc.)
Whatever it may be, children are vulnerable to this experience. You can help your children get through this time by paying close attention to the next section.
Things to Avoid Doing in the Midst of a Child Custody Battle
First of all, everyone knows that you are mad at your ex-wife. I know it’s hard to stay calm when she is so difficult. But, the best advice I’ve ever heard about how to shield your kids from the custody process is to love your kids more than you hate your ex-wife. Beyond that you need to carefully read the following bullets:
- Try your absolute best to come to an agreement with the mother on a custody arrangement. Most court systems across the country give you plenty of opportunities to come to an agreement versus letting a family judge decide.
- No matter how crazy she is, don’t yell at your ex-wife.
- Don’t move in with a new girlfriend suddenly – keep your focus on your kids. Don’t put your dating life above the interests of your child.
- Don’t talk bad about the mother to friends, family, social workers, or anyone else, for that matter.
- Keep paying child support. Don’t stop because the mother is blowing it on frivolous things. You can gather evidence that she is wasting the money, but don’t stop paying.
- Don’t stop the children from having communication with their mom when they are in your care
- Don’t take the children out of town without the mother’s consent. And for God’s sake, never take the children out of state without the mother’s consent.
- Don’t take the children out of school without the mother’s consent.
Listen to Your Lawyer
The last thing that you want to do is cause hardship for your child. By and large, custody battles are terrible for children. It’s in your kids’ best interest to try to come to an agreement with the mother as soon as possible.
So, if you hired a good lawyer that you trust (unlike many people who missed the red flags), and your lawyer is telling you that you’re more than likely only going to end up with equal custody, don’t try to insist for more. It will upset the mother, your lawyer, the judge, and your children.
Remember, life isn’t all about you. If you have kids, you need to be a man and protect your children. I know it sucks that you’re going through a divorce, but your responsibility is to your children first. At the end of the day, life goes on after your divorce. But if you and your ex-wife make life awful for your kids, then life certainly won’t be any better.
About the Author
Jason Smith is a family lawyer in Orange County, California. He writes to educate men and women of their rights and how the law can affect them. To learn more about his practice, visit his law firm website. Mr. Smith attended Pepperdine University School of Law and regularly represents men going through divorce and child custody issues.