Top 10 Mistakes Made by Parents Engaged in a Custody Battle
1. Speaking negatively about the other parent in front of the children.
During a custody battle, it is understandable that parents are angry with each other. While it may feel therapeutic to rant about your children’s other parent, especially if the other parent is speaking negatively about you, it is best to bite your tongue, especially in front of your children. Your friends and family may also feel the need to rally by your side, however, negative comments about the other parent by anyone, in front of the children, should be strongly discouraged. The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines state that one of a child’s basic needs is “to be free from having to side with either parent and to be free from conflict between parents.” Instead of getting caught up in the “he said, she said,” focus on the well-being of your children. Hearing negative remarks about the other parent may make the children feel as if they need to pick a side. Each parent should encourage the children to love and respect the other parent.
2. Not exercising your parenting time.
If you have parenting time with your children, exercise your rights! You should try and spend as much time as possible with your children, and establish a routine. Make sure that you “parent” and help with homework and assign chores. Oftentimes, parents feel guilty for the current situation, or try to garner favor with the children, by trying appease the children’s every whim. This is not parenting and will negatively affect the children.
Also, failing to exercise your parenting time may trigger the Court to believe that you are filing for custody out of spite, or that you are not serious about your request. If the other parent can establish a history of rescheduled or missed parenting time, this will only serve to hurt your case. It is important to make your children priority.
3. Interfering or denying communication with the other parent.
Parents going through a custody battle will often feel bitter and vindictive towards the other parent, and many times, a parent will seek to “punish” the other parent for the current situation. Unfortunately, parents utilize the children in an effort to exercise control, and one way this is done is by limiting access to the children. This, of course, not only serves to “punish” the other parent but has negative affects on the children and their relationship with both their parents. The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines states that “both parents shall have reasonable phone access to their child.” The Guidelines further state that this communication should be private and without interference from the other parent.
4. Encouraging your children to spy on the other parent.
Oftentimes, parents utilize their children’s time with the other parent as an opportunity to gather information about the other parent that they could possibly use in Court. The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, state that the children have a basic right “to have a relaxed, secure relationship with each parent without being placed in a position to manipulate one parent against the other.” Court proceedings should not be discussed with the children, nor should the children be asked to provide information about the other parent. Do not place the burden of adult issues on the shoulder of the children.
5. Failing to pay child support.
Many parents believe that parenting time and child support are dependent on each other. Maybe the other parent had denied you parenting time, and you think, why should I pay him or her my hard earned money when he or she doesn’t let me see my children?! While it may be easy to think this way, it is important to understand that failure to pay child support is not grounds to limit or deny parenting time. Furthermore, you should not stop paying child support if the other parent is limiting your parenting time. Refusing to pay child support may affect the livelihood of the children, and the children should always come first. Again, punishing the other parent by limiting parenting time because the other parent isn’t current on child support is to the detriment to the children. It is always important to act in the child’s best interest and not paying child support or limiting parenting time with the other parent is not in the child’s best interest.
6. Abusing drugs or alcohol.
Evidence of drug or alcohol abuse can be detrimental to your case and can serve to show the Court that you’re doing something that could put your children at risk.
Do not make up or exaggerate allegations or stories about the other parent in hopes of strengthening your case. In legal proceedings, honesty is always the best policy. Any lies will likely come back to haunt you and ultimately hurt your case, not to mention the psychological damage to your children.
8. Not abiding by the Court’s order.
Did the Court order you to take parenting classes or go to counseling? Failure to abide by the Court’s order will only serve to show your disrespect for the Court. Always be willing to show the Court how far you are willing to go for your children, even if you may not agree with the Court’s decision.
9. Not hiring an experienced Family Law attorney.
Engaging in a custody battle is not something that should be taken lightly and the best route, to ensure that your interests and your time with your child is protected, is to hire an experienced Family Law attorney. While engaging the services of an attorney may seem expensive, representing yourself may cost you more in the long run.
10. Not educating yourself.
While it is important to hire an experienced Family Law attorney it is still imperative to know and understand the rules and law, specifically the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines and the Indiana Child Support Guidelines. Take the time to educate yourself, and you will feel more prepared, knowledgable, and will know what is expected of you, and what you should expect.