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As a family law attorney that regularly represents mothers and fathers in contested trials, I find myself counseling people on how not to lose custody of their children.
Married persons have equal rights to their children. Custody laws are gender neutral, if both parents have an active role in raising their children and the given facts of a given case are applied, a court may determine with whom it is in the best interests of the child to live with permanently.
1. Primary Caretaker: In most homes one parent carries more responsibility for caring for the children's basic need. The parent who is the most involved in the children's daily lives is considered in a custody case. If you are not the parent putting in the time to care for your child's basic needs, doing homework with your child, feeding, bathing, reading, getting them to school, you will be at a disadvantage in a custody case.
2. Active in your child's life: Do you know the names of your child's teachers? Do you take your children for their appointments with doctors? Do you regularly attend school activities your child is involved in and parent-teacher conferences?
3. Not addressing parental fitness issues (ie, drugs, alcohol, mental health issues, domestic violence or abuse). If you have any of these issues that you are not addressing and actively participating or seeking treatment for, these issues will be looked at and considered.
4. Your electronic or paper trail: Thanks to technology, evidence gets entered that can portray you in a very damaging light. This could include text messages, photos, negative email, status updates, video, and voicemail recordings. If you are prone to sending or posting your rants and ravings, you could be risking losing custody.
5. Do you recognize the value of your child's relationship with your ex? The Judge will consider if you support your child's relationship with the other parent. Your anger, denigrating the other parent or negatively influencing the child's relationship with the other parent could negatively affect your custody case. You need to promote the best interest of your child and put your feelings about your ex aside for the sake of your child.
6. Good Judgment and self-control: If you regularly lose control or cannot control your anger, you will be at a disadvantage. Going through divorce is a difficult emotional process. If you are having angry outbursts in front of social workers, teachers, neighbors, etc., you can find yourself facing negative testimony in a trial. If necessary, seek counseling to get your anger under control.
7. Failing to follow your attorney's advice: Going through custody and divorce proceedings is one of the most stressful experiences there is. Your goal should be to survive the process and protect your children. It is critical that you listen to your attorney that has experience in contested custody trials.