Like most fathers, you’re probably active and very involved with the lives of your children. I don’t mean just holding up your end of diaper duty! You’re genuinely involved in taking care of them, and attending to their emotional needs. Despite all this, things can go wrong in your home life, and you may find yourself working through a bitter divorce and the custody battle that comes with it. Here are some of the things you need to know before ever entering a court during a custody case.
First of all, you need to strive to get the most time with your kids possible from the beginning. As soon as you know you’re facing a custody battle, you need to make your goals very clear to anyone involved, and fight hard for the things you want. When these conflicts happen, it’s very rare for either parent to actually get the kind of custody they’re pushing for, and one will generally have to settle for less. Whether you want full custody or just a generous visitation schedule, make sure you ask for more. Legal professionals like the trial attorneys at Kirchen & Grant will be able to help you devise a court strategy for showing that you understand the child’s needs, routines and care. However, if you start off asking for a small schedule and ask for more later, you’ll just be pushing yourself uphill.
My next tip is going to be more of a warning. Avoid bringing up any issues relating to child support when the conversation is about custody. A lot of people, including lawyers and judges, can assume that you’re only pushing for more custody because you want to pay less in child support. Some states will bind the two together, such as New Jersey. However, many others, such as New York, do not. In New York, even if the parents settle on a timeshare split right down the middle, the law requires the parent who earns more to pay child support. Regardless of where you live or what the law states, try to keep these issues far apart. If the presiding judge thinks that you just want to dodge child support, it can seriously harm your case.
My next piece of advice is to decide on a schedule you want and draw it out on a calendar. This is a practice a lot of family lawyers go through with their clients, both during mediation and in court. You might think that you’re getting off lightly with “every other weekend and dinner on Thursday night”. However, things might look a little different once you draw it out on a calendar grid. Would you be happy with your child not seeing you for seven days twice a month? This may sound like a pretty simplistic move, but you’d be surprised at the impact it can have. Setting both mom and dad’s desired schedule out on a grid like this can make judges, lawyers, and even your ex see the whole situation in a different light.