How you handle yourself in a custody case is an essential part of custody negotiations and litigation. While no parent is perfect and no one is expecting you to be, handling yourself well during custody negotiations and litigation can make a big difference in the outcome of your custody case, your relationship with your children, and how you feel about yourself as a parent.
Here are tips for handling your Austin child custody case:
Regardless of your feelings about the other parent or the circumstances of your divorce, your children’s well-being should be your priority. Reassure your children that both of your parents love them and that the divorce was not their fault. Encourage your child to communicate openly with you and create a safe zone for your child to express their feelings. Even if you feel that you were wronged in the divorce, do not discuss those issues or any issues pertaining to any litigation with your child. The same is true for any friends, family and other people within your sphere of influence. While you may not have control over what the other parent does, you do have control over how you conduct yourself and you can ask people within your sphere of influence to do the same.
The law favors the parent who consistently acts in the best interests of the child and allows the other parent frequent and continuing contact with the minor child. Be sure to think about what is best for your child when making parenting decisions. Ask yourself whether any actions you are taking are really what is best for your child in the long run and what emotional effect this will have on your child and your child’s development. Consult with the other parent as appropriate.
Life happens and circumstances change. Be flexible about trading days, allowing your child to take a vacation or attend a special event with the other parent, and your child’s extra-curricular activities. As your child grows older, their needs will change and so will your parenting style and schedule. Be willing to adapt to those life changes as well as the fact that the other parent may have different ideas about parenting than you do.
When creating a parenting plan, think about what will work best for you, the other parent, and your child’s schedule. Some parents prefer alternating weeks with a visitation schedule, while other parents prefer to have more contact with their child on a weekly basis. If you or the other parent have a demanding or time consuming job, take that into consideration when creating a parenting plan and be ready to suggest alternative arrangements to accommodate each other’s work schedules. Think about how any changes in visitation schedules will affect your child. Be sure to have extra clothes and the like for your child during all visitations, for example, so that your child does not have to carry their belongings back and forth during visitations.
Keep an open dialogue with your child and encourage your child to have healthy relationships. For example, assuming no domestic violence or substance abuse or lifestyle issues, encourage your child to develop relationships with the other parent’s extended family, your extended family, and for your child to make friends.
Be willing to engage in and suggest alternative ways of communicating with your child during your and the other parent’s custody time. For example, make use of texts, phone calls, weekly dinners, and Face Time. Develop a check in system with your child and teach your child what to do in cases of emergency. Be sure to make clear to your child that you are always available in cases of emergency.
Parenting skills can always be improved and what skills you will need as a parent can change over time. For example, what a five year-old needs will be considerably different from what a teenager needs in terms of parenting. There are several options to help parents with their coping skills, parenting skills, and to provide emotional support. For example, there are parenting classes, therapists, physicians, attorneys, spiritual advisors, and community groups that many find to be great sources of support, education and comfort for parents.
Know what to say and what not to say. Discretion is often the better part of valor when it comes to custody negotiations or litigation. It is often best not to comment on every aspect of your custody litigation to third parties or to your child. If you feel your temper rising, for example, it might be best to take an emotional break before making any comments or simply say ‘I can’t really comment on that.’
When it comes to visitation schedules, have a back-up plan or two or three. Keep a list of babysitters, if appropriate, or persons who can care for your child in the event that you cannot. For example, if your flight is delayed from and out of town trip or you have to work late, make sure to have a list of persons you can call to pick up your child from school, feed them dinner, and make sure that they are cared for. Make sure to ask your back-up persons in advance if they are willing to be available to help with child care.