It’s an unfortunate situation, but all too familiar: Parents unable to agree on major decisions that affect their minor children. Whether it’s the child’s primary residence, or which type of schooling is best, parents who are separated or going through the divorce process often find themselves in a contentious battle when there is not a formal custody arrangement in place.
Litigating a custody matter is an emotional process for everyone involved, and to make matters worse it can be procedurally complicated. The following tips serve as a reminder of what not to do during this difficult time.
Do Not Represent Yourself
It is common knowledge that custody litigation is expensive. Many litigants forgo hiring a family law attorney as an attempt to save money. Yet self-representation can lead to unfortunate and sometimes catastrophic results. To be frank, there are many legal rules and procedures that you do not know. From proper courtroom decorum for introducing documents and questioning witnesses during a hearing, to the procedural intricacies of properly filing all necessary documents; representing yourself can lead to many headaches as you are too emotionally invested. Hiring an experienced family law attorney will serve your interests and give you peace of mind that you are putting forth your best fight.
Do Not Lie
This should go without saying, but more often than not parents will embellish facts as an attempt to strengthen their position during a custody dispute. This strategy will inevitably fail and could potentially backfire. Heed this simple and basic advice – do not lie in court, do not lie to a custody evaluator and most importantly, do not lie to your attorney. If facts represented to the court and the opposing party are discovered to be false, your credibility will be called into question throughout the entire proceeding. A custody matter is very important and you should always put your best, and most honest, foot forward.
Violating Court Orders
A judge will review and often inquire as to whether a party has violated any current orders. If one party is not following the court’s directions, do not resort to self-help. Violating the terms of an enforceable court order will reflect poorly upon you, and your actions will be taken into consideration.
Keeping Questions to Yourself
As stated before, custody matters are complex. If at any point during the process you are confused or have questions, speak up. People often bottle up their emotions, which can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety. Be proactive and ask questions, as just talking with your attorney may help resolve any concerns that could arise. Do not be afraid to inquire about your custody matter – your attorney is a great resource.
Telling Your Children What to Say During a Custody Evaluation
A custody evaluation could be ordered, as this is a common practice in custody proceedings. Each party will meet with a custody evaluator and have the chance to provide insight and opinions as to what they believe is the current family dynamic and what is best for the children. Children are also involved in this process and meet with the evaluator alone. Many people feel the need to prepare or coach their children before their appointment with a custody evaluator. While it is appropriate to explain to a child the process so they are not scared, a parent should not encourage a child to make disparaging remarks about the other party or advise the child to mention specifically unfavorable facts. An evaluator will be able to get the information they need from a child in an effective and fair manner.
These tips are just a few of the common mistakes people make during custody matters. For more information about a contested custody dispute or your unique family law matter, contact the family law attorneys at Protokowicz & Rodier.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide about the subject matter. A licensed Maryland attorney should be sought about your specific circumstances.