Seven Steps to Winning Your Child Custody Battle
Parents fighting for custody of their kids are thrown into a daunting legal vortex while facing the nightmare of losing their children. Kohrman Jackson & Krantz Partner James Lane identifies seven steps to help navigate this stressful situation.
High-conflict child custody cases can be brutally difficult and severely stressful. Parents fighting for custody of their kids are thrown into a daunting legal vortex while facing the nightmare of losing their children. This emotional process can bring out the worst in some parents.
Unfortunately, many family law attorneys focus on the procedural and legal aspects of the case and fail to help their clients navigate the changing parenting dynamics created by a custody fight. The truth is that successful child custody litigation is equal parts good lawyering and good parenting. No matter how great your lawyer is, he or she can't hide bad parenting from the court.
Back in 2016, I wrote an article entitled, "Seven Mistakes to Avoid in a Child Custody Battle," (https://www.kjk.com/
After twenty years of practice and hundreds of family law cases, I have gained some insight into the issues judges focus on when making a custody decision. Having three children of my own has also taught me a few lessons. There are no perfect parents. Every single parent screws up from time-to-time. I surely have. But the parents who can consistently identify their children's needs, prioritize those needs above their own and take appropriate action to meet the children's needs are the parents who are most likely to win their child custody battle. So, how do you do that?
I briefly touched on this subject matter in my 2016 article. However, I want to provide some in-depth advice on how to successfully navigate the parent-child relationship while involved in a custody fight. This is a difficult process for every parent, and every parent-child relationship is unique to some degree. However, there are some steps every parent can take to increase your chances of maintaining a healthy relationship with your child during a custody fight.
STEP #1: Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
The most frequent subject matter in custody disputes is the amount of parenting time each parent has. While it is very important to have frequent and meaningful amounts of parenting time with your child, the exact quantity is not nearly as important as the quality of the parenting time. I see many parents spending inordinate amounts of time and money fighting over a couple of days per month with their children, only to find out later that they are not taking full advantage of the time they already have with their kids.
Spending time with your kids is not especially beneficial if the parent/child interactions are not nurturing, fun, educational or somehow productive. Time spent with a child in the same home does not automatically foster a healthy relationship between parent and child. It takes work.
Rather than fighting for more time with your child, it may be better to focus on making the most of the time you currently have. You will be surprised by how often demonstrating great parenting leads to opportunities for more parenting time.
A few years ago, I saw a stand-up comedian doing a routine about divorce. One of his funniest jokes was about how he was a much better parent after divorce because he only had to see his kids for half of each week. "I'm an attentive, focused and responsible father because I get to say goodbye to these kids every week," he said. "It's every parent's dream. Who can't be a good father for half the week?" There is a lot of truth in that joke.
Parenting children 24/7, 365 days a week is an extraordinarily difficult job under the best of circumstances. Being a great parent while living with a hostile spouse is nearly impossible. One of the few benefits of divorce and physical separation from your spouse is the opportunity to effectively divide and conquer the parenting game. You no longer have to be an attentive, focused and responsible parent every single day. You will now have a chance to catch your breath, regroup and make sure you are at your best for the days when the children are with you. That is an opportunity most married parents rarely get.
STEP #2: Don't Make Your Kids the Sole Focus of Your Life
When you stop and think about what a healthy family dynamic looks like the children are not the sole focus of the family. Every waking moment should not revolve around the wants and needs of your child. Kids need to learn that the world does not revolve around them, and that they are not precious, fragile flowers. Both toddlers and teenagers can be incredibly self-absorbed. It is our job as parents to teach them to get beyond that self-absorption to make a contribution to society and think about the welfare of others. This is one of the keys to a happy life. Think about it: Have you ever met a truly happy narcissist?
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