by Attorney Scott Neinas
Things fathers should know when involved in a custody case…
Keep some photos handy.
Pictures speak louder than words and having plenty on hand to submit to the court provides strong evidence of your love for and strong relationship with your children. Don’t just tell the court that you have a good relationship with your children, show it.
Try to attend as many parent-teacher conferences, extracurricular activities, and doctors’ appointments as possible. Don’t let your ex block you from filling a parental role in those settings. Your days of being an ‘evenings-and-weekends-only’ parent are over. If you want more time with your kids, show the court you’re ready for it.
Have a routine.
This is the time to build a routine and stick with it. Homework protocols, a set dinnertime, and a consistent bedtime should all be part of your time with your kids. Do your best to find a place to live and stay there, ideally within five miles of the marital residence or where the children are primarily staying. Courts recognize the importance of stability in children’s lives and seeing that you’re already providing a stable home will reflect well on your intention to put your kids first.
Demonstrate you can parent.
It’s always a good idea to show the court that you’re making efforts to be a better parent. Things like taking parenting classes or seeing a therapist can be helpful for this. The court will appreciate your willingness to improve yourself for your children.
Don’t disparage your ex.
Divorces can be emotional but speaking poorly about your ex in front of your children not only harms them, it can harm you, too. If evidence is submitted to the court that this type of behavior is occurring, it could seriously hamper your case for custody or visitation.
If you want to be the primary go-to parent for your children, take initiative in areas where you see they could use some help. For instance, do their homework with them and communicate with their teachers. Don’t know how to do the new math? Hire a tutor. This shows the court you’re willing to do whatever is necessary to keep your child healthy and happy.
These tips will give you a good starting place to help you through your case while maintaining a strong relationship with your children. And, as always, a good family law attorney can advise you further.