I recently attended a seminar hosted by a very famous custody lawyer who handled custody disputes for various celebrities during his 50-year career. The seminar was very informative and this famous custody lawyer discussed all of the things that parents do during the custody case that hurt, rather than help their case. I must admit that some of my clients have been guilty of such actions until they walked through my door. Without further ado, here are three things that a parent engaging in a custody dispute should absolutely avoid doing:
1. Gather your own evidence
You may think that recording your five years old telling you that he or she would like to live with you will strengthen your case–it does not. Young children whose parents are going through a divorce almost always want to please the parent they are with. The children will say anything that they think the parent of that weekend wants them to say. While it may be harmless to have the children tell you in a video that they love you more, they want to live with you or they do not like it when mommy/daddy does so and so, the court generally frowns upon what they consider to be self-serving evidence from the parent that produced such footage. Unless your child is being endangered or the recording is for your own personal viewing pleasure, you need put away that iPhone camera or the camcorder for the rest of the custody case.
2. Restrain from excessive and negative communications with the other parent.
Nothing is more daunting to an attorney than learning about the hundreds of e-mails and text messages from your client to the other parent which contain name-callings, explicit and abusive language and serious accusations such as “stop having sex with your new partner in front of our children!” When you are in the midst of a custody dispute, you should be aware that everything you say to the other parent may be presented to the judge. You should continue to communicate with the other parent about the child’s schedules or activities and you should do so in a timely and respectful manner. Other than limited and necessary communications regarding the child(ren), you should generally avoid a “texting war” or launching accusations against the other parent.
3. Air your complaints on social media sites
Most everyone I know is now on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. We love the comments from our family, friends and colleagues and we love sharing our personal thoughts and emotions on social media sites. For a parent in a custody dispute, sharing their feelings about the case or the other parent on social media help them cope with the stress of the case. For other parents, they like to post pictures of themselves at social events or make comment on others’ participation in social activities. These social media posts may be used by the other side to attack or discredit a parent’s character or build a case against them. An innocent picture of a mother having a glass of wine with her girlfriends may be use to support the argument that she has a drinking problem. A picture of a father rough playing with his kids may be used to argue that he is not concerned about their safety. Since it is not possible to imagine what opposing counsel will use the social media posts for, the best thing to do is to either cancel your social media accounts or severely limit your participation on social media websites.
The best thing for a parent to do during a custody case is to be cautious and self-aware. Everything you do or say may be recorded (sometimes by a private investigator) and will be scrutinized by the other party. As such, it is important for a parent to practice the art of introspection and consult with an attorney every step of the way.
Disclaimer: Neither Regal Law Office, APC nor its attorney assume any responsibility for the accuracy or timeliness of any information provided herein. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel. Online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional help specific to their case.