mother fighting for custody

Do’s and Don’ts in a Custody Dispute

For many separated families, making child custody arrangements is emotionally difficult. Parents may have different views about the best interests of their child. Mothers no longer automatically get sole physical custody as courts recognize that children tend to develop best when they have significant parenting time with each parent. Joint custody, (which refers to decision-making) has become the norm unless a parent is abusive or otherwise harmful or the parents are unable to communicate in any manner. 

Common Mistakes in Custody Disputes

Several common and avoidable custody battle errors result from a communication breakdown with the other parent. Avoid these common mistakes:

  • Do not withhold child support if you are not receiving access and do not withhold parenting access if you are not receiving child support. Both behaviours are frowned upon by the court. The result can be a garnishment of wages or bank accounts for a payor parent and/or a change to, or loss of, parenting time for a parent who withholds access.
  • Do not criticize your ex-spouse in front of your child. Regardless of how you may feel about your former partner, he or she is still a parent to your child and such behavior has been shown to cause emotional harm to children. Negative comments can also lead to Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), where your child is conditioned to disconnect from a parent by vilifying him or her. A parent who engages in parental alienation may lose all custody and access rights to a child.
  • Do not let your child decide adult issues or put him or her in the middle of a conflict. Left unchecked, children tend to resolve loyalty conflicts by choosing to align with one parent and alienate the other.
  • Do not move in with a new partner while your custody matters are outstanding. Children generally have a hard time accepting their parents’ separation and will need time to adjust to the idea of someone new living with mom or dad.
  • Do not take your child out of the area where they live without advance notice and consent from your ex-spouse. A travel consent is needed from the other parent for out of country travel.

Encouraged Behaviours in a Custody Dispute

In order to do what’s best for your children, you need to continually bring any discussion with your ex-spouse to common ground and make an effort to view things from a perspective other than your own.
  • Keep records in a file for your family law case, including a daily journal where you record any breaches in the agreements made, including any late pick-ups, missed events, items not returned, and any day where you were denied access.
  • Watch what you say and do even if your child is not present; you ex-spouse could be saving taped calls, emails, text messages and private social media conversations as evidence of your character, intentions or your mental state in the proceedings.
  • Spend time building and strengthening bonds with your child during this difficult period. Document your loving relationship with texts and photos.
  • Keep the other parent updated on the child’s progress in school, health and milestones even if the two of you are not getting along.
  • Work with your lawyer to resolve outstanding issues with your ex-spouse so you can arrive at a separation agreement you have a say in instead of taking chances for a court judge to decide.

Contact Gittens & Associates

If you are having a custody dispute, a family law lawyer at Gittens & Associates can help you to achieve a resolution. If you have made every effort to be flexible, cooperative and negotiate in good faith but your ex-spouse is being difficult, then your lawyer may advise you to start a court application.

At Gittens & Associates, we are known for our solid family law practice. We can guide your through the family law process so that you are prepared for possible outcomes and are successful in a custody dispute. Contact us at Gittens & Associates in St. Johns at 709-579-8424 or toll-free at 1-888-592-7171.

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