Child custody issues are often one of the most contentious parts of a divorce. They are also a common reason for divorced coparents to file a petition for modification. The reasons for the dispute often involve a “substantial and material” change in circumstances, the changing needs of the child as they age, job relocation, a new marriage, or health issues which have made the current orders unworkable or inappropriate under the changed circumstances. While judges base custody decisions on the child’s best interests, parents may disagree on what that means.
These disputes can be frustrating for parents, especially if there is the potential to lose custody or visitation rights. They may even fear for the safety or well-being of the child. These concerns can lead to actions that a parent will later regret.
Mistakes to avoid:
Parents can best defend their custody rights or gain them by behaving as a stable, engaged and loving parent who is ready, willing, and able to co-parent and help foster the child’s relationship with the other parent. Sometimes, however, a parent’s acts or omissions may make matters worse. Examples include:
- Not paying support: Regardless of how the other parent acts, a parent should not withhold child support or weaponize it by putting un-agreed-upon conditions on payment.
- Not honoring parenting time: Interfering with the other parent’s court-ordered periods of possession.
- Not putting kids first: Caring for children is job one, which may difficult for a parent with a demanding career or unconventional work hours.
- Taking the kids out of town: Parents must check with the coparent with custody rights before taking the kids on a trip (even during their normal time together).
- Bad parenting: Every parent makes mistakes, but there is no place for physical or mental abuse, actions that endanger the child’s safety, or which show poor judgment.
- Parental alienation: The courts have little patience for parents who consciously or unconsciously attempt to turn a child against the coparent through actions or sharing details that sabotage the parent-child relationship. Also, often these attempts backfire.
- New partners: Divorced parents can date and remarry, but introducing a new partner can confuse the child or destabilize the family unit when not done properly.
Legal options work best:
Parents who need to make changes to the parenting plan or custody agreement often get the best results when they consult with an experienced, Board-Certified Family Law expert attorney who practices here in Texas. These legal professionals can help initiate changes while also minimizing the negative impact upon the family.