When you split from the parent of your child, the child custody process can be fraught with overwhelming challenges.
If you’re going through a divorce or separation, we imagine you have concerns about your parenting rights.
A child custody order often depends on your child’s needs, the judge selected for your case, the other parent’s behavior and circumstances, and your behavior and circumstances. You rarely have a lot of control in a child custody proceeding. However, something you can control is your behavior (and sometimes, your circumstances).
So, when it comes to your behavior and circumstances, what can be used against you in a custody battle? Please read on for common factors that can help or hurt you in the fight for your child.
How Does the Court Decide the Extent of Your Custody Rights?
One of the most important phrases to remember in a child custody case is “the best interests of the child.” The family court decides how to award custody rights based on what is in the best interests of the child. Your behavior inside and outside of court is admissible evidence and needs to show the court that awarding custody to you is in the best interest of your child.
Behaviors and Circumstances That Could Convince the Court That Awarding You Custody Is Not in Your Child’s Best Interest
While not exhaustive, the behaviors we have listed below can dissuade the court from awarding you significant child custody rights.
Losing Your Temper
We know that going through custody proceedings can charge emotions, but you need to keep your temper in check. If you lose your temper and engage in yelling, verbal tirades, or physical violence (inside or outside of court), that behavior can be the death knell for your custody rights. If you resort to this behavior, you might be denied access to your child by way of a protective order.
Not Taking Every Reasonable Opportunity to Be Involved with Your Child’s Life
New York family law isn’t very concerned with whether you’re a father or a mother when awarding custody rights. The court is concerned with which parent is the main caregiver and nurturer of your child. If you can be involved with the child’s medical care, educational needs, extracurriculars, emotional needs, etc., do it as much as you can. Your proven ability to be there (day in and day out) for your child can go a long way in proving to the court that you should have custody.
If the other parent offers to handle all your child’s needs during a divorce, don’t be quick to accept. They might be offering out of kindness, or this could be one of many sneaky divorce tactics to reduce your involvement and your rights.
Not Knowing or Maintaining Your Parenting Strengths
When awarding custody, the court takes a good look at what you do and don’t do well as a parent. If you have strengths, identify them all, and be careful to maintain and improve on them. The other parent or their attorney might try to downplay what you do well—don’t let them undersell your abilities. The better you know what you’re good at, the more easily you can prove to the court that you have significant parenting strengths worthy of a good child custody award.
Not Knowing or Working on Your Parenting Weaknesses
You can’t focus on just the good when it comes to your parenting skills. You also need to identify the areas in which you struggle as a parent. Depending on what they are and how you address them, parenting weaknesses can reduce your custody rights. Don’t spend too much time feeling shame about these weak areas. Focus your energy on improving your weak areas and show the court that you are serious about being a good parent. Sometimes you can take classes or attend individual counseling to help improve your parenting skills.
Having an Unstable Personal and/or Professional Life
We understand that anyone can fall on hard times. However, when it comes to custody orders, the family court does look at your ability to provide for your child financially, educationally, and emotionally. If you don’t have the resources to give your child adequate food, shelter, and education, you could lose custody rights. You might need to take on different professional and personal opportunities to make sure you can provide for your child.
Not Working Well with the Other Parent
As much as it is safe and possible, the court wants both parents to have a relationship with their child. If you can’t encourage a relationship between your child and their other parent, or if you can’t get along with your child’s other parent for the sake of raising your child, you might not receive many custody rights.
Your inability to encourage a relationship between your child and their other parent might be proven through negative statements you make to your child or others about that parent, so be careful with your words in all settings. Even if someone you make complaints to about the other parent has no intention of repeating the complaints, the court can force them to do so with a subpoena. Your child might also be able to testify about your negative statements, depending on their age and the circumstances.
Not Taking Care of Yourself
Remember, as a parent, your health is important. When deciding on the terms of a child custody order, the court looks at your mental and physical health. You don’t always have the power to change your own health circumstances, but address what you can with reasonable self-care and the help of professionals when necessary. Reasonably caring for your well-being can show the court that you care for your child.
Not Following Court Orders
Not following court orders in your child custody case can have many dire consequences. You could be found in contempt of court, and you could lose whatever custody rights you already have. A court can change a custody order when there is a substantial change in circumstances. Your failure to obey a court’s custody orders can be a substantial change and one of the reasons a judge will change custody terms. You don’t want to disrespect the court that decides how much time you can spend with your child. If your custody award is unfair, an experienced attorney can argue to change it in a legally safe way.
Protect Your Custody Rights with the Help of an Attorney
If you need a child custody attorney in New York and you have a case in one of the five boroughs, you can call on Gilmer Law Firm, PLLC. We provide caring representation and fierce advocacy. Attorney George Mark Gilmer has 20 years of experience. His experience even includes arguing before Justice Sotomayor when she was in the Court of Appeals. Our firm strives to make our legal fees affordable and our representation accessible in your time of need. Reach out to us online, or call us at 718-864-2011 for a free phone consultation.