Whether part of a divorce, custody modification or youth court case, custody fights are one of the most difficult experiences a person can go through. Anger, bitterness, and despair overrun the parents, grandparents and family members fighting for custody. The resulting stress often leads to a lot of questionable behavior in the heat of the moment, including when one parent demeans the other parent in front of the kids. Now, everything said about the other parent may be true. She may truly shame the devil, or he may be the devil incarnate – but, telling that to your child is a lose-lose proposition.
There Are Two Significant Ways You Lose When Custody Battles Play Out In Front of Your Children
First and foremost, your kids lose.
Adults have a tough time coming to grips with nasty behavior by their parents – and, it’s even worse for kids. Children are hard-wired to love, respect and admire their parents, both their parents. So, when a father who means the world to his daughter calls her mother a drug addict, or a mother tells her son that his father is too busy chasing after a new girlfriend to spend time with the son, they have ripped their child’s heart out. But it does not end there. Whether you recognize it or not, you are the role model for how a father or mother should behave, and your marriage or relationship is the model for how a relationship is supposed to be for your children. When you demean the other parent in front of your kids, you are training your children that to be married is to be bitter and spiteful toward your spouse. You have also taken the first steps to ensure that your grandchildren will grow up in the same environment.
Second, you lose in court.
I have been trying cases for over 30 years as a prosecutor, criminal defense lawyer and divorce lawyer. I have seen a lot of bad behavior on display in open court. You can never be 100% sure of how serious a judge or jury will view a person’s behavior, except when someone is hurting children. When you have kids and are in a custody battle, the judge’s number one priority is not you: the judge is focused on the best interests of your children. Demeaning the other parent in front of the child reflects poorly on several of the factors a judge must consider when awarding custody, including parenting skills. In short, demeaning the other parent in front of your kids is how you lose custody. You could even lose your visitation rights.
What Do You Need to Do to Make Sure Your Custody Case Doesn’t Go Off the Rails?
To ensure that you do not let your anger lure you into demeaning the other parent and hurting your kids, you need to be prepared. Plan not to allow your kids to see you angry at their father or mother before you get angry. If you cannot have a conversation with him or her without getting mad, do not talk with them when the kids are around. If you cannot look at each other without fighting, meet in a public place to exchange the kids. When you are angry, send the kids to another room. Controlling your temper and your tongue when the kids are present will be difficult, but so is being a good parent.
Part of a lawyer’s job is to help clients through this difficult time. I strive to assist parents in making the best decisions to ensure that their children are protected.