In 2013 we covered many issues relating to child custody in our blogs including those specific factors your judge must consider when entering an order of child custody. In today’s blog we will discuss both practical and specific information every party in a child custody case in Missouri should know.
Whether it be a common legal action such as a business or contract dispute, a personal injury claim or a criminal charge, the Court system’s determination as to who will be the prevailing party in most legal disputes will be significantly limited to those facts that exist prior to the filing of those cases and our State and/or Federal laws application to those facts. Yet, in a legal action for the determination of child custody, the facts that come to exist after the filing of an action for determination of child custody can often carry greater weight than those facts which may have existed prior to filing.
Among the statutory factors your judge must consider are the following: which parent is likely to allow frequent and meaningful contact with your child and the other parent; and a parent’s willingness and ability to perform their parental duties as the child’s mother or father.
In making his decision, in light of these and other statutory factors, your judge will listen to and accept evidence relative to the best interest of the children including evidence regarding parental roles each parent took on during the marriage and the conduct of the parties towards each other and the children prior to filing for divorce or child custody.
However, it is not uncommon for a contested custody case to last six (6) to twelve (12) months. During this time dramatic changes can and often do take place. And, how each parent conducts themselves and manages these changes in those months immediately prior to a custody judgment being entered will be weighed heavily and in many cases given greater weight by your family court judge than what took place prior to filing.
So what should a parent in the midst of custody litigation know? Here are some basics:
• Be Smart: Always consider your children’s short and long term interests first when dealing with the other parent. A divorce or highly contested custody case can often bring out the worst in even the most caring parents. It can be a time of anger, sadness and emotional volatility. When dealing with your ex-spouse you should always put the children’s interest ahead of any impulse for revenge or to argue about the problems of your relationship, with your children present. Never make disparaging remarks about the other parent or to the other parent in front of your children. And, don’t allow other adults around them to make these remarks. Never use your children to communicate adult issues to that parent or as a tool to get even with the other parent.
• Be cooperative with your judge, your lawyer and the guardian ad litem: If there is a temporary court order entered by your family court judge obligating you to pay support or to follow a specific custody plan, do everything in your power to fulfill your obligation. Don’t make your custody case about your failure to abide by a temporary order.
You hired your attorney for his or her experience and knowledge of the family court system. When given advise by him or her, follow it. If you don’t understand the whys or the whats, communicate with your lawyer that you need more information.
The guardian ad litem’s potential impact on the custody determination can’t be over-valued. Be cooperative with her. Give her all information needed to further her investigation. Their job is difficult. Becoming adversarial or non-cooperative with your GAL is rarely beneficial.
• Always be mindful that you are in an adversarial situation. You should not put yourself in a situation which could be used against you by the other parent or his or her attorney. Treat every Facebook post, Instagram image, tweet, email and text message that you send as if you are copying your family court judge, because there is a great chance it could end up as an exhibit and used against you. Think twice before posting.
Your conduct and evidence of your conduct while you are going through custody litigation is likely to be a critical element in your Judge’s custody decision. If you have questions specific to your current situation, please feel free to contact our office today to discuss your matter.