Parents going through a divorce or encountering custody or visitation issues can face a very difficult and stressful time. Each custody case is different, and there is no definitive “how-to” guide which will answer every question that might come up in your case. However, the following list of do’s and don’ts should provide a helpful starting point:
- Do your best to cooperate and co-parent while your case is pending or while you are awaiting your hearing.
- Explain to your children, depending on their age and maturity level, generally what is happening and why Mom and Dad may have to go to court. If the kids may have to go court, more conversations need to take place or perhaps a guardian ad litem (GAL) should be involved in the case.
- Keep a journal and/or a calendar of what you do as a parent on a weekly or monthly basis. This can be a valuable tool when it comes time for you to testify about your parenting role, and the journal might also be introduced as evidence in court.
- Keep your attorney informed of any out of the ordinary issues that arise at your child’s school or any behavioral issues that arise.
- Comply with all temporary court orders or prior court orders.
- Always keep in mind that the court will be guided by what is best for the children, not what is best for either parent.
- Disparage or criticize the other parent, especially in the presence of the child or children. Text messages and emails between parents are often used as evidence in custody and visitation matters.
- Withhold your children from seeing the other parent for scheduled visitation, or fail to meet the time requirements for pick-up and drop-off of the children. These types of actions can only hurt your case at a custody and visitation hearing.
- Withhold information or conceal information from the GAL, if one appointed in your case.
- Interrogate your child or children about who they want to live with, or unnecessarily place them in the middle of issues that involve the parents.
- Fail to share important information with the other parent regarding medical issues, school issues, or any important matters that require input and attention from both parents.
- Hold back information from your attorney, even if you believe the information may reflect poorly on you. Your attorney needs to know all the facts of your situation, good and bad, to build the best case for you.
Just remember that Virginia courts are tasked with determining what is in the best interests of each child when deciding custody and visitation disputes. Keeping in mind what is best for the children should also be a guiding principle for parents with pending custody or visitation cases.
For guidance tailored toward your specific situation, consult with an experienced family law attorney. The custody lawyers at Livesay & Myers, P.C. have years of experience with custody and visitation cases in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Manassas, Alexandria, Arlington, Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania and all across Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.