1. Failure to cooperate with all attorneys involved. If you are represented by an attorney, it is extremely unlikely that you will speak to opposing counsel, except at trial. However, you will need to interact with your own counsel and possibly one other attorney—a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). It is imperative that you are cooperative and honest with both these attorneys.
Hopefully, you hired your attorney because he or she is competent, knows the law, and impressed you. It is important to listen to your attorney’s advice. If you believe you are not receiving good advice then seek a second opinion before you disregard your attorney’s advice or ask him or her to withdraw as counsel. Being uncooperative or dishonest with your attorney can cause irreparable damage to your case and unintentionally increase your legal fees.
It is also important that you are open and honest with the GAL, if one has been appointed. The GAL’s role is to investigate the facts and circumstances of the case, and represent your child’s best interests in court. The GAL will provide an oral or written report to the court and if the GAL believes you are uncooperative or worse, lying, then the court will hear about it. Leaving the GAL with an unfavorable opinion of you heading into court will most likely negatively impact your case.
2. Failure to cooperate with the other parent. Good family law attorneys understand how hard it is for separated or divorced parents to effectively co-parent. But courts deciding custody cases often reward those parents who have shown they can put aside their differences with the other parent. Unless truly necessary, resist the urge to involve the police or make a complaint to Child Protective Services—and do not fight in front of the children. Try extremely hard not to send snarky texts and emails because the judge will likely read them. Even when the other parent is acting badly and complicating every situation you should not retaliate or give in to the urge to tell him or her how you really feel. Either parent’s bad acts will come out in court—don’t let the other parent drag you down to their level.
3. Failure to cooperate with schools, teachers, and daycare providers. School administrators, teachers, and daycare providers often find themselves being called as witnesses in custody disputes. Openly speaking badly about the other parent to teachers and/or daycare providers can come back to haunt you in court. If there is a real concern about your child’s safety, then of course, alert the necessary people. But avoid looking bitter, angry, or gossipy by unnecessarily providing too many details about the custody case. Keep the school or daycare provider up-to-date about the current custody and visitation schedule, but never attempt to exclude the other parent from activities or necessary information.
4. Failure to follow all court orders. When an order is put in place the judge expects the parents to follow it in all respects, at all times. If you violate a temporary order while your case is pending you could be held in contempt of court, and the judge will be less inclined to give you the permanent custody order you are seeking. If you cannot follow a temporary order while the case is pending how can the court believe that you will abide by a final order? Even if you think the order is wrong you must follow it, to preserve any chance of winning a better custody arrangement in the future.
By avoiding these four custody pitfalls, you can you maximize your chances of success in court. But an experienced family law attorney can identify additional strategies for your specific situation, that can help you make your best custody case to the judge. The custody lawyers at Livesay & Myers have years of experience with custody and visitation cases in the courts of Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.