There's no way to say this gently. Custody battles are ugly. In the midst of all the stress and anguish over a break-up, you're also fighting for your kids. It's hard to be at your best when things are at their worst, and-for a loving parent-it's hard to find a worse situation than a protracted custody battle.
Given the pain of a custody dispute, here are five common mistakes parents make while fighting for their kids:
Your ex may seem like the worst thing for humanity since acne. But judges absolutely hate it when they hear that a parent is trashing an ex in front of the kids, or using the kids to send nasty messages back and forth. You don't have to lie to the kids. Acknowledge that things are stressful and you and their daddy disagree about a lot, but he's still their father. The kids must understand that they aren't the cause or in the center of the dispute.
If you're thinking of asking for a divorce, it's better to get legal advice, than it is to try to work things out on your own. And importantly, decisions relating to children's wellbeing (such as physical custody, child support, parental supervision and more), are often thought of as topics to be addressed during or after a divorce is final, but they are legally relevant even at a separation stage. Therefore, start discussing these issues with an attorney as early as possible.
Careful recordkeeping is essential. Communicate in writing, if possible, and retain those emails, texts and notes. Keep a journal. Because from this moment on, every conversation you have with the ex about the kids, or conversations you have with the kids about the ex, is potentially meaningful in your case. It can establish your fitness as a parent, and offer evidence as to any concerns you may have about your ex's.
If you have concerns about your ex's ability to parent, you may be tempted to refuse to comply with a visitation schedule. You may want to ignore the ex's ability to make parental decisions. But this is a classic case of "two wrongs don't make a right." To violate court orders is puts you in contempt of court, and that's a very dangerous business. Don't disobey a court order or a court-approved agreement. Instead, get on the phone with your lawyer, express your objections, and let your attorney come up with ways to go back to court and change the judge's mind.
You may well be furious at your ex, and she may well deserve it. But if you make threats, vent on social media and more-those can become weapons your ex can use against you. An ex who gets you to lose your temper wins, in every sense of the term. You're not going to be thinking clearly if you are angry, and you're not modeling good behavior for your kids. So take deep breaths. Don't lose sight of the fact that you're fighting for the kids, not against her, and remember: This, too, shall pass.