When parents are involved in a custody action, emotions can run high. It is easy to let yourself get carried away while dealing with the stress caused by these emotions. Unfortunately, many parents do things based on the emotions that they are experiencing rather than stepping back and considering what could happen as a result of their actions. Here are five common mistakes that parents make while in a custody dispute that could lead to them losing custody of their child.
Making threats against the other parent.
I have seen times where a parent that sends texts or email to the other parent telling them that if they don't do something or if they do something, the parent will deny them access to their child. In one case the parent said that if the other parent didn't get back together with her, she would move and he would never see his child again. Making threats like this could cause the Court to award custody to the other parent. Think twice before sending a text or email and ask yourself, "Would I want the Judge to read this message?"
Involving the child in your dispute with the other parent.
This is commonly know as parental alienation. A parent will often tell the child about how bad the other parent is treating them or how they are not doing what they should be doing. Children should not be involved in the dispute between the parents and should be shielded from these issues. Ask yourself if you want the child to repeat what you have told them in Court saying "Mommy said that Daddy did this".
Denying the other parent access to the child or not providing information on the child.
Unless a Court has determined otherwise, both parents have a right to spend time with the child. Denying the other parent access to the child is another form of parental alienation and could cause you to lose custody of your child. In addition, you need to provide the other parent with information such as the child's doctor, daycare provider, school records and school events. If you try to cut the other parent out of the child's life, you may be the one who is cut out.
Tying visitation to child support.
If a court has ordered child support, there are established methods for forcing the parent to pay their child support. Whether a parent is paying the child support is completely separate from their right to have visitation with the child. Do not deny the visitation because the parent is behind on child support.
Involving others in your relationship with the child.
Virginia is still a conservative state and many Judges have a hard time with a parent who has moved a romantic partner into the home with the child. If you begin to live with someone outside of a marital relationship, the court may transfer custody of the child to the other parent. Likewise, if you are introducing the child to a series of boyfriend/girlfriends, the court may find that the child will be better off with the other parent.
If you are involved in a custody dispute, remember that you need to focus on what is best for the child and not on your own personal agenda. You will have to co-parent with the other parent until the child is an adult and you need to find a way that you can communicate with the other parent.
If you are involved in a custody case and need assistance, contact Hampton Roads Legal Services at 757-320-2010. Attorney Edrie Pfeiffer will meet with you and discuss how to achieve an appropriate custody arrangement for your situation.
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