Parties going through custody cases often have lots of questions about the best way to approach their case. While every case is different, and no uniform rules exist for every case, there are some general principles that most out there want to at least consider to have the best chance at a positive result:
1. Make a good impression with the guardian ad litem – In cases where abuse or neglect is alleged, a guardian ad litem is almost always going to be appointed by the court. In other cases, the court may still appoint a guardian ad litem to help promote the best interests of the children. If a guardian ad litem is appointed in your case, it is critical to make a good impression. This includes, in most cases, reaching out to the guardian ad litem to set an appointment as soon as possible to explain your position and answer any questions they may have. If guardian ad litem fees were ordered, paying the guardian shows a level of responsibility and caring that can have a positive impact. It helps to come in with the right frame of mind — where you show that the best of your children is what is your foremost concern — not the fight of litigation.
2. Comply with court orders – It is critical that if the court orders you to do something, that you do it even if you do not agree with it. This includes paying child support or maintenance if ordered to do so. It means showing up to court on time (dressed appropriately) when the court requires your appearance. It means bringing your children back on time, at the proper place, under a temporary custody order. No matter the issue, if the court has ordered you to do something, it is imperative that you comply with a court order if you want a positive result for your custody case.
3. Avoiding a bar fight mentality – Lots of parties take the wrong approach with their custody cases. Versus boldly, thoroughly, and assertively presenting their case, many parties fall into a trap of becoming hostile and adversarial. This could include tantrum behavior in court. It could involve sending hostile communications. It could involve holding back child support, or not complying with a court order, to be difficult and wear down the other party. It could involve name-calling or showing disrespect to the court on any number of levels. If any of this behavior becomes evident to a judge, it can be fatal to a custody case because it does not show the steady maturity that is needed to care for children.
4. Don’t put the children in the middle – Based on the false belief of many that kids get to decide where they can live, many parties either overtly, or even in a more subtle way, involve the kids in the middle of a custody case. It could involve saying things about the parent that are not kind. It could be prodding the kids about how visits went to the other parent’s house or being critical. It could involve showing the children the court paperwork. If this becomes evident to a judge, or a guardian ad litem, it can be a death wish in a custody case. Not only that but when you engage in this kind of behavior, you hurt your kids and make the litigation more painful for them in the short and long-term.
5. Cooperate with your attorney – You must have an attorney who you trust and who is experienced in family law and child custody cases. You then to cooperate with your attorney and follow their advice. An attorney and client must go through a custody case on the same team working toward the same goal. If you do not feel good about your attorney’s advice, you need to have a candid conversation with them to understand where they are coming from. Ultimately, you need to follow the advice of your attorney if this is the attorney you have chosen. Or, if you are convinced that you not getting appropriate advice, you should find another attorney who you trust. Just be careful that you are not listening to the arm-chair, quarterback advice of others (including friends, family members, or, worse yet, your ex) in determining whether you will comply with the advice of your attorney. These individuals will often lead you down the wrong path. A successful custody outcome can be rarely had where the attorney and client are not on the same page as to case strategy.
If you are facing a child custody case, you may want to contact the Stange Law Firm, PC. The firm focuses exclusively on family law in the areas of divorce, child custody, and child support. For a free and confidential half-hour consultation with an attorney, call our main office at 314-963-4700 or visit us online at Divorce Attorneys in Belleville, Illinois in St. Clair County.