5 Blunders to Avoid When Seeking Custody of Your Child
Gaining custody of your child during divorce can be a complex matter. Unfortunately, parents fighting for custody often make mistakes — they may move the child far away from the other parent, for example, or place the child in an unsafe environment. This article looks at these, and other common blunders that often make it hard for the courts to view custody attempts in a favorable way.
Litigation involving which parent your child gets to live with can be fraught with emotion. Sometimes, the emotionally charged nature of these struggles leads parents to make poor choices that actually hurt their chances of custody.
In the state of Oregon, the law (specifically ORS 107.137), requires courts to consider different factors when deciding on custody issues:
- How emotionally attached the child and family members are to one another.
- The attitude of the parents regarding the child.
- Who primarily cares for the child, and whether the caregiver is fit for the job.
- How desirable it is to allow the parent-child relationship to continue.
- The possibility of abuse in the marriage.
- The attitude of each parent when it comes to maintaining a good relationship between the child and the other parent.
In the context of these factors, it is possible for parents to make certain mistakes that affect their ability to seek custody. Family law attorneys in Oregon tend to often come up against the following mistakes that parents engaged in custody battles make. It’s important to avoid them if you are to not hurt your chances in a custody battle.
Making unannounced changes to the child’s life
The courts tend to care about making sure that children going through their parents’ divorce get to experience as little disruption as possible. If the child is doing well in their current environment, a unilateral decision by a parent to make abrupt changes can invite disapproval of the court. It’s important to not make major changes to the child’s schedule without consulting the other parent and obtaining their agreement.
Keeping the child away from the other parent
If both parents have generally taken care of their child together in the past, any attempts by one parent to remove the other from the picture can earn the disapproval of the court. This can happen even if the custodial parent has always been the primary caregiver. In deciding on custody matters, the courts always consider the ability of each parent to help the child maintain a healthy relationship with the other parent. This is actually a requirement under Oregon law (ORS 107.137(1)(f)). It’s important to make sure your actions do not appear as attempts to distance the other parent.
Attempting to turn the child against the other parent
It isn’t just a bad idea to attempt to cut the other parent off from the child. It is also ill-advised to badmouth the other parent to the child — even when you believe that doing so is in the child’s best interests. When one parent attempts to show the other parent in a poor light to the child, the court considers it a situation in which the child is unfairly forced to choose between their parents. It is important to avoid the temptation to speak disapprovingly of the other parent to your child.
Trying to take the child out of the other parent’s reach
Technically, there is nothing that stops a parent from moving a child far away from the other parent, unless there is a court order in place to prevent this from happening. Nevertheless, taking a child out of the reach of the other parent can be a mistake that seriously hurts your standing in a custody case. Judges presiding over custody cases look for inclusive parenting attitudes. They wish to grant custody to a parent who is able to create an atmosphere in which the child is able to thrive in contact with both parents. An attitude that seems to not value such a relationship is likely to meet with the court’s disapproval. Even a parent who moves for their job, or for reasons that have nothing to do with denying the other parent access, is likely to be viewed with suspicion. If you need to move, it’s important to avoid doing so without the court’s approval.
Providing an unsafe environment for the child
Placing a child in an environment that is unlikely to be safe — around the excessive use of alcohol, around drug users, or around people you don’t fully trust — can hurt a custody case. When the court considers your parenting abilities, it places your life under a microscope. It isn’t a good time to make questionable habits a part of your life.
Gaining custody of your child in a divorce can be a complex matter. The five mistakes listed here are not an exhaustive list. It’s important to seek the advice of a qualified attorney at family law before you make any moves. Your choices at this time can affect your life, and the life of your child.