Regardless of how good intentions between parties may be at the start of a child custody action, there is always the possibility of emotions turning sour, minds being changed, or other unexpected circumstances (such as the emergency relocation of one party) that will impact the proceedings. While no one ever wishes that their child custody case turns ugly, it is best to be prepared in the off chance that the action takes a turn for the worse.
Remember that people change.
Your once loving spouse and co-parent may have originally agreed to giving up their legal custody rights, but perhaps after more thought, or influence from outside parties, they have changed their mind and are petitioning for legal custody. Simply put, the parent who has sole legal custody of their children can make any and all decisions surrounding medical care, education, religious upbringing, etc. A judge may be apprehensive to grant joint legal custody with the parents are involved in a highly contested custody or divorce battle, because joint legal custody requires that each party be able to communicate regularly and effectively, and maintain a civil relationship with each other.
Things will get ugly.
False accusations of neglect, critiques of parenting skills and lifestyle choices, as well as financial shortcomings are all various forms of mudslinging that can occur during a contested child custody proceeding. Such accusations must be proven to the court, and this cannot be done without evidence. If a father accuses the mother of his children of abuse, then the burden of proving the allegations of abuse fall onto him.
The fear of losing custody of one's children will drive some parents to the edge, thus resulting in various forms of immature accusations and desperate attempts at keeping custody. If the accused spouse is innocent and a good parent, then they shouldn't have anything to worry about. However, it is always recommended that each party be represented by experienced and qualified legal counsel who will advocate on their behalf.
There will be stress.
It may seem like the stress of a contested child custody case will never end, but remember: there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Battling it out in court over legal and physical custody is one of the hardest endeavors a parent will have to endure, but with patience and great representation, it is possible to emerge with a beneficial and fair settlement agreement or court order.
Focus on the positive, keep an eye on the prize, and take some personal time to refocus and regroup. Attitudes will shift, stress levels will dissipate, and relationships with others will improve. All of these things are beneficial during child custody (and even divorce!) actions.
Expect to lose your temper.
As previously discussed, child custody cases are stressful. They can incite feelings of ill-will, jealousy, anger, and spitefulness. It goes without saying that tempers will be lost, and arguments will be had. However, it is imperative that any negativity is not directed towards the other party, especially over social media websites. This can be seen as threatening and abusive behavior, and will not bode well in a petition for sole or joint custody. Furthermore, a judge may hold this behavior against the offending party and can use it while determining his or her ruling.
Avoid trash talking the other party on social media, refrain from messaging or emailing them, and take time to cool off before responding to voicemails or text messages. Social media plays a major role in modern society, and is routinely being used as evidence in supreme, family, and criminal courts throughout the country. Behaving badly on social media is incredibly damaging and should be avoided at all costs.
You may not what you want.
New York courts will routinely rule in the best interest of the children during child custody cases. In most situations, it is not healthy for the children's routine to become dramatically different, such as having drastically reduced visitation with one of their parents. A judge will often overlook the parent's drama, if it has proven to not negatively affect the children's health or safety, and order a custody and visitation plan that allows for the children to foster positive relationships with each parent.
However, this does not mean that each parent will receive equal time with their children. Due to work schedules, living arrangements, Orders of Protection, or previous behavior, a judge may order reduced or supervised visitation, or grant one parent sole legal or physical custody.
It is important to remember that there are various forms of custody and visitation, and schedules and settlements will be customized to the specific needs and wants of each individual case. Just because one party may not be awarded legal custody of their children, does not mean that have lost any physical custody or visitation rights. It is always possible to petition the courts for a modification of a custody agreement later on, if there has been an extreme change in circumstance.
Given the sensitive and complex nature of New York child custody cases, it is in the best interest of each party to hire an experienced family law attorney to advocate on their behalf throughout the action. The law firm of Brian D. Perskin & Associates, P.C. focuses their practice on divorce and child custody and support matters in the greater New York City metropolitan area, representing clients in both Supreme and Family Courts. For more information on family law issues, contact (718) 875-7584 or (646) 759-9735 to schedule a free and confidential consultation today!