How to Make Children the Top Priority in a Custody Battle

A divorce is rarely pleasant, and the people who most often suffer from a messy divorce are the divorcing couple’s children. A couple that has decided to divorce may have a lot of baggage and bad blood between them, but it is essential to make the safety and well-being of their children the priority in a custody battle. Parents who try to get their children to “take sides” in a custody battle will end up alienating their children and fostering resentment. Making decisions based on spite instead of the children’s best interests is also a bad idea, and the parent who does so is likely to injure his or her relationship with the children.

Make Sure You Stay Impartial Around the Kids

Some parents try to maneuver their children against the other parent in a custody battle in the hopes of turning the children against the other parent. This is unhealthy for everyone involved. When one parent says nasty things about the other around the couple’s children, this can have several negative effects: The kids may start to wonder why mom and dad are fighting, or if they are to blame for the divorce. The kids may also believe one parent’s negative statements about the other, damaging the relationship with the other parent. The divorcing couple may have irreconcilable differences, but parents should remain impartial when it comes to their children and refrain from speaking about the other parent in a negative light.

Encourage Your Children’s Relationship with Your Ex

You may resent your ex-spouse for whatever went wrong between the two of you, do not let that resentment influence your relationship with your kids. You may have strong, negative feelings about your ex, but if he or she is a good parent, you should put those feelings aside and encourage your children to have strong relationships with your ex. Children flourish when both parents play roles in their lives. If both parents are good parents, they need to put their personal issues aside and encourage their kids to have close relationships with each of them.

Never Withhold Support Payments

If the court decrees you must pay child support to your ex, never withhold payments as a way of getting back at your spouse. You may think it this doesn’t affect the kids, but child support payments may be an essential part of their home budget, and withholding your support payments will inevitably hurt your kids. Refusing to pay child support payments could come back to haunt you later if there’s another custody hearing.

Show (and Teach) Respect

Your kids look to you for guidance whether you realize it or not, and they are always watching you to see how you handle situations. You may feel tempted to ask about your ex’s life, but keep any questions about your children’s time with your ex focused on your children. If your kids live primarily with your ex, ask them about school and the fun things they like to do instead of asking about your ex’s personal affairs. The more respect you show your ex, the more your ex will (hopefully) show in return, and the more your kids will respect both of you.

Be Open-Minded About Physical Custody

You may hope for a 50-50 custody arrangement, though this isn’t always feasible or in the best interests of your children. You may need to put pride and personal preferences aside and agree to a different arrangement in which your ex has more time with the kids. Ultimately, there are ways to balance this. For example, if it’s in the best interests of your kids to live with your ex for school purposes, you may be able to argue for more custody time during the summers when school is out.

The more flexible you are, the more flexible a judge is likely to be with arrangements like this. It is ultimately up to you to set a good example for your kids and to agree to a child custody arrangement that works best for them.