Not every couple can agree on child custody arrangements during a divorce. This is the most difficult part of the divorce process for most people. Unfortunately, some custody disputes become major legal battles with exes who aren’t willing to compromise. To come out of a high-conflict custody dispute with your head held high, you must understand what to expect and how to react to difficult situations. Follow these steps before a custody dispute negatively affects you or your child(ren):
Leave Your Child Out of It
The No. 1 rule for any high-conflict custody dispute should be to leave the children out of it. Divorce and custody arrangements are adult problems. Adults should be the ones thinking about them, not the children involved. Do not mention the court case around your children, badmouth your spouse in front of them, or ask them questions about who they would like to live with. These conversations can be stressful and upsetting for children. If an ex discovers this type of behavior, he or she could use it against you in court. The courts might even see it as a violation of court orders that restrict parents’ communication about adult issues.
Control What You Can
You cannot control the way your ex-spouse acts or behaves, but you can control your own responses to the situation. Practice self-awareness during a difficult custody battle. Think about ways you could respond that will help the situation, not make it worse. This is especially important if your ex is a volatile or manipulative person who will try to get the best of you through conflict. Focus on your child, your goals, and what you know is true in the situation to stay grounded.
Set boundaries with your ex, limiting when and how you’re willing to discuss the situation. This can help prevent your ex from badgering or harassing you with emails, texts, and phone calls about child custody. Arrange to meet in safe, public places where you feel comfortable. Bring a neutral third-party friend or family member if you don’t feel safe being alone with your ex. Surround yourself with positive influences and people who love you to help you through this difficult custody battle.
Write Down Your Parenting Plan
Both parents should come up with parenting plans – ideally together. Allow your spouse to discuss things he/she doesn’t like about your plan, and you can do the same about his or hers. Compromise when appropriate. Offering up a compromise that you’re okay with can help foster the same behaviors from your ex. The more flexible you are with your plan, the more he or she may be. Write the plan down so that you both have rules to refer to during child custody/visitation exchanges. A parenting plan can help set ground rules and lead to compromises that can prevent or end high-conflict battles.
Work with a Trustworthy Attorney
Sometimes custody battles become too intense or dramatic for parents to handle on their own. Retain an attorney rather than trying to navigate the California court system, look after your family, and protect your rights on your own. A good lawyer can communicate with your ex, helping prevent unnecessary tension and conflict. A lawyer can also set in motion the proper documents for an agreeable parenting plan, restraining orders, or any other documents your divorce case may require.