If you are the father of a minor child and are facing the prospect of divorce, your biggest worry may be the thought of losing the ability to see your child every day. You may have considered asking to become your child’s primary custodial parent (referred to as “conservator in Texas) in the divorce. That, in turn, may lead to a contentious custody dispute. If so, Fort Worth fathers’ rights attorney Jon Boyd warns you to avoid making the following mistakes during a custody dispute.
Assuming you cannot possibly win. By far, one of the most common mistakes fathers make when it comes to the issue of custody is giving up without a fight. While it was once true that fathers rarely won custody of a minor child, that is no longer the case. In fact, the law prevents a judge from making custody decisions based on the sex of the parent. The law requires a judge to make decisions using the “best interest of the child” standard only.
Being uncooperative with the child’s mother. Although you may not have an amicable relationship with your soon-to-be ex, do not make the mistake of allowing that animosity to spill over to your interactions regarding your child. One of the factors the judge will consider when making conservatorship decisions is whether a parent has the ability to peacefully cooperate with the other parent regarding the child post-divorce.
Withdrawing from your child’s activities. Fathers often make the choice to stay away from activities in which the child is involved during a divorce in a misguided effort to avoid tension between the parents. If you are petitioning for custody of your child, this is a huge mistake. The more involved in your child’s life you are, the better your chances of being awarded primary conservatorship.
Withholding child support or alimony. It may be frustrating to pay child support and/or alimony while the divorce is pending, particularly if your spouse is not being generous with parenting-time with your child. Do not make this mistake! Legally, child support cannot be tied to parenting-time. They are separate legal issues. If you are fighting for custody, keep in mind that failing to pay support (of any kind) is a violation of a court order that will not be viewed in a positive light when a judge makes a custody decision.
Moving out of the school district. If you move out of the marital residence, be sure to remain in the child’s school district. The court will want as little disruption to the child’s life as possible. Ensuring that your child will be able to continue attending his/her school shows that you are putting your child’s needs first.
Cohabitating with a new partner. This is a mistake that fathers (and mothers) make frequently. Just because you are operating under the understanding that your marriage is over does not mean it is legally dissolved. Therefore, starting a new relationship can be viewed as adultery. More importantly, moving in with someone new while simultaneously fighting for custody of your child brings your priorities into question. It also leaves the door wide open for the child’s mother to argue that bringing someone new into your child’s life will be disruptive.
Not hiring an attorney. It is possible to get through a divorce without hiring an attorney; however, that usually only works when the parties remain amicable and there are no disputed issues. When custody of a child is disputed (or you anticipate that it will be), hiring an experienced fathers’ rights attorney should be your first step.
If you are planning to ask for custody (conservatorship) of your minor child in a divorce, contact an experienced Fort Worth fathers’ rights attorney at Boyd Family Law to discuss your legal situation and schedule your appointment today.