Child custody issues are by far the most emotionally charged aspects of any divorce case. In no other area do the decisions made by you, by your spouse, or by the judge have a more lasting impact than those affecting the lives and future of your children. When faced with issues of child custody in your divorce, you need to consider the term “winning” and put that term in context. How do your goals interplay with what is in the best interest of your children?website link is an excellent resource for this.
Before deciding whether to proceed with litigation or to negotiate a child custody settlement, you should have an honest talk with your divorce attorney. You should first realize that, unless your spouse is an actual danger to your children, they are going to have a role to play in their lives. Barring documented occurrences of physical abuse, neglect or criminal activity, family court judges are not going to severely limit their involvement in your children’s lives.
It is best to make every effort to negotiate a custody and visitation schedule that both parties find to be fair. Even if you may not be entirely satisfied with the arrangement, the fact that you are reasonable and flexible will be rewarding in future dealings. Remember, your divorce ends your marriage, not your dealings, and certainly not your children’s dealings, with your spouse.
After a divorce is final, there are inevitably situations that arise later that require cooperation with your ex-spouse. Bitter child custody fights can lead the parties to have less of a chance to resolve those issues amicably. Right or wrong, judgments on issues such as proper courses of discipline, school behavior, and medical decisions can be clouded by feelings of resentment to a former spouse. Ex-spouses who have the feeling that you dealt fairly with them in the child custody case are far more likely to voluntarily contribute for unforeseen financial burdens or extracurricular activities.
Financially, you will be in a better position if you can negotiate a divorce settlement. A good divorce attorney is not defined by the cases where their clients “win”, but rather by the situations they can settle to everyone’s acceptance. Contested divorces, especially those dealing with child custody, are very expensive. Contested cases are also the most likely to be set for rehearing at a later date due to non-compliance by one party, or a difference on opinion regarding the interpretation of a Court’s orders. Those later matters will be an additional financial burden for you to bear. Parties who show a willingness to negotiate a settlement are far less likely to have future contested issues, and if they do, they tend to resolve them without court action.
Finally, you should consider your children’s needs and how they will perceive the court proceedings. Many parents tell their children that they are only fighting for them. Well, that may be true, but children are affected by their parents arguing, whether it is in the family living room or in the court room. How will your child feel later in life if you seek to limit their contact with the other parent? How will the other parent talk about you in front of your children when you’re not around? How will this affect your child? Children raised by two loving parents who show respect toward each other are proven to better ready for adulthood. And that should be the goal of every parent.