If you’re facing a child custody battle, you need to know what NOT to do during a custody battle.
This is the most comprehensive list of common mistakes to avoid when fighting for child custody.
You’ll learn exactly what not to do during a custody battle, which can cause you to lose child custody.
And you will know what to watch out for from your ex.
This allows you to know when they could potentially lose a custody battle to you.
Let’s dig in.
Table of Contents
Since this list of custody battle tips is so long, we have broken it into three sections.
They revolve around what not to do when you are:
- in front of the judge
- working with your ex to co-parent
- spending time with your kids
Section One: What Not To Do In Court During A Custody Battle
- Lying To Your Judge Can Be Devastating For You
- Do Not Forget Your Papers Proving You Are Fit
- This Is Easy and Tempting To Mess Up
- What Happens When You Ghost The Courts
- It’s Illegal For You To Not Follow Court Orders
- You Should Make Every Support Payment On Time
- What You Risk Losing By Doing It All Alone
Section Two: What Not To Do To Your Ex In A Custody Battle
- You Exposing the Child To Verbal Disputes
- You Exposing the Child To Physical Disputes
- You Destroying Property That Belongs To The Other Parent
- Recording Your Ex Is Not A Good Solution
- You Should Not Be Criticizing Your Ex To Others
- Exposing Private Details To The Children
- Do Not Block Your Kids From Having Communications
Section Three: What Not To Do With Your Kids In A Custody Battle
- Substance Abuse Is An Easy Way For You To Lose Custody
- You Should Not Be Rescheduling or Missing Your Time
- You Should Not Be Missing Your Pick Up Times
- You Should Not Be Yanking Them Out Of Activities
- It Is Dangerous For You To Be Talking Negatively About Your Ex
- Is It Illegal To Take Your Child Without Warning?
- Exposing Your Child To New Significant Others
- You Pick Up The Kids Out of Turn
What Not To Do During A Custody Battle
Lying To Your Judge Can Be Devastating For You
You may be inclined to bend the truth a little to make yourself look better during a custody battle.
You might even lie about your ex, falsely accusing them of things like:
- substance abuse
- bad parenting
- child abuse
- child neglect
- mental health
Usually, during a custody battle, the judge will order a child custody evaluation.
Child custody evaluations get conducted by professionals, such as a:
- social worker
- family therapist
The child custody evaluation process determines what is in the best interest of your child.
- interview each parent
- interview the child
- observe each parent with the child
- interview other family members
- perform psychological testing
- review previous court and legal activities
If the judge finds out that you have lied, you could end up losing custody.
Judges have the ability to award more physical custody to the parent who did not lie.
And if the lies were serious enough, you could lose legal custody.
Meaning, you have zero decision-making abilities for the child.
On top of that, the judge can award damages and legal fees to the parent who did not lie.
Do Not Forget Your Papers Proving You Are Fit
Don’t forget the importance of providing documentation proving that you are a fit parent.
So, you’re probably wondering what kind of documentation the judge is looking for.
During a child custody case, the judge wants to disrupt the child’s life as little as possible.
When looking into disruptions, the judges take into account:
- the school district
- extracurricular activities
- extended family
They want to make sure that giving you custody will not affect the child’s routines.
The other, small disruptions that judges look at are:
- eating habits
- sleep schedules
- progression in school
Everyone’s situation at home is different.
Work with your attorney to gather and present proof to the judge during child custody hearings.
They will know what information is and is not important when fighting for custody of a child.
The other thing that judges want to see is you promoting co-parenting.
It may feel backward to you.
But you should be promoting a fair visitation schedule with the other parent.
Judges believe that it’s in the child’s best interests to be raised by both parents.
If one parent is working aggressively against the other parent, it may be a red flag.
(Note, this is unless the other parent poses a danger to the child’s well-being.)
You should work with your ex, not against them, during a child custody battle.
Dangers to the child include a parent who has:
- a history of drug abuse
- mental instabilities
- child neglect
- criminal history
This Is Easy and Tempting To Mess Up
You’re frustrated with your ex.
It’s natural that you want to vent about it.
This is especially true if someone that you’re close with asks about how things are going.
But it’s important to remember that your friends are probably friends with your ex too.
This means that anything you say about your ex is likely to get back around to them.
Your caseworker who is assigned to your custody case is looking for signs of alienation of affection.
Any trash talk that they hear from you can get construed as parental alienation.
You should never talk negatively about your ex.
Try your hardest to keep a positive focus on the relationship with your children.
Related: Grounds for Full Custody of Child
What Happens When You Ghost The Courts
You may think this is not a big deal.
But ghosting your ex and the courts can backfire.
This is why this is on the list of things of what not to do in a custody battle.
You do not want to disappear out of state (or the city).
The courts and your ex should be able to easily get in touch during the custody battle.
One of the main reasons is for notifications.
Both parents are required to:
- notify the other when they are leaving town
- get approval from the other parent if relocating
- be able to easily communicate with the child
This is not an exhaustive list of reasons, but you get the point.
Your ex and the courts need to be able to contact you.
If you are not able to be available, you should notify your custody lawyer that they need to handle correspondences for you.
It’s Illegal For You To Not Follow Court Orders
Let’s talk about violating court orders for child custody.
This includes temporary custody orders during legal separation when filing for divorce.
Violation of child custody orders includes:
- blocking visitation
- blocking communication
- children refusing to visit
- non-payment of child support
- parent missing visitation
When one parent commits a violation of a court order, the other parent can file a motion.
This motion asks the courts to enforce the custody order and hold the parent in contempt.
A parent who is violating orders can face changes to their visitation rights.
If there are repeated offenses, then there could be a change in child custody.
Usually, it’s a custodial parent is interfering with a non-custodial parent’s parenting time.
When this happens, the courts may:
- order make up visitation times
- order the violating parent to attend parenting classes
- order the violating parent to pay for the interference
- hold the parent in contempt
- make the parent pay fines
- potentially sentence the parent to jail
When a parent violates child custody orders, they are breaking the law.
This means that a parent withholding a child is committing criminal interference with the court order.
Even a single instance of this can result in a misdemeanor.
A third conviction of court violation is a felony.
Your divorce attorney will be able to help you navigate this if your spouse is not following court orders.
You Should Make Every Support Payment On Time
This means that a parent cannot withhold visitation for unpaid child support.
But if one parent is not paying child support, that is contempt.
That parent can be fined or jailed for not paying child support each month.
When a parent does not pay child support, the courts consider this:
- a lack of respect to the family courts
- a lack of concern for your child’s well-being
You have parental responsibilities for making child support payments to the parent with sole custody.
It doesn’t matter what happens in their life.
They could lose their job and still be forced to pay child support.
Child support, in the court’s eyes, is a parent’s number one financial priority.
The only way to not pay or change how much you owe is a child support modification.
Otherwise, you are stuck paying what you have been ordered to pay.
And the other parent cannot block visitation if you do not pay child support.
They have to file a petition with the courts to enforce the child support payments.
Related: Irreconcilable Differences
What You Risk Losing By Doing It All Alone
Some people think that they will save money by not hiring a family law attorney.
In reality, this is going to cost you more money than it saves you.
Your ex is going to hire someone and they are going to trample you in the family courts.
Trying to go into a custody battle without a child custody lawyer on your side can cause you to lose joint custody and parental rights of your child.
Hiring the best family lawyers to go at-bat for you will make sure that you get a fair custody deal.
Related: Dissolution vs Divorce
You Exposing the Child To Verbal Disputes
Even if you live in a two-party consent state, you should always assume you are being recorded.
Verbal altercations or yelling at your ex can be seen as abusive or bullying.
Lawyers for custody can use recordings of a phone call or an in-person argument.
They will tell the judge that you easily lose control and are possibly dangerous.
Whether the fear of danger is authentic or not, the courts take these allegations seriously.
Most likely, your children will be interviewed during the custody hearings.
What your children say about how you treat each other can heavily influence the judge’s decisions.
You Exposing the Child To Physical Disputes
While this post is focused on the custody battles, physical altercations are a civil crime.
Depending on the state you’re in, it can be considered battery or assault.
One parent assaulting the other (or the child) can lead to jail.
No matter how upset you become while fighting custody in court, refrain from physical altercations.
Physical abuse can be committed by either a male or female.
If your ex physically abuses you or the child, call the police immediately.
Allegations of abuse are serious.
And calling the police is the right way to document, and track, the situation.
Judges take physical abuse very seriously during child custody cases.
They know that children who witness domestic violence suffer developmental challenges.
Related: Reasons a Judge Will Change Custody
You Destroying Property That Belongs To The Other Parent
If one parent damages the property of another parent, this is considered vandalism.
Acts of vandalism include:
- keying or scratching someone’s car
- spray painting someone’s house
- breaking windows
- slashing tires
- general damage to someone’s property
So, you will be committing a crime by damaging your ex’s property.
But in the judge’s eyes, they see signs of aggression building up in a person.
The courts will make you pay for damages and potentially charge you.
But they will also see you as a threat to your children now and in the future.
Recording Your Ex Is Not A Good Solution
You may think that recording your ex would be good evidence against them in a child custody battle.
Consult your family law attorney who is experienced in family law for child custody cases before recording your ex.
In some states, both parties have to have consented to the recording.
For example, your ex is verbally abusing you and you record it without their consent.
You could be facing criminal charges for the recordings.
States that require consent from both parties are two-party states.
For electronic recordings, all parties must be aware of the recordings.
If you record your ex illegally, you can ruin your credibility with the judicial officer.
This is true even if the recording helps your custody battle.
And illegally obtained recordings cannot be used in your custody battle as evidence.
You Should Not Be Criticizing Your Ex To Others
This one is easy to NOT think of when considering what not to do during a custody battle.
You do not want to start criticizing your ex-spouse to other people.
Again, remember that your friends are most likely their friends as well.
But even if the person you talk to is not close to your ex, it’s dangerous.
Your ex’s lawyer can subpoena any of your friends to testify in the courts.
If this happens, they are under oath and will have to answer all questions honestly.
This is true even if it puts you in a bad spot.
It’s your responsibility to not criticize your ex-spouse to anyone.
If someone gets subpoenaed and they have to testify against you, don’t blame them.
You confided in them when you should not have.
Also, it should be noted that you should not be posting anything on social media.
This can very easily backfire on you. And it’s usually a grab for attention.
Exposing Private Details To The Children
Everyone’s parenting styles are different.
Some parents shield their children from everything.
While others share everything.
No matter where you fall on this spectrum, you should not share details with the children.
It’s important to just let them be kids right now.
Your custody battle is a burden that you need to bear as an adult.
And avoid talking negatively about what your ex has done or shared.
Obviously, you can answer their questions.
But don’t place the burden of the custody battle onto them as well.
Related: How to Leave Your Husband
Do Not Block Your Kids From Having Communications
This may not seem like a huge deal for what not to do during a custody battle.
But blocking communications with your child’s other parent can backfire.
Even if you are merely busy with the child, it can be bad if it happens repeatedly.
The courts may consider this alienation of affection towards the other parent.
You must allow the child to call the other parent as requested.
What if the other parent calls to check on the child?
You must be polite and allow them to talk to the child.
That is unless it causes disruption or interferes with sleep.
The calls from the other parent must be reasonable.
Let’s assume that your ex has legal visitation rights and they are following court orders.
In this case, denying reasonable contact is illegal on your part.
Your ex can file for contempt if you are denying contact with your ex.
The courts may even conclude that you are intentionally limiting contact.
They can change your custody arrangement based on this.
Related: Grandparents Rights In Georgia
Substance Abuse Is An Easy Way For You To Lose Custody
Substance abuse does not automatically equal a loss of custody.
Courts won’t take action unless it poses a danger to the child’s well-being.
This is because the judge takes into account all factors when determining custody.
Usage of alcohol or drugs does not automatically disable them from being a good parent.
When a parent has substance allegations, the courts will investigate the matter.
Substance abuse covers alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription drugs.
The courts will also take documented histories of substance abuse into consideration.
So, what are we looking at with substance abuse with child custody battles?
Let’s say that the judge deems substance abuse an actual issue.
The judge may restrict the parent’s contact with the child.
They can change the visitation and child custody schedules.
They may even order that the visitation is supervised.
This provides the child with a safe and controlled environment.
These changes will remain in effect until the parents get clean and kick the habit.
This can be in the form of a rehabilitation program.
You Should Not Be Rescheduling or Missing Your Time
Consistently rescheduling visitation shows the courts that your child is not a priority.
The judge may feel like you are simply filing for custody just to be spiteful to your ex.
And that you do not actually want any custody of your child.
Your ex can present evidence of you missing visitation repeatedly.
You can lose a custody battle by never showing up to see your child.
And, quite frankly, you hurt your child too.
Related: Getting a Divorce While Pregnant
You Should Not Be Missing Your Pick Up Times
It doesn’t matter how busy your life is.
And while it may seem insignificant, this is definitely what not to do during a custody battle.
Don’t arrive late for visits or pickups.
Your child (and probably your ex) are looking forward to your pick up times.
Showing up late shows everyone that you are not committed as a parent.
If your ex documents repeated late arrivals, they can present this in court.
This is especially true if you’re picking them up from school or daycare.
Most of these places will keep records.
Your ex can use these against you during a custody battle.
When you arrive on time, every time, it tells your children that they are a priority to you.
Related: How to Have An Affordable Divorce
You Should Not Be Yanking Them Out Of Activities
Your child is going through a tough time when you file for divorce.
It throws their world into chaos.
And it takes a heavy toll on their mental and emotional well-being.
Keeping your child’s routine will help them cope with the divorce process and stress.
Meaning you should be maintaining all their extracurricular and after school activities.
(This includes making sure their homework is done.)
It’s not going to be easy on you or your ex.
You’re going to have to actively co-parent even if you hate each other.
That’s show biz baby.
But you will be helping your child maintain a stable life.
And you help build a case that you should have a fair custody outcome.
The judge will see that you are trying to keep the child’s life stable.
They also will see that you are trying to co-parent.
This will lean in your favor during the custody process.
Related: How to Have an Amicable Divorce
It Is Dangerous For You To Be Talking Negatively About Your Ex
I know you’re probably angry.
I mean, you’re filing for divorce, losing half of everything, and fighting for your kids.
You have every right to be upset.
You should not be talking negatively about your ex to your children.
Try to keep your opinions and feelings that you have to yourself.
No matter what has happened, it’s not fair to your kids or the other parent.
I’ve seen good parents’ relationships with their children get destroyed over this.
One parent will bash the other parent to the kids.
The kids will only see one side of the story.
And the children’s resentment towards the other parent grows.
Eventually, the relationship gets ruined.
You don’t want the other parent doing this to you.
And you should not be doing this to the other parent.
Related: Divorce Laws in Georgia
Is It Illegal To Take Your Child Without Warning
Taking the children without warning the other parent can hurt you in a child custody battle.
If you have a family reunion, day trip, or family vacation planned outside of the city, you should tell them about it.
Taking your child without telling the other parent could be considered parental kidnapping.
Parental kidnapping happens when one parent takes the child to an undisclosed location.
If the other parent claims parental kidnapping, they could get emergency custody orders.
When this happens, you have a chance to lose custody of your child.
The safest approach is to:
- notify the other parent two weeks in advance
- document the notification with email, text, or a signed agreement
It seems ridiculous to have a signed agreement stating that it’s okay that you take your child somewhere.
But it’s worth it when you’re facing parental kidnapping allegations.
Related: Divorce as a Stay at Home Mom
Exposing Your Child To New Significant Others
During child custody proceedings, you may not want to expose your child to new partners.
Dating during custody battles will probably hurt you.
Courts decide where the child should live based on their best interests.
The best interests of the child are per the child custody laws.
The well-being and safety of the child are very important.
If there is any danger, the parent stands a chance to lose the child custody battle.
It may be perfectly okay to have a new girlfriend or be dating during custody battles.
But that does not mean it is recommended.
It’s advisable that you keep your children away from partners for a while after the divorce proceedings.
There are many consequences to exposing your child to a new girlfriend or boyfriend.
These are things like:
- causing confusion for your children
- unnecessary drama and tension with your ex
- potential legal issues, leading to a custody dispute
Child Custody And Living With Girlfriend (or Boyfriend)
The courts realize that moving on is part of life.
They will not punish you for having child custody and living with a girlfriend.
Custody decisions are based on the success of:
- the parent-child relationship
- the well-being of the child
- the child’s emotional development
- the child’s physical development
This list is not all-inclusive.
But, in short, you won’t lose a custody battle for living with a girlfriend.
You can lose child custody if the new significant others affect the child negatively.
If your ex doesn’t like you living with a girlfriend, it can be a child custody issue.
But if the judge doesn’t see any issues with it, they will not change child custody for living with a girlfriend.
Can My Ex Leave My Child With His Girlfriend?
If child custody and living with a girlfriend can go hand in hand, can your ex leave your child with his girlfriend?
Yes, your ex can leave your child with his girlfriend.
Per family law, he basically has free rein to leave them with anyone he wants without any legal issues.
But you can prevent your ex from leaving your child with his girlfriend.
You can do this by proving there is a danger to the child by being left with the girlfriend.
If you cannot prove to the judge that there is danger, you have to live with it.
The judge will not accept a child custody dispute without proof of danger.
Related: Uncontested Divorce In Georgia
You Pick Up The Kids Out of Turn
When you are filing for divorce custody changes.
When you’re married, either parent can pick the child up at any time with no issues.
When you’re fighting for custody of a child, you have to tread lightly.
This is true regardless of whether you are the primary custodial parent or not.
Let’s assume that you want to go visit your child at daycare or school for lunch.
Maybe you even get a wild hair and want to take them out of school earlier after lunch.
Taking your child out of school unannounced could be considered parental kidnapping.
The same is true when you pick your kids up out of turn.
You want to maintain the schedule.
You can expect that your ex will have the school print out a sheet that shows:
- dates the child was tardy
- dates the child missed school
- who picked the child up
- who picked the child up if they left early
All these can be used as evidence against you when you are fighting for custody.
This is why it’s very important that you leave your child in school unless there is a good reason.
If you have a good reason, keep documentation proving the reason.
Related: 13 Grounds For Divorce In Georgia
The Biggest Custody Battle Mistake You Don’t Want to Make
Sounds serious, right?
Failing to hire the best family law attorney to represent you can lead to:
- reduced visitation, meaning you see your child less
- without legal custody, meaning you don’t get to make ANY decisions for the child’s life
- without physical custody, meaning the child does not, and will never, live with you
Fill out the form below for your free, 30-minute consultation.
You can get the ball rolling with one of our reliable and experienced custody battle attorneys.