If you’re going through a divorce with children, you and your soon-to-be-ex will need to address both custody and parenting time arrangements. Our firm has seen time and time again how important it is to practice certain conduct when navigating custody matters—failing to do so almost always hinders you far more than the other party. Below are some common custody rules to consider as you walk through this process:
What does the court consider in determining who gets custody?
In the state of Oregon, the law (specifically ORS 107.137), requires courts to consider different factors when deciding on custody issues:
- How emotionally attached the child and family members are to one another.
- The attitude of the parents regarding the child.
- Who primarily cares for the child, and whether the caregiver is fit for the job.
- How desirable it is to allow the parent-child relationship to continue.
- The possibility of abuse in the marriage.
- The attitude of each parent when it comes to maintaining a good relationship between the child and the other parent.
Looking at these factors, it seems like it can be easy to fall into making some of these mistakes.
It can be all too easy. Gaining custody of a child during divorce can be a complex legal matter and having to litigate which parent the child gets to live with are often emotion-filled battles. Unfortunately, parents fighting for custody often make poor choices and other mistakes, knowingly and unknowingly, that can make it hard for the courts to view their request in a favorable way. It is very possible for parents to end up making mistakes that affect their ability to seek custody. It’s important to avoid them to not hurt your chances in a custody battle.
So, what are the big mistakes parents are prone to making in a custody battle?
Keeping the child away from the other parent may be the biggest mistake that a parent can make. In deciding on custody matters, the courts will always consider the ability of each parent to help the child maintain a healthy relationship with the other parent. Both parents need to be willing and able to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child. If both parents have generally taken care of their child together in the past, any attempts by one parent to remove the other from the picture can earn swift disapproval from the court.
It also holds true for a custodial parent who has always been the primary caregiver and is used to making decisions without necessarily involving the other parent. It is critical to make sure your actions do not appear to the court as attempts to distance the other parent. Of course, if the other parent is being abusive or dangerous, this is a big factor in considering why a parent would keep the child away from that parent.
Does this include moving far away from the other parent?
Moving away from your co-parent certainly can become an issue, especially if you are doing it to intentionally take the child out of the other parent’s reach. Technically, there is nothing that stops a parent from moving a child far away from the other parent, unless there is a court order in place to prevent this from happening. Nevertheless, taking a child out of the reach of the other parent can be a mistake that seriously hurts your standing in a custody case.
Judges presiding over custody cases look for inclusive parenting attitudes. They wish to grant custody to a parent who is able to create an atmosphere in which the child is able to thrive in contact with both parents. An attitude that seems to not value such a relationship is more likely to meet with the court’s disapproval. Even a parent who moves for their job, or for reasons that have nothing to do with denying the other parent access, may be viewed with suspicion. If you need to move, it’s important to avoid doing so without the court’s approval.
What are some other common conduct mistakes that parents can make?
A common mistake that can occur is when a parent tries to turn the child against the other parent. While it is almost always a bad idea to attempt to physically cut the other parent off from the child, it is also ill-advised to badmouth the other parent to the child. This is true even when you believe that doing so is in the child’s best interests. When one parent attempts to show the other parent in a poor light to the child, the court considers it a situation in which the child is unfairly forced to choose between their parents. It is very important to avoid the temptation to speak disapprovingly of the other parent to your child.
Additionally, not being willing to communicate in a reasonable manner can lead to big problems, especially when it comes to making unannounced changes to the child’s life. The courts usually try to ensure that children going through their parents’ divorce experience as little disruption as possible. If the child is doing well in their current environment, a unilateral decision by a parent to make abrupt changes can invite disapproval from the court. It’s important to not make major changes to the child’s schedule without consulting the other parent and obtaining their agreement.
Are there safety issues that can arise with parents fighting for custody?
Absolutely, and this is where making poor choices can be detrimental, especially when it prevents your ability to provide a safe environment for the child. Placing a child in an environment that is unlikely to be safe, such as having the child be around the excessive use of alcohol, around drug users, or around people you don’t fully trust, can hurt a custody case. When the court considers your parenting abilities, it places your life under a microscope. It isn’t a good time to make questionable habits a part of your life.
So, if you don’t do any of these things, are you good to go?
Not necessarily. Gaining custody of your child in a divorce involves practical and legal issues and can be very tricky, especially if you are trying to do this by yourself. The mistakes mentioned are not an exhaustive list. It is important to seek the advice of a qualified family law attorney who understands these intricacies before you make any moves. This is not a time to think that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. The choices you make at this time can affect your life and the life of your child.
If you have further questions about your custody case, our firm is here to help. We have helped countless clients navigate these challenging waters, and will be able to assess your unique situation to outline your best path forward. Call our office at (503) 227-0200 to set up your free consultation today.