Monday, March 7, 2011

Molding your lifestyle to win a child custody battle

I currently have a few clients who have attorneys doing their courtroom work for them which gives me time to work on the parents lives and not trying to teach them how to represent themselves.

Much of the focus on child custody battles has been on the legal procedures and subsequent strategy. This is usually court-room based but there is an equally important, though often overlooked, strategy that you must dedicate time and resources to if you want to ensure that you have every advantage possible and a healthier parent-child relationship. Those are primarily parenting behaviours.

There are eight statutory factors listed in I.C. § 31-17-2-8 that a court must consider. These are the first factors that must then be discussed in developing a plan on how to examine your parenting behaviours in the context of a child custody battle. These are;
(1) The age and sex of the child.
You can't change these but what we can work on is ensuring that you are fit to provide care for a child of these particular demographics.
(2) The wishes of the child’s parent or parents.
This comes in two parts, one you will have little control over. The other you can have significant control over including the way you present it. I have seen a father go into court and say, "I want just as much time with my child as his mom gets". I can show you the correct way to ask for the same thing by making it child-focused rather than appearing only as wanting to divide the child like a bank account balance.
(3) The wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child’s wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years of age.
There is more that you can do about this than you likely think, especially if you have regular parenting time. However, you should know that this factor is not given nearly as much weight as most parents think.
(4) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with:
(A) the child’s parent or parents;
(B) the child’s sibling;
(C) any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests.
If these are people in your household or life then you can significantly affect those relationships. For the people in the other parent's life you can still get information about your child's relationship with them while not engaging in the improper interrogation of your child. I will show you some creative ways in how to do this.
(5) The child’s adjustment to the child’s:
(A) home;
(B) school; and
(C) community.
This is an important factor and given significant weight. If you are the custodial parent then this will be rather easy for you to demonstrate but is not automatically in your favour. Being a non-custodial parent is more of a challenge but also manageable while not engaging in the improper interrogation of your child.
(6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
Here is where it gets rather complicated and often where the most work needs to be done. I can demonstrate to you how your mental and physical health is considered by the court. You will be positioned to show how your health is advantageous to your child while the other parent's health condition may be detrimental.
(7) Evidence of a pattern of domestic violence by either parent.
This is one that it either did or didn't happen. However, there are ways to mitigate or aggravate this factor.
(8) Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian, and if the evidence is sufficient, the court shall consider the factors described in section 8.5(b) of this chapter.
There is often conflict over what constitutes a de facto custodian. I can show you how to use this to your advantage or mitigate it to your advantage.

Those are just the minimum requirements for the court. There are many more considerations that can be raised. This will be sensitive to your family dynamics but some things are universal. While still not acknowledged in the DSM many courts are now recognizing Parental Alienation. As a parent you want to ensure that you are not alienating your child from his or her other parent.

I have associates who can coach you specifically about this if I feel you need it. You can also be taught how to recognize and combat Parental Alienation if you are the target.

Who are you as a person? Some deep introspection will be beneficial. Are you a dependent person; needing drugs, sexual partners, constant thrills or an extensive support network just to make it through the day? Or maybe you are a parent who has a seat cushion permanently attached to your posterior while the muscles in your eye have become fixed on a focal point that possibly by chance just happens to be the same distance as the couch to your television or the chair to your computer screen.

What is your civic involvement and where do you reside on the scale between givers and takers? I am not going to magically transform you into parent-of-the-year but I can help guide you into displaying the actions and behaviours that will be most favourable to you in the fight for custody.

Ultimately though, it is going to be you who will have to commit to fulfilling your duty to provide for the best interest of your child. This may require that you not fight at all.

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Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.

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©2008, 2011 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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