Chris Kirker’s Top Five Custody Tips
- September 22, 2016
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Austin custody lawyer Chris Kirker of Kirker Davis LLP offers the following five tips for parents who are going through custody disputes.
- Be a strong co-parent. Being a strong co-parent means you do not disparage the other parent in front of your child. Period. Remember, your child’s identity, in part, comes from their feelings about both parents. Consider a negative comment about the other parent in front of the child as a damaging moment, not one to relish because the child now “knows the truth.” This type of thinking is problematic – it damages relationships, children, and most certainly “your case.”
- Store and maintain your written communications. If you are engaged in litigation this is a requirement. If you are not engaged in litigation but could be in the future, text messages, emails, even handwritten notes can inform the Judge about who is telling the truth and who is re-writing history. If you have the text message(s) that confirms an abusive incident, or documents as to how child-care decisions have historically been made, this can become compelling evidence in a Child Custody matter. The other side of the coin is the written word can oftentimes protect against what did not occur. For example, if you have been accused of committing family violence, it can be incredibly difficult to prove you did not engage in certain conduct. One of the few effective ways to clear your name involves the conversations, text messages, and “circumstantial” rather than direct evidence about the incident. No matter what type of dispute you have (custody, family violence, divorce) – the communications between you and the other party are often very critical. If the other side has those communications and you have failed to save them, you may need to do some work. So, plan ahead.
- Use and maintain a calendar. Maintaining a calendar can help both you and your attorney identify and understand the schedule generally and aid you in developing an optimal schedule with your child. A calendar that documents dates and times that you had the child in your care may also prove useful during any future litigation.
- Take a hard look at your work schedule and consider a change. Divorce and even Custody means change. There may be a change in the amount of time with your child. There may be a change in where you are living. There may even be a change your amount of daily travel in order to pick up and drop off your child. One common mistake is to assume that your child’s schedule will need to work around your work schedule. While it may be difficult to consider shifting work hours, having an open mind to it may expand your options on custody. Here’s an example: a Father works 60 hours a week, inclusive of his travel time, leaving the house by 7:00 AM every morning and returning at about 7:00 PM every evening. This type of schedule may make a standardized custody schedule difficult. It’s very common for parents (both Fathers and Mothers) in this position to feel that they have no chance of being awarded primary custody of their child. To be fair, the prior schedule of the parties will likely be one consideration, among many, in a Court’s decision on a future schedule. It is most certainly not the only analysis. Before resigning yourself to thinking “I work too many hours to make that schedule work,” consider a change. It is imperative you do not make any such change prematurely, as this decision, especially if it impacts your income stream, is one that should only be made in conjunction with an experienced attorney.
- Identify your goals in litigation and constantly assess them. Custody litigation is always changing. Each day, your child’s needs shift and develop, even if this shift and development is slight. How you are interacting with the other parent is likely a challenge. What you thought was going to be a quick agreement is now looking to be tricky to navigate. Take the time very early on to identify your Custody goals. Is the other parent trying to move out of State and you want to prevent that? Is the other parent in disagreement with you about what school the child should attend? Where are you flexible and where are you inflexible? Consider the goals you have and work closely with your attorney to re-assess them as the litigation develops. It’s not uncommon for the goals you had on day one to be very different as your Custody dispute resolves.
Going through a contentious child custody proceeding or divorce can take a huge emotional toll on the people who are involved. If you’re going through a divorce, the Austin child custody lawyers of Kirker Davis LLP can advise you throughout the entire process. Call us at (512) 598-0010 to learn more.