10 Common Child Custody Mistakes
A child custody battle can be one of the most important and intensely fought parts of an Alabama divorce. The outcome of a child custody case directly affects both the parties and the minor children. In Alabama, child custody is decided based upon the best interests of the children. However, what is “best” for the children must be proven to the court. Winning custody of your children should not be taken for granted. Sometimes, the best parent loses. When that occurs, it is usually related to mistakes that are commonly made by parties in divorce cases. We have provided some information about ten common child custody mistakes that we have seen parties make in Alabama. Sometimes these mistakes are made by clients before they have consulted with an attorney. Other times, they are mistakes that we have seen opposing parties make. In both circumstances, they can affect the outcome of child custody. Make sure that you are not the one that makes these mistakes. If you are facing a child custody battle in your divorce, contact an experienced Alabama child custody lawyer to advise you as soon as possible. Some of the more common child custody mistakes are as follows
Assuming that the father cannot get custody
Many people believe that a father cannot get custody in Alabama. In the past, the law in Alabama favored the mother over the father, regardless of the facts and circumstances of the child custody case. This is no longer true. In Alabama, child custody is now decided based upon the best interests of the children. There are many factors that the court considers when determining what is best for the children. However, Alabama child custody law basically means that the parent who can provide the best overall environment should get custody of the children. One of the most important factors that the court looks at is who has been the primary caregiver of the minor children before the separation. If the father is a fit parent and has been significantly involved in the lives of the minor children, he has a good chance of receiving custody. Even if the father has not been materially involved in the children’s lives, he can still get custody under certain circumstances. Of course, if the father can prove to the court that he is fit, but the mother is unfit, the father should receive custody. Basically, if the father can provide the best atmosphere for the children, he has a chance of winning. However, he must be willing to demonstrate to the court that he will put the children first and take an active role in the children’s lives in that event. Since Alabama custody law is now so equally applied, it is important to have the assistance of an experienced Alabama child custody attorney.
Assuming that every Alabama divorce lawyer knows how to best handle a child custody case
Various Alabama attorneys have different skills and experience. Custody is not an issue in every divorce case. An Alabama lawyer who handles primarily uncontested divorces may have little or no experience fighting child custody battles. It is my opinion that even an experienced Alabama contested divorce attorney may not know the best approach to take in a heated child custody case. If you are facing child custody issues in your divorce, it is important to discuss all the facts with your lawyer and ask questions about the approach the lawyer plans to take. If the attorney is a competent Alabama child custody lawyer, they will approach the case with confidence. The attorney will have a logical systematic plan to increase your chances of success. This plan does not mean that the lawyer will guarantee that you will win. No attorney can guarantee victory. However, it is my opinion that a knowledgeable Alabama child custody attorney will be able to give you a prediction of your chances of success and the difficulty of achieving your goals. The lawyer also should tell you directly if, in their professional opinion, you should not fight for custody. Whatever advice you receive should be accompanied by a detailed explanation of the reason behind the lawyer’s opinion.
Employing a lawyer who is a gun for hire
A gun for hire is a term that I use to describe an attorney who will take any case for the right price. It is my opinion that these attorneys may not care and usually won’t even tell a client if they think that the other spouse is a better candidate to receive custody under the circumstances. These Alabama lawyers may stroke the client’s ego and tell the client what they want to hear. It is my opinion that this type of lawyer may not even tell a client that he or she has no chance of receiving custody even if they believe that the client is unfit. This type of lawyer does not have to believe in the client to fight for the client. It is also my opinion that most Alabama judges know who these lawyers are. These judges know that the lawyer will make any argument that the client pays them to make, even if the evidence is slim or flimsy. An attorney like this has less credibility with the court than an attorney who will not take a client’s custody case unless the attorney believes in the client’s goals. If your lawyer believes in you, the lawyer’s passion and sincerity will come through to the court and can help you achieve a successful outcome. The Burleson Firm takes care to screen the child custody cases that we take. We strive to take only child custody cases when we believe that the client’s custody goals are sincere and supported by the evidence.
Failing to understand how child custody is determined
Believe it or not, your opinion about custody or why the children should live with you is not important to your case. It is only the judge’s opinion that matters. The judge’s opinion is based upon Alabama child custody law and the evidence presented to the court by your attorney at trial. Therefore, it is important to understand how Alabama judges decide on child custody. If you do not know what facts are important to the judge, you can waste your efforts on trivial or meaningless facts and issues. This can also waste your attorney’s time and your legal fees. However, if you know the rules that your judge applies, you will better know what evidence is important to preserve and give to your lawyer. This knowledge helps you to plan and prepare your child custody case more efficiently. Having the right evidence available makes your attorney’s job easier at trial. Proper preparation can greatly increase your chances of victory and even save you legal fees.
Failing to prepare for your child custody case
Failing to educate yourself and prepare your child custody case can be fatal to the outcome. If you are facing a child custody battle, it is best to begin preparing as soon as possible. Do not assume that you will win or that you will lose. Follow the advice of your Alabama child custody lawyer. Winning custody is a team effort. Your lawyer cannot win a custody case without you. Promptly provide your lawyer with any information requested, such as documents, photographs and names of witnesses. Zealously follow your attorney’s strategy recommendations. You must be fully invested in the fight and give it your best efforts. Showing the court that you are making your best efforts can help convince the judge that giving you custody is in the children’s best interests. Demonstrate to the court that the children are your number one priority. Help your lawyer be prepared. The more passionately you fight for custody, the better your chances of winning.
Failing to understand the importance of a guardian ad litem (GAL)
A guardian ad litem, also referred to as a GAL, is the legal name for the children’s attorney. When child custody is at issue in Alabama, a GAL should be appointed. A GAL is very important to a child custody determination. A GAL does not represent the mother or the father in a child custody case. The GAL’s duty is to the minor children. Unlike, the lawyers for the parties, a GAL is not required to follow their clients’ wishes. The GAL reviews the evidence and interviews the parties and the minor children. Then, the GAL forms a professional opinion of what is in the best interests of the minor children. After forming an opinion, the GAL makes a recommendation to the court regarding child custody. A GAL receives special training and is supposed to be unbiased towards either party. Many judges rely on the GAL’s opinion heavily in making any child custody determination. Getting a good report from the GAL can greatly increase your chances of a favorable outcome. An experienced Alabama child custody lawyer will thoroughly explain the role of the GAL and prepare you for what to expect in your interview.
Allowing your emotions to control or influence your decisions during the divorce
When facing a child custody battle, you must keep a clear head. Staying calm can be difficult due to the understandably emotional situation that most divorces create. However, allowing your emotions to run wild can cause you to make decisions that you normally would not make. Any bad decisions or actions that show poor judgment or emotional instability can be used against you in a child custody case. Acting out may feel good in the short term, but it can have long term negative consequences. If you indulge in emotional behavior, you could lose custody. Losing your children will only act to extend whatever pain and heartache that you are already experiencing. The best course of action is to exercise self-control. The right Alabama attorney can help you to think clearly and focus your emotions on positive goals.
Using the minor children as a weapon to punish your spouse or otherwise acting out of spite
Many people feel hurt and angry when faced with a divorce. People experience greater pain if the spouse has had an affair or is the only one who wants the divorce. Often the spouse who feels wronged may want revenge. This spouse will sometimes use any means available to strike out at the other party. Some people criticize the spouse to the minor children or withhold visitation or child support. These people may even take extreme steps to interfere with the other parent’s relationship with the children without any justification or valid reason. This behavior may make you feel like you are teaching the other party a lesson, but the behavior is not smart. Interfering with the other parent’s relationship with the minor children can backfire in an Alabama child custody case. Acting out of spite is not in the best interests of the children and can be viewed by an Alabama judge as showing emotional immaturity and lack of self-control. Keep your marital issues separate from your parental relationship. When facing a child custody battle, you must always keep in mind that your ultimate long-term goal is to receive custody. An experienced Alabama attorney can help you determine which actions would be unwise.
Failing to consider the best interests of the minor children when making any decision that affects them
The best way to increase your chances of getting custody of your minor children is to live the Alabama child custody law. You must apply the child custody test to every decision that you make which affects the minor children. In Alabama, child custody is decided based on the best interests of the children. When you make a decision that affects the minor children, ask yourself if that decision is in their best interests. If the decision is not in the best interests of the children, then don’t do it. If your Alabama judge can see that you always consider the needs and best interests of your children, it can positively influence the outcome of your child custody case. The bottom line is that if you want custody of your children, then show the court your level of commitment. Put the children’s needs first, even if that means that you must make a personal sacrifice to do so. An experienced Alabama child custody lawyer can advise you of actions that you can take to demonstrate that the children are your number one priority.
Failing to think about how the court will view your actions
Like it or not, when you are going through a divorce, your behavior is under the scrutiny of an Alabama court and the GAL. You, your actions and your decisions are being judged. This judgement is especially important when your divorce involves child custody. When deciding child custody, the court looks at what is in the best interests of the children. All facts and circumstances related to both the marriage and the separation will be viewed with this perspective. Keep in mind that many Alabama judges are conservative in their opinions about family issues. Educate yourself about what the courts look at when deciding the issues in a divorce. Then, be honest with yourself about how your case will look to both the judge and the GAL in that light. If you discover that you have made mistakes, then try to fix them, if possible. Take responsibility. Show the judge that you are willing to learn and change if necessary. An experienced Alabama child custody lawyer will be able to advise you on how the court is likely to view the facts and circumstances of your case.
Contact The Burleson Firm
The Burleson Firm has helped families in Alabama with child custody issues for over 20 years. If you are facing a custody battle, we can advise you on how to increase your chances of a successful outcome. Let The Burleson Firm schedule a no-obligation conference with a serious Alabama family law attorney to assist you with your child custody issues.
For a free phone consultation, call us at 1 (205) 795-2033.