For years the problems just build and build. People tell you it will get better. The courts try all different remedies for your case. You’ve been to anger management, so has your ex. You have been assigned a Parenting Consultant. You have tried it all and still the battle rages and the kids are caught between. You decide that it’s time to go all in. You are filing for sole custody! So now what?
The first thing to do is make sure you have a good attorney. Yes, it is going to be a costly ordeal, but you get what you pay for with attorneys. Sure, you can save some money and maybe take a chance on a new attorney. They won’t charge as much, but this is for CUSTODY. It would be a bad move to skimp about something so important. Make sure your attorney has experience with custody trials. Also, make sure that they know what it is you want and that they understand how detrimental joint custody has become for your children and that you are not doing this to make your life easier, you are doing this for your children. Don’t concern yourself with the money. The money seems to work itself out somehow. Tell your attorney that you will do whatever needs to be done, whether it be depositions or expert witnesses or whatever would help you win custody. If you are worried about the money, do not talk to your attorney about this. Go to friends or family and talk out your concerns, but never tell your lawyer you don’t have the money. They are not going to work for free and they are just plain not going to put in all the work necessary to do the job if they think that there’s a possibility that they won’t get paid. When I went for sole custody I told my lawyer, “Let’s do everything we need to do to get the job done. If we can do something, great. If we cannot do something, let’s not put our energies into that. You make sure we do everything we can and I’ll make sure you always get paid.” I always paid him. I always found a way. He always worked hard on my case and I could tell that even he started to believe that the children were not safe with the way things were and it seemed he was going to make sure that changed. It felt like it had become personal for him. He was truly concerned for the welfare of my children.
Next, you have got to stay positive and keep your focus. Your ex is going to start trying to push your buttons the minute the papers are served. The level of attack will be unbelievable. Just hang in there. It won’t last forever. It’s a bit of a long road to make it through a custody trial, but if it turns out the way you hope, it will have been worth it.
Cooperate in every way, shape and form with your attorney. If possible, take your attorney along with you if you have any meetings with a parenting consultant or your kids’ school. This will protect you, for one thing, but it also can allow your attorney to get to know your ex a little and learn how to present the best case against them. If you can spend the extra money, you won’t regret this.
Once you have started the process, don’t look back. Don’t let fear dictate your actions. Use positive words, for example, say “when I win custody…”, rather than saying “if I win custody…” The most important words of wisdom I have to share is throw everything else out the window. You want custody of the kids. Don’t mess that up by asking for money or furniture or anything material. This is not the time. You don’t want to have the judge thinking about other things or thinking that you are just greedy and want control. This is about the children and only the children. You show the judge that you are serious and you know how important it is for your children. You don’t want to have the judge thinking about other things. It would be crazy for you to feel the situation is serious enough for you to go after sole custody and then spend a great deal of the court time trying to get a TV or something like that out of your ex spouse. Child custody is a very serious matter. It should not be used to hurt your ex. It has to be your single solitary focus. There is nothing more important. Don’t make the judge think that you find custody of the same importance of a TV or clock or other material junk.
Do your best to explain to the children that this is not about hurting their other parent, it is about what is best for all of you. Try not to overwhelm them by talking about the legal action all the time. Don’t bring it up unless they ask about it. Enjoy your time with the kids and keep them in a positive frame of mind as well. Make sure that you have a place to escape to like a good friend’s house for when you need to talk about it or you just need to think about something else.
I have had people ask me about asking for joint custody when the other parent is going for sole custody. While I am not a lawyer, I don’t know of a case where one parent asked for sole and the other parent wanted joint where the person seeking joint custody won. To me, sole trumps joint. To me, it says to the court that one parent wants the children and is willing to do everything for the child. The one who just wants joint custody is saying, I can’t do it all by myself. Also, it seems people end up arguing to the court that the parents can’t cooperate or that there is another issue that doesn’t foster a joint custody arrangement so if that is what you are arguing, how can you then ask for that? Anyway, that is just my opinion. There may be lawyers who would tell me I’m wrong.
The main thing though is to stay focused on custody and why it’s best for the children that you be awarded sole custody and leave out everything else. This way the judge will know how important it is to you, much more than a stupid TV. And I have to add, if you do not feel that your lawyer is doing their very best, get a different attorney. And always, always, always believe in yourself and your abilities as a parent.
Photo: Inspirational stones by bjwok