Children And Divorce – Protecting Custodial Rights

Protecting your custodial rights during divorce starts early on—at the very decision to separate. Actions you take in the beginning could significantly impact who has the majority custodial rights and who controls assets like the home in the end.

In The Beginning

First and foremost, protect your child’s well-being by remaining as civil as possible and not pitting your kids against your spouse. From the very first inkling of a separation, factor your children’s welfare into every decision. Always be as amicable as possible, consider the consequences of your actions, and take your lawyer’s advice before moving on an issue.

Particularly if you expect trouble, you should do your best to

– Stay in the house—difficult to be sure if your spouse remains in residence, however, moving out could cause you to forfeit custodial rights if for no other reason than maintaining continuity.
– Consider a time-sharing arrangement—half the week at home for you, half for your spouse; this way, no one forfeits rights to residence.
– Restrict children from leaving the state—discuss the need for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) with your lawyer; a TRO will prevent your spouse from moving the children to an out-of-state location which will complicate divorce and custody proceedings.
– Do not allow your children to move from your home—make it clear that your spouse may leave and arrangements can be made, but the children should stay in the home.
– Retain legal representation—before any custody and support decisions are agreed to; do not sign anything without consulting an attorney.

During Divorce And Beyond

Protect your kids by minimizing trauma and putting their needs first; this helps you, too, because it shows you to be a responsible parent with your children’s best interests in mind.

– Do not display bitterness and anger toward your spouse
– Do not criticize spouse before children; display respectful disagreement only when appropriate
– Maintain a healthy, positive personal attitude as much as possible
– Share visitation—both parents are important to the children
– Reminisce about the good times and encourage your children to do so
– Never let your kids feel they are responsible
– Don’t put kids in the middle and don’t force sides
– Maintain as much continuity in the kids’ lives as possible
– Communicate openly with your spouse and agree to continuity of care and behavior management

Remember that your children are not your investigators, and should not be relied upon as informational resources. As questions arise, be open, honest, simple, and direct. By being a loving, fair, and honest parent, you will not alienate your children, and you will not jeopardize your custodial rights to your children. For the rest, rely on your trusted legal counsel to lead you.