Mistakes in Family Law That Can Impact Parenting Time
For any parents facing family law matters with the Court, involving their children can be a cause of stress. Many parents make common mistakes that cost them time with their children or the authority to make decisions in their children’s lives. So how can people avoid making mistakes in family law cases involving their children?
In a divorce or paternity action, parents who cannot agree upon a parenting plan must seek Court orders. This action requires a judge to decide what plan is in the best interest of the children. Most research indicates that children need frequent and meaningful contact with both parents. The judge looks to the best interest factors to determine what parenting time serves the best interest of the children. The Court may appoint a parenting conference provider to meet with the parties. This parenting conference provider can see where the parties can agree on parenting time or legal decision making.
Judges often encounter allegations from both parties regarding drug use, neglect, abuse, and other ways the opposing party is unfit. Judges must consider the evidence presented and reach a conclusion regarding what parenting plan is in the child’s best interest. Unfortunately, judges may find good parents unfit or neglectful if the parents make one of these mistakes in family law matters.
Common Mistakes in Family Law Cases
1. Forgetting who is most important
No matter how hurt or frustrated you are with the other party, you must remember this is about your children. This is not about you. This is not about the other party. The judge will always be thinking, “What is in the best interest of the children?” Focusing on this issue can help you reach agreements and demonstrate to the judge that you are a reasonable party.
2. Getting Arrested
One of the easiest ways parents can demonstrate that they are not fit is an arrest during the litigation. If the arrest is for a violent crime, the Court may prevent you from having unsupervised parenting time. The other party can also make a claim that you are violent and a potential danger to the minor children. If you are arrested for a drug or alcohol offense, the opposing party will likely raise allegations of substance abuse. These allegations could result in costly drug testing as well as limited and/or supervised parenting time. If the children are in your custody during the arrest, judges are much less likely to order equal parenting time.
3. Disobeying the Court’s Temporary Custody Orders
Courts will often issue temporary custody orders pending final orders. These orders dictate the dates and times that each party shall exercise parenting time with the minor children. They typically remain in place until the trial, after which a judge issues final orders.
Parents who fail to comply with the Court’s temporary orders risk negative impact on the final orders or potential arrest. Disobeying the Court’s temporary orders shows that you do not respect the Court’s authority. Absent a compelling reason such as child abuse, judges do not easily forgive willful disobedience of Court orders.
4. Refusing to Drug Test
The Court may order you to submit to drug testing if the opposing party raises substance abuse as an issue. This testing is quite expensive and burdensome; however, refusing to comply with drug testing will negatively affect your case. The other party can request the court to view every missed test as a positive test. This means the Court will consider any test you do not submit to as positive for drugs or alcohol. As mentioned above, judges are not very forgiving of parties who do not comply with the Court’s orders. The cost of not testing likely greatly outweighs the expense of the tests.
5. Refusing to Co-Parent with the Other Party
Refusing to communicate with or co-parent with the other party can negatively affect the final outcome of your litigation. If parents are unable to communicate with one another to the extent it is detrimental to the children, the judge may consider giving one parent final decision-making authority or sole decision-making authority. This outcome is most common when one parent refuses to co-parent. If you refuse to communicate regarding the children, you support that the other parent should have final or sole decision-making.
Parents are most likely to prevail when they present themselves as cooperative, reasonable adults, prioritizing the children’s best interests. Show that you can maintain an open line of communication regarding the children. Demonstrate that you can cooperate with the other parent to reach decisions in the children’s best interest. Doing these things typically achieves good results. If both parties are reasonable, this can mean joint legal-decision making. If the other party demonstrates unreasonableness, this can result in final or sole decision-making authority for you.
Avoiding making mistakes in family law cases can be difficult for many parents. At Phelps & Moore, our attorneys can help you understand how your actions can affect your case and your parenting time. Call (602) 788-2089 to schedule a free 30-minute initial consultation today.
The information and views contained in this posting are not legal advice, nor do they form an attorney-client relationship.