For obvious reasons, child custody can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce or separation. Emotions can run high, former partners can become vindictive, or the parties encounter sudden, unexpected challenges. Therefore, it can be beneficial for divorcing parents to understand the factors that can lead to child custody disputes.
Your Partner Has Hired a Lawyer
If your partner has hired a family law attorney, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they plan to take your kids away from you. However, it does mean that they have a distinct advantage when it comes to negotiating custody. Their lawyer will have specific knowledge and training in these matters that you do not have. With years of education and experience under their belt, your partner’s attorney knows the law and how to navigate the legal system. Even though there are many fantastic resources available online, your own research and study will not level the playing field.
The other thing you should recognize is that your partner’s lawyer is obligated to act in their client’s own interests. They are not obligated to negotiate a result that is fair to you. You have to be your own advocate, which can be very difficult when your partner has a lawyer and you do not. Representing yourself while your partner has a lawyer could have a significant impact on your child custody agreement.
Cohabitation and Remarriage
Custody issues also tend to arise when a parent remarries or moves in with someone else, even as a roommate. A new relationship can have a considerable impact on what may have been a stable environment for your child. Starting a new family can create new priorities, put pressure on living space, or bring people into the home that may cause other problems. Whether it’s you or your partner who is moving in with someone new, you should take steps to understand what impact it could have on your custody agreement.
Of course, new relationships can often result in relocation, adding additional challenges to your custody agreement. Whether due to remarriage or a new job, when one parent wants to relocate, it can have a profound impact on custody arrangements.
Generally speaking, the further away the parent is moving, the bigger the challenge it will be. Even if you already have a custody agreement that has served you well, you will likely need to negotiate a new one. Long-distance travel may make the current custody arrangement impractical, if not impossible. Here are some factors that you will need to consider and eventually resolve with your partner:
- What impact will this have on the child’s schooling and other activities such as sports teams?
- Who will be responsible for transportation and the related costs?
- Who will have custody during vacations and holidays?
- What impact will this have on the child’s relationship with extended family members and friends?
If your partner is moving across town, these issues may be minimal. However, moving out of state or more than an hour away could greatly complicate your custody arrangement.
You and Your Partner Live in Different Jurisdictions
Similar to relocation, child custody cases can be extremely challenging when you and your partner already live in different states or countries. The laws pertaining to child custody can vary by state and country, with profound differences in how child custody will be handled. Of course, this is in addition to the practical challenges you may face when it comes to custody. If you are in this situation, you should consider discussing your case with an attorney.
There Is a History of Drug or Alcohol Abuse
Another common source of child custody issues stems from allegations of drug or alcohol abuse. Even if these claims are without merit, the court will take them seriously to ensure that the custody arrangement is safe for the child. While these claims must be substantiated, even minor infractions such as a prior DUI can affect your custody arrangement.
You Have Been Ordered by the Court to Undergo Counseling or Treatment
Similar to allegations of drug or alcohol abuse, court-ordered counseling or treatment can have a profound impact on your custody arrangement. The court may be authorized to order a wide range of counseling services, including the following:
- Anger management
- Parenting classes
- Alcohol or drug counseling
In short, the court may already be questioning your fitness as a parent if you have been ordered to undergo any type of treatment or counseling, even if you are fully cooperating. If you are undergoing in-patient or residential treatment, this can also impact your child custody agreement.
There Are Allegations of Abuse
The court will take allegations of abuse very seriously, especially when it raises questions about the child’s safety. While any such accusation must be proven, you should take these allegations very seriously because your custody and visitation rights could be severely limited as a consequence. If you have been accused of spousal or child abuse as a part of your divorce or separation, we strongly recommend that you work with an experienced family law attorney to ensure that your rights are protected.
Similarly, if you believe your child is in danger when in the presence of your partner, you should take action to protect them from harm. You may be able to negotiate supervised visitation or other protections to ensure that your child is safe.
Your Separation Is No Longer Amicable
What may have started as an amicable separation can sometimes turn adversarial. Jealousy, anger, and frustration can begin to cloud the process, and unfortunately, people sometimes use their children as a weapon against their former spouses. In these situations, your partner may have changed their mind about a previously agreed custody schedule or be refusing to comply. Unfortunately, this is also when other allegations tend to arise, even if they do not have a valid basis.
By giving some advance consideration to the challenges you may face, you can avoid unpleasant surprises and address them with confidence and clarity.
Find Out More – Additional Resources
Below are some helpful articles to read more about child custody and divorce
- 9 Ways Living Accommodations can Affect Child Custody: https://www.verywellfamily.com/child-custody-and-living-accommodations-2997872
- Child Support Data from The Census: https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/P60-255.pdf
- Parenting Guide to Divorce: https://seattledivorceservices.com/resources/the-parenting-guide-to-divorce/