Custody cases can be contentious, expensive and painful for all involved. Parents are often flooded with stories of their cousin’s neighbor’s best friend three states away. Indeed, well-meaning acquaintances and coworkers love to “help” but that help is usually in the form of misinformation. While every case is different, there are certain myths that are universally untrue.
Here are a few of the most common custody myths:
- Mothers always win: There was a time when legal presumptions favored Mothers receiving primary custody. Now, there are more and more parents sharing custody of their children. There is also a growing number of fathers being awarded primary physical custody. There are changing social norms with dual-income households and modern day dads taking more active roles in the lives of their children. Also, state laws have trended toward creating a level playing field for parents in which the best interests prevail. Certainly, cases in which the Mother is awarded primary custody are still common but it is far from the forgone conclusion it once was.
- Taking antidepressants will hurt your case: The opposite is actually true. It’s not unusual for parents to be suffering from depression while divorcing and fighting for custody. Parents who are in treatment for their depression will generally be looked upon more favorably than parents with untreated symptoms.
- We get along great, we do not need a schedule: When two parents can share their children without a set schedule it is fantastic — until it is not. Throw a new stepparent into the mix and, suddenly, anarchy rules over order. Do the work on the front end and create a detailed agreement for the school year, summer and holidays. When you get along, put it in a drawer and forget about. When you both have holiday plans that involve the kids, pull out the agreement. You may not win, but you have a built in tiebreaker without having to call the lawyers at the eleventh hour.
- It is better to fight for my kids than give an inch: So many parents feel that they must fight for custody as hard as they can. Even if they lose, they want to be able to tell their children how hard they fought. However, whether you are four or forty, you do not want to hear about your parents’ custody battle. It hurts. Also, fighting takes the decision about what schedule is best for your kids and puts that important decision into the hands of a stranger, i.e. a judge. Sometimes there is no option but to go to court. Most of the time, however, it is best for the children when the parents find a way to work it out.
- If the other parent doesn’t pay child support, I can withhold the children: Custody and child support are two separate issues. Parents engaging in “self help” will not be rewarded. Rather, the court will likely frown upon both parents. Both parents will leave the courthouse equally unhappy.
Child custody can be complicated and no two cases are alike. If you would like to discuss the best options for your children, here is how to get started. Also read about what to expect at an initial consultation.