Preparing for child custody trial can be a stressful time, and it is especially stressful if you are concerned about the safety of your children. When preparing for your trial, here is what you need to know about how to keep your children safe, as well as how you can increase the odds of winning custody.
Keeping Your Children Safe While Preparing for Child Custody Trial
When it comes to keeping your children safe while preparing for child custody trial, there are some steps that you can take to help ensure that your children remain safe.
Speak to the Court About Your Concerns
If you are genuinely afraid that your children may come to harm, you should consider speaking to the court as soon as possible about your concerns. Before making a judgment in your case, the judge can weigh this evidence and it will be up to you and your attorney to prove that your allegations are sound. This can include allegations of abuse and domestic violence. Family protective services may also be required to get involved. However, they can help ensure that your child is protected from any harm that your child may be placed in.
Another thing to note is that just because family protective services are involved, it doesn’t mean that you will lose custody of your children or that adoption services will be involved in removing them. Instead, it can act as an additional level of protection to help you prove that you are a fit parent and that you can provide what you need to keep your children safe and healthy.
Document All Potentially Problematic Behavior and Occurrences
If you are alleging that the other party could put your children at risk, they may try to accuse you of false allegations. To protect yourself and your children, it is important to have records of all problematic behavior that you think is cause for concern. For instance, if you have police reports of domestic incidents, even if charges weren’t filed, make sure to have those on hand. Pictures, videos, medical records, and even witness testimony can all be beneficial to proving your allegations.
For instance, if your ex frequented an indoor shooting range and kept guns in your home, but didn’t practice good gun safety, you should document this via photos or video. This is especially important if the firearms were kept in easy reach of children. If you know that your ex has access to unlicensed weapons and you have proof, this can also be beneficial to your case.
Furthermore, if you or your child is experiencing mental trauma from abuse, you should seek out a qualified therapist to help you prepare for your child custody trial. Not only can this be mentally helpful, but your therapist may be able to present their opinion to the court, making the case lean more in your favor.
Asking For Sole Custody and Protection Orders
When preparing for child custody trial with the safety of your children in mind, you may wish to express to the court your desire for sole custody as soon as possible. You may also wish to ask for additional protection orders if your ex continues to threaten harm to you or your children. During this process, you will need the documented proof mentioned above, but it’s important to work with a family law firm to ensure that the court knows your concerns upfront.
If your ex has harmed you and caused significant injury, you may even wish to speak to a personal injury attorney to help you better understand what options are available to help with the cost of medical bills.
Make Sure Child Care Services Know Who Can and Cannot Pick Up Your Children
If, during your custody trial, your children are placed in your sole custody, make sure that their school and other child care services know who can and cannot pick them up. For instance, if your ex was listed as being allowed to pick them up, make sure that they know the situation and that they should prevent your children from being allowed to go with them. One of the worst things that can happen is that your children are picked up by your ex without your knowledge. Even if nothing bad happens, it can still add even more stress to an already stressful situation.
Consider GPS Tracking
If your child has a cellphone, you may want to consider installing a GPS tracker on it to make sure that you know where they are at all times. This can help you keep track of them, and if they are picked up by an unauthorized party, you’ll have a better chance of locating them. For kids without cellphones, or for additional protection, smaller GPS trackers are available and they can be easily fit into backpacks or handbags. If an unauthorized party does pick them up and takes away their cellphones, a smaller tracker like this can be an additional level of protection.
Similar options include safety wristbands, like the ones provided by Flare. Bracelets like this can have an engraving that allows them to appear like stylish pieces of jewelry while giving the wearer the ability to notify 911 when they need help. These bracelets can even be programmed to alert different contacts of their location when they are activated. This means you can know in real-time where your child is when they need help.
Change Your Locks and Install Security
Before you say ‘I need to sell my house ASAP‘ to prevent your ex from finding you, consider changing your locks and installing a security system. Upgrading your locks and installing motion sensors, cameras, and door alarms can help keep you safe while you and your kids are at home. This can even be beneficial once your custody trial is over, as you won’t have to worry about home security.
Find Out About Local Help In Your Area
If you’re escaping an abusive marriage with little resources, see how local resources can help you. The Domestic Violence Hotline — 1.800.799.7233 — is available 24/7 and they can help you plan your safety as well as point you towards local resources that can help. They are also available online and via text.
Other local things to look for include food banks that can provide emergency food boxes for you and your kids, as well as local shelters that may be able to take you and your children in if you aren’t safe in your home.
What You Should and Shouldn’t Do To Win Custody
Now that you know a bit more about how to keep your children safe while preparing for child custody trial, let’s look at how you can start building your case towards winning custody. While having the best divorce lawyer possible can help, there are some things that you can start doing to increase your odds of success.
Request an In-Home Custody Evaluation
If possible, request an in-home custody evaluation to help prove that you can provide what your children need. This can also be especially important if you believe your ex will try to present a negative impression of your home life to the court to try and make you lose custody. By having a neutral party evaluate your home and parenting, you can raise the odds of proving your case.
Learn About Family Law
Work with your lawyer to learn more about the family laws in your state. Most courts will try to award joint custody if both parents are found to be able to provide the necessary child care. If you’re concerned about your ex’s behavior and your children’s safety, learn what you’ll need to do to prove that this isn’t in your children’s best interest.
Talk With Your Kids
Divorce can be difficult for children of all ages, and even more so if the marriage was unhealthy or abusive. Remember to always talk with your kids regularly and ask them about how they are feeling. Keep an open line of dialogue so that they know they can always talk to you about any concerns that they have or negative feelings they might be experiencing.
If the divorce is particularly rough, you may also want to consider enrolling them — and yourself — into a therapy program to help. Having an outside party to talk to and vent to can be a great way to help you all get through this time together.
It’s important to note that, regardless of your ex’s behavior, you should do your best not to talk negatively about them in front of your kids. In court, your ex may try to assert that you’re attempting to turn the children away from them, and you don’t want to give them any evidence to work with.
Don’t Exaggerate or Invent Stories
When it comes to preparing for child custody trial, you don’t want to exaggerate details or invent stories altogether. While you may think that painting your ex as the worst person possible benefits you, it can actually hurt your chances of winning custody. If you are found by the court to be lying in any way, this can negatively impact your standing and give your ex a greater chance of winning sole or joint custody.
If your ex’s behavior is truly detrimental to your children, you won’t need to exaggerate or invent stories. Regardless of the situation, always present details as factually as possible so that the court can make the best decision based on the truth.
Don’t Refuse Requests From the Court
If you want to win custody, it’s important to comply with everything that the court asks of you. By doing everything that you need to, you can show that you’re committed to the process and ensuring that your children are cared for. By being difficult or outright refusing requests, you can paint yourself in a bad light that can only benefit your ex.
Don’t Misuse Alcohol or Drugs
While this may seem like an obvious step towards preparing for child custody trial, it can also be easy to give in to negative impulses during stressful times. While preparing for your trial, take care to avoid misusing anything that could impair your judgment. For instance, you may end up drinking just a bit too much and texting your ex negative things due to a lack of impulse control. Anything like that can be documented and used against you in court. While it’s okay to have a drink here and there, don’t give in to temptation and overdo it.
Similarly, any illegal drugs should always be avoided altogether, and if you are taking any prescriptions that can impair your judgment, speak with your doctor about how you can manage them. For example, the sleeping pill Ambien is known for having various side effects that can include amnesia and hallucinations. People have been known to do things while sleeping with no memory of them in the morning. You don’t want to do something without knowing only to have it be used against you in court.
Doing What’s Right For Your Children
At the end of the day, the main goal in any custody trial is to do what is right for your children. Their wellbeing and safety should always be your main priority both now and going forward.
Keep in mind these above tips and work closely with your lawyer throughout the process to ensure that you build the best case possible for yourself. By taking these steps, you can help set yourself up for success and ensure that the best outcome is achieved for you and your children.