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It's already tragic enough when two people who planned on spending their lives together no longer wish to see that dream through, but to compound the tragedy is when children [and their custody] get caught in the crossfire. With that in mind, here are the top 15 things you can do to make this difficult time go as smoothly as possible, and with minimal strain put on your children.
Court can go any which way, and you can't guarantee how the judge is going to hear your case. What's more, custody battles are often the most lengthy, emotionally difficult, and collaterally damaging (there are other lives at risk), so it is almost always best for both parents if they can calmly discuss this issue and come to a determination without the court having to intervene.
Custody battles are high-stakes, so don't even attempt to handle something like this on your own. Make no mistake, custody battles are names as such because it's like going to war if the two sides couldn't come to an agreement on their own. You need to make sure you hire a divorce lawyer with a lot of custody litigation experience to ensure you're properly represented.
Do your best to not engage in constant fighting with the other parent. Not only has frequent arguing in front of your children proven to stunt emotional growth for your kids, but it also makes the situation much more stressful for you and the other parent--which can then lead to more arguing, and an even more unhealthy emotional situation for everyone involved.
It's not easy, but it can be very rewarding to really meditate on the other parent's point of view. Doing this exercise can not only enlighten you to their position, but in the process it can speed up the process, and decrease stress across the board and for all parties.
If you're going to get into a true custody battle, make sure you're doing it with the right goals in mind: the well-being of your children. Don't get into a huge drawn-out battle just to spite your ex partner, because in the end, the only people suffering from this reckless behavior is the children. Once again, you're going to have to dig deep, and meditate on what's truly best for your kids--doing the best you can to remove your personal issues from the equation.
You may have a real primal desire to pit the kids against the other parent, but put that childish intuition to bed. Once the dust of the custody battle settles, you and the other parent will slowly but surely return to being what is most important: parents. And you're going to need to rely on one another. So during this one difficult time, do your best to not extend the agony by talking bad about the other parent in front of or to the kids... it will always come back to bite you.
No matter what the other parent is doing or saying, no matter how expensive the legal battle is getting, your primary concern should always be your kids. Keep the roof above their heads, food on the plate, and make sure they know that you are always there for them regardless of what else may be going on in the world.
Simply put, don't give the court anything else to consider when deciding the custody fate of your kids. Adding a new love interest to the mix is a sure-fire way to throw a wrench into your wheels, so tone it down until after the legal proceedings are finished. For those of you who have already been dating, do your best to keep your new beau away from your kids until everything is settled. Bringing a new "parental figure" into the mix too soon is a sign of instability.
Write down everything you do with your kids, and everything you do for your kids. And we mean everything! It's tedious, we know, but if you have to appear in court, you'll be thanking yourself that you took this measure ahead of time.
Yes, we already said this one, but this last tip is not during your custody battle, but for after! Even if the custody battle doesn't go in your favor, take every advantage of every minute you do have with your kids. Maintain as positive of a relationship with them and your ex as possible. Regardless of if you win or you lose, put your ego aside, and remind yourself that your kids are more important than anything else in this whole situation--so, treat them like it.