Lots of parents or soon-to-be-parents who find themselves seated in front of a Family Law attorney want custody of their child. And they should. Any parent worth their weight in Similac should want custody of their child. But wanting custody and actually enacting lifestyle changes over the course of several months are two very different things. More often than not, in heated custody battles, both parents would likely be fit parents for the child. More often than not, the child could be placed with either parent and be just fine. Live, thrive, be happy. And so how do the judges decide? If you think contested custody matters are difficult on the parents and children (and they are) they can be worse on the judges. In these paper-thin cases you have to do everything in your power as a parent to establish a fact pattern in keeping with the case law, and that’s easier said than done.
Enjoy over-sharing on social media? Not anymore. That Friday evening photo of margaritas with your coworkers on Instagram? Look for opposing counsel to “create a context”. And, sure, on re-direct your attorney can explain away that photo – but that’s exactly the point. Instead of discussing your PTA attendance or the glowing parent / child evaluation your attorney is wasting time explaining away an innocuous photo. Twitter, facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google +, etc. Kiss them goodbye (for a while). You can keep LinkedIn.
Like your cozy apartment (and the year-long lease that comes with it), or worse, are you a home-owner with an upside-down mortgage? If your child is already placed with the opposing party at the beginning of your custody battle, and is enrolled in school, guess what? You will have to move into the same school district if you want to seriously pursue a shift in placement so the child can continue on in the same school as before. Fun, right? [Also, be sure your child has his or her own room, even if they are still in a crib for now. Trust me.]
And what if you have roommates? A significant other? A spouse? They all better be ready to ‘fess up to those skeletons in the closet. And pass both BCI and RICHIST checks.
And change your work schedule to comport with the child’s schedule.
And pass drug screens.
And the indignity of a DCYF home screen.
And open up your medical records to scrutiny.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Take the attorneys and the judges out of the picture. They will play their roles, but more often than you might expect the parent who “wins” custody of the child to be the one who makes the greater sacrifices throughout the proceeding.