Mistakes That Hurt Michigan Child Custody Cases
Michigan child custody cases can hinge on several factors. Avoid these 10 mistakes in order to make sure you don’t lose custody of your children.
Going through a divorce is never easy. The process creates emotional tensions that often seep into and complicate legal issues, and this only gets worse when trying to find a suitable child custody arrangement.
Although the child custody process can be difficult, it is important to act in your child’s best interests, as this is what is most important in Michigan courts. Their legal standard for determining custody is “the best interest of the child.” Acting in a manner that is NOT in your child’s best interests will only weaken your case. The following are 10 major mistakes to avoid when involved in a Michigan child custody dispute.
1. Not Spending Enough Time With Your Child
Families often will make arrangements where one parent focuses on earning and work, while the other parent is more involved with raising the children. Although this is may seem like the best arrangement at the time, if you do not have a good record of spending time with your child, it can be detrimental to your case.
Michigan courts will often focus on which parent is helping children with homework, who is cooking dinner, and who is their primary caregiver. While you might be working hard to provide housing, food and other necessities, the parent with the better pattern of caregiving for the child has a distinct advantage.
Be sure to take time to attend your child’s after-school events, help with homework, and carve out time to spend with him or her.
2. Creating Digital Evidence Against Yourself
We’re all guilty at one time or another of losing our cool. However, if you are posting angry rants on Facebook or Instagram, or texting angrily with the other parent, you may find yourself at a disadvantage in Michigan family court.
Vindictive, angry or violent messages can be brought in as evidence, causing you irreparable damage in your child custody case. No matter what your spouse or ex-spouse says online, avoid commenting on their posts and engaging in a digital tit-for-tat.
It is also important to keep your social media clean of posts, pictures, or messages that can lead the court to treat you as an unfit candidate. Pictures or videos of you being intoxicated or taking illegal substances will do nothing to help your case.
3. Failure to Control Your Emotions
As difficult as it can be to contain emotions in a volatile situation like divorce or a child custody dispute, it is important to do so. You may feel tempted to give in to your frustrations with an angry outburst, this is one mistake you should avoid at all costs.
Courts are less likely to send a child to live with a parent that seems emotionally unstable, especially emotions like anger. Even if your spouse exhibits anger and spite, it is best to avoid retaliating in kind, as this can only hurt your case.
4. Refusing to Compromise
Barring any issues of abuse, Michigan courts prefer joint custody agreements. The presumption is that it is best for the child to have contact, love, and support from both parents. However, if you are uncivil or unwilling to cooperate with the other parent, it can lead to more parenting time for your ex.
There are many situations where you can even come to a joint co-parenting agreement without the input of the court. If you and the other parent can agree to collaborative discussions, then you should do so.
5. Letting Substance Abuse Go Unaddressed
As we said before, Michigan child custody is determined by what is in the best interests of the child. While the disease of substance abuse is a hard one to combat, if you are drinking heavily or using illegal drugs, then you need to seek treatment.
The court will see this as a lifestyle choice, and there is no arguing that a parent that abuses narcotics or alcohol can be detrimental to a child’s upbringing. This is also why we recommend not posting photos on social media of you consuming alcoholic beverages or other substances.
If you are struggling with addiction, then it is best to deal with it head-on. Go to support meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous or seek counseling. The Downriver area has many professionals that can help you.
6. Being Dishonest
You should never take lying and unfaithfulness to your partner or spouse lightly. These are usually red flags for the court, and your deceit may unnecessarily complicate or damage your child custody case.
Sometimes, people make things even worse by failing to come clean with their family law attorney, increasing the likelihood that the attorney may be blind-sided in court. The best course of action is to let your attorney know the full story so they can fully understand the nuances of your case and how to proceed.
7. Leaving Your Home
Leaving your kids and spouse behind before the conclusion of the child custody case may irrevocably damage your case. Unless this is in compliance with a court order or a decision that was jointly taken with your spouse and attorney, the court may look unfavorably on this decision.
You should also avoid the urge to begin or continue a romantic relationship with any other person during this period. Divorce is a difficult process for children, and it may be intensely uncomfortable for them to see their parents being intimate with another person.
Michigan courts can look unfavorably on this kind of behavior, seeing it as detrimental to the child.
8. Failing to Follow Court Orders
Next to behaving poorly in court and in your personal life, nothing will damage your case more quickly than failing to abide by court orders. While this will not deprive you of custody all by itself, the court will usually regard this as a sign of disrespect for their authority.
Disobeying court orders may expose you to sanctions by the court, and worse, it may make the court less willing to objectively listen to your case. It is always best to be in the good graces of the court, and complying with the court’s directives is one way to do this.
However, this does not mean you should sign agreements or agree to arrangements that are not favorable to you. Work with your attorney at all times to be certain your interests are not being unfairly abridged.
9. Speaking Ill of Your Spouse to Your Child
You should never speak badly about your spouse to your child. Apart from the fact that this unnecessarily drags them into negativity between you and your spouse, it damages their fragile psyche and makes the whole process wear on them more.
Worse, it can lead to alienation of affection, which occurs when a child starts to like a parentless due to the negative words of one parent. Courts are extremely intolerant of this behavior and will react very strongly against any parent that does this.
It is important to always be civil about the other parent, even when they have done nothing to earn civility. Taking the high road will not only help protect your child, but it will also be an opportunity to show the court why you are a better candidate to protect the child’s best interests.
10. Not Hiring a Family Law Attorney
The divorce process, and the child custody battle itself, will seem like a confusing maze of legal rules, procedures, court dates, and visitation schedules. Missing a single detail can throw a spanner in the works, damaging your chances of a positive outcome.
While you are not required to have an attorney represent you, the simple truth is your child custody battle is too important to leave to chance. You want an experienced, skillful, and dedicated professional working on your behalf, and only a qualified family law attorney can provide this service.
If you are truly invested in securing the best interests of your child and protecting your own interests during the child custody process, then you simply must work with an experienced attorney.
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