Child custody disputes are often highly contentious and can lead to a court trial if the parties cannot resolve the issues of custody and parenting time outside of court. Even if you believe that you and the other parent can resolve issues of custody and parenting time outside of court, you should protect your legal position from the outset. Here are three ways to protect yourself in a custody dispute:
- Refrain from Using Social Media. Parties should use extreme caution when posting items to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites during a dissolution or custody proceeding. These posts, even if not on your own homepage, can be used against you at trial. For example, if Parent A (or a parent’s friend) posts a photo of Parent A out all night drinking, Parent B may try to use these photos at trial to prove Parent A is an unfit parent to have custody of the child. Since social media is a relatively new phenomenon, the judiciary does not yet have a clear set of evidentiary rules regarding these issues.
- Keep a Journal or Calendar. When starting a custody proceeding, it is also a good idea to keep a detailed journal or calendar of parenting time between both parties, so that it may be used later on at trial. Whether you are the parent bringing the custody action or the parent defending the custody action, you should start to keep detailed notes regarding the other parent’s specific dates and hours of parenting time. You should also keep notes on any issues that arise during specific parenting times such as neglect, abuse, and improper care. This will aid your attorney in drafting your petition or motion paperwork, and also preparing for trial. Judges often give greater weight to parties that are able to provide detailed information regarding their custody and parenting time claims than parties who provide only vague claims or facts.
- Be Honest with Your Attorney. Most important of all, be honest with your attorney during the custody proceedings. Do not lie to your attorney or withhold information. Your lawyer cannot fully represent you and protect your legal interests if he or she is not provided with the complete and correct facts in your given case. All client communications with attorneys are governed by rules of confidentiality. So when in doubt, provide the information.