Thomas Ferreira, your child custody and divorce lawyer in Carlsbad California here. Last week I said I was going to go over some finer points about calculating child support. I think I’m going to put that off until next week so I can share what could be the most powerful tool in your toolbox for prevailing in child custody disputes. That tool is… kindness!
You’re all thinking, “Huh? how can being kind help me get more time with my son or daughter?” If that’s your thought, I invite you to take a look at what you’re doing now, and ask yourself honestly, is my strategy working? Do I have the time I want with my children?
Have you ever been in court on your custody case, only to have the judge read you the riot act? Maybe your the non-custodial parent (in most cases the father), and the other parent just won’t cut you a break. They constantly insist on sticking to court orders that don’t allow you to have much time with your kid. They make vital decisions without asking for your input. Or they simply tell you what’s going to happen, using the court orders as a cudgel to beat you into submission.
If that’s your situation, the normal human tendency is to fight back. “Hey, if she’s not going to be flexible about the schedule, why should I be flexible?” You may even have tried taking her back to court on a modification, and are new stunned to discover that the judge is siding with the other parent!
KILL ‘EM WITH KINDNESS:
In most disputes between co-parents, courts will consider the willingness of the parents to cooperate. But here’s the problem: It’s just so tempting to send something nasty via text or e-mail. Most people click “send” before letting their anger subside, and the nasty text then becomes exhibit “A” to their response to your motion.
The parents that get more time are the ones that the court believes will support the other parent and be wiling to compromise and cooperate. Nasty communications will cause your judge to conclude that you are not willing to cooperate and that in fact you are the source of the problem. So here are some tips:
- Whenever you communicate with your co-parent, assume that the court is going to read the communication. Before you click “send,” ask yourself how this communication makes you look. Do you appear shrill and vindictive or child-focused, nice and cooperative?
- In dealings with the other parent, show a willingness to deviate from the schedule or accommodate minor requests. Unless the court orders are there to protect your children from harm (such as supervised visits), be willing to change them for the convenience of the other parent. Work around their work schedule. Allow them to spend extra time with extended family if they are in town for a visit.
- Do not mechanically insist that court orders be followed to the letter. See the previous bullet.
- Non-custodial parents—don’t automatically insist on every minute of your parenting time even when it doesn’t make sense. Courts believe that children benefit from cooperative parents, and solid research backs them up.
- Be nice. Even when they are nasty. Don’t return tit for tat. Respond to their nasty communications by ignoring the barbs, slings and arrows they shoot. Stick to the facts and even say something complementary. Be so nice that they wonder what’s wrong with you.
If you do this, when you get to court you’ll have all their nasty messages with your nice replies, and you’ll have the upper hand. And even better, you’ll be able to just call her and say, “hey, my dad’s in town, and I was wondering if I could extend my weekend to Monday?” If you’ve been nice in the past, she might just say, “Okay.” Even if she’s mean about it, you’ll still be getting what you want. And your kids will have the benefit of parents who don’t fight.
I’ll be back on child support next week, and until then,
Love your family,
Protect your finances, and
Reach for your future!
Thomas D. Ferreira, Esq.