Child custody tends to be the most contentious aspect of divorce. When minor children are involved, an otherwise amicable split can seemingly become a war. But even in a literal war, victory at any cost is typically not a good way to define success.
If you are currently involved in a child custody battle or fear that one is on the horizon, it is important to determine what a successful outcome looks like for you. It is also important to dispel some common myths about custody disputes that could incorrectly influence your approach.
For men, the most important myth to dispel is that mothers are always awarded custody. There are many parts of the country where courts are still biased in favor of mothers, but dads are gaining ground. Moreover, starting a custody dispute with the assumption that you will lose all but guarantees that outcome.
Nonetheless, you may see yourself as the “underdog” in the custody dispute. If so, please disabuse yourself of the following myths that could negatively change your approach to the custody proceedings:
- Myth: You need to be uncompromising and fight for every minute of time you can get
- Myth: You can forego a custody schedule and just maintain a good relationship with your ex-wife instead
- Myth: You cannot show signs of personal struggle such as taking antidepressants
The first two myths address opposite ends of the spectrum. If you feel at a disadvantage because you are a dad seeking custody, being overly aggressive could hurt your case rather than help it. Courts want to see parents who are willing to compromise in order to meet their children’s needs and interests.
Conversely, you do need a formal custody agreement. Even if you and your ex-wife get along well and share custody equally, there will likely be times when disagreements arise. These typically occur around holidays and other occasions important to the whole family.
Finally, please know that taking care of your mental health is not a sign of weakness or instability. Taking antidepressants (which are very common) is unlikely to be used against you by a judge.
Dads are often the underdogs in custody disputes. But in order to achieve the best outcome for yourself and your children, please understand that fighting is not the only strategy. Negotiation and compromise may ultimately yield better results in many cases.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Five Custody Myths Separating Parents Need to Know,” Carla Schiff Donnelly, June 10, 2014