By Casey Wilson
Doing things correctly during your divorce, may be the most important thing you can do to ensure a joint physical custody order. This list does not guarantee joint physical custody, but will maximize your chances.
1) Do not move out of the marital home, unless a court orders you to do so. If this is too strange offer to take turns with your soon to be ex taking care of the children in the marital home.
2) Do not agree to any temporary custody agreement unless you feel comfortable with it being a permanent custody order. Never, never rely on verbal agreements. Every agreement needs to be signed by both parties, by a judge and filed with the court to be binding.
3) Get involved in activities for your child. Get involved at your child’s school ie volunteer in the classroom. Try to do this before you are getting divorced as well. Be able to provide proof of this.
4) Say nothing that could be used against you in court. Mention no emotional problems, medication, or mental health issues unless a court requires you.
5) Cooperate with your soon to be ex as much as possible. Yet have boundaries when they are intruding or violating court orders. Handle violations swiftly.
6) If your ex is volatile and attempting to draw you into an argument…..leave immediately
7) Tell the truth, it is much easier to remember.
8) Record conversations if it is legal to do so in your state.
9) Attend counselling and take a personality test
10) Take your child to counselling
11) Study your states custody laws. Do not rely on your attorney to inform you on state law. They DO NOT always have your best interest in mind. Their business depends upon how much you use their services. They want you uneducated and not communicating with ex spouse unless it is through them. Do not rely on your friends’ advice, either.
12) Never bad mouth your ex in front of the child
13) Go to church with your child
14) Do not change jobs unless it provides you with more liberal time with your children, it is important to show stability
15) Document everything. Keep your documentation in a safe place where ex will never find, work is best, a locked computer or phone.
16) Show your ex studies on equal parenting. Nearly all recent studies show that equal parenting leads to better child outcomes. Try to get him or her to agree before litigating.
16) Communicate by written means. Get a new email address with an online server and use it for communication, save all emails in separate folders. Give no one the password.
17) Take a parenting class
18) Attempt to use a parenting coordinator as much as possible, have it in your divorce decree. Use mediation as well. What is said in parent coordination can be used in court. What is said in mediation cannot be used in court.
19) It is imperative you have a very, very specific divorce decree. It should mention exact times for exchanges, communication frequency and times, who will claim children on taxes, holidays, religion, activities. These cannot be too specific. An airtight divorce decree will decrease the chance of going to court more often. Attorneys are often intentionally vague in drawing up divorce decrees to ensure relitigation.
20) Cook meals. Tuck children into bed. Give baths. Give hugs. Talk to them. Tell them you love them. Tell them it’s not their fault. Do this before divorce as well.
Disclaimer: Under no circumstances do these recommendation guarantee an equal parenting order by a court. These recommendations are not legal advice but advice gathered from hundreds of divorced parents.