Men commonly complain that women are treated better in custody matters by courts. Doubtlessly in some courts, this stereotype is accurate.
Judges are human and susceptible to biases, including the antiquated preconception that children of divorce are better off living with their mothers.
So guys cannot afford to fall any further behind when it comes to presenting their case for custody. Since the evaluation process by the judge will encompass all of your behavior, you will want to heed the following list of five common mistakes made by men during child custody battles, compiled with the help of my fellow Cordell & Cordell divorce attorneys.
1. Yelling at your wife: Men are in a distinct position in this society where they are presumed to be dominating and more powerful than women.
That being the case, women are in a position to claim they are afraid of their husband. Whether their fear is authentic or not, the court takes such allegations very seriously. (Read my earlier Huffington Post column on orders of protection being used as tactical nuclear weapons for more on that.)
Do not give your wife any ammunition for the court. Arguments will likely happen. But no matter how difficult it is as you work your way through this intense, emotional rollercoaster ride known as divorce, fight the urge to yell as a way of expressing your point.
2. Moving in with a significant other: Divorce is a difficult time for children. It is hard for them to grasp the idea that their parents' love for each other is over.
This is even more difficult when it becomes clear that their parents have moved on and started dating. Courts are reluctant to expose children to such truths. Judges do not appreciate children being exposed to significant others while a divorce is proceeding.
Until the divorce is final -- and even for a while after -- do not expose the children to a new girlfriend.
3. Criticizing your wife to friends and family: Keep in mind that your friends are likely friends that were shared by both you and your wife at one time. You should expect mutual friends to still talk to your wife. Assume comments you make will get back to her.
Do not waste time criticizing your wife to friends, family, and especially your children. That is easily misinterpreted as parental alienation, which is an act by a parent that tries to obstruct the relationship between a child and the other targeted parent. The two most common forms of alienation that get parents into trouble are criticizing the other parent around the kids and keeping the children from the other parent in any way.
4. Denying telephone contact with mom when the children are with you: Even if you have limited time with your kids, you must allow them to call mom when requested.
In addition, if she calls to check on your children, you need to be polite and allow her to talk to them unless it would cause disruption. Children should feel free to communicate with either parent at any time.
5. Taking the kids out of the area without warning mom in advance: If you have an upcoming vacation planned outside your immediate area, be sure that you have notified their mother before you take the children.
If you leave the area without notifying your wife, it may appear you are attempting to kidnap the children. That could result in her obtaining emergency orders restricting or terminating your parenting time. If at all possible, try to notify her in writing two weeks in advance so there will be no confusion when the time comes.
If you behave as though the judge were standing next to you each time you interact with your wife and children, you will certainly avoid the pitfalls that will reduce your custody chances. For additional tips and resources on divorce and child custody, please visit DadsDivorce.com.
Joseph Cordell is the Principal Partner of Cordell & Cordell, a nationwide domestic litigation firm focused on men's family law matters. Cordell & Cordell also provides a website dedicated to informing men on the divorce process and the challenges they face. Visit dadsdivorce.com for more information.