It doesn't take much for a divorce to shift from the simple dissolution of a marriage to a pitched, protracted battle between spouses. When the family unit includes minor children, child custody is often the most dramatic and emotional battle in a divorce.
It is, unfortunately, still common for some parents to seek sole custody of their children as a means of punishing their ex. If you know that your spouse will try to obtain sole custody or primary custody of your children in a divorce, it is time to prepare yourself for a potential custody battle. Thankfully, there are steps you can take that will improve your chances of a fair child custody outcome.
Document your positive relationship with the children
Spending quality time with your children is probably part of your daily routine. However, simply asserting to the courts that you have a positive relationship will not be enough, especially if your spouse attempts to claim that you are negligent or otherwise uninvolved.
Keeping a written record of the time you spend with your children, whether it involves practicing sports, going over homework, or discussing life and school, is a great first step. You don't necessarily need to take photographs, although photos and videos of your interaction with your children can also bolster your case.
You may also want to speak with a counselor or therapist if your spouse attempts to accuse you of some sort of mental health issue, personality disorder or addiction. Having an independent mental health professional testify or provide a report about your fitness as a parent can undermine any claims made by your spouse that you should not have parental rights after your divorce.
Seek compromise, not punishment, when a spouse uses the children as a weapon
In general, the Colorado family courts recognize that children benefit from ongoing relationships with both parents. When one parent attempts to alienate the other, the courts generally disapprove. Depending on the severity of the alienation, the courts may even award the other parent primary physical and legal custody.
However, even though you may be frustrated and hurt by your ex's attempt to denigrate you and damage your relationship with your children, pushing for the courts to penalize them isn't the best decision. Instead, try to keep your focus on what is best for the kids. That means minimizing conflict and ensuring that both parents have time with the kids regularly.
Not only will that approach minimize the strain caused by custody proceedings, but it will also show the courts that you are a responsible parent who wants what is best for the children.
Custody battles can often become emotional and ugly affairs. By focusing on what you do right, rather than what your ex does wrong, you will build a strong case for yourself as a custodial parent. You can also reduce the damage that divorce can do to the developing social and emotional health of children.