Talking to your Attorney about Child Custody

I handle a lot of child custody cases.  That is not surprising since I am a Family Law Attorney, but I have many colleagues that simply do not handle custody cases at all.  They will either bring in co-counsel to handle the case or not accept the case entirely.  Handling child custody cases can be difficult, and I cannot count the amount of clients who have cried in my office.  The truth is child custody is a very emotional issue at the best of times.  At the worst of times…well it can sometimes be soul crushing work.  Having said that, I love handling custody and working with parents to find positive resolutions to very emotional issues.

This blog is about talking with your attorney about child custody issues. The most important thing you should do when talking with your attorney is be honest.  Be honest with me about the facts of your case, be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses and most important, be honest about the other parent’s strengths and weaknesses.

Be Honest with Me:
This is really important, so important I feel compelled to say it again.  Be honest with me.  I promise you there is very little I have not heard about people’s personal lives and I’m not interested in judging you.  I once represented a dad who was also an adult film star specializing in clown related films, so I promise you, it is unlikely you will surprise me.

That means I need to know everything that could be used against you to besmirch your character as a parent or a citizen.  Just like your priest and your doctor I am ethically barred from disclosing anything you say to me, so please open up the closet and bring out all the skeletons.  This is so important for one simple reason.  If I know about it, I can spin it in a more favorable light.  However, if it comes out in court in front of the Judge, the last thing you want is for me to be just as stunned as the Judge.  I am quick on my feet, but not that quick.

Be Honest With Yourself:
There is no such thing as “SuperMom”/”SuperDad” no matter what you see on Instagram or Pintrest.  That is not to say you are not a wonderful parent; you are.  It just means we all have our faults.  My son is the center of my world, but I am not a perfect dad. That means sometimes we skip bath time, sometime he eats snacks for dinner, and sometimes he falls and hurts himself.  That doesn’t make me a bad dad, it makes me a parent.

I say that so you recognize that no parent is perfect. You should not expect to be perfect and no one should expect you to be perfect.  Every parent has strengths and weaknesses.  My strength is I have an incredible amount of patience.  My weakness…the aforementioned “Snack Dinner.”

Be Honest About the Other Parent:
Just as you have strengths and weaknesses, so does the other parent.   Knowing what those are can help to develop your case in the most effective way possible.  It is easy when dealing with custody cases to focus solely on the negative, but most parents are not all negative.  Most parents have some really positive aspects, even if they were not the primary parent during the relationship.  Maybe they coached a child’s team or had a hobby they shared with the children.  Those are all positive qualities that should be fostered after a couple separates.  If we haven’t discussed these things, the only one who really misses out are your children.

I understand there are some really bad parents out there.  I assure you I have been involved in many cases where there are parents who should not only be prohibited from being around their own children, they should be sent to live alone on a deserted island.  Those cases are rare.  The more typical case is two people, caught up in the emotion of a broken relationship, will do or say things that are hurtful and mean.  That is not acceptable behavior, but it also does not define that person as a whole; it simply defines them in that situation.

That brings me to my limitations.  I am an attorney.  I am not a psychologist and I have no degree in psychology.  The last (and only) class in psychology I took was my freshman year in college. So while I have a lot of real world court room experience, I have no specific psychiatric training.  When I feel I am out of my depth, I will call on an expert in the field to assist in the case.  This too is why it is so important to be honest.  Unless I know all the facts, I cannot explain your case to an expert who has the knowledge to help.

So remember, when we meet, just be honest.  I am on your side and I am working on your behalf to obtain the most favorable results possible.

If you anticipate a legal child custody battle as a result of a divorce, it is important to know that a lawyer can help you understand the process accurately.

Nancy J. Bickford, a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS), is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Please call 858-793-8884 to understand how she can help your child custody battle begin and end with keeping your kids where they belong: With you.

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