GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan. If you are going through a divorce or separation, one of the most difficult and emotional decisions you and your ex will have to make involves your children. Where will they live? How will holidays be spent going forward? How will you and your ex resolve disagreements about the children? These questions can lead to a child custody battle. However, you are not alone. If you are facing questions of child custody, consider speaking to the family lawyers at Gordon & Hess, P.L.C. in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Here are 10 things to consider as you make important decisions regarding child custody:

  1. Strive to build a co-parenting relationship with your ex. Regardless of who gets custody of the children, both parents will be expected to play an active role in making decisions for the children and spending time with the children. Only in cases of extreme abuse will the court consider not granting one parent rights to see a child. According to The Spruce, some parents have even lost their child custody battles because they weren’t willing to cooperate with their ex.
  2. Speak to a child custody lawyer. The child custody lawyers at Gordon & Hess, P.L.C. in Grand Rapids, Michigan are qualified to help you present the strongest possible child custody case to the courts. While many families are able to resolve their disagreements outside of court, sometimes cases must be tried before a judge. If you must make this step, it is important to consider which evidence you will present and how you will present the evidence. Courts use the best interests of the child standard, which can be highly subjective and lead to varied results depending on the judge and the unique circumstances of your case.
  3. Protect your family and children. If you believe your ex may be a danger to yourself or your child, it is important to seek proper protections. Pursuing a restraining order and gathering documentation of your ex’s run ins with the law can help.
  4. Avoid posting on Facebook and social media. Anything you post on social media could be potentially used against your case. An innocent picture of you having a night out on the town with the girls or guys could be reframed into a negative story about your drinking.
  5. Don’t badmouth your ex. Anything you say about your ex can also be used against you in court. Psychologists refer to this as “parental alienation.” It can impact your child psychologically and courts may treat anything negative you say as an attempt to alienate the child from the other parent.
  6. Follow the court’s instructions and provide all paperwork. You may be required to take parenting classes. Make sure you follow through. Start gathering paperwork early. Some documents may need to be requested from other agencies and this can take time.
  7. Don’t put your children in the middle of the custody battle. Older children may be asked to express their wishes about custody, but this should be done in a sensitive manner and possibly with the help of a counselor.
  8. Stay away from drugs and alcohol. Any evidence of drug or alcohol use can be used against you during a custody trial.
  9. Be on time and don’t reschedule visitations or court dates. Any lateness or rescheduling may be used by the other parent to show that you are not the primary caregiver or that the child’s best interests lie with the other parent.
  10. Consider speaking to a counselor if you fear that your children will be used as emotional manipulation during your divorce case. It is never healthy to put children in the middle during divorce. However, sometimes child custody is used by one parent to get a better divorce “deal” from other. If you believe this may be the case, consider seeking help. Speak to a counselor who can help you manage feelings of anger and resentment. And, speak to your divorce lawyer who can help you understand your rights and obligations during this challenging time.