10 Ways to Lose Your Case in a Child Custody Case
Clients often ask me how they lose their family court case. I can only assume that clients are asking this not because they want to lose, but that they are hopeful that by understanding how they risk losing their case, they can avoid those actions and thereby, have success or win their family law case. So without further adieu, what do clients do to frustrate or upset the family court judge and risk the loss of their case?
- Involving the kids in your fight and/or anger with your spouse:
Every professional involved in helping with the divorce process and/or guiding you through issues in your family law case will tell you that the change in a family dynamic, whether because of divorce or the end of unmarried parents’ relationship, will inevitably affect the children. It is your duty as the parent of your children to do your part to protect your children. Any person you speak with about your family, whether it be a doctor, social worker, psychologist, therapist, mediator, counselor, teacher/school personnel, judges or lawyers will tell you that the children deserve to be protected from the anger, fighting and frustration surrounding the reasons that your relationship is ending. In fact, studies actually show that exposure to parental conflict in unhealthy ways can actually affect the child’s brain development. If a Family Court Judge learns that you have unnecessarily involved your children in adult information or fighting, it will surely anger him or her. While the children will have to know that there is a change in the parents’ living status, the children should not know that there is a dispute or failure to get along between the parents. The children need to know that the parents have come to agreements or the judge has directed what will occur going forward (i.e. the rules or parenting plan that governs how the parents will co-parent going forward), but the children do not need to know that the parents cannot get along or cannot live with one another.
- Failure to Pay Child Support or Support Your Children:
Child support is the right of the child. Child support is not dependent on a parent having the parenting plan that he or she wants, getting to see their child or any other factors. Simply put, judges expect children to be financially supported. When you had children, you immediately gained a support responsibility to feed and clothe your children and meet their financial needs. Nothing makes a judge more frustrated than hearing that on top of a child adjusting to a change in their family situation, the child has had to suffer financially and/or do without while the parents fight with one another and one parent refuses to appropriately or meaningfully provide financial support to the other parent, on behalf of the child.
- Failure to Encourage or Ensure that your children spend time with both Parents:
Your children deserve the stability and security of continuing and maintaining their relationship with both parents. Again, simply because your children are going through a change in their family situation does not mean that their lives and attached relationships should change in any way. Give your children the gift of love from all of the adults that love them! Not only do your children need and deserve the love, but your children can never have too many people in their village who love them, help them, and care for them. Of course, if your children need protection from abuse, that is a different story, but for many children, they need to find a new normal- the security and attachment of knowing that the adults in their lives will continue to love them.
- Ignoring or Failing to Follow Court Orders:
Judges have generally had a long, successful career in the legal filed before becoming judges. Generally, they have shown considerable knowledge, insight, and ability in order to earn their spot on the bench. When judges issue an order, they expect their orders to be followed and respected. As I often tell my clients, if you don’t want to leave an issue to the court or a judge to make a decision then work hard to settle your case/matter outside of court. If you cannot come to an agreement and present something to the court through a motion or hearing, you are leaving it in the judge’s hands to make the decision. Once you ask the judge to make the decision, you have to be prepared for the judge to issue a ruling that agrees with your request, disagrees with your request (or something in between). If a judge orders you to do something and you fail to comply, you face severe penalties, including, in the worst situations, going to jail if you fail to follow court orders.
- Hiding or Transferring Assets or Failure to Make a Full and Truthful Disclosure of Assets:
Almost never are parties able to successfully hid assets. There is almost always a trail to find and search out the assets, either through money transfers, IRS forms, unaccounted for withdrawn money or some other source. Failing to disclose money through the asset disclosure process is almost certainly not going to allow you to successfully hide assets. More importantly, upon the assets being found or exposed, you will have lost all credibility with the court. It shows or tells the court that you do not care about playing by the rules, being fair and honest, and often the court will extrapolate your negative behavior to assume that you may be an uncooperative co-parent, may be hiding other things such as the full extent of your income, among other negative ramifications.
- Speaking of being dishonest about hiding assets…any lies to the court or through the legal process will hurt your case:
When one or both of the parties have a family law attorney, the attorneys will be adept and experienced at catching lies and proving those lies through research, information gathering, and other similar efforts. Getting caught in even a single lie can cause the court to doubt your credibility about everything going forward. Once you establish yourself as a dishonest litigant to the judge, it is difficult, if not impossible to recover from the court’s belief about you. Establish yourself as an honest and trustworthy litigant!
- Decide to Not Use a Lawyer to Represent You:
When you clearly have the financial resources and income to be able to hire a lawyer, failing to hire a lawyer tells the court that you believe you know better than a professional, you think you can “outsmart” the system and that you are not amenable to obtaining and receiving professional advice for the sake of striving to find the best outcome for the sake of your children and your family. Most family law attorneys we know of have hired an independent family law attorney if they are going through their own family law matter. Proudly, many have chosen to hire our firm, but when professionals in the field are hiring an independent lawyer to provide advice, guidance, and recommendations, clearly non-legal professionals need this type of valued guidance as well. Your family law case involves everything that matters most to you: your children, your future, and your finances. Don’t try to take care of it yourself and hope you can successfully navigate a difficult, emotional, and technically difficult system and process.
- Fail to provide required discovery or financial disclosures:
At its core, failing to provide something required by the court process tells the court that you believe you are above the law, and not required to follow the rules of the process. In every family law case, certain financial information disclosures are required. When you don’t cooperate by providing the disclosures, judges will often assume that you are hiding information or assets, trying to lie, trying to be uncooperative or make the process more difficult or drug out for the other side, or simply trying to delay. When the judge has the perception that you are not cooperative, the judge can take a variety of actions to punish you or even decide that you are not the person capable to serve as a responsible parent or care provider to the children. From the judge’s thinking, if you cannot follow simple financial disclosure rules/requirements, how are you going to follow the requirements for addressing the things we all have to do as parents to care for children?
- Taking Excessive Opportunities to Complain, Criticize or Ridicule the other party:
At its core, you have to remember that at one point in time, you likely had some type of relationship with the other party where you cared about them and saw something good or positive in them. Being excessively angry and aggressive toward the other party or overly criticizing “small” mistakes of the other party actually makes you seem like the unreasonable party. If you appear to be angry, unreasonable, and irrational, it is difficult for the court to feel empathetic towards your position and try to award you a beneficial outcome. On the other hand, showing the court that you can rise above your personal anger or frustrations and make child-centered decisions that meet the needs of your children is almost certainly a much more successful path in the litigation process.
- Failing to Attend or Show Up for Court:
Once you have been served with process, the court has jurisdiction over you to make orders. Failing to show up for scheduled court appearances will result in the other party being able to show up and tell the court a list of things or demands that the party has and likely, be awarded those items. When you fail to show up for court, you are telling the court that you care so little about the outcome of the proceedings that it is not worth your time, effort, and energy to come to court and have a say on the rulings of the court. Similar to many things in life, if you don’t at least tell the court what you are asking for or hoping for, there is no way you will get something you never even asked for. Almost always, when you care enough to bother to show up to court, the court will be appreciative of your efforts sufficiently that the court will want to hear your position and will take it into account in making any rulings or decisions.
Now that you know how to lose in family court, let’s get to what you really want to know: how do you win in family court? One of the very best things you can do to successfully navigate a difficult family court process is to hire a respected, experienced, and knowledgeable family law attorney. He or she should have the ability, experience, and skills to expertly represent you and the positions you are asking for. Call Pingel Family Law today at (816) 208-8130 to allow us to discuss and consult with you about your family law case.