Custody Guidelines for Regaining and Keeping Custody of Your Children
By Barbara Rose, PhD
I know how devastating it feels to lose primary custody, and what is needed to keep shared custody of the children.
The following guidelines are the bottom line on what to do during the custody litigation process, as well as what would make for the best and most positive atmosphere for the children.
The Mindset about the Other Parent
You must view the other parent as equally the parent of your children as you are.
Cease all negative talk and all verbal assaults about the other parent, especially in front of the children.
Make it safe for your children to feel love for the other parent.
Stop the battle to win – and start to view the whole situation in terms of a child who truly needs you and the other parent.
Your motives must be pure – strictly for the benefit of your children.
After all is said and done, sharing for the physical care of your children is a fifty-fifty job to be equally shared by both parents. (So long as neither parent is causing harm to the child.)The whole premise of “custody” is barbaric. You, the parent, have a lifelong bond with your child and from this moment forward you child’s feelings must come first, before anything else.
The fight for control must be transformed into an equal sharing of custody, including respect shown to the other parent at all times in front of the children.
Remember, custody litigation is all about what is in the best interest of the child.
What the Court Looks for the Following to Determine Custody Placement
A safe, loving and stable home environment.
A parent, who is responsible, follows the laws of society, is even tempered and level headed.
A parent who provides solid assurance of having the ability to raise the children under the best of circumstances.
A parent who can be home with his or her children. Acting jobs, music tours, anything that take you away from home and away from your children on a nightly basis need to be substituted for work that will keep you available as a devoted mother.
What You Must Do Regarding the Court
Your appearance needs to be squeaky clean. Think Mary Poppins, or a Librarian.
Remove all jewelry, nose rings, tongue piercing, dramatic make-up, and re-do your appearance to be wholesome. Think Meg Ryan in the movie, “You’ve Got Mail” – her appearance was low key, the “nice, clean cut girl.”
Ideally you want to wear no make up except for sheer lip gloss. Hair pulled back in a pony tail, just a simple watch if you need to wear one, no nail polish or clear nail polish, a knee-length solid skirt in brown, navy or black with a button down white collar shirt, low shoes such as loafers. You need to look extremely wholesome when you go to court, AND because of media photojournalists, you need to look and dress this way.
Take off all garments that are symbolic of a group or rebellious movement. This means that the Harley T-shirt needs to be put away in your draw, and substituted for a white button down collar shirt.
Looking like a sex pot with mini skirts, polka dot dresses, high heels, or muscle shirts for the guys needs to be replaced with a fully clean cut appearance. A simple pair of navy or black slacks or below-the-knee skirt with a collar shirt buttoned either all the way, or up to the second button for the females. If there’s a tattoo on your neck, button the shirt all the way.
CRUCIAL INFO REGARDING YOUR CASE AND THE JUDGE
Find out the name of the Judge who presides over your case. A simple call to the courthouse will get you that info; just make sure you have your case number.
If you can hire an attorney, make sure he or she never lost a case in front of the Judge, and the attorney is well liked by the Judge.
What they don’t teach you in Law school, or any school for that matter, is that Judges are people just like you and me, and they have favorite friends – one of them is an attorney! They belong to the same golf and country club, or share time on a volunteer committee. I have witnessed this first hand, and it is crucial to your case. Your attorney must be on outstanding, friendly terms with the judge – THAT is “how” this particular lawyer never lost a case in front of this judge.
Your demeanor in court must be completely respectful of the Judge, as well as towards all in the room. The Judge is to be addressed as “Yes, Your Honor.” Or “Your Honor, may I please share something with you?” This is how to speak to a Judge.
NEVER argue with the Judge.
Speak to the Judge ONLY when you are asked to speak. NEVER interrupt the Judge.
If you have a lawyer, let your lawyer do the talking for you until you are asked a question directly, then answer it honestly and CALMLY.
No matter what you are feeling, keep your emotions even keeled.
Do not cry, or become angry or defiant in court. When I was given visitation rights in 1996 tears burst out of my eyes as if a dam burst open. The judge’s looked at me and said in a forceful tone, “And don’t you cry!” Any emotions displayed that are not calm and collected cause you to appear either emotionally fragile, emotionally unstable, volatile, dangerous, or incapable of handling an adult circumstance as a mature, even tempered adult.
When you’re in court remember to remain calm, dignified, respectful, level headed, even tempered and agreeable. This is crucial.
If there is a court appointed guardian ad litem – either as a paid attorney or a free volunteer, that guardian essentially becomes “Judge and jury” and “the eyes of the Judge” regarding your case. You must treat the guardian with the utmost respect throughout the entire custody process.
You can thank the guardian for being so helpful, for taking the time to visit your home, and for looking out for what is in the best interest of the children.
Ninety nine percent of the time the Judge will “rubber stamp” the recommendations of the guardian. This is why the guardian is the one who really makes the decisions.
Follow all court orders, with a respectful demeanor to ensure the best possible outcome regarding your situation.
Your demeanor needs to be extremely humble and polite. Show the Judge that you are willing to obey all requests of the Court.
If the Court orders a psychological evaluation, only use the COURT’S psychologist.
Never go to a different private psychologist. The Court views this as “pre-testing” and will make you wait six months until you are evaluated by the Court psychologist.
If anyone from the Court comes to visit your home, it must be extremely clean, with age appropriate toys for the children.
Your child must be clean, dressed comfortably, have a happy smile, and treated as if the sun rises and sets over your child’s head.
Never speak in a harsh tone to your child.
Keep the adult issues of custody litigation strictly between the adults. Your child needs to be concerned with Mickey Mouse, coloring pictures and having special time with you.
Crucial Parenting Guidelines During and After Litigation
When your children are with you, your attention must be one hundred percent on your children.
A parent can physically be home, and also be emotionally unavailable – with his or her attention wrapped up in everything other than the child. When your child is sleeping, or in nursery school, or elementary school that is when your attention can be on other things.
Children need to see a happy, calm parent. Their environment needs to be PREDICTABLE in order for them to feel secure.
If you are sad and your child asks you, “What’s wrong?” always share honestly saying something such as, “I just feel sad when I can’t be with you all the time, but I’m okay and I’m so happy to be with you now.” The reason for this is that your child has accurate perceptions, such as seeing you sad. You must validate the truth of what your child is picking up on, and then reassure your child that everything is okay, you love him, and you will always be so proud of him.
You are NOT allowed to ever hit your child. This is called child abuse.
If you feel frustrated, say, “I feel frustrated.” Often just saying how you feel helps you diminish the negative hold your feelings have on you.
If you want your child to do something, the incorrect thing to say is, “you’re not going to play at your friend’s house until you put your toys away.” The CORRECT way to phrase a request is, “As soon as you put your toys away, then you can go to your friend’s house.
Download “STAR KIDS” from my website. This is a free, entirely positive method of raising children that I created in 1991. I can only share with you that the parents, including me, who raised their children using this simple method have role model teenagers today. The parents who did NOT use this method, continued the drama, dysfunction, unavailability, and abusive tone have teenagers who are in trouble today. STAR KIDS is completely FREE, and it works like a charm!
You must be home when your child comes home, and you must be home with your child every night of the week.
It’s fine to go out for an hour or two, just make sure that you are tucking your child into bed at the same bed time every night, and that you are home throughout the night no matter who you are dating.
This causes your child to feel secure, in a safe, predictable environment, which is EXACTLY what the Judge is looking for when deciding on custody placement.
Things to Remember
Throughout the entire litigation process you want to make sure that your work is in a respectable field, according to what the Judge would view as respectable. If you are working in a bar, dancing on stage in a skimpy outfit, staying out until all hours of the night, this needs to be reversed, now.
Keep AWAY from dysfunctional, toxic people who thrive on drama, and/or are always complaining. A great rule of thumb is to take advice from someone whose shoes you would like to see yourself in.
Remember that ultimately the Judge is just trying to see which parent will provide the most secure, stable, thriving environment for the child. It CAN be both parents! You AND the other parent can share custody 50/50.
If the Judge grants primary custody to one parent, and visitation rights for the other, please remember you did NOT ‘lose’ your child. You are merely sharing for the physical care of him or her with the other parent.
Place all of your attention and focus ON your child. Be PRESENT when you are with your child, meaning, your child must have your FULL attention. The other things can wait.
You have people rooting for you. I am one of them. As my dearest Grandma Rose always used to say, “This too shall pass.” It passes much faster than I ever thought possible. My children are eighteen and nineteen years old now. There is no more ‘custody’, and we share a beautiful relationship.
Just to share an example, I learned to make the best of my visitation rights, instead of continuing to fall apart. As an extra bonus I was class mom, went on school field trips, shared alternate holiday’s with them, and ALWAYS lived very close to them. This gave me “extra” time with my children, and showed them that everything is okay.
This period is filled with great meaning, and will positively help you grow and flourish as a Mom.
You WILL get through this period. Remember this is a transitory, temporary experience just as all experiences are.
When thinking about “winning” custody – think “SHARING” instead. That will alleviate a great deal of agony, and your children will see the smiling, stable, loving parent that you truly are.
© Copyright 2008, 2010 Barbara Rose, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.
Additional Guidelines Barbara originally wrote for Britney Spears from the bottom of her heart – you can download this as Barbara’s Gift to You right here!