If you’re in the midst of a child custody dispute, you’re likely experiencing more stress than ever before. This is completely understandable considering the high stakes involved. While there are many aspects of such disputes you expect, there are also several things about child custody battles you might not foresee.
Unfortunately, failure to expect these realities will not minimize their effect on your life. That’s why it’s so important to understand the following common issues experienced in custodial disputes.
The Emotional Toll of Child Custody Battles
The fact that child custody battles are stressful is likely not surprising to anyone. Courtroom anxiety, anger at former partners, and worry over outcomes are all common. However, people often don’t initially understand the full emotional toll of these disputes. Unfortunately, the toll taken in these cases affects both children and adults.
Custody battles can cause lasting problems with youngsters — many of which we’ll discuss later in this guide. However, parents also frequently deal with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues after these disputes play out. The potential for such outcomes is higher in cases that are particularly adversarial.
As such, you should consider ways to simplify the process (e.g., compromise, working with attorneys).
The Complexity of the Legal Process
Many parents expect to walk into a courtroom, tell a judge their side of the story, and walk out with custody of their children. They fail to realize that this is unlikely. Child custody disputes actually involve a complex legal process. Court proceedings, documentation reqiurements, and intricate legal procedures should all be expected.
The courts want parents to work together. When they’re unable to do this, things can get complicated. Custody evaluations, involvement of social workers, in-home visits, and other court requirements are common. There are also evidentiary rules that can minimize your ability to show exactly why a judge should decide in your favor.
Imagine being unable to explain your case due to technicalities. It’s easy to understand why such issues can lead to so much distress.
Financial Strains and Considerations
Few people recognize the true financial implications of a child custody battle. Parents often think they’ll avoid expensive legal costs by simply not hiring an attorney. In reality, a lack of legal assistance can actually prove even more costly. Simple mistakes can lead to unexpected outcomes, and this ends up requiring further legal maneuvering.
Even if you do end up with a favorable outcome without a lawyer, the process still isn’t going to be cheap. In fact, these cases typically cost anywhere from $3,000 to $40,000. This is a wide range, and there’s no way to predict where your child custody battle will land on that scale. Between legal fees, ongoing expenses, and expert evaluations, it’s going to get costly.
A child custody lawyer can help streamline a case and avoid pitfalls with their extensive knowedge. Their negotiation and mediation skills can also help parents reach a mutally agreeable solution and avoid court battles. They can also address long-term considerations — such as child support and future modifications — to avoid future disputes that could turn costly.
Impact on Parent-Child Relationships
One of the most devastating aspects of child custody battles that people don’t expect is their effect on parent-child relationships. Remember, the only person who’s definitely innocent in all this is the child. They likely wanted nothing more than to have their parents together and not engaged in stressful court battles.
When children are forced into such situations, they often blame their parents. Oftentimes, anger is singularly directed at the person perceived to have started the problem (e.g., filing for divorce, ending a relationship). However, it’s also possible that one parent could turn their child against the other by speaking ill of their former partner.
Whatever the specific circumstances of your situation, it’s important to take active measures to strengthen the bond with your child during this difficult time.
Role of Mediation in Child Custody Battles
When someone is involved in a child custody dispute, they may view their situation as win or lose. This is understandable. Parents obviously want what’s best for their children. In these situations, they honestly believe a decision in their favor is truly what’s best. However, the reality is that there’s not always a clear winner and loser.
That’s because many child custody battles resolve only when parents work together. Even if you don’t get along with a former partner, mediation and negotiation play a major role in many of these disputes. The courts typically want both parents involved, so compromising on an agreement is often preferable to letting a judge decide for you.
Custody Enforcement and Modification Challenges
Once a child custody battle concludes, there’s a court order in place specifying things like primary physical custody and visitation schedules. Unfortunately, a court order doesn’t necessarily mean a parent will follow the rules. In fact, the overwhelming majority of kidnappings in America are perpetrated by parents in these situations.
Of course, most enforcement challenges aren’t this severe. In fact, disagreements are often handled by seeking out order modifications. When circumstances change, courts will consider modifying existing orders. Clearly, enforcement and modification issues prove that the end of a child custody dispute might not really be the end.
Long-term Effects on Children
Many people don’t realize just how big of an effect custody disputes can have on children. For instance, children whose parents separate are statically more likely to get divorced in the future. Children in these situations also typically have higher rates of behavioral problems. These are disheartening outcomes, but they’re not unavoidable.
The truth is that many of these issues stem from situations where parents cannot work together. Bad mouthing each other, constant bickering, drawn-out court battles, and similar difficulties create a dysfunctional environment that children can’t thrive in. With a focus on compromise and a family law attorney to meditate the process, it’s possible to avoid negative outcomes.