5 Mistakes to Avoid when in Family Court

Family Law disputes can be messy and stressful – and few people act perfectly when under so much pressure. If you want to ensure the best possible outcome of your case, avoiding these types of in-court errors is essential.

Child custody and divorce proceedings are emotional topics for all parties involved. While many people understand and roughly know how a trial works, even with the best preparation you can expect to make some mistakes.

Keep in mind that most of the errors made will be minor and not fatal to your case. Yet, you want to avoid certain actions that will make your case harder to present. Here are the top 5 common mistakes to avoid.

1) Being Late & Dressing Inappropriately 

Being on time and appropriately dressed could seem like a no-brainer to anyone preparing for a hearing in court, but many people don’t understand the importance of being ready and dressed appropriately to proceed when the judge takes the bench.

Even though your character and history with your children should play a more important role than your appearance, appearance does count. Parents who would are in a child custody battle should ensure they have dressed appropriately for all court appearances. If you are male, you don’t need a suit, but slacks and a tie would be favorable.

Examples of appropriate dress for men are:

  • Collared shirt
  • Dark suit
  • Dress shoes
  • Tie

If you are female, dressy-casual is ok. Some examples of appropriate dress for women are:

  • Dark pants or a skirt suit
  • Dark, non-patterned dress
  • Dress shoes/pumps
  • Pants with a long-sleeve shirt

Overall you want to try and avoid short skirts, sleeveless shorts and sneakers. In terms of punctuality, if you are even a few minutes late, it could mean the difference between being heard first or having to wait around until the end of the day to have your issue heard. Depending on how late you are, it could also mean having your case dismissed entirely. Even if you have to get up painfully early to make sure you don’t hit traffic, don’t be late.

2) Not Being Communicative With Your Lawyer

Communication is at the heart of effective representation. More than any other area, ineffective communication can lead to mistakes or misunderstandings that impact a family law attorney’s representation of a client.

One of the best aspects of being proactive in your family law case is feeling like you have some level of control over the situation. If you are proactive with your lawyer, your case is probably going to run that much smoother. Examples of staying proactive include getting your attorney information and paperwork as soon as they ask for it. And if you don’t understand something, call your lawyer for help. That is what your attorney is there for. 

3) Irrational Behavior

Emotions run high when child custody disputes arise. Your former spouse might make you so angry, you find it difficult to remain calm. Displaying a lack of control though angry outbursts, for instance, can be detrimental to your case.

Regardless of how your soon to be ex-spouse behaves, do not criticize him or her in front of your children.  Doing so places your children in a position where they feel they have to choose sides. Remember when you are involved in a custody dispute, all of your actions and your words can be used as evidence against you in the court proceedings.  Your behavior, as well as that of your soon to be ex-spouse, will be observed carefully by the court during the custody dispute.

4) Publishing Information on Social Media

A lot of people live their lives through social media, posting every aspect and detail of day-to-day living including photographs and comments. In Family Court, social media posts can and often are shown to the judge. 

It is probably best to not post on social media at all during a divorce proceeding, especially if there is a custody battle.  Even seemingly harmless posts can cause an unnecessary (and unhelpful) emotional reaction from the other side. If you are involved in domestic relations litigation, you should assume that your social media posts, as well as your texts and emails to the other party, can be viewed by the judge deciding your case.  Additionally, you should discuss any relevant social media activity, text messages, and or emails with your attorney, as it is often compelling evidence.

5) Not Putting the Interest of Your Child First

In terms of safeguarding the child’s best interests, this is the priority of the Family Court. As adults, ex-partners should demonstrate that this is the one shared interest and commitment they have in common. If the courts see evidence that one parent has been speaking ill of the other parent or trying to turn the child against that parent, this will impact very badly on them. This also goes for negative comments about maternal or paternal grandparents or other family members. The child should not be used as a bartering tool in any family dispute, and this includes access and visitation rights.

Again, if the court finds that one parent had been attempting to overshare too much about the family court process with the child, this too can go against them. While it is recognized that separations and family disputes can be sometimes vitriolic between adults, the child must be seen as the number one priority.  

Final Thoughts

Custody disputes are extremely complicated, particularly if they result in litigation.  Meeting with a skilled family law attorney can help you in a number of important ways.

Involving the family law attorneys at Masters Law Group from the beginning of the process will help avoid these common pitfalls as well as giving equable and objective support and guidance for the everyone involved. If you are facing a divorce or child custody dispute, reach out to us here today to schedule a consultation.