I’ve been asked hundreds of times to review cases where a mom has lost custody. How does this happen? Many don’t know. What seasoned custody lawyers know is that a custody decision largely rests on how a case is presented to the Court. It does not matter what the facts are, but what matters is the manner the story is told to the Judge making the decisions.
So many factors go into a custody case, it’s hard to pin-point the top things you should be doing in a custody case, but some of the top reasons that moms lose custody are as follows:
1. Turning on and off visitation between the children and their father based on whether or not he’s paying child support. This is a big factor, and almost always results in a mom losing custody. Court’s typically see the payment of child support and visitation with the children as very different issues. One shouldn’t impact the other. If you’re not getting paid, there are better (and more appropriate) ways to enforce child support payments.
2. Signing waivers and releases for mental health treatment, when you know you’ve got issues and skeletons to hide. Just because custody is at issue, most courts (especially in Illinois) do not have the right to look at your past medical and mental health treatment. If this information is damaging, do not agree to sign any releases or waivers. Custody evaluators and Guardian Ad Litems will have to only guess whether or not there’s a history to be concerned about.
3. Moving out of the family home. Okay, so your spouse is horrible, abusive, and you simply can’t deal with him anymore. Too bad. By moving out of the house, you’ll make one of the biggest mistakes you can make in a custody case. Stay put – no matter how bad the house gets. There are better ways to deal with the problematic spouse. Moving out will kill a custody case.
4. Hiring the wrong lawyer. So many moms find a bad lawyer. I’ve seen moms hinge their case on a lawyer that has never seen a custody case, and one mom that hired a lawyer that had never completed a custody trial. These are big mistakes. When interviewing lawyers, ask them if they have handled a trial or two (on custody). Ask them whether or not they’ve done custody appeals. These are all very valuable experiences that your custody lawyer should have. If you have any uncertainty about your current lawyer – change lawyers. It’s not uncommon for a parent to change lawyers and the courts don’t look down on you for making the switch.
5. Trying to represent yourself. Oh boy -big mistake. I know many, maybe all moms don’t want to represent themselves. But many are forced to go this route because of the inability to pay attorneys’ fees. Most moms simply think that they’re stuck, when in actuality, there are options. Meet and talk to lawyers. Many lawyers will take a payment plan, or perhaps ask the court that your husband pay for the fees. Remember, there are options, but one of them isn’t representing yourself in a custody case.
If you’re looking at custody case or are in the middle of the battle, and very much want to avoid a horrible result, call my office and take a moment for a no-cost consultation. Paul Nordini at (630) 416-6600. Or email me at email@example.com.