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William J. Reisdorf, P.C. – Family Law Attorney

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10 Mistakes Parents Make in a Custody Dispute

How Michigan Parents Can "Win" their Custody Case

By William J. Reisdorf, JD, Your Michigan Custody Attorney


How can I win my custody battle? Many clients ask me this question. But these days, it isn't about winning -- it's about obtaining the best result for you and your kids. My job is to maximize your case result. I am a strong believer in joint custody and shared parenting. Children deserve to have a relationship with both parents. As an attorney who has worked with Michigan mothers and fathers for over 30 years, I know that the way to get the best possible result in your case is to avoid these common mistakes:


MISTAKE #1: Not spending enough time with your kids.

Whether you are happily married, about to divorce or already separated, spending as much time as you can with your kids will do nothing but benefit them. It doesn't have to be "super time" like homework or soccer games. It can be dinner, fixing a bike tire, helping him clean his room, etc. Taking them to the dentist, shopping for their needs and helping with homework are all very important. Statistics show that kids who have a lot of time with both parents excel academically, socially and personally. If you wind up in a custody contest, your track record of constant contact may save you in court.


MISTAKE #2: Leaving the marital home.

Leaving the marital home and leaving the kids and the other parent behind -- before an attorney is consulted -- can hurt your chances for custody. Every day that passes in which you are separate from your kids will hurt your case, not to mention your kids. It's better to see an experienced attorney first so that a parenting plan can be developed before you leave. 


MISTAKE #3: Doing nothing.

There are many legal benefits to filing a court action first. Often, waiting until the other parent files is waiting too late when things become tense and hateful. Don't wait to consult an experienced attorney.


MISTAKE 4: Not keeping it "strictly business" (getting personal).

Once you decide you are in for a custody or divorce proceeding, you must adopt a new personality with the other parent. Getting angry and spiteful -- even after you receive it from your ex -- is not going to help your case. You have a most important goal: To maximize your case result and get the custody plan and settlement you dream of. Anger will not get it for you. A good attorney and a good plan will!


MISTAKE #5: Telling the kids everything.

The everyday goings-on of your case and your negative feelings for the other parent are not the children's business. They have their own everyday problems. There is a minimum of vital information you should tell them, but this is tricky business. You should talk to a counselor or attorney first before you discuss the details of the legal side of your case with your kids.


MISTAKE #6:  Sounding the "Father's Rights" Horn. 

Don’t get me wrong. I too believe that the way most men are treated in family court is disgraceful to our system of law. I also believe many judicial rulings undermine a father's basic right to see his children. Its not, however, what you say in court, but how you say it. I have been more effective with Judges by giving them psychological studies about how keeping kids away from a fit parent is harmful to the child. This gets their attention more than the "constitutional" claim.


MISTAKE #7:  Thinking that you're the only one being abused by the system.

It is disheartening to fight so hard to obtain a basic parenting schedule and a fair child support order. Parents grow frustrated and think no one understands them. No so. Those of us in parent advocacy groups have learned from other political organizations: Join a group. Peacefully protest. Go to Lansing! This becomes an opportunity for you to learn from other parents. It is also therapeutic. You can do some good for all dads and moms abused by the system.


MISTAKE #8:  Filing a Grievance against the Judge. 

You must understand that filing a grievance with a judicial watchdog organization is improper if you are complaining about the judge's ruling. The proper way to do this is an appeal, which is, most times, very expensive. You can only file a grievance when the judge does something in the nature of personal misconduct, like showing up drunk or making a racist ruling. Get a good attorney who will steer you away from misdirections like filing an improper grievance.


MISTAKE #9:  Not realizing how important HONESTY is.

It never ceases to amaze me how lightly some parents take lying and unfaithfulness to a partner or spouse. They quickly find that because of their deceit, negotiating custody or property is tortuous. Sometimes parents make it worse by not telling the truth to their attorney. Thus, the attorney becomes blind-sided and it hurts the case. The best thing to do is to "come clean" with your attorney so that "repair" and smart decisions can be made.


MISTAKE #10:  Giving Up (Only the Persistent are Successful!)

"Winning" is a relative term. For some, it can mean getting three weekends per month of parenting time. Others feel defeated unless they get 50-50 custody. In order to "win" -- if there is such a word -- you have to a) have a good attorney (certainly in a custody case) b) have realistic goals and c) make sure you pick your battles. You can’t make all the right decisions in a nasty complicated divorce or custody matter without competent counsel. And you can’t give up. If you don’t "click" with your attorney, don’t be afraid to get a new one, even if he's your third. Keep looking. They're not all going to charge $400 an hour. Try many things. Don't give up! 



Bill Reisdorf is a family law attorney practicing in Troy Michigan. He represents Michigan dads in divorce, custody, and family law clients in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne County, Michigan.