Tennessee judges must maximize the participation of both parents in the lives of their children, subject to the children’s best interest. In real life, that usually means that Judges will try their best to give parents equal time. That is, unless the Judge concludes you are a bad parent. In that case, the Court will give the other parent more time than you, and you’ll also likely be stuck paying child support. Here’s a list of the top ten reasons parents lose their custody case.
You verbally fight the other parent.
- Judges don’t care if the other parent started it, and neither do your kids. Judges don’t care how unreasonable the other side is and neither do your kids. No matter what: Do not take the bait.
You physically fighting the other parent.
- Not only is a physical fight a sure-fire way to lose custody of your kids, a physical fight might land you in jail on a domestic assault charge and your children in foster care with strangers. It is likely you will wind up in Juvenile Court on a charge of abuse and neglect. You are now litigating in two different courts, and Juvenile Court is twice as expensive to litigate a case in. No matter what, walk away.
You introduce your children to the new love of your life.
- Love is blind. And sometimes stupid. That’s the only reason I can think of why anyone would expose their children to a new love interest before the divorce is over. Your children love you and they love the other parent too. This is the most momentous change in their life, and unlike you, they have zero control. Do not put your children in the position of being nice to the reason they are losing their other parent. A judge is going to penalize you…HARD…for putting your children in that position.
You put the other parent down.
- Kids have ears. Don’t assume you can talk smack about the other parent and they don’t know. Assume your children are with you 100% of the time and don’t say anything derogatory about the other parent. Not in front of your children. Not on social media. Not to your best friend privately. Not to your Mom on the phone. Never. It will get back to your children and they will not forgive you. A Judge certainly won’t.
You destroy property.
- If your spouse takes your phone, give it to them. Don’t grab it. (See, don’t physically fight the other parent, above…). If you see your spouse at the paramour’s house overnight, do not let the air out of their tires. Are you mad? You still do not get to punch a wall. The Judge will never think you had a good excuse for behaving badly.
You don’t pay your bills.
- That includes child support. Most parents resent paying money to the parent they perceive as the parent who took their children away. Writing that check, on top of that resentment, is hard. Write it anyway. If you don’t, you are going to incur several thousand dollars of attorney fees in child support contempt, and the Judge will hold your “failure to support” against you in the custody case.
You don’t let your children spend time with the other parent.
- Children love both parents, even if one of them is bad. Judges must maximize the time spent with both parents. Even the meanest, most irresponsible, terrible parent gets to see their children within certain parameters. Figure out the most time you can safely give to the other parent and give it to them. The Judge will reward you later by giving you primary responsibility for your children (subject to these other factors)
You change your children’s routine.
- Your children are going through the biggest change of their lives. They also have the least control over that change. It’s also a negative change, at least for them. Don’t make change worse by making it bigger than necessary. If possible, keep them in their school or daycare. Keep them in their extra curricular activities. Keep supper time and bedtime the same.
- Yes, you may want to relocate or need to move, for the new love, for the new job, to get support from your family…Don’t. The Court believes that your children need ready access to both parents and if you move you’ve just denied that access. You’ve also completely disrupted their routine, their school life, and every other aspect of their world. Maybe make that move later. Not now.
You don’t take the time to earn the Court’s trust.
- The Court is charged with doing what’s best for your kids. You need to prove that you can be trusted more than the other parent. To earn the Court’s trust, follow court orders. If you have a question about what that is, ask your lawyer. Make a priority out of being trustworthy. Earn trust by doing what you are told.