If you are going through a divorce, you already know the emotional strain the process can have on a person. Family court cases are almost never easy. When there are children involved, the process becomes exponentially harder. As a parent, you’re used to seeing your child whenever you want. Now, your rights are in the hands of the court.
In an ideal world, you and your spouse will come to an agreement that allows both parents to be an active part of the child’s life. But when you and your spouse cannot agree, the judge gets the final say. And while the court favors joint custody, they only get a small snapshot into your world. If you have recently lost custody of your children, it can feel like a devastating blow. The good news is, there are things you can do to remain an active part of your child’s life.
Understanding your custody agreement
When it comes to custody cases, there are two types of custody the court considers; physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the child’s residential schedule, whereas legal custody outlines which parent has the final say in regard to major decision making, including medical care, education, and religion.
If the court awards the other parent primary physical custody, in most cases, you will still receive regular parenting time. This schedule is usually dependent on the child’s age, their schedule, and the physical proximity between both parents. If you have questions about the terms of the agreement, make sure you talk to your attorney before you sign anything.
What to do after you lose your child custody case
The first thing to understand is courts very rarely overturn custody cases. Stability and predictability are important, particularly with young children. In most cases, you must demonstrate a substantial change of circumstances, typically relating to the other parent’s ability to parent the child for the court to even consider a change in custody. Instead of looking for ways to overturn the custody agreement, you’ll often see better results if you focus on ways to maximize your time and improve your relationship with the other parent. Here are a few ways to do that:
1. Be consistent
No matter what the custody arrangement is, children need to know both parents are there for them. That’s why it’s so important to exercise all parenting time. Keep a calendar of your time and make sure you are there for every visit. If you need to make a change to the current schedule, reach out to the other parent to see if they would be willing to exchange time.
2. Understand why you lost custody
Louisiana has a presumption for legal custody. This means, they typically only award sole custody if joint custody is not in the best interest of the child. Take a close look at why you lost custody. Do you have a stable home life? Is there a drug or alcohol problem? Do you work long hours or are you frequently out of town? Focus on where you can make changes. It may be hard and you may need to make dramatic changes in the end, but the rewards can be great.
3. Be involved
Unless specifically spelled out in your custody agreement, there is nothing saying you can’t attend your child’s extracurricular activities, even when they fall on the other parent’s time. Practices, games, and performances are a great way to support your child. If you are not sure when these events are, the school or your child’s coach may be able to provide you with a schedule. Even if you just get a hug or a quick wave goodbye before you leave, just being there can mean the world.
4. Try to work on your relationship with your ex
For many divorced parents, this one may sound easier said than done. But it’s important to have a cordial, if not friendly relationship with your child’s other parent. Not only will your child benefit from seeing their parents get along, but you may see some extra benefits as well. If you maintain an open relationship with your ex, they may be more likely to inform you of special events or even offer extra time. Be friendly, don’t hide important information about your child, and most importantly, choose your battles wisely.
Your current custody agreement doesn’t have to be final
While courts are reluctant to overturn custody orders, that doesn’t mean you can’t make changes to your current custody agreement. Changes in parenting time are much easier to attain than changes in custody. Your chances increase dramatically if the other parent agrees to your requested changes.
To modify your current custody agreement, you need to file a motion with the court. If you and your ex have come to an agreement, the judge will likely sign off on the terms. While an out-of-court agreement may seem like enough to go on, if things change between you and your ex, you have no means to enforce your new parenting plan.
Don’t leave your future to chance. Bring in someone you can trust.
The relationship between a parent and a child is precious. At Stephenson, Chavarri & Dawson, L.L.C., we understand this. Unfortunately, when you go in front of a judge, it’s difficult for them to see the full picture. That’s why it’s so important to have someone by your side who can guide you through the process and help connect you with professionals that can help your case. We understand the emotional strains of a child custody case and fight aggressively to help our clients achieve the outcome they deserve. Remember, you are not alone in this. We can help. If you have lost a child custody case and are not sure what comes next, we want to help. Contact the offices of Stephenson, Chavarri & Dawson, L.L.C. at 504-523-6496, or fill out our online contact request to schedule your initial consultation.