Dispelling Ten Common Myths about Child Custody Disputes [Part III]
This is the final installment of a three-part blog post that highlights common misconceptions about paternity actions and marital dissolutions involving minor children. Because our clients typically regard their parent-child relationship as one of the most critical issues in a divorce, we have provided information intended to straighten out false assumptions about child custody disputes.
Myth No. 7: Parental alienation is a matter of “he said-she said”, so allegations regarding such behavior have little impact on the outcome of a custody case.
Although parental alienation can be difficult to establish, family law judges place significant weight on alienating conduct, such as disparaging comments about the other parent; non-cooperation with the other party’s parenting time; and efforts to make children fear the other parent. While sometimes parental alienation can be an issue that is challenging to prove, the court might appoint an attorney for the children (Guardian ad Litem) or order a child custody evaluation by a mental health professional. When parents attempt to impair the relationship of minor children with the other parent, there are many ways this information can come out. This type of conduct is harmful to minor children, so exposing such inappropriate behavior is important both to protect your children’s mental well-being and to promote a positive parent-child relationship.
Myth No. 8: There is no reason not to agree to allow the other parent to be the primary residential parent now because custody always can be modified later.
While parenting plans and child custody arrangements can be modified, a change of the residential timeshare and other custody orders is more difficult after the judgment has been entered in a marital dissolution or paternity case. While the factors relevant to determining the best interest of the child govern both pre-judgment and post-judgment custody decisions, a “material change of circumstances” will usually be necessary to change the primary residential parent after a divorce decree. While various facts will justify a modification of custody post-judgment, significant issues involving fitness of the residential parent generally constitute a material change, such as allegations of sexual abuse, child abuse, domestic violence in the home, substance abuse, or chronic neglect. Improvement in the situation of a non-residential parent alone will not normally be sufficient to satisfy the material change of circumstances standard without other facts. The bottom line is that the time to pursue an acceptable custody arrangement is prior to a final judgment.
Myth No. 9: Judges often order no visitation or supervised visitation if requested by a parent.
There is a strong public policy supporting frequent and continuing contact of minor children with both parents. While courts do occasionally terminate or suspend contact between a parent and a minor child, this type of order is extremely rare and usually temporary. Supervised visitation is more common, but this type of order also typically involves unusual circumstances, such as a parent with parental fitness issues or a non-existent relationship between the children and non-residential parent. When visitation is supervised, this condition typically is temporary.
Myth No. 10: The decision by a parent to move out of the family home will not impact custody orders.
While not all custody cases end with a primary residential parent living in the family residence, judges often favor this situation because it minimizes the impact of the transition during a divorce. If the kids are able to remain in the family home, they also might continue to benefit from continuity in terms of their school, neighborhood, friends, and community. Because judges find it appealing to keep minor children in the family home, parents who want residential custody might want to think twice about moving out. This is especially true if the parent who moves out would not be able to keep the kids in their current school.
If you have questions about child custody or parenting plans, we welcome the opportunity to talk to you and answer your questions. We invite you to call the Kansas Family Law Attorneys at the Weber Law Office or to submit an inquiry form through this website to schedule your initial consultation.