One of my most favorite quotes about parenting is the quote by Robert Fulghum: “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you”. Another quote I stand by is that “it takes a village to raise a child”. In custody cases, many people are watching you. And that village (the judge) is going to decide who gets custody of your children, if you leave it up to them.
From my personal experience as a parent, I know how important the connections and relationships can be between the child and the other family members including grandparents. I have a hard time understanding the burning desire of many of the divorcing parents in custody cases to limit their children’s time with another parent (of course with the exception of the extreme cases of abuse, neglect, etc.).
Under O.C.G.A. §19-9-3, one of the most essential factors that could be considered by a judge for determination of the best interest of the child, and subsequent custody issue, is the notorious “willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child”. From my experience, this factor is vital to and usually weighted on by the majority of the family court judges in custody cases. As a family law attorney I cannot emphasize enough how important that factor is and how easy it is for an experienced judge to spot insincerity and lies, as actions always speak louder than words. Here is my tip for the day: for the benefit of your children (and in order not to ruin your custody case singlehandedly) try not to:
Intentionally limit children’s time with the other parent;
Come up with excuses not to allow the child(ren) to exercise visitation time with the other parent;
Say things on the stand like “I am the best parent the child could ask for and we don’t need anybody else“; or, “I grew up without a father/mother and I turned out O.K.”; or, “He/she betrayed me and he/she does not deserve to see the child”. Or better yet, do not even say things like that in real life, especially in front of your children.
Damage family portraits by scratching out or cutting out, etc. the other parent’s images and leave them for the children to find;
Ignore the children’s requests for help with presents for the other parent for Father’s /Mother’s day.
Decline to invite the other parent to the child’s birthday party.
Please remember that it is not only judges that are watching you. Your children are always watching how you treat the other parent. Moreover, kids will most likely mirror your behavior. A little bit of kindness goes a long way – and maybe one day the other parent will return that kindness.
Regardless of the reason, even if you don’t feel it, act like someone is watching you. Odds are, they are.