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Let's start with, "I'll never speak to you again!"

People do the darndest things, don't they? People sometimes say one thing and do another. The contradiction makes no sense.

In a custody battle, where each parent contends that they ought to be primarily responsible for the children, one parent might say to the child, "if you don't do what I say (or see me when I demand it), I'll never speak to you again." Guess how that plays out to the judge who decides which parent will get custody.

Parents seeking custody need to know why they will or will not prevail. We tell them. After we've had some time on task together, seen how the parties work together, or don't, and how engaged each parent is with their children, We'll provide a list of what has worked and what has not. Of course, that only works when it's our client. When it's the other side, if their attorney hasn't explained the real world to them, they have to find out the hard way, at trial.

"So why wouldn't I get custody?" I'm asked.

I have my list ready. "Let's start with ...," and the list of why they aren't going to win primary custody begin to flow.

For example, "I really can't make it tonight (or this weekend). We'll try to get together again next weekend." It is difficult to argue that you ought to be the person who has the children most of the time when you can't move your schedule around enough to be with them now.

Proof of any assertion should be logical and consistent; it has to make sense. If you want x, all your evidence should support the argument that you are the person who should have x. Just saying you want it, just saying you believe it, just saying that it is a high priority of yours, doesn't make it so. Trial shines a great spotlight on hypocrisy. In trial, we ferret out the fact from the fiction. In trial, liars and hypocrites are exposed when their actions differ from their words.

When it comes to your children, if you want them, if you really ought to be the parent providing most of their care, you most certainly should be there for them at every single opportunity. You should have no other priority. Even if, "I had to work," is true, it shows how you prioritize. You would rather, or you are better at, providing for your children by making money for their welfare. (make sure that paper trial backs you up!) Working is certainly a noble sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that, in the legal formula, means that the other parent has to watch them while you work so the other parent should probably have them while you work. That's how you've structured life.

"I don't know who their doctor is." If you haven't been the parent taking the children to the doctor or dentist or participated in the parent-teacher conferences, you probably won't get custody of your children. If you had other priorities when the children were seen by the doctor or when the school scheduled the conferences, your other priorities tells the judge all she needs to know about how you structured your life before the divorce and therefore, how life should best be structured after the divorce.

These few examples are from actual cases and come up repeatedly in custody trials that should never be because the end result is already known. We can tell you how it's going to work out. A competent and honest opposing counsel should be able to tell you how it's going to work out. Common sense should be able to tell you how its going to work out. So, logically, you shouldn't need a trial to have a judge tell you how it's going to work out. Settle your case and save your money.

Here's a final example of why a parent won't win custody; "I'll kill you." Yes, we work on custody cases where one parent has threatened the children with death but still contends that they are the better parent. Shocking and chilling to the core. You can guess how that one comes out at trial.

Bottom line, know and respect your existing, genuine priorities. Save a fortune in funds and in enmity by knowing thyself and resolving your case along logical and consistent lines.

-Michael Manely

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