Here at Teper Law Firm, we get quite a few requests for assistance with custody cases. Frequently, it turns out that the problem is not a true custody dispute where both parents are seeking to be the parent of primary residence or sole custody of the children; rather, it turns out that most of the custody cases we help resolve actually involve some kind of parenting time dispute. Most common custody cases deal with how much parenting time the other parent should get, or some disagreement about how that parenting time is spent, with whom and where.
A true “custody battle” is not that common and that is a good thing, as custody battles are often time nasty, lengthy and expensive. But whether it is a true custody dispute or a parenting time dispute, cases involving any aspect of custody are never easy. They are fact-sensitive and very emotionally charged. Both parents clearly have a deep interest in the outcome of the case. But the person with the greatest vested interest in the case is the person in the middle of it all: the child.
Parents forget that children should not be involved in their disputes, regardless of the nature of those disputes. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the children to become all too painfully aware that their parents do not get along. Children are very observant and intuitive. Whether or not parents fight in front of their children, or complain to them directly about the other parent, often children just sense that something is wrong and they realize that they are caught in the middle of it all with no safe place to go.
Custody cases are determined based upon the best interests of the child. However, it is not in any child’s best interests to be caught in a tug of war between their parents. All too frequently the parents become so embroiled in the fight that they forget why they started fighting in the first place. There are also those custody cases where the fight has nothing to do with the children, yet the children are caught in the middle.
It is very important to realize that custody cases are not an opportunity to extract revenge on the other parent, or an opportunity to use the child as leverage over that other parent. They certainly should not be initiated if the sole goal is to get more money out of the other parent. They are intended to protect the best interests of the child, and determine how to best meet the child’s needs.
When considering whether to file a custody case, it is extremely important to consider how the case will affect the child. This includes recognizing that the children in the middle might feel tremendous discomfort and feel as though they are being disloyal to love both parents equally and want to have a relationship with both. So always remember – children are not possessions. They are not a toy that the parents should be fighting over. Keep this in mind if you or someone you know is dealing with a custody case. Keep the goal—the child’s best interests—in focus and do not use the child just to serve your own needs.