Parents Seeking Custody

Vince Regan

c. Friends and Family. The best way to use friends and family are for emotional support and to have them help you with ideas on the previous two points. Too often, parents rely only on friends and family to provide their testimony on how you interact with your kids and then have them rate you on the criteria. It just doesn't pack much punch to have this input. Having a brother or parent who testifies you enjoy going into your child's school and reading to the class one day a month doesn't have the impact of having the kindergarten teacher make the same statement. Judges and caseworkers expect family and close friends to say great things about you and that's why the things family and friends say doesn't carry great weight. On the other hand - and this next idea is not as rare as it may sound - if you can get a family member or close friend of your soon-to-be ex to provide testimony to your strengths, then this is a great thing! Think about it - It's very compelling to have verbal testimony or written comments from your soon-to-be ex's parents about how much time you dedicate to coaching your kids sports or helping your child get their homework done. In summary, family is invaluable in the overall process of divorce or a custody dispute - especially from the emotional angle. Just don't give their willingness to testify too much weight.

d. Your input. This begins with the notes of your strengths and weaknesses completed earlier. With both the strengths and weaknesses you should be able to elaborate on various items listed. You should have thought through (and even written down in many cases) how you would respond to a weakness that you recognize or might be a perceived weakness brought up by the other party. So, in our example, maybe you've never been to your child's classroom. That is likely to be a weakness you recognize or might be brought up by the ex. What will your response be? It's important to have thought this through and to be ready to respond. Not being prepared might make you respond with a "Yes, I haven't been in my child's classroom." Being prepared might allow you to say "Yes, I haven't been in my child's classroom as my employer is pretty strict about time off during the day. I have generally called the teacher, Mrs. Johnson, during my lunch break once a week to touch base with her on my daughter's progress and I usually spend one night a week working on my daughter's school scrapbook as I go through papers she brings home from school." It's your input that insures you have accurately and thoroughly addressed each of the custody criteria in your state law. As you can see from reading this far, addressing each of the state custody criteria points with just your words and thoughts is not going to be enough! You must focus on concrete evidence, the input of independent third parties, and friends and family.

5. Act upon your weaknesses. Every action item up to this point focused on how to frame your strengths for greatest impact. At least as important as that is how you handle your weaknesses. If you had no weaknesses or areas needing improvement in relation to the criteria, then you likely haven't done an honest assessment of your situation.

Review your weaknesses to see where you can make an impact. Again, it must be a sincere desire to do what's best for your kids that drives you to action. Don't allow spite, revenge, anger, competition, or other unhealthy motives to cause you to attempt to be someone you really don't want to be. By this, I mean you may have weaknesses that you are aware of and have no intent of changing - either because you don't value the particular issue or because the changes that would be necessary run counter to whom you really are as an individual. For example some state law custody criteria can touch on religion. If you haven't been a particularly religious individual you could list this as a weakness for that criteria and work to build it into a strength. If you are adamantly set against religion you might list it as a weakness and also recognize it's not an issue you can act upon - meaning it remains a weakness with your knowledge.

So, how do you act upon weaknesses? Essentially you take the weakness - and for our purposes we'll now say "involvement in your child's school" is a weakness - and you examine steps you can take to make it a strength. Calling and arranging a meeting with your child's teacher, principal, school counselor, or other staff might be a starting point. Find out from them how you can be more involved in your child's education. Writing a thank you note to each one you met with and keeping a copy will begin to provide concrete evidence as was mentioned above. Responses you get from teachers will add to that concrete evidence. Over time, as you demonstrate you are working to be more involved in the school environment you may find a teacher is willing to provide a letter, or even verbal testimony about your efforts. Now you've taken a known weakness and have turned it into a strength. And something as simple as school involvement can actually go from a weakness to a strength in just a few months if you really apply yourself.

Generally speaking then the goal is to determine action on weaknesses by looking at the desired end result. One end result is to make it a strength, of course. The two other major end results are to generate concrete evidence and independent third party verification of your efforts. Below is a short example of what this means.

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