When parents don’t agree that each is capable of raising the children – the custody process will be lengthy and, quite frankly, brutal. When one or both parents declare the other unfit to perform their parenting duties – the custody process becomes decidedly more expensive and very ugly. When parents cannot come to an agreement via collaborative divorce, mediation, or other cooperative efforts, the inevitable hearing and very likely custody evaluation are not far behind. This opens up the floodgates for the dirty tactics used in divorce and custody proceedings by the high-conflict ex-partner.
All of the experiences you’ve had prior to the custody hearing (and perhaps even including the hearing) are the “practice rounds” leading up to the child custody evaluation process.
The custody evaluation process is generally long unless you have the circumstances and the associated funds for either or both an compacted evaluation schedule and expedited report. The typical custody evaluation takes several months to complete, including the 45- to 60-days evaluators are often given to submit their report. Many folks consider this the most stressful proceeding of all of the court processes you will go through in an effort to get meaningful parenting time with the children. A total stranger, purportedly with the education, experience, and credentials, will hold the fate of you, your children, and your post-divorce family life in their hands. You need to be prepared, but even the best preparation may not be able to overcome the types of personal and family court biases that exist today. You’ll need to be especially prepared for the dirty tactics that are most assuredly to come your way.
Once a custody evaluation is on the table, the false accusations are soon to follow. Allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, drug abuse, and a whole host of other personal attacks and assaults on your character are not as uncommon as some may think. These dirty tactics are employed to “muddy the waters.” It’s designed to distract not only you, but the evaluator from the matters pertaining to parental fitness and abilities. It’s intended to make you unfocused and put you on the defensive . If you are not prepared for this then you will likely drown in the flood of drama that the high-conflict ex-partner will pour forth. Preparing means not simply “holding your own” against these efforts, but using them to demonstrate that the false accuser simply doesn’t have what’s best for the kids on their mind. Your goals include the following:
- To demonstrate to the evaluator that the accusations are unsupported by objective evidence and – simply false.
- That the high-conflict ex is clearly more focused on attacking you and destroying you than anything beneficial to the children.
- As a result of #1 and #2 – the high-conflict parent is the parent not fit at this time to be the primary or sole custodial parent.
In order to survive the onslaught and expect the best possible outcome, you will need to have some tools in your arsenal.
- Be honest with yourself and self-evaluate accordingly. What IS true? What IS NOT true? Do you have anything at all that will demonstrate that the accusation is FALSE?
- Once the divorce is imminent, keep a daily journal of names, places, and times that accounts for your whereabouts for most of every single day. (Include parenting time if you actually have any.)
- Limit contact and interaction with your ex – and make sure it’s always appropriate, respectful contact and always in writing. No matter what s/he says to you or how s/he says it.
- Fight back with facts, not feelings. Feelings can undermine your efforts.
Evaluators are supposed to know these tactics and likely see them regularly. Use that as your first line of defense. Never dismiss false accusations, no matter how small. Every single accusation you can show to be flat-out false is another one to add to the pile which demonstrates the lengths your ex-partner will go to in order to separate you from the children. The focus should always be redirected back to the reality that your absence from their lives is going to be detrimental to the children.
Be constantly reminding the evaluator that the accusations were recently made, and if they were accurate, the false accuser should have some meaningful documentation to support their claim. Remind them that the other parent bringing up a false accusation about you is meant not only to discredit you, but more importantly it’s a deliberate effort to separate you from the children – a detrimental act against the children. This last-resort tactic is used because there is nothing wrong with you. The only way a high-conflict ex can look good is to make you look bad. Though the effort is so superficial, it can be effective due to a variety of factors that are out of your control. Therefore, you must prepare to make the very best of those issues you can control.
After you’ve exposed the dirty tactics for what they truly are – speak to the good about yourself, your children, and why you are well-prepared, active, involved parent who deserves a maximum amount of parenting time with the kids. Don’t engage in too much discussion about your ex, particularly when it comes to making accusations you can’t support yourself. If the evaluator asks about your concerns regarding him/her, express them carefully using no inflammatory language. Speak factually and professionally – in an even tone. The evaluator, combined with their interaction with the false accuser, should be able to make an objective assessment.
Be on your guard. Be careful. Be diligent. Be smart. Be prepared. It gives you the best chance to overcome the dirty tactics used in custody matters.
Click here to listen to our recent radio show covering: “The Dirty Tactics.”