The last thing you may feel like doing after going through a difficult marriage and a subsequent divorce is being supportive of your ex-spouse. However, if you have children together, that's precisely what you need to do if you want to convince a judge to give you custody.
In California, there's no automatic presumption that favors joint custody over sole custody. The judge has the ability to award custody as he or she sees fit according to what's in the best interests of your children. However, the law specifically states that the court must consider "which parent is more likely to foster a positive relationship between the child and the other parent."
How do you do that when you really don't see anything all that positive about your ex-spouse? Consider these tips:
1. Recognize that your children may be a lot more conflicted than you are. They may even realize that your ex-spouse is a bad parent, but still long for that parent's attention and support. Do not bad-mouth or point out your ex-spouse's shortcoming to your children. It's okay to acknowledge the problems if your children bring them up, but do so in a kind manner that avoids any harsh language on your part.
2. Give your children unrestricted access to their other parent. If it sets your teeth on edge to have to interact with your ex, don't. Give the children a pre-paid cellphone that they can use to call their other parent and let them use it in their room. You can also set up an email account or arrange for video conferencing through programs like Skype.
3. Keep your ex-spouse informed of all the important events that are going on with the children, including things like school plays, music recitals, martial arts exhibits, even parent-teacher conferences. Even if your ex never bothered with these things before, a written log where you keep your ex informed can go a long way toward showing the court that you can be supportive of a healthy relationship with the children.
For some parents, child custody is a power struggle that's more about punishing their ex than it is about the children. If that's what your ex is doing to you, it may be difficult to take -- but you need to do it in order to protect your children. Consider talking to an attorney for more help.
Source: FindLaw, "Child Custody: Summaries of State Laws," accessed Jan. 21, 2017