For many couples who are looking at divorcing, custody of any marital children is likely to be a major issue. In most cases, the issue is because both parents love their children and want to be a part of their daily lives. Weekend and rotating holiday visitation may simply not seem like enough.
In rare cases, one spouse is trying to protect children from an ex who was previously physically abusive, while the abusive ex seeks custody as a means to punish and destabilize the other parent. Sometimes, one parent may fight for a better custody arrangement to reduce his or her child support obligation.
If you and your former spouse cannot agree on custody, you need the help of an experienced divorce and family law attorney. If you believe your former spouse wants custody not because of love for the children but as a means to punish or control you (or limit the financial obligations of child support), you should disclose this to your attorney.
An attorney can help you establish a trail of evidence
Particularly if your former spouse has a mental illness, such as antisocial disorder or narcissistic personality disorder, he or she may be able to fool court officials. Many times, abusive individuals and narcissists can be quite charismatic in social situations. It's easy for them to present a positive image to the courts, which can make it hard for you to build a case for custody. Your attorney can help you gather the right kind of evidence in the right way. Doing so can help you support your claims of abuse or mistreatment during the divorce proceedings.
An attorney can also help you connect with psychological professionals that can evaluate your children to determine if your former spouse has had a detrimental impact on their development. This can be critical, as it is notoriously difficult to get courts to consider non-physical abuse during custody and divorce proceedings.
An attorney can advocate for you and your children
If you left your former spouse because of mistreatment of yourself or your children, the thought of losing custody can be terrifying. That's why you need to partner with an experienced divorce attorney who will fight for you and your children when the time comes. The better and more knowledgeable your attorney, the better chance you have at protecting your little ones from a toxic situation. While your former spouse deserves to maintain a relationship with his or her children, that doesn't mean that supersedes your children's right to grow up healthy.
Compromises that include supervised visitation or mandated counseling for your former spouse may be the best possible outcome for everyone involved. Seek out the advice of an experienced divorce attorney as soon as you've made up your mind to leave an abusive or controlling marriage.