Mistakes to Avoid in a Child Custody Case

Mistakes to Avoid in a Child Custody Case

Divorce is often messy and emotional, but it’s important to keep a clear head during the proceedings. Nowhere is this more true than in child custody determinations. The Tennessee courts make decisions under the core principles that the best interests of the children come first. To ensure a fair arrangement in your child custody case, avoid these dire mistakes.

Being emotional and manipulative

The court’s role in custody proceedings is to create an arrangement that (a) best benefits the children and (b) is fair to both parents. However, the child comes first in Tennessee law, which means that judges will prioritize a parent who seems stable, respectful, and communicative over one who pitches a fit or attempts to control the situation. Therefore, it’s extremely important to exercise self-restraint and take a deep breath before speaking.

Having animosity toward the other parent

It is of utmost importance to show respect toward the other parent, despite the hard feelings that may exist between you. Judges look closely to see if both parties can communicate to provide a healthy environment for the children. Any attempts to sway the courts one way or another by denigrating the other parent, trying to limit their time with the children, or misrepresenting the parental relationship can easily backfire. The courts take parental alienation very seriously and often do not award custody to parents who do this. Similarly, a parent who seems to be creating a strained, toxic environment for the children will not be perceived favorably.

Giving the other parent the cold shoulder

While screaming matches and hostile behavior are unbecoming, a refusal to communicate can be just as bad. It’s okay to take a breather during stressful accounts, but the courts do expect parents to communicate and make a plan for co-parenting the children. If either parent declines to discuss the situation or refuses to seek compromises, the courts may take that as a sign that co-parenting is not possible and will issue a sole-custody determination. (Note that in cases of spousal abuse where one parent is afraid of the other, that situation will be judged accordingly.)

Leaving evidence of angry behavior

Everyone needs to vent sometimes. Unfortunately, even a private text message sent in anger is up for the court’s evaluation. If a judge sees a pattern of harmful behavior, they will take that into consideration when creating a custody arrangement. If a parent spends a lot of time badmouthing the opposite parent to their friends, these private conversations may be taken as a sign that the parent would attempt to sway the children away from the other parent or sour their relationship. Angry texts, emails, voicemails, or social media posts may be used as evidence against your cause.

Disobeying temporary custody orders

If the court issues a temporary custody arrangement while the case is pending, both parties must respect the order. Any attempts to prevent the other parent from seeing the children or other interferences with the order clearly show a disregard for the court. This disrespect will be taken into consideration at the trial. Always take temporary orders seriously and follow them to a T.

Getting into other legal troubles

The Tennessee courts prioritize a safe, healthy environment for children. Any parent who willfully engages in illegal activities or demonstrates poor decision-making will find it hard to gain custody. During custody proceedings, both parents should abide by all laws and conduct themselves as responsible adults. Divorce is emotionally stressful and it’s understandable that parents may seek relief through vices. However, getting a DUI or being caught with illegal substances is especially damaging during custody hearings. And of course, any stalking or harassing behaviors are an absolute no-go. Aim to be a responsible, law-abiding citizen before, during, and after custody hearings to show the courts you are a qualified parent.


Divorce and the associated custody hearings can be extremely stressful and emotionally draining, but it is crucial to keep a level head and focus on providing a stable, supportive environment for the children. Tennessee courts are looking to serve the child’s interests first, which means that any manipulative, angry, or criminal behavior from either parent may lead to loss or limitation of custody. To be considered a fit parent in Tennessee, aim to be professional, clear-headed, and responsible at every stage of the custody proceedings — and afterward.

It also helps to have a supportive divorce attorney who can help you build your case. If you are going through or preparing for a divorce and are concerned about custody hearings, contact experienced divorce attorney Hunter Fowler for compassionate, confident representation. We will work closely with you to help you prepare for child custody hearings and fight for the justice you and your children deserve.