How to Mentally Prepare for a Custody Battle

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by Chris Torrone

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08.19.2021

When preparing for a custody battle, there are many resources available about how to file, what information to present, and how to secure the right lawyer to represent you. What is often not talked about is how to prepare yourself mentally. This is an important factor that shouldn’t be overlooked because your mental “game” can have a huge effect on how you manage your expectations and behavior during a custody battle. In turn, your expectations and behavior can also have an effect on the outcome of your fight for custody.

How to mentally prepare for the long road ahead

Custody battles can take a very long time to resolve. A vindictive ex may use tactics to draw out and complicate the process. They may submit repeated appeals for a variety of reasons. There may be additional factors specific to your case that complicate and lengthen the process. An investigation may need to take place, or your lawyer may request special witnesses such as doctors, mental health counselors, or social workers. These factors can quickly add to the time it takes to close your custody battle case.

Even if you don’t think there will be any additional factors that could complicate your case, some custody trials last years and there simply is no average time for a custody case because every situation is unique. What you can do is rely on your lawyer to get a general estimate of an overall timeline and the factors that could lengthen your case. But knowing that you are in it for the long haul can help you set expectations for yourself and mentally gear up for the challenging road ahead. 

How to mentally prepare to appear in court

Going to a court hearing is a nerve-wracking experience, regardless of the reason. When you are going to court to determine custody, it is both stressful and emotional. Mentally preparing for a court hearing is about understanding the process, anticipating outcomes, and choosing how you will respond to those outcomes.

Getting legal support is one of the best decisions you can make, both because it will increase the likelihood that you win custody and also because of the peace of mind it can bring. When you hire an attorney that specializes in family law, you are gaining an expert with a successful track record of arguing custody cases. The level of confidence you have in your lawyer will directly impact the mentality that you bring to your case. The right attorney will be up front with you about your prospects for a successful petition and whether or not your demands are reasonable for your personal custody battle. They will work for you to bring the best possible outcome and help you craft a strong and reasonable argument for why your custody request is in your child’s best interest. 

Your lawyer will also work with you so that you understand basic courtroom etiquette. This helps you feel more at ease and will also give you the knowledge needed to present yourself with dignity and respect. You should review dress code expectations, though in general, conservative business wear is your best option for presenting yourself as a responsible and respectable parent. You should also take time to review potential outcomes of the hearing with your lawyer so that you are not caught off guard. A hearing can be very emotional, so knowing the different outcome potentials can help you keep your cool in the moment.

One practical action that can help ease your fears and help you feel confident walking into court is to have all your documents prepared. Your lawyer will help with this of course, but there will undoubtedly be items that you need to prepare or submit to them in advance. Keeping your legal files organized from the start may seem like a physical habit, but it can go a long way in supporting you mentally as well. If you know exactly where your files are stored and how they are organized, then when new information is provided you will know exactly where to file it. When your lawyer requests something specific from you, you’ll quickly be able to access it. These small organizational tips will remove mental clutter, giving you more emotional energy to mentally ready yourself for a court hearing. 

a stressed couple worried about custody battle

How to mentally prepare for interactions with your ex

When you are entering a custody battle with your ex, tensions are going to be high on both sides. Even if you had an amicable divorce, disagreements over childrearing and custody can bring up past relational issues. The best way that you can prepare for interactions with your ex is to make a personal commitment, an agreement with yourself, over how you will behave in their presence. This is especially important if you anticipate that exchanges, whether in or out of court, could get heated.

By making a personal commitment you are setting a standard for your own behavior, one that will help you keep your cool if interactions do get heated. Think about the topics or issues that bring the most tension to your relationship. Doing this can help you brainstorm and practice some neutral statements that you can use to diffuse situations before they get too tense. For example you can say “Let’s table this topic until we can approach it calmly,” if either of you begin to raise your voices or begin to make personal digs. You can also say “I’m not going to argue this in front of our child” as a reminder to keep your interactions neutral in the presence of your children.

This practice can be especially helpful if your ex is a narcissist or has subjected you to abuse during or after your marriage. Visualizing and practicing neutral statements can help you feel more confident when you have no choice but to speak with your ex. Neutral statements can quickly diffuse a tense situation over time because it demonstrates that you won’t be baited into an argument. Leave that for your lawyer to skilfully manage on your behalf in court.

And if you are filing for sole custody because your ex is abusive or a narcissist, then you have to expect that their treatment of you will likely grow worse. This can be triggering and difficult to accept that things may get worse before they get better. But setting this expectation can help you mentally prepare to forge ahead regardless of their actions, knowing that you are pursuing custody for the safety of your child. You can also prepare yourself by making a plan for how you will document instances of abuse, particularly verbal abuse, coercion, and gaslighting. While it can be painful to relive those moments as you document them, your notes can be shared with your lawyer and used to craft a stronger argument that custody should be granted in your favor. No one wants to prepare for the worst, but in cases like these it can bolster your mental toughness.

By anticipating and mentally preparing for how you’ll respond to difficult situations, you are giving yourself the tools to manage challenging interactions with dignity.

woman stressed about custody battle

Get help if you are struggling mentally

Our final recommendation for mentally preparing for a custody battle is to not try to do everything on your own. Cultivate a support network, have trusted people in your life that you can rely on, and don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you are struggling.

Some parents may resist getting counseling because they worry that it could throw suspicion on their mental state, and in turn be looked on negatively in a custody battle. But if you are taking steps to take care of yourself and counseling is a piece of that puzzle, then it may actually be seen as a positive thing. Counseling is actually something that is often recommended for parents trying to regain custody because it demonstrates a willingness to work on and take care of yourself. Don’t avoid this important step in supporting your healing, but do be honest with your lawyer if they have questions about it. 

In addition, if you feel that counseling is something that may help your children, don’t hesitate to pursue that within the guidelines of your current custody agreement. If you fear that your child is being abused or neglected when not in your care, you can work with your lawyer to find out how to pursue counseling or psychological evaluation. This can help strengthen your case and demonstrate that you are prioritizing your child’s mental health.

Whatever stage you are in, we are here for you and your family. We offer you the knowledge and expertise we’ve gained from years of compassionate care as you work to reunite your family. Our free consultation can help you decide if Torrone Law is the right fit for your case.

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